Category Archives: American Heart Association

Gain years keeping heart disease at bay – AHA

Heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 cause of death, killing about 650,000 people every year. Life expectancy is cut short by the disease and the health problems that stem from it. But by how much – and what can people do to take those years back?

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For heart attacks alone, more than 16 years of life are lost on average, according to American Heart Association statistics. Researchers estimate people with heart failure lose nearly 10 years of life compared to those without heart failure.

“In the past few years, there have been tremendous gains in reducing cardiovascular disease and increasing life expectancy, but we’ve hit a plateau,” said Paul Muntner, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Some people are at greater risk than others.

African Americans, for example, are more likely to have high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, and they live 3.4 years less than their white counterparts. Among the six largest Asian American subgroups, research shows Asian Indian, Filipino and Vietnamese populations lose the most years of life to heart disease – up to 18 years for some – compared with white people.

The risk of early death also is high for people with a history of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, researchers found people with all three conditions had their life expectancy cut by 15 years compared to those without any of the health problems. Even having just two of the conditions reduced life expectancy by 12 years.

But there is hope. Continue reading

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Ability to balance on one leg may reflect heart health – AHA

Struggling to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer was linked to an increased risk for small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced cognitive function in otherwise healthy people with no clinical symptoms, according to research in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

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“Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health,” said Yasuharu Tabara, Ph.D., lead study author and associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan. “Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”

The study consisted of 841 women and 546 men, average age of 67. To measure one-leg standing time, participants stood with their eyes open and raised one leg. The maximum time for keeping the leg raised was 60 seconds. Participants performed this examination twice and the better of the two times was used in the study analysis. Cerebral small vessel disease was evaluated using brain magnetic resonance imaging.

Researchers found that the inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was associated with cerebral small vessel disease, namely small infarctions without symptoms such as lacunar infarction and microbleeds. They noted that:

  • 34.5 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing.
  • 16 percent of those with one lacunar infarction lesion had trouble balancing.
  • 30 percent of those with more than two microbleed lesions had trouble balancing.
  • 15.3 percent one microbleed lesion had trouble balancing.

Overall, those with cerebral diseases were older, had high blood pressure and had thicker carotid arteries than those who did not have cerebral small vessel disease. However, after adjustment for these covariates, people with more microbleeds and lacunar infarctions in the brain had shorter one-legged standing times. Short one-legged standing times were also independently linked with lower cognitive scores.

Although previous studies have examined the connection between gait and physical abilities and the risk of stroke, this is among the first study to closely examine how long a person can stand on one leg as an indication of their overall brain health.

“One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities,” said Tabara.

Small vessel disease occurs due to microangiopathy of arterioles in the brain, making these arteries less flexible, which can interfere with blood flow. Small vessel disease typically increases with age. Loss of motor coordination, including balance, as well as cognitive impairment has been suggested to represent subclinical brain damage. Tabara and colleagues also found a strong link between struggling to stand on one leg and increased age, with marked shorter one-leg standing time in patients age 60 and over.

Although the study did not assess participants’ histories of falling or physical fitness issues, such as how fast they could walk or any gait abnormalities, Tabara said the one-leg standing test is an easy way to determine if there are early signs of being at risk for a stroke and cognitive impairment and whether these patients need additional evaluation.

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Have a healthy heart – Infographic

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As you can see, majority of the risk factors that can hurt your heart health can be prevented – the answer lies in your hands.

These are risk factors along with the preventive options:

  • High blood cholesterol – Eat right by having a balanced and healthy diet. Your fasting blood glucose should preferably be less than 100 mg/dL.
  • High blood pressure – Manage blood pressure through exercise and medications. Keep the numbers below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Physical inactivity – Get moving and stand more. Spend 150 minutes of moderate intensive activity per week, like brisk walking. And opt for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. Eat less; move more; live longer. A sedentary lifestyle is a killer. Check out my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting?
  • Obesity and overweight – Lose weight to find your healthy weight. Target a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 25. Check out my Page – How dangerous is a big belly?
  • Smoking – Stop smoking altogether, quit it. Your alcohol intake should be within limits too. Check out my Page – How many ways does smoking harm you?
  • Diabetes – Reduce blood sugar by being conscious and careful of your food and beverages intake.

You will be surprised to know that lowering the risk of heart disease also reduces the chances of getting cancer!

One good thing that comes out of this infographic is that about 27% people live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

All this information would help only if you take some positive steps towards taking care of your heart.

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Physical activity cuts heart disease risk for seniors – AHA

Again there are echoes of our mantra, eat less; move move; live longer. 

Adults in their early 60s, who spend less time sitting and more time engaged in light to vigorous physical activity, benefit with healthier levels of heart and vessel disease markers, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

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The results from increased physical activity were found to be particularly good among women.

Physical inactivity is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death from cardiovascular disease. Physical activity’s protective effect is likely due in part to its impact on biomarkers in the blood that help predict atherosclerosis risk.

“The 60 to 64 age range represents an important transition between work and retirement, when lifestyle behaviors tend to change,” said Ahmed Elhakeem, Ph.D., study author and senior research associate in epidemiology at Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. “It may, therefore, be an opportunity to promote increased physical activity.

“In addition, cardiovascular disease risk is higher in older adults. It’s important to understand how activity might influence risk in this age group,” Elhakeem said. “We found it’s important to replace time spent sedentary with any intensity level of activity.” Continue reading

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Heart structure and function may change for overweight young adults – AHA

Eat less’ move more; live longer – and, we might add, the sooner the better, according to the latest information from the American Heart Associaton.

Being overweight may cause higher blood pressure and changes to the heart’s structure, even in young adults.

Even as a young adult, being overweight may cause higher blood pressure and thicken heart muscle, setting the stage for heart disease later in life, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

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The study is the first to explore if higher body mass index (BMI) – a weight-for-height index – results in adverse effects on the cardiovascular system in young adults.

While observational studies can suggest associations between risk factors or lifestyle behaviors and heart disease, they cannot prove cause-and-effect. Here, investigators triangulated findings from three different types of genetic analysis to uncover evidence that BMI causes specific differences in cardiovascular measurements. Continue reading

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High protein diet may increase heart failure risk in middle-aged men – AHA

For middle-aged men, eating higher amounts of protein was associated with a slightly elevated risk for heart failure than those who ate less protein, according to new research in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

Despite the popularity of high protein diets, there is little research about how diets high in protein might impact men’s heart failure risk.

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“As many people seem to take the health benefits of high-protein diets for granted, it is important to make clear the possible risks and benefits of these diets,” said Jyrki Virtanen, Ph.D., study author and an adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. “Earlier studies had linked diets high in protein – especially from animal sources — with increased risks of Type 2 diabetes and even death.” Continue reading

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April is ‘Move More Month’ – AHA

As much as I work on promoting movement – exercise – here, it seems only fair to point out that April is the American Heart Association’s Move More Month.

According to the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 Update, only 22 percent of American adults meet the federal physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening activity, and one in three adults report participating in no leisure time activity at all!

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This is an ‘oldie but goodie’ shot of my dog and me riding on Northerly Island in Chicago. Exercise is easy when you find something you like doing.

While most people know exercise should be part of their daily routine, many don’t realize just how easy it is to add physical activity to everyday activities. Not everyone has hours to spend in the gym, or even 30 minutes to take a walk every day. It’s time to help people feel good about what they’re already doing, while also providing some new and creative ways to sneak in even more daily movement. Continue reading

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Exercise may reverse heart effects of middle-aged couch potatoes – Study

Eat less; move more; live longer. The mantra persists just as we do if we follow it. An American Heart Association study reports that exercise (moving more) can rejuvenate us even if we have lived a sedentary life in middle age.

Highlights:

Two years of exercise training during middle age may reduce or reverse the cardiac consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

Two years of exercise training may be an effective lifestyle modification for rejuvenating aging hearts and reducing the risk of heart failure.

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Middle-aged couch potatoes may reduce or reverse the risk of heart failure associated with years of sitting if they participate in two years of regular aerobic exercise training, according to a new study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Study participants who adhered to the aerobic exercise regimen had significant improvements in how their body used oxygen and had decreased cardiac stiffness after two years, both markers of a healthier heart. Aerobic exercises are sustained activities, such as walking, swimming, running, biking and others that strengthen the heart and other muscles and help the body use oxygen effectively.

“The key to a healthier heart in middle age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life,” said study author Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., lead author of the study and the founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a joint program between Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas. Continue reading

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Brain activity may predict stress-related cardiovascular risk – AHA

I have written numerous posts on the brain, stress and relaxation. This study seems to be an amalgam of them all. If you want to read further on any of them, punch the word into the S E A R C H box at the right and have at it. There is a lot of information available.

  • A pattern of brain activity that occurs during psychological stress may predict bodily reactions, such as surges in our blood pressure, that increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • People who have exaggerated responses to stressors, like large rises in blood pressure or heart rate, are at greater risk of developing hypertension and premature death from cardiovascular disease, researchers say.

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The brain may have a distinctive activity pattern during stressful events that predicts bodily reactions, such as rises in blood pressure that increase risk for cardiovascular disease, according to new proof-of-concept research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Continue reading

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Healthy arteries may be possible with aging – AHA

As a 77 year old, I was heartened to learn that a lot of the damage expected by aging could be controlled by attention to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) seven steps in yesterday’s post.

Study Highlights

  • High blood pressure and increased blood vessel stiffness are often considered common parts of aging.
  • Having healthy arteries into one’s 70s and beyond is challenging and depends on modifiable lifestyle factors, not necessarily genetics.

Having the blood vessels of a healthy 20-year-old into one’s 70s is possible but difficult in Western culture, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

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“For the most part, it’s not genetic factors that stiffen the body’s network of blood vessels during aging. Modifiable lifestyle factors – like those identified in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 –  are the leading culprits,” said study author Teemu J. Niiranen, M.D., research fellow at Boston University School of Medicine, Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Massachusetts. Continue reading

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7 Simple suggestions to live longer – AHA

Living past 100 is no walk in the park, although including one can prove very helpful. The American Heart Association has created this list with the goal of improved health by educating the public on how best to live longer and healthier.

These measures have one unique thing in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive to take and even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. Start with one or two. This simple, seven step list has been developed to deliver on the hope we all have–to live a long, productive healthy life. 

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Manage Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer.
Learn how to manage your blood pressure. Continue reading

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Good heart health in middle age improves/extends golden years – AHA

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Now, according to the American Heart Association, the sooner you start, the better.

People with no major heart disease risk factors in middle age live longer and stay healthy far longer than others, according to a 40-year study reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

“Good cardiovascular health in middle age delays the onset of many types of disease so that people live longer and spend a much smaller proportion of their lives with chronic illness,” said Norrina Allen, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

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In the first study to analyze the impact of cardiovascular health in middle age on the duration of illness later in life, researchers examined data from the Chicago Health Association study, which did initial health assessments in the late 1960s/early 1970s and has followed participants on an ongoing basis using Medicare health records. Researchers determined how many participants had favorable factors: non-smokers, free of diabetes and normal weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; versus those with elevated risk factors or high risk factors. Continue reading

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Physical activity provides big boost to seniors with heart disease – AHA

So often the answer to any health question comes back to exercise – physical activity. Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. From the following, the American Heart Association (AHA) seems to agree.

  • Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
  • Healthcare providers should emphasize cardiac rehabilitation when appropriate and provide individualized guidance on increasing daily physical activities for older patients with heart disease.

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Improving physical activity among older adults with heart disease benefits their heart health, independence and quality of life, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Physical activity helps reduce heart disease symptoms for patients with heart failure, heart attacks and stroke, and it also helps to improve the age-related erosions of strength, balance, and reduces frailty that particularly affect older heart patients. It is important part of care for the growing population of older adults with heart disease.

“Many healthcare providers are focused only on the medical management of diseases, such as heart failure, heart attacks, valvular heart disease and strokes, without directly focusing on helping patients maximize their physical function,” said Daniel E. Forman, M.D., the geriatric cardiologist who chaired the American Heart Association panel that drafted the new statement. Continue reading

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Recreational, commuter biking lower cardiovascular disease risk – AHA

As an enthusiastic bicycle rider and supporter of the exercise, I was really pleased to see the results of the American Heart Association studies. Here is a summary:

    •    People who bike regularly, either recreationally or as a way to commute, appear to have a lower risk of cardiovascular illness, according to studies conducted in Denmark and Sweden.
    •    Middle-aged and older Danes who took up biking and stuck with it had a 26 percent lower risk of developing coronary artery disease, compared with non-bikers.
    •    In Sweden, those who regularly biked to work were less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes and obesity — key risk factors for cardiovascular illness.

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Here I am riding on Chicago’s Northerly Island in my retirement.

People who bike regularly, either for pleasure or as a way to commute, appear to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to two separate studies published simultaneously in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation and Journal of the American Heart Association, the AHA/ASA’s Open Access Journal. Continue reading

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A Healthy Heart = A Healthy Brain

I remember the old cliche when it rains, it pours referring to bad news, but, in fact, the past few days, it seems to have been raining stories on brain development. I think that is great news. This latest one is from the American Heart Association.

A healthy heart may have major benefits for preventing the decline in brain function that sometimes accompanies aging, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Researchers studied a racially diverse group of older adults and found that having more ideal cardiovascular health factors was associated with better brain processing speed at the study’s start and less cognitive decline approximately six years later. Continue reading

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More Fruits, Veggies in Youth Linked to Healthy Heart Decades Later – AHA

•    Young adults who ate more than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables were less likely to have developed plaque deposits in their coronary arteries 20 years later.
    •    This study’s findings reinforce the importance of increasing fruit and vegetable intake as part of a healthy eating pattern in early adult life.

Eating more fruits and vegetables as a young adult may keep your arteries free of heart disease 20 years later, according to research in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation.

Healthy-Heart-For-Kidsvs2_1024x1024Researchers found that eating more fruits and vegetables as young adults was associated with less calcified coronary artery plaque 20 years later. Coronary artery calcium can be measured by a CT scan to detect the presence and amount of atherosclerosis, a disease that hardens arteries and underlies many types of heart disease.

The researchers divided data from 2,506 study participants into three groups, based on their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Women in the top third ate an average of nearly nine servings of daily fruits and vegetables and men averaged more than seven daily servings. In the bottom third, women consumed an average 3.3 daily servings and men 2.6 daily servings. All servings were based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
Researchers found that people who ate the most fruit and vegetables at the study’s start had 26 percent lower odds of developing calcified plaque 20 years later, compared to those who ate the least amount of fruits and vegetables.

Previous studies have shown a strong association between eating more fruits and vegetables and reduction in heart disease risk among middle-age adults. However, this is the first study to examine whether eating more fruits and vegetables as young adults could produce a measurable improvement in the health of their heart and blood vessels years later.
“People shouldn’t assume that they can wait until they’re older to eat healthy—our study suggests that what you eat as a young adult may be as important as what you eat as an older adult, ” said lead author Michael D. Miedema, M.D., senior consulting cardiologist and clinical investigator at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Continue reading

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