Exposure to man-made chemicals found in common household products and in soil, air, food and water may raise the risk for high blood pressure in middle-aged women, a new study suggests.
The study found middle-aged women with higher blood concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were 71% more likely to develop high blood pressure than their peers with lower levels of these substances. The findings appeared Monday in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
“PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they never degrade in the environment and contaminate drinking water, soil, air, food and numerous products we consume or encounter routinely,” lead study author Ning Ding said in a news release.
Roughly 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids each day, in food or supplement form, may be the optimal amount needed to help lower blood pressure, a review of the research shows.
The analysis of dozens of studies, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at the relationship between blood pressure and two omega-3 fatty acids – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – which are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, herring and oysters. DHA and EPA can also be taken together in supplement form.
While previous research suggests omega-3 fatty acids might help lower blood pressure, the amount needed to do so has been unclear.
Many people with heart failure also have diabetes or high blood pressure. But new research suggests those conditions, even when treated, aren’t well controlled, placing people at risk for worsening heart problems, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
“We know that controlling hypertension and diabetes is critical for people with heart failure,” said Dr. Madeline Sterling, a primary care physician at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. “But few studies have been able to ascertain how well those risk factors have been controlled. This study really takes a big step forward in doing that.”
Sterling wrote an editorial accompanying the study that appeared in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Heart Failure.
Heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump as well as it should and fails to deliver enough oxygen to the body, making it harder for people to perform everyday tasks. Hypertension, another name for high blood pressure, and diabetes are major risk factors for heart failure, which affects more than 6 million people in the U.S., especially those who have other heart problems or who have had heart attacks.
In the new study, researchers analyzed 18 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a series of federal studies assessing the prevalence of major diseases and their risk factors among U.S. adults.
While just 8% of 1,423 people diagnosed with heart failure had poor glycemic control, defined in the study as a hemoglobin A1C level of 8% or higher, 21% of those being treated for diabetes failed to meet blood glucose goals. This did not vary by race or ethnicity.
Researchers also found 48% of people with heart failure had uncontrolled hypertension, which the researchers defined as a systolic blood pressure, the top number in a reading, of at least 130. Among people prescribed blood pressure-lowering medication, poor control was even higher, at 51%. Black adults had higher uncontrolled rates than their white peers, at 53% compared to 47%.
That higher rate of poor blood pressure control among Black adults with heart failure was not surprising since it mirrors racial disparities in blood pressure control in the general population, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, senior author of the study, funded in part by the AHA.
“This speaks to a larger problem, which is a systemic failing to control the leading risk factors that account for the greatest number of non-communicable deaths worldwide,” said Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“The reasons for these disparities are manifold,” said Dr. Leah Rethy, a resident physician at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and lead author of the study. They include the history of structural racism in the U.S., which is largely responsible for disparities in access to health care, proximity to green spaces where people can safely meet exercise goals and “all sorts of things that influence somebody’s life course up until the time they get heart failure,” she said.
While the vast majority of people in the study had insurance, they also reported incomes below the poverty line, which could affect their access to quality care or the ability to pay for medications, said Sterling, who was not involved in the research. The study also did not track whether people being treated for high blood pressure and diabetes were actually taking the medications prescribed to them.
The study documented only the prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure and poor glycemic control, not why those risk factors were uncontrolled, Rethy said.
“We think there’s probably a number of reasons that include a lack of understanding or focus from providers about the importance of blood pressure control, but also perhaps a lack of accessibility to consistent and affordable primary and specialty care for adults with heart failure,” she said, “particularly those under age 65 who don’t qualify for Medicare.”
Sterling added that “it’s actually quite hard to control these risk factors. It’s not just a matter of giving people medications. This study is shedding light on this.”
Many people who have heart failure are older, frail and may have cognitive issues, so it may be difficult for them to perform the extensive self-monitoring needed to manage their health, she said. “A lot is put on patients to manage this at home, and it’s a challenge.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s an insurmountable one, Rethy said. The key is finding ways to help health care professionals and patients put into practice what researchers know about how to get blood pressure and blood glucose levels under control.
“There are many good medications and lifestyle interventions that we know work,” she said. “We shouldn’t think of it as too lofty to achieve. We have access to lots of tools to help fix it.”
Flavonoids found in plants and plant foods such as berries, apples, tea, wine and dark chocolate are known to offer health benefits, including some protective effects on the cardiovascular system.
A study of over 900 adults in Germany evaluated the quantity and frequency of eating flavonoid-rich foods and measured bacteria in the gut microbiome to determine if there was an association with blood pressure levels.
Researchers determined the participants who consumed higher levels of berries, apples, pears and wine had lower systolic blood pressure levels, which was explained in part by bacteria in their gut microbiome.
Flavonoid-rich foods, including berries, apples, pears and wine, appear to have a positive effect on blood pressure levels, an association that is partially explained by characteristics of the gut microbiome, according to new research published today in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.
“Our gut microbiome plays a key role in metabolizing flavonoids to enhance their cardioprotective effects, and this study provides evidence to suggest these blood pressure-lowering effects are achievable with simple changes to the daily diet,” said lead investigator of the study Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., chair and professor in nutrition and preventive medicine at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Flavonoids are compounds found naturally in fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods such as tea, chocolate and wine, and have been shown in previous research to offer a variety of health benefits to the body. Flavonoids are broken down by the body’s gut microbiome—the bacteria found in the digestive tract. Recent studies found a link between gut microbiota, the microorganisms in the human digestive tract, and cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Gut microbiota is highly variable between individuals, and there are reported differences in gut microbial compositions among people with and without CVD.
Working out just five minutes daily via a practice described as “strength training for your breathing muscles” lowers blood pressure and improves some measures of vascular health as well as, or even more than, aerobic exercise or medication, new CU Boulder research shows.
The study, published June 29 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, provides the strongest evidence yet that the ultra-time-efficient maneuver known as High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) could play a key role in helping aging adults fend off cardiovascular disease — the nation’s leading killer.
In the United States alone, 65% of adults over age 50 have above-normal blood pressure — putting them at greater risk of heart attack or stroke. Yet fewer than 40% meet recommended aerobic exercise guidelines.
“There are a lot of lifestyle strategies that we know can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age. But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access,” said lead author Daniel Craighead, an assistant research professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology. “IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV.”
One in three American adults has hypertension (high blood pressure). And, because hypertension causes few obvious symptoms, many people with high blood pressure don’t even know it. What’s more, only about half of all diagnosed individuals are controlling their blood pressure adequately. This condition is a primary or contributing cause in more than 1,000 deaths each day and costs the nation $48.6 billion each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, straightforward lifestyle changes can both prevent and treat this common and devastating “silent killer.”
What is Blood Pressure? “Blood pressure is the force the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries,” says Sondra M. DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, a cardiology PA with PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute at UPMC Pinnacle and an author of the American Heart Association’s 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. The top number (the systolic pressure) is the force exerted on the artery wall with each beat (contraction) of the heart. The bottom number (the diastolic pressure) is the force when the heart is at rest (between beats). If readings rise above 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, risks begin to rise. Treatment through lifestyle changes and/or medication is recommended if numbers rise over 130 or over 80. [For more information on blood pressure readings, see Blood Pressure by the Numbers.
Consuming a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure even if small amounts of meat and dairy are consumed too, according to new research from the University of Warwick.
Published online by a team from Warwick Medical School in the Journal of Hypertension, they argue that any effort to increase plant-based foods in your diet and limit animal products is likely to benefit your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease. They conducted a systematic review of previous research from controlled clinical trials to compare seven plant-based diets, several of which included animal products in small amounts, to a standardised control diet and the impact that these had on individuals’ blood pressure.
Plant-based diets support high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, limiting the consumption of most or all animal products (mainly meat and diary). (See Notes to Editors for further details) Continue reading →
A review and analysis published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that eating walnuts could improve blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) without causing weight gain or increasing blood pressure.
Feeling blue on Friday the 13th? Perhaps you are triscadecaphobic, which is to say, fearful of Friday the 13th.
The publication Environmental Nutrition offers the following 5 foods that are super nutritious and might bring you good luck at least in terms of your general health.
Amazing avocados, is their first offering. “Ounce for ounce, they contain more blood-pressure lowering potassium than bananas. Avocados are rich in good-for-you monounsaturated fats, and cholesterole-lowering beta-sitosterol and cancer-protective glutathione, along with Vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and fiber.”
Brain-boosting blueberries come in second. “These little blue marvels are the antioxidant leaders, plump and nearly 4 grams of fiber per cup and a good dose of vitamin C. They also have cancer-protective ellagic acid, and may boost your brain health and vision.”
Anti-cancer Brazil nuts come in third. “This hearty tree nut is a ‘trigger food’ that may cause cancer cells to self-destruct. It’s a super source of selenium, a promising anti-cancer trace mineral that also promotes DNA repair and boosts immunity. Just two medium nuts contain enough selenium to perhaps reduce the incidence of prostate, colon and lung cancers.”
Good old Broccoli is number four. “Here’s an easy way to get two cancer-blockers that modify natural estrogens into less damaging forms and increase the activity of enzymes that fight carcinogens. Aim for three servings a week of broccoli or its cruciferous cousins.”
Number five is Butternut Squash. “This tasty fruit (yes, fruit) is an exceptional source of beta-carotene, the antiooxidant tyour body converts to vitamin A. But it’s also an overlooked source of bone-building calcium.”
So, look on the bright side and focus on the great nutritional benefits you can derive from these five super foods and forget about the fact that today is Friday the 13th. Just don’t walk under any ladders.
Although I think marathon running, per se, makes too many demands on the body, it appears that marathon training and participating can accomplish some very positive effects. New research led by University College of London (UCL) and Barts Health NHS Trust suggests running a marathon for the first time could have several health benefits.
The study, published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that for first-time marathon runners, training and completion of the marathon resulted in reductions in blood pressure and aortic stiffening in healthy participants that were equivalent to a four-year reduction in vascular age. The greatest benefits were seen in older, slower male marathon runners with higher baseline blood pressure. Continue reading →
I ran across this excellent discussion of senior cycling on RoadBikeRider.com. They have graciously permitted me to reprint it. See permission at end.
RBR Editor’s Note: Coach John Hughes copied me on a recent email exchange he had with Marty Hoganson, an RBR reader with whom he had ridden on tours in years gone by. Marty wondered what, if any, differences there are in terms of recovery, motivation, etc., between 50-somethings and 70-somethings. Both agreed to let me share the exchange with RBR readers. It provides a wealth of solid, useful information.
These days I live and ride in Yuma, Arizona. I am involved in our local bike club called Foothills Bicycle Club, which is primarily made up of retired folks – late-50s to mid-80s. Many strong riders in their 60s and 70s, for their ages — or any age, for that matter.
In a lot of ways fiber reminds me of what Mark Twain said about the weather. “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” So, here is an excellent rundown on fiber from the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
It is recommended that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American currently gets about half that amount. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dietary fiber is a “nutrient of public health concern,” meaning this low level of intake could actually be detrimental to our health. So, it’s potentially good news that food manufacturers are adding fiber to processed foods. But is that fiber as good for our health as fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains?
Health Benefits of Fiber. According to a research review co-authored by Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with Tufts’ Nutritional Epidemiology program and an associate professor at the Friedman School, there is reproducible evidence that dietary fiber found naturally in foods has a role in lowering cholesterol, improving glycemic control, and preventing constipation. And fiber may have more health benefits as well. “Research in this field is continually expanding,” says McKeown. “We’ve only begun to consider things like how the gut microbiota utilize different types of dietary fibers to potentially impact health.” Continue reading →
Significant reductions in the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)*, and the combination of MCI and dementia**, have been shown for the first time through aggressive lowering of systolic blood pressure in new research results from the federally-funded SPRINT MIND Study reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Chicago.
“This is the first randomized clinical trial to demonstrate a reduction in new cases of MCI alone and the combined risk of MCI plus all-cause dementia,” said Jeff D. Williamson, MD, MHS, Professor of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology and Chief, Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Williamson reported these results at AAIC 2018.
The results of this large-scale, long-term clinical trial provide the strongest evidence to date about reducing risk of MCI and dementia through the treatment of high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease worldwide.
“This study shows more conclusively than ever before that there are things you can do — especially regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors — to reduce your risk of MCI and dementia,” said Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer. “To reduce new cases of MCI and dementia globally we must do everything we can — as professionals and individuals — to reduce blood pressure to the levels indicated in this study, which we know is beneficial to cardiovascular risk.”
As regular readers know, the mantra of this blog is eat less; move more; live longer. Moving more means discarding your sedentary lifestyle and exercising regularly. University of Colorado Boulder have uncorked a novel angle on exercising. Not cardio or weight bearing exercise, but a muscular challenge just the same. Following comes from CU Boulder Today, by Lisa Marshall.
Could working out five minutes a day, without lifting a single weight or jogging a single step, reduce your heart attack risk, help you think more clearly and boost your sports performance?
Preliminary evidence suggests yes.
Now, with a new grant from the National Institute on Aging, CU Boulder researchers have launched a clinical trial to learn more about the ultra-time-efficient exercise known as Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST).
“It’s basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with,” explains Daniel Craighead, a postdoctoral researcher in the Integrative Physiology department. “It’s something you can do quickly in your home or office, without having to change your clothes, and so far it looks like it is very beneficial to lower blood pressure and possibly boost cognitive and physical performance.” Continue reading →
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?