People with treatment-resistant hypertension successfully reduced their blood pressure by adopting the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, losing weight and improving their aerobic fitness by participating in a structured diet and exercise program at a certified cardiac rehabilitation facility, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure (130/80 mm Hg or higher) despite the use of three or more medications of different classes including a diuretic to reduce blood pressure is a condition known as resistant hypertension. Although estimates vary, resistant hypertension likely affects about 5% of the general global population and may affect 20% to 30% of adults with high blood pressure. Resistant hypertension is also associated with end-organ damage and a 50% greater risk of adverse cardiovascular events, including stroke, heart attack and death.
Diet and exercise are well-established treatments for high blood pressure. In June 2021, the American Heart Association advised that physical activity is the optimal first treatment choice for adults with mild to moderately elevated blood pressure and blood cholesterol who otherwise have low heart disease risk.
A year of exercise training helped to preserve or increase the youthful elasticity of the heart muscle among people showing early signs of heart failure, a small study shows.
The new research, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, bolsters the idea that “exercise is medicine,” an important shift in approach, the researchers wrote.
The study focused on a condition called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, which affects about half of the 6 million people in the United States with heart failure. Characterized by increasing stiffness of the heart muscle and high pressures inside the heart during exercise, the condition is largely untreatable once established and causes fatigue, excess fluid in the lungs and legs, and shortness of breath.
New research has found that changes in body fat impact early markers of heart health more than changes in body muscle, suggesting there are greater benefits to be expected from losing fat than from gaining muscle.
The observational study, led by researchers from the University of Bristol, was published in PLoS Medicine.
More than 3,200 young people in Bristol’s Children of the 90s birth cohort study were measured repeatedly for levels of body fat and lean mass using a body scanning device. These scans were performed four times across participants’ lives, when they were children, adolescents, and young adults (at ages 10, 13, 18, and 25 years). Handgrip strength was also tested when they were aged 12 and 25 years.
When the participants were 25 years old, blood samples were collected and a technique called “metabolomics” was used to measure over 200 detailed markers of metabolism including different types of harmful cholesterol, glucose, and inflammation, which together indicate one’s susceptibility to developing heart disease and other health conditions.
Dr. Joshua Bell, senior research associate in epidemiology and lead author of the report, said: “We knew that fat gain is harmful for health, but we didn’t know whether gaining muscle could really improve health and help prevent heart disease. We wanted to put those benefits in context.”
The findings showed that gaining fat mass was strongly and consistently related to poorer metabolic health in young adulthood, as indicated, for example, by higher levels of harmful cholesterol. These effects were much larger (often about 5-times larger) than any beneficial effect of gaining muscle. Where there were benefits of gaining muscle, these were specific to gains that had occurred in adolescence – suggesting that this early stage of life is a key window for promoting muscle gain and reaping its benefits.
Dr. Bell added: “Fat loss is difficult, but that does seem to be where the greatest health benefits lie. We need to double down on preventing fat gain and supporting people in losing fat and keeping it off.
“We absolutely still encourage exercise – there are many other health benefits and strength is a prize in itself. We may just need to temper expectations for what gaining muscle can really do for avoiding heart disease – fat gain is the real driver.”
The study also found that improving strength (based on handgrip) has slightly greater benefits for markers of heart health than gaining muscle itself, suggesting that the frequent use of muscle, rather than the bulking up of muscle, may matter more.
Professor Nic Timpson, the Principal Investigator of the Children of the 90s and one of the study’s authors, said: “This research provides greater clarity in the relative roles of fat and lean mass in the basis of cardio-metabolic disease. This is an important finding and clearly part of a complex picture of health that involves weight gain, but also the other indirect costs and benefits of different types of lifestyle. It is only through detailed, longitudinal, studies like Children of the 90s that these relationships can be uncovered. We extend our thanks to the participants of the Children of the 90s who make all of this work possible.”
In the largest study performed to date to understand the relationship between habitual physical activity and physical fitness, Boston University School of Medicine, BUSM, researchers have found that higher amount of time spent performing exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) and low-moderate level activity (steps) and less time spent sedentary, translated to greater physical fitness.
“By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual physical activity and detailed fitness measures, we hope that our study will provide important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health across the life course,” explained corresponding author Matthew Nayor, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine.
He and his team studied approximately 2,000 participants from the community-based Framingham Heart Study who underwent comprehensive cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPET) for the “gold standard” measurement of physical fitness. Physical fitness measurements were associated with physical activity data obtained through accelerometers (device that measures frequency and intensity of human movement) that were worn for one week around the time of CPET and approximately eight years earlier.
They found dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.
According to the researchers, while the study was focused on the relationship of physical activity and fitness specifically (rather than any health-related outcomes), fitness has a powerful influence on health and is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. “Therefore, improved understanding of methods to improve fitness would be expected to have broad implications for improved health,” said Nayor, a cardiologist at Boston Medical Center.
High-Intensity Interval Training has been growing in popularity, and research supports potential benefits for all ages.
Physical activity is integral to good health. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is more time-efficient than traditional workouts, and research has shown it has many health benefits, including improving fitness, cardiovascular health, and insulin function, and helping with weight loss.
What is HIIT? HIIT involves performing short, vigorous bursts of activity followed by low-intensity activity or rest. This cycle is repeated for a series of sets. The high-intensity activity should get one’s heart rate up to about 70 to 90 percent of maximum. For the low-intensity period, heart rate should be about 60 to 65 percent of maximum. (A quick estimate of your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.) On a stationary bike, for example, a HIIT workout could be 30 seconds of pedaling at maximum effort followed by two to three minutes of easy pedaling, repeated for three to five cycles. Activities and intervals can be adapted to an individual’s current fitness level. Any activity that gets one’s heart rate up, including walking/jogging, using an exercise machine, or performing jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, or squats will work.
The standard physical activity recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly for good health still stands. HIIT is a type of vigorous activity that has been recognized as a more efficient alternative to traditional moderate-intensity continuous training. With a physician’s approval, HIIT can be an option for all ages and fitness levels, including individuals who are currently sedentary, unfit, or living with a lifestyle-related disease like diabetes or high blood pressure.
With many areas of the country facing triple digit temperatures and summer heat and humidity elsewhere, the American Heart Association, a global force for longer, healthier lives for all, is urging people to take extra steps to protect their hearts. Precautions are especially important for older adults and individuals with high blood pressure, obesity or a history of heart disease and stroke.
Temperatures over 100 or even temperatures in the 80s with high humidity can cause a dangerous heat index that can be hard on the heart. Recent research published in Circulation, the flagship journal of the American Heart Association, found that when temperatures reach extremes of an average daily temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease may double or triple. Another study, featured at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, suggests that the more temperatures fluctuate during the summer, the more severe strokes may become.
In hot weather, the body tries to cool itself by shifting blood from major organs to underneath the skin. This shift causes the heart to pump more blood, putting it under significantly more stress.
“If you’re a heart patient, older than 50 or overweight, the American Heart Association suggests you take special precautions in the heat to protect your heart,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, the American Heart Association’s new volunteer president and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“Preaching to the choir” – was my first reaction to this study, having published lots of posts on this very subject.
Increasing evidence shows that physical activity and exercise training may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In aging humans, aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume, enhances blood flow, and improves memory function. The ability to measure the effects of exercise on systemic biomarkers associated with risk for AD and relating them to key metabolomic alterations may further prevention, monitoring, and treatment efforts. However, systemic biomarkers that can measure exercise effects on brain function and that link to relevant metabolic responses are lacking.
To address this issue, Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and Brain Institute and Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D., Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their collaborators, tested the hypotheses that three specific biomarkers, which are implicated in learning and memory, would increase in older adults following exercise training and correlate with cognition and metabolomics markers of brain health. They examined myokine Cathepsin B (CTSB), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and klotho, as well as metabolomics, which have become increasingly utilized to understand biochemical pathways that may be affected by AD.
Practicing the meditative, rhythmic flow of tai chi works just as well as aerobic exercise and strength training for achieving some health benefits such as reducing waist size and improving cholesterol, new findings suggest.
Results of a randomized controlled trial published online May 31 in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that people who have a tough time with some kinds of aerobic exercise may gain similar benefits from tai chi.
The study is “very impressive,” says Bavani Nadeswaran, MD, of the University of California Irvine’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, who was not involved in the study.
Many people have arthritis or back pain, “and aerobic exercise can be hard on them,” she says. “The good thing about exercises like tai chi and yoga is that they are low-impact.” That means that people who can’t run or get access to a pool for swimming have a viable alternative.
The study included nearly 550 adults ages 50 and up in Hong Kong who were randomly assigned to engage in tai chi, aerobic exercise with strength training, or no exercise program for 12 weeks. All had waistlines greater than 35.4 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women.
Higher body mass index (BMI) — an indicator of obesity — in late adolescence is associated with a significantly higher risk of first ischemic stroke in men and women under age 50, regardless of whether they had Type 2 diabetes, a new study finds. Even BMIs in the high-normal range are associated with increased stroke risk in both men and women, according to new research published today in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.
While rates of adolescent obesity and stroke among adults under the age of 50 years continue to rise around the world, the precise link between the two conditions is still not fully understood.
“Adults who survive stroke earlier in life face poor functional outcomes, which can lead to unemployment, depression and anxiety,” said study co-author Gilad Twig, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Medical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces and the department of military medicine, Faculty of Medicine of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. “The direct and indirect costs attributed to stroke prevention and care are high and expected to keep increasing since the rate of stroke continues to rise.”
People who feel younger have a greater sense of well-being, better cognitive functioning, less inflammation, lower risk of hospitalization and even live longer than their older-feeling peers. A study published by the American Psychological Association suggests one potential reason for the link between subjective age and health: Feeling younger could help buffer middle-aged and older adults against the damaging effects of stress.
In the study, published in Psychology and Aging, researchers from the German Centre of Gerontology analyzed three years of data from 5,039 participants in the German Ageing Survey, a longitudinal survey of residents of Germany age 40 and older. The survey included questions about the amount of perceived stress in peoples’ lives and their functional health – how much they were limited in daily activities such as walking, dressing and bathing. Participants also indicated their subjective age by answering the question, “How old do you feel?”
The researchers found, on average, participants who reported more stress in their lives experienced a steeper decline in functional health over three years, and that link between stress and functional health decline was stronger for chronologically older participants.
However, subjective age seemed to provide a protective buffer. Among people who felt younger than their chronological age, the link between stress and declines in functional health was weaker. That protective effect was strongest among the oldest participants.
Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or obesity from childhood through middle age were linked to poorer brain function by middle age.
These cardiovascular risk factors were linked with low memory, learning, visual processing, attention span, and reaction and movement time.
Strategies to prevent heart disease and stroke should begin in childhood to promote better brain health by middle age.
Managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in children may help protect brain function in later life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. This is the first study to highlight that cardiovascular risk factors accumulated from childhood through mid-life may influence poor cognitive performance at midlife.
Previous research has indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people older than 60 have at least mild loss of brain function. Cognitive deficits are known to be linked with cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet, as well as depression and low education level.
Many diseases that cause neurological deficits, such as Alzheimer’s, have a long preclinical phase before noticeable symptoms begin, so finding links between childhood obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors is important for cognitive health. The researchers noted that there are currently no cures for major causes of dementia, so it is important to learn how early in life cardiovascular risk factors may affect the brain.
“We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups,” said the study’s first author Juuso O. Hakala, M.D., a Ph.D. student at the Research Centre of Applied and Prevention Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, in Turku, Finland. ”Our results show active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, beginning from early childhood, can also matter greatly when it comes to brain health. Children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”
The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a national, longitudinal study on cardiovascular risk from childhood to adulthood in Finland. Researchers followed the participants’ cardiovascular risk factor profiles for 31 years from childhood to adulthood. Baseline clinical examinations were conducted in 1980 on approximately 3,600 randomly selected boys and girls, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, all of whom were white. More than 2,000 of the participants, ranging in ages from 34 to 49, underwent a computerized cognitive function test in 2011. The test measured four different cognitive domains: episodic memory and associative learning; short-term working memory; reaction and movement time; and visual processing and sustained attention.
Systolic blood pressure, total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as body mass index, from childhood to midlife are associated with brain function in middle age.
Consistently high systolic blood pressure or high blood total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were linked to worse memory and learning by midlife when compared with lower measures.
Obesity from childhood to adulthood was associated with lower visual information processing speed and maintaining attention.
Having all three cardiovascular risk factors was linked to poorer memory and associative learning, worse visual processing, decreased attention span, and slower reaction and movement time.
These results are from observational findings, so more studies are needed to learn whether there are specific ages in childhood and/or adolescence when cardiovascular risk factors are particularly important to brain health in adulthood. Study limitations include that a definite cause-and-effect link between cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance cannot be determined in this type of population-based study; cognition was measured at a single point in time; and because all study participants are white, the results may not be generalizable to people from other racial or ethnic groups.
Going for a brisk walk after a long day at work may be better for your heart than getting all of your exercise on the job, according to Denise Mann writing in Health Day.
New research suggests that while current health guidelines indicate that leisure-time activity and physical activity at work are created equally when it comes to heart health benefits, this may not be the case after all.
Leisure-time exercise — whether it be taking a walk, jogging or hopping on your Peloton bike after a hard day’s work — can improve heart health, but only getting your exercise on the job seems to increase heart risks.
This is what’s known as the “physical activity paradox,” said study author Andreas Holtermann, a professor at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Leisure physical activity leads to fitness, improved health and well-being, but work physical activity leads to fatigue, no fitness gain, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure over the day without sufficient rest,” Holtermann said.
For the study, researchers asked close to 104,000 people (aged 20 to 100 years) from the Copenhagen General Population Study to rate their leisure-time and employment physical activity as low, moderate, high or very high.
It ought to be a no-brainer, so to speak: Research has pinpointed seven ways people can achieve ideal heart and brain health. And – bonus – if Americans did those things, they also could help prevent many other chronic illnesses, According to the American Heart Association News.
But most people don’t, at least not consistently. What’s stopping them?
“Most of these steps require a great deal of self-regulation and self-control,” said Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not just getting one thing done, like going to get a vaccine, where you can do it and forget about it for a year.”
Volumes of research point to at least seven behaviors, called Life’s Simple 7, that can dramatically lower the burden of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range have the potential to collectively wipe out a vast majority of heart disease and stroke and prevent or delay a significant number of dementias.
One picture us worth a thousand words. In this case, I think the infographic counts for even more. I hope this is all old news to you and you are living it fully. As an 81 year old I can tell you that I am certainly glad to have adopted my healthy lifestyle for the past 10 years. It’s never too late. The body is an organic machine which means there is constant regeneration going on. Use it to your advantage.
Men experiencing vital exhaustion are more likely to have a heart attack, according to research presented at ESC Acute CardioVascular Care 2021, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1 The risk of a myocardial infarction linked with exhaustion was particularly pronounced in never married, divorced and widowed men.
“Vital exhaustion refers to excessive fatigue, feelings of demoralization and increased irritability,” said study author Dr. Dmitriy Panov of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk, Russian Federation. “It is thought to be a response to intractable problems in people’s lives, particularly when they are unable to adapt to prolonged exposure to psychological stressors.”
This study examined the relationship between vital exhaustion and the risk of myocardial infarction in men with no history of cardiovascular disease. The study used data from the World Health Organization (WHO) MONICA Project.2 A representative sample of 657 men aged 25 to 64 years in Novosibirsk was enrolled in 1994.
Since my family has Alzheimer’s or dementia on both sides, this was one of those studies that resonated with me. Eat less; move more; live longer and think better.
Promising new research shows aerobic exercise may help slow memory loss for older adults living with Alzheimer’s dementia.
ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Fang Yu led a pilot randomized control trial that included 96 older adults living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.
Participants were randomized to either a cycling (stationary bike) or stretching intervention for six months. Using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognition (ADAS-Cog) to assess cognition, the results of the trial were substantial.
The six-month change in ADAS-Cog was 1.0±4.6 (cycling) and 0.1±4.1 (stretching), which were both significantly less than the expected 3.2±6.3-point increase observed naturally with disease progression.
“Our primary finding indicates that a six-month aerobic exercise intervention significantly reduced cognitive decline in comparison to the natural course of changes for Alzheimer’s dementia. However, we didn’t find a superior effect of aerobic exercise to stretching, which is likely due to the pilot nature of our trial. We don’t have the statistical power to detect between-group differences, there was substantial social interaction effect in the stretching group, and many stretching participants did aerobic exercise on their own.” Yu said.
The findings are described in a recently published article, Cognitive Effects of Aerobic Exercise in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial, in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Yu says their results are encouraging and support the clinical relevance of promoting aerobic exercise in individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia to maintain cognition.
“Aerobic exercise has a low profile of adverse events in older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia as demonstrated by our trial,” said Yu. “Regardless of its effect on cognition, the current collective evidence on its benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”