Tag Archives: heart health

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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Filed under American Heart Association, balance training, heart health brain health

Push-ups and heart health – Harvard

Active, middle-aged men able to complete more than 40 push-ups had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes—including diagnoses of coronary artery disease and major events such as heart failure—during 10 years of follow-up compared with those who were able to do less than 10 push-ups during the baseline exam.

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“Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting. Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests,” said first author Justin Yang, occupational medicine resident in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published February 15, 2019 in JAMA Network Open.

Objective assessments of physical fitness are considered strong predictors of health status; however, most current tools such as treadmill tests are too expensive and time-consuming to use during routine exams. This is the first known study to report an association between push-up capacity and subsequent cardiovascular disease outcomes.

The researchers analyzed health data from 1,104 active male firefighters collected from 2000 to 2010. Their mean age was 39.6 and mean body mass index (BMI) was 28.7. Participants’ push-up capacity and submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance were measured at the start of the study, and each man subsequently completed annual physical examinations and health and medical questionnaires.

During the 10-year study period, 37 CVD-related outcomes were reported. All but one occurred in men who completed 40 or fewer pushups during the baseline exam. The researchers calculated that men able to do more than 40 push-ups had a 96% reduced risk of CVD events compared with those who were able to do less than 10 push-ups. Push-up capacity was more strongly associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease events than was aerobic capacity as estimated by a submaximal treadmill exercise test.

Because the study population consisted of middle-aged, occupationally active men, the results may not be generalizable to women or to men of other ages or who are less active, note the authors.

“This study emphasizes the importance of physical fitness on health, and why clinicians should assess fitness during clinical encounters,” said senior author Stefanos Kales, professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and chief of occupational medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance.

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Filed under aging, coronary heart disease, fitness, heart, living longer, longevity, push-ups, successful aging

5 Daily ways to brain and heart health

I know this looks utterly simple, but sometimes we overlook the simplest things/ideas that could be very helpful to us.  Please take a minute to go over this and ensure that you are, in fact, doing them.

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Excess belly fat – Sign of high risk for heart attack or stroke

I have written about central obesity – excess belly fat – previously. You can find further details on my Page – How dangerous is a big belly?

Nearly two-thirds of people at high risk of heart disease and stroke have excess belly fat, according to results of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) EUROASPIRE V survey presented today at the World Congress of Cardiology & Cardiovascular Health in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Excess fat around the middle of the body (central obesity) is a marker of abnormal fat distribution. This belly fat is bad for the heart, even in people who are not otherwise overweight or obese.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Europe. Each year in Europe there are more than 11 million new cases of cardiovascular disease and 3.9 million deaths caused by cardiovascular disease. Elimination of risk behaviours would prevent at least 80% of cardiovascular diseases.

The study also found that less than half (47%) of those on antihypertensive medication reached the blood pressure target of less than 140/90 mmHg (less than 140/85 mmHg in patients with self-reported diabetes). Among those taking lipid-lowering drugs, only 43% attained the LDL cholesterol target of less than 2.5 mmol/L. In addition, many participants not taking any antihypertensive and/or lipid-lowering therapy had elevated blood pressure and elevated LDL cholesterol. Among patients being treated for type 2 diabetes, 65% achieved the blood sugar target of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) less than <7.0%.

Professor Kornelia Kotseva, chair of the EUROASPIRE Steering Committee from Imperial College London, UK, said: “The survey shows that large proportions of individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease have unhealthy lifestyle habits and uncontrolled blood pressure, lipids and diabetes.” Continue reading

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Shoveling snow is dangerous

I wanted to post this early to remind you about the nature of snow shoveling. The sight of snow can be a beautiful thing, but the nitty gritty of it is otherwise. Driving a car over snow is treacherous, ditto trying to navigate a bicycle. But the worst can be removing it. Shoveling snow is dangerous work.

While I strongly support calorie burning exercises to build up your cardiovascular system and other benefits, it is important to know your limits. If you are not currently working out or don’t consider yourself to be “in condition,” please think twice before you grab that snow shovel and race out to clear the walk.

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The American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that more than 195,000 people were treated in U.S. Emergency Rooms for snow-shovel-related incidents from 1990 to 2006. This is an average of 11,500 individuals per year. Keep in mind that this information only covers folks who actually went to the ER for treatment. Plenty more stayed home and nursed their wounds ….

About 2/3 of these incidents occurred among males. Children younger than 18 made up 15.3% of the cases. Older adults (above 55 years) accounted for more than 20%.
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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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Filed under American Heart Association, blood pressure, diabetes, heart, heart disease, heart health brain health, heart problems, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, Smoking dangers

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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Music and heart health – Harvard

As a lifetime music lover, I was pleased to read this item on it value in the Harvard Health Blog by Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter. One of my happiest discoveries in the past few years was a blue tooth speaker on a water bottle. I have my choice of over 1000 tunes on my iPhone to accompany me on the bike. Riding to music beats my previous soundless rides.

What’s your “cheer up” song? That question popped up on a recent text thread among a few of my longtime friends. It spurred a list of songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s, back when we were in high school and college. But did you know that music may actually help boost your health as well as your mood?

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Music engages not only your auditory system but many other parts of your brain as well, including areas responsible for movement, language, attention, memory, and emotion. “There is no other stimulus on earth that simultaneously engages our brains as widely as music does,” says Brian Harris, certified neurologic music therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. This global activation happens whether you listen to music, play an instrument, or sing — even informally in the car or the shower, he says. Continue reading

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Exercise trumps genetics when it comes to heart disease

This is a case of the more the merrier as far as I am concerned. Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. And here, we have fresh research extolling the virtues of exercise in preventing heart disease.

Exercise, especially cardio fitness, could outweigh genetics when it comes to heart disease, according to new research.

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The study, published in the journal Circulation, showed strength and cardiorespiratory fitness lowered the risk for heart disease across the board – whether people were categorized with low, intermediate or high genetic risk.

“Genes don’t have to determine destiny,” said Dr. Erik Ingelsson, lead study author and professor of medicine at Stanford University. “You can impact your risk by being more fit.”

I can’t say it enough times – take responsibility for your health. Don’t be blaming problems on your genes.

The study examined 482,702 people in England, Scotland and Wales who participated in the UK Biobank, an international research project that recruited participants between ages 40 and 69 years old from 2006 to 2010. Researchers followed those who didn’t have any signs of heart disease for about a decade. They tracked activity and exercise through questionnaires, grip strength measurements and other tests.

“It’s was a very consistent pattern for all of these different measures,” according to Ingelsson, who said he believes it is the largest such study. “All were associated with lower risk of disease in the future.”

Researchers specifically investigated the genetic profiles for those at highest risk for coronary heart disease and a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Those at the highest risk who also had the highest levels of cardiorespiratory fitness – conducted through oxygen and effort measurements on a stationary bicycle – cut their coronary heart disease risk by 49 percent and their AFib risk by 60 percent.

The research is important – and timely, said Dr. Russell Pate, a professor in the University of South Carolina’s Department of Exercise Science in the Arnold School of Public Health.

“They’ve demonstrated that physical activity and fitness were associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes across a continuum of persons,” Pate said. “For the public, that’s an important message. You can’t eliminate genetic risk, but you can absolutely attenuate the effects.”

Pate just finished a term on a committee that writes the federal Physical Activity Guidelines. The group’s advisory report was released last month and will be the foundation for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ policy recommendations on how physical activity can promote health and reduce the risk of disease. The advisory group’s recommendations have a chapter emphasizing the importance of exercise with people who have chronic conditions.

The latest research is “added ammunition in making the case that promotion of physical activity deserves a prominent place in public health,” Pate said.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, though there are proven ways to lower risk. People often hear about risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess weight. Now, the expanding field of genetics can provide more information, Pate said.

“We’re in a new era in terms of people being able to know their risk status,” he said. “We can now provide information at a new and higher level.”

Ingelsson and the study authors suggested it could lead to individualized strength-training and aerobic programs to help people counteract their genetic risk for heart disease.

But one important question to answer, and a potential future area of study, Ingelsson said, is whether that knowledge truly is power. If we know that lifestyle choices like exercise could offset our genetic risk for disease, how likely are we to start that healthier lifestyle?

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Filed under cardio exercise, Exercise, exercise benefits, heart, heart disease

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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Filed under aging, American Heart Association, cardio exercise, Exercise, exercise benefits, heart rate, sedentary lifestyle, successful aging

Exercise can reverse damage from heart aging – Study

Eat less; move more; live longer. Simple acts with profound effects. And, according to the latest study, don’t wait till you are old to start.

Exercise can reverse damage to sedentary, aging hearts and help prevent risk of future heart failure – if it’s enough exercise, and if it’s begun in time, according to a new study by cardiologists at UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources.

Group of older mature people lifting weights in the gym

Group of older mature people lifting weights in the gym

To reap the most benefit, the exercise regimen should begin by late middle age (before age 65), when the heart apparently retains some plasticity and ability to remodel itself, according to the findings by researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM), which is a collaboration between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

And the exercise needs to be performed four to five times a week. Two to three times a week was not enough, the researchers found in an earlier study. Continue reading

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Filed under cardio exercise, exercise benefits, exercise duration, heart problems, how much exercise, successful aging

Harvard says, ‘Nuts to you’ – for heart health

I am fortunate in that I like nuts in all manner and form. Always have. So, nuts are an integral part of my daily diet.

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Many people think of nuts as just another junk food snack. In reality, nuts are excellent sources of healthy fat, protein, and other healthful nutrients.

One surprising finding from nutrition research is that people who regularly eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease than those who rarely eat them. Several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study have shown a consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week. In fact, the FDA now allows some nuts and foods made with them to carry this claim: “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.” Continue reading

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Cardio exercise strengthens both body and brain

With Thanksgiving looming, this is a great time to reaffirm our resolve to exercise regularly. OR, it is the ideal time to resolve to exercise regularly in the coming year and maybe begin to address physical and weight problems that we have neglected.

Regular readers know that I have posted numerous times on the value of exercise not only for our bodies, but also for our brains. On the top of this page is IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT YOUR BRAIN.

If you click on that link you can find a page full of blog posts on the subject.

Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food.

Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food. No walking down a supermarket aisle for them.

And now, the New York Times joins in the fray with Gretchen Reynolds’s article Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain.
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Filed under aerobics, aging brain, brain, brain function, brain health, cardio exercise, cardiovascular health

Heart function linked to brain’s memory center – Study

This is fascinating and seems to bolster my thought that exercising the body benefits the brain a great deal. The concept of use it or lose it is widely known and accepted regarding physical development. It seems it also applies to mental makeup.  As above, so below.

Research by a team of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) scientists suggests that older people whose hearts pump less blood have blood flow reductions in the temporal lobe regions of the brain, where Alzheimer’s pathology begins.

The brain, which accounts for only 2 percent of total body weight, typically receives 12 percent of blood flow from the heart — a level maintained by complex, automatic processes, which maintain consistent blood flow to the brain at all times.

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Angela Jefferson, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center, and colleagues investigated whether lower cardiac index (the amount of blood flowing out of the heart adjusted for body size) correlated with lower blood flow to the brain.

The purpose of the study was to better understand whether reductions in brain blood flow might explain clinical observations in prior research that have linked heart function to cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“We currently know a lot about how to prevent and medically manage many forms of heart disease, but we do not yet know how to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease,” Jefferson said. Continue reading

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Filed under aging brain, brain, brain function, Healthy brain, heart, heart health brain health, heart rate, Vanderbilt University

6 ways your pet can boost your health and well being – Medical News Today

As regular readers know, I am a dog lover . I have posted about my poodle, Gabi, a number of times. She accompanies me on about 5000 miles of bikes rides every year. So, I was very pleased to run across this item by Honor Whiteman on Medical News Today.

On arriving home after a long, stressful day at work, you are greeted at the door by an overexcited four-legged friend. It can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Pet ownership is undoubtedly one of the greatest pleasures in life, providing companionship and giggles galore. But the benefits do not end there; your pet could be doing wonders for your health and well-being.
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My intrepid little partner, Gabi, in her basket wearing her hat ready to ride.

The United States is a nation of animal lovers; more than 65 percent of households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choice.

It is no surprise that so many of us have a pet in our lives; not only are animals fantastic company, but they also teach us compassion and offer unconditional love.

As British novelist George Eliot once said, “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”

Adding to pets’ indisputable charm is the wealth of benefits they offer for human health and well-being. We take a closer look at what these are.

1. Lower risk of allergies

Around 50 million people in the U.S. have nasal allergies, and pet dander is one of the most common triggers.With this in mind, it may come as a surprise that pets could actually lower the risk of developing allergies.

One study reported by Medical News Today in 2015 associated exposure to dogs and farm animals in early life with a lower risk of asthma development by school age.

More recent research published in the journal Microbiome found that children who were exposed to household pets prior to birth and up to 3 months after experienced changes in gut bacteria associated with childhood allergies. Continue reading

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Filed under allergies, biking, depression, Exercise, exercise benefits, heart, mental health, pets and well being, sleep

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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