Entries in blood pressure (18)


American Heart Association Lists Seven Ways to Limit Stroke Risk

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The American Heart Association put out a list this week of the seven health factors that can increase your risk of suffering a stroke.

Nearly 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year, making strokes the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, and a leading cause of disability.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 23,000 Americans age 45 and older and created a scoring system based on seven criteria. Those seven criteria were:

Manage blood pressure
Control cholesterol
Be physically active
Control blood sugar
Keep weight down
Eat a healthful diet (and)
Don't smoke.

Each patient was given a grade from zero to two in each of the above categories. For each point gained, a patient's stroke risk decreased by 8 percent. Patients with a total score of 10 or higher saw a 60 percent drop in their stroke risk. Comparatively, those with a score between five and nine were 40 percent likely to suffer a stroke than those with a score between zero and four.

According to the study, the most important factor in stroke prevention was having good blood pressure.

For Americans, regardless of race, a better score in the AHA's seven criteria was linked to a reduced risk of stroke.

However, blacks generally had worse overall scores, highlighting the added importance for black Americans to improve their scores in the "simple seven" factors.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Low-Fat Yogurt May Cut High Blood Pressure Risk

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Low-fat yogurt may help lower your risk for high blood pressure, according to new research.

A new study of more than 2,100 adults presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions Wednesday found that those who reported eating more low-fat yogurt were 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who ate less.

The researchers also found that, over the course of the 15-year study, low-fat yogurt eaters, on average, had lower increases in systolic blood pressure -- the “first” or top "number” in a blood pressure reading -- compared to those who did not eat low-fat yogurt.

These results held up even after adjusting for weight, use of blood pressure medications and lifestyle factors, including diet.

This study, which was partially funded by yogurt company Dannon, was part of a bigger long-term project, known as the Framingham Heart Study.

About one in three adults living in the United States -- around 68 million Americans -- have high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death across the nation.

Dr. Robert O. Bonow, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Innovation at Northwestern’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, said that when it comes to keeping blood pressure at bay, every bit counts.

“As you get older, your [blood] pressure tends to go up,” said Bonow, who was not involved in the study. “If you can minimize the age-related increase, that’s good.”

The researchers behind the study and other experts cautioned that while this study found a link between low-fat yogurt and lower blood pressure, it doesn’t prove that yogurt actually lowers blood pressure.

There could be other reasons why individuals who eat low-fat yogurt do better, the researchers said.

Some nutrition experts noted, however, that these findings do add to the growing body of evidence of the health benefits of low-fat yogurt.

“Previous studies have found that including low-fat dairy foods in a healthy diet can help manage blood pressure,” said Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“The Dash studies published over a decade ago showed that a healthy diet pattern that included lots of fruits, vegetables, three low-fat dairy servings per day and limited saturated fat along with a moderate sodium intake was effective for lowering blood pressure,” said Sandon, who was not involved with the study.

According to the researchers, low-fat yogurt is high in protein and other nutrients -- calcium, potassium and magnesium -- that are related to blood pressure and are typically underconsumed by Americans.

Sandon agreed. “The calcium found in yogurt and other dairy foods may be the key ingredient,” she said. "An earlier version of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that people who ate more foods high in calcium had lower blood pressure.  Taking calcium supplements does not seem to have the same effect as foods that naturally contain calcium.”

How much low-fat yogurt should you consume to try to help your blood pressure? The researchers found that eating six ounces of yogurt every three days helped.

There’s an easy way to figure out how much yogurt that is. “A woman’s fist is about one cup.  The palm of a woman’s hand is half a cup,” said Connie Diekman, a registered dietitian and director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, “So a little bit between those is six ounces.”

There are other known benefits of snacking on low-fat yogurt besides helping bone health, said Diekman, who was not involved in the study.

“Yogurt is a great source of protein,” she said. “The protein keeps you feeling full a little longer.  It does have some liquid so it provides some hydration.”

While more rigorous research on low-fat yogurt is needed before doctors can reliably link it to lower blood pressure, nutrition experts said that adding some of it to your diet can’t hurt.

“Yogurt can be part of a healthy diet and may help with managing blood pressure,” said Sandon. “A healthy diet coupled with regular physical exercise can help you manage your health and prevent chronic diseases like high blood pressure.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Red Wine Minus the Alcohol Can Lower Blood Pressure

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wine lovers, get ready for a buzz kill.  A new study has found that drinking two glasses of red wine a day can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease -- but only if the alcohol has been removed.

Writing in the journal Circulation Research, Spanish investigators reported on 67 men with several cardiovascular risk factors or diabetes.  The men spent three periods of four weeks each, enjoying either non-alcoholic red wine, red wine, or gin with their meals, switching to a different beverage at the end of every phase.

During the month they indulged in regular red wine or gin, the men's blood pressures showed little or no change.  But there was a drop in their blood pressure when they drank the non-alcoholic wine.  The dip in pressure was modest -- just a few points -- but it translated into a 14 percent reduced risk for coronary heart disease and a 20 percent decrease in risk for strokes.

Polyphenols are the antioxidant compounds in red wine thought to bestow its heart-healthy benefits, including reduced blood pressure.  However, previous studies haven't found that drinking red wine corresponds to a drop in blood pressure.  Just last year, a Dutch study reported that drinking a dairy beverage infused with polyphenols didn't budge the blood pressures in those with mild hypertension.

Why would removing the alcohol from the wine improve pressure in this particular study?  The authors speculate that the virgin wine increased nitric oxide in the bloodstream, a chemical that relaxes blood vessels.

Drinking alcoholic red wine raised nitric oxide slightly and gin, not at all.  According to Dr. Franz Messerli, a cardiologist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York., this could mean that alcohol cancels out some of the good done by the antioxidants.

"Since alcohol in larger doses narrows the blood vessels, it can override the beneficial relaxation of the vessels by the polyphenols in the red wine," he said.

Dr. Malissa Wood, a cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center in Boston, said she thinks there could be other reasons why the nonalcoholic wine lowered blood pressure but they weren't clearly laid out in the study.

"Maybe it's related to the type of grape and process used to make the wine -- the authors didn't specify whether or not all the wines were made from the same grapes using the same techniques.  It's also possible that the process for removal of alcohol leads to formation of another potentially beneficial compound or increases the content of antioxidants," she said.

The study had additional limitations that should be considered as well.  For one thing, both the researchers and the men knew what each glass contained.  Perhaps this influenced them in some way.  The subjects also didn't do a "washout" period before switching drinks so their blood pressures didn't get a chance to reset to their baseline.

"There could be a carry-over effect between treatments that was cumulative with time, resulting in lower blood pressure as the trial continued in time," said Donna Arnett, the current president of the American Heart Association and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Public Health in Birmingham.

Including a group of teetotalers would have served as a useful comparison, Arnett said.  And, he said, the findings might not hold for women or healthy individuals.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dark Chocolate Reduces Risk of Heart Problems, Study Finds

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- Do you have a bittersweet love affair with chocolate?  One new study, published in the journal BMJ, found that dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart problems.

A team of researchers from Melbourne, Australia analyzed data of more than 2,000 Australians who were already at high risk of heart disease.  They all had high blood pressure, but were not on blood pressure-lowering medication and had no history of heart disease or diabetes.

Using a mathematical model, researchers found that, if the patients were all to consume 100 grams of dark chocolate per day, about 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people for 10 years could be avoided.  In the model, researchers assumed about $40 was spent per person per year on a prevention strategy using dark chocolate.

In other words, the small amount of bittersweet reduced the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and stroke, in people with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, metabolites that have heart-protecting properties and are rich in antioxidants.  Flavonoids, which can also be found in green and black teas, cherries, apples, red grapes and other deeply colored fruits and vegetables, have also been known to help with digestion, improve kidney, bowel function and sexual performance, and treat anemia and gout.

“Modest intake of dark chocolate intake can provide the daily amount and the benefits are substantial and cost effective,” professor Chris Reid, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said via email.  “For the first time, we have estimated the impact on clinical outcomes and a $40 per person, per year investment would yield a cost effective approach to cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Reid and his colleagues even suggested that the heart health benefits and prevention could be touted in marketing and educational campaigns.  Or governments could subsidize the cost of dark chocolate in high-risk heart disease populations.

The researchers concluded that the blood pressure-lowering effects of plain dark chocolate “could represent an effective and cost-effective strategy for people with metabolic syndrome (and no diabetes).”

It’s important to note that the protective factors were only seen in dark chocolate that contained at least 60 percent (preferably 70 percent, experts say) cocoa.

“You’re not going to see these same benefits in milk and white chocolate,” said Carolyn Snyder, a registered dietician at Cleveland Clinic.

But she noted this is not a green light for people to eat copious amounts of any kind of chocolate. Snyder recommended consuming about one ounce of chocolate per day, two to three times a week, for the heart benefits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Long Commutes Drive Up Weight, Blood Pressure

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Is the morning commute grinding your gears?  Well, it might also be hurting your health.

People who drive long distances to work are more likely to be overweight than their non-commuting counterparts, according to a new study that links urban sprawl with expanding waistlines.

"It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active," said Christine Hoehner of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., lead author of the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  "Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they're sitting longer."

Previous studies have tied time spent sitting to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and early death.

To tease out the health effects of the daily drive, Hoehner and colleagues studied the medical records of nearly 4,300 commuters in Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas.  They found that the more people drove, the less they exercised.

"I think the message for folks who live a long way from work and have a desk job is to find ways to build physical activity into their day," said Hoehner, adding that workplaces should "allow and even encourage physical activity breaks."

Hoehner said diet could also be to blame, theorizing that commuters have less time to cook and more time to snack in the car.

Weight wasn't the only thing that increased with driving distance: The longer the drive, the higher the driver's blood pressure.

"Previous studies have pointed to daily exposure to traffic, particularly the unpredictability of traffic, as being a source of chronic stress," said Hoehner, describing how frustration can send blood pressure through the roof.  "Our study is the first to show that long commutes are associated with higher weight, lower fitness levels and higher blood pressure, all of which are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers."

Roughly 28.5 million American adults travel 30 minutes or more to work, according to 2010 U.S. census data.

"Driving to work has become a part of American life.  But there's no reason that taking walks during work breaks can't become part of daily life, too," said Hoehner.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


This Just In: Healthy People Live Longer, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Unhealthy habits, like smoking and being overweight, have long been linked to heart disease and cancer, America’s top killers.  The reverse of that coin -- the impact of healthy habits on preventing disease and death -- has been a mantra in the medical community. Now a new study adds weight to that, finding that healthful behaviors, like exercising and eating a balanced diet, can reduce the risk of early death by up to 76 percent.

“It’s common sense,” said study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Diseases and Stroke Prevention. “We know what increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. And if you can prevent or postpone those risk factors from developing, it will really reduce your risk long term.”

Yang and colleagues used surveys to probe seven measures of healthy living -- smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, diet and weight -- in nearly 45,000 adult men and women between 1988 and 2010. They found people who were “ideal” on six or more of the parameters were 76 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 51 percent less likely to die from other causes, including cancer.

“We can prevent cardiovascular disease by preventing the risk factors from occurring in the first place,” said Yang. The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 600,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC. While each healthy living parameter independently affected the risk of death due to heart disease, having an ideal blood pressure was the biggest contributor, reducing the risk by 40 percent.

“There are about 68 million people with hypertension in the U.S.,” said Yang. “If you could bring that down by 10 percent, you could prevent 14,000 cardiovascular events.”

Not smoking and eating an ideal diet reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 13 percent each, Yang said. But less than one percent of the U.S. study population ate an ideal diet consisting of fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains with limited sodium and sugar.

Although smoking has declined since 1988, blood sugar -- a marker of diabetes -- and weight have risen steadily. Only 2.1 percent of the study subjects were ideal on six or more parameters. They tended to be younger, female and more educated. The majority of subjects were healthy on three of the seven parameters.

Yang said he hopes to see smoking continue to decline, and weight and diabetes level off. He also hopes to see the proportion of people with ideal physical activity and diet increase.

“If we can shift the whole population towards ideal cardiovascular health metrics, we will really reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death,” said Yang.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Checking Blood Pressure on Both Arms Can Detect Silent Killer

Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When you get your blood pressure checked at the doctor's office, the usual protocol is to take the reading from one arm.  But now, research suggests that checking both arms instead could help save you from a silent killer.

A new study published in the journal Lancet finds that if between both arms there's a difference of more than 15 points in the top (systolic) number, a patient could have vascular disease.

Dr. Oscar Garfein, a cardiologist and advocate of taking blood pressure from both arms, said taking the extra step saved the life of one of his patients.

"I found that it one arm it was very, very low and the other one it was normal and it helped me arrive at a diagnosis of a potentially lethal condition," he said.

"All it takes is about one minute and you can find something that really most of the time points to the fact this patient has established vascular disease," Garfein added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Meets to Discuss Strategies for Reducing Salt Intake

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a day-long hearing Thursday, discussing strategies to help Americans cut the salt from their diets -- the latest assault in the crusade against sodium.

In the past few decades, the government has created guidelines, cajoled industry groups and garnered support from major medical groups such as the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association to encourage more Americans to get the salt out of their diets. Their action stems from the medical wisdom that many know by heart: a diet high in salt raises blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and a host of other cardiovascular problems. If the food industry, restaurants and citizens cut their daily salt intake, the feds argue, the national burden of cardiovascular disease would be eased.

The FDA's goal is to get the food industry to gradually reduce the amount of salt in processed and restaurant foods, which account for 75 percent of Americans' salt intake, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But a number of scientists and physicians say that the case against salt is far from closed. The evidence connecting high-sodium diets with heart disease and death is flimsy, they argue, and does not warrant such sweeping changes in salt consumption.

"Other than in those patients with underlying heart or kidney failure, there is little conclusive evidence that moderate salt intake actually increases heart disease risk," said Dr. Stuart Seides, associate director of cardiology at the Washington Hospital Center.

At the forefront of the fight to save salt is the Salt Institute, an industry group representing salt manufacturers.

The group is mobilizing a grassroots effort to save their seasoning, including a Facebook page and a two-minute YouTube video featuring the group's vice president of science and research, Mortin Satin, the "Salt Guru" who exhorts all salt lovers to send in comments to the FDA's hearing, warning the feds to keep their hands off salt.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Higher-Than-Normal Blood Pressure Puts Patients at Stroke Risk

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Even slightly elevated blood pressure greatly increases a person's risk of stroke, according to new research.

The study review, published in the journal Neurology, analyzed the results of 12 studies on blood pressure and stroke incidences among more than half a million adults.

In the study, those who had prehypertension -- defined as a systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 120 and 139 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) between 80 and 89 mmHg -- were about 50 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than people with healthy blood pressure levels.

The results held true even after researchers accounted for other risk factors, including age, diabetes, obesity and smoking. Patients under the age of 65 with prehypertension were nearly 80 percent more likely to develop a stroke than people with normal blood pressure.

Researchers added that stroke risk appeared to be more driven by systolic blood pressure than diastolic in the study findings.

"People who have prehypertension are at higher future risk of stroke," said Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, director of the Olive View-UCLA Stroke Program and lead author of the study. "We also saw that not all prehypertesnion is created equal. For those who fall into the higher range of prehypertension, there seems to be an especially high risk."

"This study is of considerable interest and points out what many of have believed for some time -- that is, blood pressure thresholds are arbitrary and do not, per se, establish a quantifiable risk for the individual patient, but rather reflect the risk in a population," said Dr. Domenic Sica, chairman of clinical pharmacology and hypertension at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Therefore, quantifying risk may be useful [to] guide the clinician on selecting a drug therapy in someone in whom lifestyle measures are inadequate."

Ovbiagele was quick to note that drug therapy should not be the first option, at least not yet, for people who suffer from prehypertension.

"People who do fall into the higher range of prehypertension should modify their lifestyle as much as possible," said Ovbiagele. "Get to an ideal weight, stop smoking, restrict salt -- these changes in lifestyle are relatively harmless and help not only high blood pressure, but other problems, like heart attack and kidney failure."

Dr. Matthew Lucks, a San Diego-based cardiologist, noted that the more than two alcoholic beverages per day in men and more than one per day in women can significantly increase blood pressure.

"Clearly, the systolic blood pressure goals are not one size fits all, but there is significant benefit to the young and middle-aged population that achieving the lowest possible systolic blood pressure can reduce cardiovascular events and stroke," said Lucks.

Ovbiagele and colleagues plan on conducting a clinical trial to compare prehypertension patients who receive drug therapy versus those who do not in order to understand the need for medication among the prehypertension population.

"The conclusions of the study do leave the door open for a new definition and goal for prehypertension," said Lucks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Blood Pressure Changes over a Lifetime

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- There is a lot of research regarding the causes of high blood pressure and ways to prevent and treat it.  And there should be -- some 33 percent of American adults are estimated to have high blood pressure.  But this study asked a more fundamental question: how does blood pressure change over a lifetime?  

It’s known that what is considered to be “normal” blood pressure is dependent on multiple factors including age, but here the authors from University College London actually map out changes in blood pressure by analyzing repeated measurements over the lifetimes of the study participants.
The authors used data from multiple UK studies that followed over 30,000 people from birth, measuring their blood pressure over time.  The age of the participants spanned from seven to 80+ years of age.  The results showed that blood pressure changes at four phases throughout life for both men and women.

Phase 1)      A rapid increase in blood pressure coinciding with peak adolescent growth
Phase 2)      A more gentle increase in early adulthood
Phase 3)      A midlife acceleration beginning in the fourth decade of life
Phase 4)      A period of deceleration in late adulthood eventually reaching a point of blood pressure decline
Another interesting finding is that although women tended to have lower blood pressure than men early in adulthood, those differences disappeared later in life, possibly due to menopause-related effects on salt sensitivity.  The authors say that although their “study is unable to identify the key determinants of age-related increases in [blood pressure], further research should try to understand which factors affect this trajectory…”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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