Entries in Cardiovascular Disease (15)


Pumping Iron Cuts Diabetes Risk

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pumping iron can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in men, a new study found.

The study of more than 32,000 men found those who lifted weights for at least two and a half hours a week were 34 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease linked to complications including blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease.

"Previous studies have shown that aerobic exercise is beneficial for the prevention of diabetes, but no epidemiological studies had looked at the impact of weight training," said Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "This study demonstrates that weight training has benefits independent of aerobic exercise."

Aerobic exercise helps burns excess fat, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. But weight training helps boosts muscle mass, which is "very important for metabolism and insulin sensitivity," according to Hu.

Merging aerobic exercise and weight training was linked to a 59 percent reduction in diabetes risk, according to the study -- a link that held up even when the researchers controlled for unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking.

"The most important message from this study is that combining the two types of exercise confers the largest benefit," said Hu.

Because the study was done in men, it's unclear whether the findings extend to women.

More than 23 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a number expected to rise as American waistlines expand.

"These studies remind us that the fundamental cornerstone in the management of these pandemics is still lifestyle," Dr. Ruchi Mathur, an endocrinologist at the Cedars-Sinai Weight Loss Center in Los Angeles, said in an email. "We know that something as simple as walking can enhance insulin sensitivity."

Even people who already have diabetes can benefit from regular exercise, according to a second study published today in the same journal that found "moderately active" diabetics were half as likely to die from cardiovascular complications as their physically inactive counterparts.

"The study reminds us that physical activity does not have to be aggressive to confer cardiovascular benefit in patients with diabetes," said Mathur. "In fact, simple leisure activities such as gardening and walking are beneficial."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Want Better Heart Health? Don't Worry, Be Happy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Are you a glass half-empty or a glass half-full kind of person?  Researchers say a glass half-full perspective could do more for you than just make you smile.  Positive feelings may help protect cardiovascular health, a review of studies has found.

In the first and largest systemic review on this topic to date, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.  

In the review, which included more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases, researchers found there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease.  It also appears that these factors slow the progression of the disease.

People who have a positive attitude also had a healthier lifestyle, which included exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep, they found.

Additionally, greater well-being was related to better biological function, such as lower blood pressure, healthier lipid (blood fat) profiles and normal body weight.

Professor Laura Kubzansky, a lead author of the study, said, "These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health."

The review's findings were published online in Psychological Bulletin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Those Who Follow Seven Cardiovascular Behaviors Live Longer, Study Finds 

Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- A study published on Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that people who follow seven recommended cardiovascular health behaviors are much less likely to die than those who follow few or none of the behaviors, Health Day reports.

The behaviors include not smoking, eating a healthy diet, having normal cholesterol, blood glucose and total cholesterol levels, being physically active and having normal blood pressure, and are recommended by the American Heart Association.

According to the researchers, cardiovascular disease kills more than 800,000 people a year and accounts for about one in three deaths. It is the number one cause of death in the nation.

Almost 45,000 adults from the United States participated in the study.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Study: Fathers' Hearts Healthier Than Those of Childless Men

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Men who have children may be at an advantage over their childless counterparts when it comes to heart health, according to a new study.

After examining married men over a 10-year period, researchers at Stanford University found that those who didn't become fathers were 17 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than guys who had kids.

All the men in the study were over 50, healthy and had no overt problems that might have interfered with reproduction.

Dr. Michael Eisenberg says the findings point to infertility as the possible reason for this phenomenon since low testosterone levels are linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Still, Eisenberg isn't about to entirely dismiss the cause-and-effect possibility that having children might improve heart health.  He speculates that after becoming a father, men might decide to take better care of themselves.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Heart Disease, Diabetes and Stroke: More Chocolate, Less Risk?

Pixland/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new review of previously published studies adds weight to the claim that chocolate is good for the heart.

Taken together, five of seven studies included in the review linked high chocolate consumption with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, a 31 percent reduction in diabetes risk and a 29 percent reduction in stroke risk when compared to low chocolate consumption.

"Although over-consumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders," Adriana Buitrago-Lopez of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and colleagues reported Monday in BMJ.

The findings held up even when factors such as age, diet, physical activity, body mass index and smoking were controlled for.  But the review stopped short of concluding that chocolate itself makes people healthier.

"This paper merely shows us that the association between habitual intake of chocolate and lower cardiometabolic risk is 'statistically robust,'" said Dr. David Katz, director of medical studies in public health at Yale University.  "But what if happier people eat more chocolate, and are at lower cardiometabolic risk because they are happier?  This paper cannot address such subtleties."

The review included data collected from more than 114,000 people.  But the large numbers don't prove cause and effect, Katz said.  The review does, however, support chocolate as a healthful indulgence -- in moderation, of course.

This is a wonderful example of the opportunity to love food that loves us back," said Katz.  "However, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing."

Katz, who has published studies on the health effects of chocolate, said the next step is to establish a therapeutic window similar to that for red wine.

"Our conclusion is that dark chocolate -- 60 percent cocoa or higher -- and liquid cocoa have clear, potential benefits in terms of overall cardiac risk, but that we don't yet know enough about optimal dosing to best use this food 'as medicine,'" Katz said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Obesity Rates Projected to Soar

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If waistlines keep expanding at current rates, half of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030, according to a new report.

The current trajectory, according to a two-decade trend of steady weight gain, would see 65 million more obese adults, raising the national total to 164 million. Roughly one-third of the U.S. population is currently obese.

"At the rate we're looking at right now, it's a dire prediction," said Claire Wang, assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and lead author of the study that was published in the Lancet. "Something has to be done."

The rise in obesity could lead to 7.8 million more cases of diabetes, 6.8 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and more than half-a-million extra cancer cases in the U.S. -- all of which would balloon health care costs by $66 billion a year, according to the report.

But if every obese person decreased his or her body mass index by just one percent (a loss of two pounds for a 200-pound adult), as many as 2.4 million diabetes cases, 1.7 million cases of heart disease and stroke and 127,000 cancer cases could be prevented.

The need for effective, cost-effective solutions is particularly pressing as obese baby boomers move into older age.

Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of the Center for Weight Management at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, said ever-growing waitlists for obesity clinics are already three months long.

Obesity treatments, such as bariatric surgery, are effective, but many patients are reluctant to undergo such an invasive procedure. And a dearth of drugs approved to treat obesity leaves few options for extreme weight loss short of strict diets and intense exercise programs.

For now, Fujioka said, solutions should focus on prevention. Taxes on unhealthy foods that provide empty calories, like sugary sodas, could help curb consumption and provide revenue for public policy changes, he said.

But changes have to come at the family and individual level, too. Buying a bathroom scale can help people stay on top of their weight and monitor small changes. Cutting down on TV time and ramping up regular physical exercise -- even a walk -- can help balance calories consumed and spent. And limiting access to junk food can make it easier to make healthy choices.

One glum prediction that wasn't captured in the study is the fate of the 17 percent of U.S. teens who are obese.

Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Center Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, blames inactivity for the rise in childhood obesity.

"When I was a kid, kids drank whole milk and ate junk food whenever they could get it. But we moved," he said, describing the eagerness to get outside and play. "Nowadays kids don't do that. They only leave the house to get to someone else's house to play video games."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cholesterol-Lowering Foods Reduce LDL Levels More than Low-Fat Diets

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Millions of Americans pop statins to keep their cholesterol levels down. But new research suggests that cholesterol-friendly foods such as soy products and tree nuts may also contribute to lowering LDL, or "bad," cholesterol levels.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people who ate a healthy diet filled with cholesterol-lowering foods experienced a 13-percent decrease in their LDL cholesterol levels. Those who followed a diet low in saturated fats experienced a three-percent decrease.

"The main takeaway here is that people can lower their cholesterol with diet if they put their minds to it," said Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition and metabolism at University of Toronto and lead author of the study. "These can be small changes. We're not asking people to live behind bars."

Jenkins created the "portfolio diet," which combines foods that allow maximum benefit in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. The regimen includes regular consumption of tree nuts and high amounts of fiber from oats, barley and vegetables. The diet says to replace butter with plant sterol-enriched margarine and substitute soy-based products for meat.

"The study highlighted the power of food to lower risk for cardiovascular disease: What you do eat and what you don't eat are both important," said Dr. Jane Klauer, a New York internist specializing in metabolism and nutrition.

While Jenkins said most study participants followed a moderately healthy diet to begin with, it's possible for people to see positive changes in their cholesterol levels even after making small changes to eating regimens.

"Replacing sources of saturated fat, such as red meat and dairy products, with sources of healthy fats, such as nuts and soy products will definitely have greater benefits than replacing red meat and dairy products with carbohydrates," said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Before suggesting medication, doctors generally encourage high-cholesterol patients to change their diet and lifestyle. If noninvasive measures do not sufficiently lower the levels, they will often prescribe statin drugs, which reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver.

"Diet should be used with drugs to reach LDL and non-HDL cholesterol goals," Dr. Robert Eckel, director of the General Clinic Research Center at Colorado Health Science University, wrote in an email to "The bulk of evidence indicates the importance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (fiber), lean poultry and fish to reduce cardiovascular disease risk."

"If goals are not reached with lifestyle changes (including appropriate amounts of physical activity), statins are the drug of choice to reduce cardiovascular disease risk," continued Eckel.

The study had only a six-month follow-up, and many experts suggested a longer follow-up period was necessary to understand the long-term effects of the portfolio diet.

Many experts also noted that an herbivorous, or plant-based, diet would be difficult for meat eaters to maintain.

"The diet was vegetarian and, not surprisingly, had dropouts, even with the counseling," said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program at St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospitals. "I don't think that really long-term adherence would be good."

"The authors state that this is 'long-term.' I don't feel that six months is long-term."

"Convincing people to change dietary patterns is difficult, much less convincing them to become vegetarians," said Klauer. "Change is difficult for people. But as they are rewarded with looking and feeling more vital, they are motivated to persevere."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sitting for Prolonged Time Increases Risk for Lung Blood Clots

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Sitting for long periods of time has already been associated with increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as elevated cholesterol, increased BMI and waist circumference, and increased levels of biomarkers of inflammation. Now, add lung blood clots to the list.

In a study published Monday in the British Medical Journal, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed medical records from almost 70,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1990 to 2008 and found that those who sat for about six hours per day had more than double the risk of lung blood clots than women who sat for an average of two hours each day.

It is worth noting that the actual rate of lung blood clots increased from 0.04 percent in the most active women to 0.1 percent in the least active ones, making the actual risk of lung blood clots from sitting very, very small.

However, the authors still state that “interventions that decrease time sitting could lower the risk of pulmonary embolism [lung blood clots].”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Use Chantix to Quit Smoking and Risk Your Heart?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- On the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's admission that Chantix, Pfizer's smoking cessation drug, may aggravate heart problems in those with cardiovascular disease, new research suggests that they're not the only ones at risk.

Chantix may in fact increase the risk of heart attack and other adverse events for those with a clean bill of cardiovascular health.

Though concerns over Chantix's effect on the heart were raised during the drug's approval process in 2006, the FDA's recent move to include a cardiovascular warning in the drug's safety information marks the first time the organization has publicly discussed such potential risks.  It's a move that is a long time coming for Dr. John Spangler, co-author on the new research, a meta-analysis published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Since 2007, Spangler, director of Tobacco Intervention Programs at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has been attempting to get the word out concerning possible cardiac and other safety concerns for those taking Chantix, but his prescient warnings were largely ignored until recently.

"I had spoken to JAMA and LANCET and people from Pfizer, and emailed the FDA, and no one was very interested or concerned about the things I was finding," Spangler says.

Spangler's meta-analysis, done with lead author Dr. Sonal Singh, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, could stir concern too loud to be pushed aside, however, especially in light of the FDA's reconsideration of Chantix's safety profile.

Study authors looked at 14 past studies of Chantix and found that overall, people on the drug had a 72 percent increased risk of being hospitalized with a heart attack or other serious heart problems when compared with those taking a placebo.

"In the proportion of smokers that had never had heart disease, we saw an even greater risk of adverse events, about 150 percent increased risk," says Singh.

"The main goal of smoking cessation is to reduce the risk of heart attack that comes with being a smoker, but this drug is doing the exact opposite.  It's increasing the risk of what they're trying to avoid," Singh says.

The most "frustrating" part, he adds, is that the Food and Drug Administration found an increased risk for cardiac events back in 2006, "but they did not warn patients or physicians at that time that it may be a risk. They didn't put it on the label," Singh says.

According to the FDA, however, the data Singh refers to was too inconsistent to warrant a label mention -- until recent studies suggested it might be true.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Too Much TV Could Be Bad for Your Health

George Doyle/Stockbyte(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) -- Watching too much television may not only lead to morphing into a couch potato, but it may also have some negative effects on a person’s health, according to a study by the University of Southern Denmark.

The findings of the study, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that by reanalyzing data from eight already-published studies, researchers found that two hours of daily television watching were associated with an estimated 176 more cases of type 2 diabetes, 38 more cases of fatal cardiovascular disease, and 104 additional deaths from any cause per 100,000 people each year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio