Artificial sweeteners are often the go-to choice for people wishing to lose weight, but new research suggests they may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the study, the results of which are published in the BMJ, artificial sweeteners are associated with a 9 percent higher risk of any type of cardiovascular disease event and an 18 percent increased chance of stroke. “Our results indicate that these food additives, consumed daily by millions of people and present in thousands of foods and beverages, should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar,” the study authors wrote in The BMJ. Moreover, different sweeteners carried different risk. For example, aspartame, sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, was tied to a 17 percent increased risk of stroke. Acesulfame potassium, sold under the brand names Sweet One and Sunett, was linked to a 40 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. For the study, more than 100,000 adults (mostly female) were followed for around a decade, making it the largest to date to investigate cardiovascular health problems associated with sugar substitutes. At the start of the study, none of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes — and none of them were diagnosed with these conditions during the first two years of follow-up. *Image by designfoto from Pixabay
Reducing salt intake by just 1g per day can significantly lower a person's risk of heart disease, a new study has found. According to the Chinese study, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health, almost 9 million cardiovascular events could be prevented each year by 2030 if people cut their salt intake by just 1g per day. Despite the World Health Organization recommending people to eat a maximum of 5g of salt per day, the researchers noted that China has one of the highest daily salt intakes in the world with an average consumption of 11 grams per day – more than twice the WHO recommended amount. Furthermore, around 40 per cent of all deaths in China are associated with or because of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, the researchers found that reducing salt by 1g per day could lower the average systolic blood pressure by 1.2 mm/Hg, potentially preventing 9 million cardiovascular disease events and stroke cases by 2030 – of which 4 million would be fatal. “While this study focused on the salt intake in China, the benefits of salt reduction in an American diet are well established,” Dr. Jeffrey Tyler, a cardiologist with Providence St. Joseph Hospital in California, told Healthline. “People who are middle or older age, diabetic, with kidney disease… benefit, even more, when reducing salt intake.” *Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay
Taking a short walk after eating can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes and heart problems, a new study suggests. According to the study, published in Sports Medicine, just 2 to 5 minutes of light walking after a meal can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood glucose levels spike after eating, triggering the pancreas to release insulin to control the increase and promote the storage of glucose in fat, muscle, liver and other body tissues. Over time, some people's cells develop a resistance to insulin, which can lead to blood glucose levels remaining elevated. If this persists, complications, including cardiovascular disease and nerve damage, can occur. “With standing and walking, there are contractions of your muscles” that use glucose and lower blood sugar levels, Aidan Buffey, the lead study author and a PhD student in physical education and sport sciences at the University of Limerick, told The Times. “If you can do physical activity before the glucose peak, typically 60 to 90 minutes [after eating], that is when you’re going to have the benefit of not having the glucose spike,” he said. *Image by
The American Heart Association (AHA) has added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist for the first time. Sleep now joins diet, exercise, tobacco use, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure on the association's list of factors people can modify to stay healthy. The AHA published its new checklist, called “Life’s Essential 8,” in the journal Circulation on June 29. The old checklist, created in 2010, was known as “Life’s Simple 7.” “Not only is sleep health related to the other things that play a role in heart health, it seems to also be directly related to cardiovascular health itself,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, the director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, who helped compile the new AHA checklist. “Sleep is changeable, and studies show that you can improve aspects of heart health just by improving sleep,” Dr. Grandner says. People who get less than six hours of good quality sleep a night are at increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well as worse mental and cognitive health, Grandner says. Likewise, those who get more than nine hours of sleep a night are also less likely to be healthy and more likely to die prematurely, he added. *Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay
Only 20% of American adults have 'optimal' heart health, new research reveals. According to the study by the American Heart Association (AHA), the US population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health. This is based on AHA's Life’s Essential 8™ cardiovascular health scoring, its updated metrics to measure heart and brain health. The AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring includes: diet physical activity nicotine exposure sleep health body weight blood lipids blood glucos blood pressure With sleep being the newest addition. For the AHA study, researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2013 to 2018. This data included non-pregnant, non-institutionalized individuals between two and 79 years old who did not have cardiovascular disease. All participants had an overall cardiovascular health (CVH) score calculated for them ranging from 0 to 100, as well as a score for diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure – all using AHA definitions. The results revealed that among the more than 23,400 American adults and children without cardiovascular disease (CVD), overall cardiovascular health was not ideal. Indeed, the research showed roughly 80% of people scored at a low or moderate level. Mitchell Weinberg, MD, chair of cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, the AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring is both valuable and patient friendly for determining CVH. “Possessing one number that crystallizes a person’s current health status enables that individual to comprehend the need for change and target a single numeric goal,” he said. *Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay
People who suffer with stress and anxiety could realise heart health benefits through regular exercise, new research has found. According to the study by res earchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, regular physical activity among individuals with depression or anxiety had nearly double the cardiovascular benefit than in people without such diagnoses. The study found that, people who accomplished the recommended amount of physical activity per week – 150 minutes, according to he American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association – were 17 per cent less likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event than those who exercised less. However, of those who achieved the recommended amount of physical activity per week, individuals with anxiety or depression had a 22 per cent risk reduction versus a 10 per cent among those without either condition. The analysis included more than 50,000 patients in the Massachusetts General Brigham Biobank database. Just over 4,000 of the patients analyzed had suffered a major cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, chest pain caused by a blocked artery, or underwent a procedure to open a blocked artery in the heart. Commenting on the study's findings, Michael Emery, MD, who is the co-director of the Sports Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and was not involved in the study, said: “Exercise is medicine both physically and psychologically, and these factors interplay such that when you are more physically healthy your psychological state is more robust, and when you are mentally more healthy your physical state is improved.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Staying "well hydrated" in middle age may lower a person's risk of heart failure in later life, new research suggests. According to the study by researchers at the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), individuals with lower blood sodium levels (serum sodium) has a 39% lower risk of having heart failure in their later years. Serum sodium increases as a person's fluid levels decrease i.e. people who are dehydrated usually have more sodium in their blood. The normal range for serum sodium is 135 to 146 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). The researchers found that study participants with levels of serum sodium on the high end of the normal range — above 143 mmol/L — had a 39% increased risk of developing heart failure. For the study, the researchers analyzed information from more than 11,000 adults aged 45 to 66 over a 25-year period. It is worth noting that the study did not include individuals with diabetes, obesity or heart failure. The results of the study are published in the European Heart Journal. *Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay
Eating just two servings of avocado each week can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by a fifth, new research reveals. According to the study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, one avocado a week (equivalent to two servings) appears to cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 21% compared to people who do not eat avocado. Furthermore, by replacing half a serving of margarine, butter, egg, yoghurt, cheese or processed meats per day with the equivalent amount of avocado, people can lower their risk of heart disease by 16%-22%. Avocados contain dietary fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats and other key vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamins C, E, and K. The new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAMA), involved almost 70,000 women from the NHS Nurses’ Health Study and around 40,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Cheryl Anderson, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, said: “We desperately need strategies to improve intake of American Heart Association-recommended healthy diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — that are rich in vegetables and fruits. “Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study is evidence that avocados have possible health benefits.” *Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay
Sleeping with even a small amount of light may disrupt your blood sugar and cardiovascular control, new research suggests. According to the study by scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, leaving a TV or bedside lamp on overnight is enough to the raise blood sugar and heart rates of healthy people. For the study – the results of which are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – 20 healthy volunteers were asked to spend two nights in the university's sleep lab. On the first night, all participants slept in a very dark room. On the second, half slept with a lighting level of 100 lux, equivalent to a TV or bedside light. Each morning, the research team investigated all the volunteers’ blood sugar control. They found that people who slept in the dimly lit room on their second night had slightly worse blood sugar control than on their first night. “They thought they slept well, but your brain knows that the lights are on,” said Senior study author Dr Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. People who had two nights under dark conditions had little difference in their blood sugar control. Zee added: “The results from this study demonstrate that just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Magnesium is an essential macromineral, which means we all need to consume relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the recommended daily amount of magnesium adults 19-51+ years should consume is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Almonds, cashews, peanuts and spinach are all good sources of magnesium. But walnuts are even more magnesium-rich, providing around 158mg of the macromineral per 100g. Consuming enough magnesium in your diet is linked with a number of health benefits, including healthy bones, lower type 2 diabetes risk and better cardiovascular health. Magnesium is also linked to improved muscle contraction and nerve transmission, as well as better regulated blood pressure and boosted immunity. Previous research has shown that mice on a low-magnesium diet experience faster rates of cancer spread. Furthermore, said mice have weaker immune defenses against influenza viruses. Now, Swiss scientists have discovered that a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic or “killer” T cell, need magnesium to do their jobs and eliminate cancerous or infected cells. The researchers discovered that magnesium activates a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of cytotoxic T cells, which they use to lock on to their targets. Senior author Dr. Christoph Hess, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, explains: “In the inactive state, this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.” “If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended — and therefore active — position.” The researchers also found, through analyzing data from past clinical trials of cancer immunotherapies, that low serum levels of magnesium were associated with more rapid disease progression and shorter survival. The Swiss study appears in the journal Cell. *image by Pera Detlic from Pixabay
Just 10 minutes of running can boost brain function and improve mood, new research has revealed. One of the cheapest and most accessible forms of exercise, running, has long been associated with improved cardiovascular health, increased muscle strength, and stronger bones. But now a new study has revealed that running can also improve mental health. According to the research by a team of scientists at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, just 10 minutes of moderate intensity running improves both mood and executive processing. Brain revealed that after running for just a short time, local blood flow to various parts of the prefrontal cortex increased (compared to participants who didn't run). The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in controlling mood and executive functions. Speaking about the study, Prof. Hideaki Soya of University of Tsukuba said: “Based on previous studies, including our own, physical exercise has been revealed to increase executive function by predominantly activating the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is a brain locus implicated in inhibitory and mood control, without reporting change of pleasant mood.” While the findings of the study are compelling, it should be noted that there were only 26 participants. Furthermore, these participants were asked to self-report their mood after running, which is always open to bias. The results of the study appear in the journal Scientific Reports. *image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay
A pill that contains four different medicines and is designed to be taken daily could dramatically reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes, a new study has found. The polypill – which is the generic term used to describe a medication that contains multiple active pharmaceutical ingredients – contains aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin and two drugs to reduce blood pressure. For the study, researchers from Iran and the UK studied around 6,800 people from more than 100 villages in Iran. Half were given the polypill and advice on how to improve their health through lifestyle changes and the other half were just given the lifestyle changes advice. After five years, the group taking the polypill had experienced 202 cardiovascular events, while the group that had just been given the advice had experienced 301 cardiovascular events. In other words, the group taking the polypill had experienced around a third less cardiovascular events. The researchers say the pill costs just pennies a day, but could have a huge impact, especially in poorer countries where doctors have fewer options available to them. Stroke and coronary heart disease are the top two causes of death worldwide, killing more than 15 million people each year. Obesity, smoking and doing little exercise are all risk factors associated with an unhealthy heart. Based on the findings of the study, if 35 people were all given the polypill daily, it would prevent one of them developing a major heart problem within 5 years. “Given the polypill's affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world's leading cause of death,” said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran. The findings of the research are published in The Lancet.
Postmenopausal women who have more fat on their legs and thighs have less risk of stroke or heart disease than their peers who carry fat around their stomach, a new study has found. As a result of the research, the findings of which appear in the European Heart Journal, scientists say women should aim to be more “pear-shaped” than “apple-shaped”. For the research, scientists followed 2,600 women with BMIs of between 187 and 25 for 18 years. The scientists found that the women who were apple-shaped i.e. had fat around their stomachs were more than three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than the women who were pear-shaped i.e. had fat on their legs and thighs. It’s already known that fat stored in the visceral region (around the abdominal organs) can increase a person’s chances of developing type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems, but the exact reasons why remain unknown. Further research is needed. The advice for women (and men) is to reduce the amount of fat they have stored around their stomachs. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study uncovers an interesting link between where fat is stored and your risk of heart attack and stroke, but can't tell us why it exists. “Future research to uncover how the distribution of body fat is related to these diseases could reveal important new ways to prevent and treat the world's biggest killer.”
Do you take supplements containing omega-3 fish oil in the belief they are helping to protect your heart? A new study suggests you could be wasting your money. Researchers from Cochrane analysed trials involving more than 100,000 people and discovered little proof that omega-3 supplements prevented heart disease. In fact, they say the chance of getting any benefits from such supplements is one in 1,000. However, despite this, the researchers still maintain that eating oily fish as part of a healthy diet is beneficial. Indeed, NHS guidelines state that people should try to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which, ideally, should be oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna. This is so they get enough “good” fats. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University, said: “There was a period where people who had suffered a heart attack were prescribed these on the NHS. This stopped some years ago. “Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I'd advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead.” Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.” Nevertheless, Dr Carrie Ruxton from the UK’s Health and Food Supplements Information Service said supplements containing omega-3 can still play an important role for people who don’t eat oily fish – especially as omega-3 also benefits the brain, eyes and immune function.
More than 20 million people in Britain are physically inactive and increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation. The charity has warned that the lack of exercise by such a large proportion of the British population is costing the NHS a staggering £1.2bn each year. Women are 36% more likely than men to be physically inactive, which the report defines as not meeting the UK government's guidelines for physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and strength exercises on two or more days a week. However, despite the report finding that 11.8 million women were physically inactive compared with 8.3 million men, it is actually men who sit down for longer (78 days a year compared to 74 for women). Furthermore, inactivity levels differ by region. For example, 47% (2.7 million) of people living in the North West of England were found to be inactive, whereas people in the South East had the lowest rate at 34%. Over five million deaths across the world each year are attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death. In the UK, physical inactivity contributes to almost one in 10 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year, as well as one in six deaths from any cause. Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and, combined, these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health and risk of early death.
A Mediterranean-inspired meal with lashings of virgin olive oil may help to protect your heart, according to new research. Cholesterol is carried around the blood by two different types of molecules called lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). You'll most likely know LDL as "bad cholesterol". That's because high levels of LDL can lead to plaque building up in arteries, which can result in heart disease and stroke. HDL, on the other hand, the so-called "good bacteria", actually absorbs cholesterol and carries it to the liver where it is flushed from the body. That's why having high levels of HDL can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can protect against the development of heart disease as it improves the lipid profile of HDLs. The new research - which was led by Montserrat Fitó, Ph.D., coordinator of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain - aimed to determine whether eating a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil or nuts over a long period of time would improve the beneficial properties of HDL in humans. Fitó's team randomly selected a total of 296 people who already had a high risk of heart disease and were participating in a separate study. They had an average age of 66 and were assigned to one of three diets for a year. They found that the individuals on the Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil had improved HDL functions. "Following a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil could protect our cardiovascular health in several ways, including making our 'good cholesterol' work in a more complete way," said Fitó.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 30% of total premature deaths around the world are the result of cardiovascular diseases – making them the leading cause of death today. However, a recent report by the French Directorate for Research, Studies and the Evaluation of Statistics (DREES) shows that France is ahead of its EU neighbours in terms of cardiovascular health. Deaths from strokes – one of the most common types of cardiovascular disease – fell by an incredible 30% in France between the year 2000 and 2010. With statistics like these in mind, is it not hard to think of anywhere else to go for surgery? But should it come as any surprise that French citizens are enjoying better cardiovascular health than the rest of Europe? After all, we’ve already told you about some revolutionary health-improving initiatives, such as the public smoking bans in Paris playgrounds and the more recent plans to ban older and more polluting vehicles from the nation’s capital. France is often considered as a country where individuals drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes almost out of habit. However, by 2009, France had fallen in the ‘who drinks the most alcohol stakes’ to fifth place. A similar trend has been witnessed when it comes to tobacco, with a sharp downturn being reported by French researchers between 2012 and 2013. So, if you’re considering a medical procedure abroad, France Surgery could be just the people you’ve been looking for.