Previous claims that one or two alcoholic drinks a day doesn’t do any harm and could actually be protective are now in significant jeopardy following the publication of a large genetic study in The Lancet. According to the UK and Chinese researchers who followed 500,000 Chinese people over a 10-year period, the findings of the study are the best evidence yet on the direct effects of alcohol. While the negative health implications of heavy drinking are understood, the impact of consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis has remained unclear. The researchers, from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, found that: drinking one to two alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 10-15% drinking four alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 35% For the purposes of the study, one drink was defined as either: a small glass of wine a bottle of beer a single measure of spirits In other words, even light-to-moderate drinking can increase blood pressure and a person’s chances of having a stroke. Prof David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said drinking alcohol on a daily basis gives the “opposite effect of taking a statin” (drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels). The bottom line, according to Prof Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, is the “claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects is not borne out”.
Our daily diets are bigger killers than smoking and account for one in five deaths around the world. In other words, the food you eat could be sending you to an early grave. But which diets are the worst? Well, according to an influential study in The Lancet, salt – whether it be in bread, processed meals or soy sauce – shortens the most lives. The Global Burden of Disease Study used estimates of different countries’ eating habits to determine which diets were shortening the most lives. Here are the three most dangerous diets: Too much salt - three million deaths Too few whole grains - three million deaths Too little fruit - two million deaths Low levels of seeds, nuts, vegetables, fibre and omega-3 from seafood were the other major killers. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound.” Salt is such a big problem because it significantly increases a person’s blood pressure, which in turn increases their chances of heart attacks and strokes. Around 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease, highlighting why diets containing too much salt are such a problem.
A new cholesterol-lowering drug could offer hope for both people who are unable to take statins due to the side effects and for people who statins are ineffective. An international study suggests the drug, called bempedoic acid, helps lower cholesterol in people who continue to have high levels despite taking statins. It is thought that it can also be used for people who are unable to take statins because of the associated side-effects. Publishing their research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers say they have asked UK and US drug regulators to consider approving the pill for widespread use. Bempedoic acid works by blocking an enzyme in the body that is used to produce cholesterol. For the study, over 1,000 people with cardiovascular disease or a genetic cholesterol condition were given bempedoic acid in addition to their usual cholesterol-lowering medication. About 700 other study participants were given a placebo. After just three months, the group taking bempedoic acid had 17% less bad cholesterol than the group receiving the dummy medication. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Kausik Ray, from Imperial College London, said: “Bempedoic acid could be another addition to the arsenal of cholesterol lowering treatments available to patients. “What we have is a new class of drug that could be given to patients who are already taking statins and could help them further reduce their cholesterol levels and thus potentially cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes.” Bad cholesterol remains one of the main risk factors for heart attacks and strokes across the world.
The health benefits of eating fiber have long been hailed, but how much fiber should we all be eating to prevent chronic disease and premature death? A new study reveals just that… Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the research is the culmination of a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials that took place over almost 40 years. The results appear in the journal The Lancet. One of the objectives of the research was to help in the development of new guidelines for dietary fiber consumption, as well as discover which carbs protect us the most against noncommunicable diseases. So how much fiber should we be eating? Well, the research found that a daily intake of 25–29 grams of fiber is ideal. People who consumed this amount of fiber each day were 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause and had a 16–24 percent lower incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. The researchers also say that consuming more than 29 grams of fiber per day could lead to even more health benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said: “The health benefits of fiber are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology, and effects on metabolism. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels. “The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.” Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Are you consuming enough fiber?
How’s your blood pressure? Do you even know? If you haven’t had it checked recently, your blood pressure could be creeping up (getting higher) and you might not have even realised. In fact, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is often called a “silent killer” because it rarely causes symptoms until a person’s health is already severely damaged. That’s why keeping an eye on your blood pressure and looking out for any potential symptoms is so important. Failure to seek treatment when you have high blood pressure can lead to serious health complications such as stroke and heart disease. This is ironic when you consider that hypertension can usually be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medication. So what high blood pressure warning signs should you be looking out for? First and foremost, the only way to check whether you have high blood pressure or not is to have it checked by a health professional, or check it yourself providing you know how to and have the necessary equipment. Remember, just because you feel ‘fine’ does not mean you aren’t at risk of hypertension. If your blood pressure becomes extremely high (above 180/120 mmHg), something referred to as ‘hypertensive crisis’, you may experience any of the following symptoms: Severe headaches Nosebleeds Severe fatigue Chest pain Irregular heartbeat Vision problems Back pain Severe anxiety Blood in your urine Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing) Hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency and immediate intervention is required to prevent serious damage to blood vessels and major organs. So, in short, you are unlikely to know whether you have elevated blood pressure or not until serious damage has occurred. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and heed any advice from medical professionals on how to keep yours at a healthy level.
Doctors should take a person’s marital status into account when assessing their risk of heart attack and stroke, a major study has found. For the study, researchers at Keele University analysed numerous trials involving more than two million people. They found that individuals who were never married, divorced or widowed were 42% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. They were also 42% more likely to die from heart disease and 55% more likely to die from a stroke. Risk factors such as age, sex, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes are usually associated with cardiovascular disease. However, the findings of the new study suggest marital status should also be added to the list. Senior author, Mamas Mamas, Professor of Cardiology at Keele University, in England, said: “Our work suggests that marital status should be considered in patients with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and should be used alongside more traditional cardiac risk factors to identify those patients that may be at higher risk for future cardiovascular events”. The researchers say the reason marriage could have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease is because of the additional emotional and social support that’s afforded by having a spouse. People with long-term partners are more likely to have symptoms spotted earlier and encouraged to seek medical advice as a result.
Have you ever encountered someone who calls themself ‘fat but fit’? It’s not uncommon to meet people who are clearly overweight, yet not perturbed by their situation because they consider themselves to be fit and healthy. However, a large study conducted in America has found that women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke tracked the health of some 90,257 women in the US over a 30-year period. They found that women who were overweight or obese, but had none of the typical cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes, were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their normal weight and metabolically healthy peers. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Matthias Schulze, who led it, said: "Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events.” The study also found women who were of normal weight, but metabolically unhealthy, were over two-times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women."
Most people are familiar with the phrase, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but what about an egg a day? New research suggests that a daily egg may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite sometimes getting a bad press for their high cholesterol content, eggs, it seems, could help us steer clear of cardiovascular conditions, according to research published in the journal Heart. For their study, researchers from the School of Public Health at Peking University Health Science Centre in Beijing, China analysed survey data relating to more than 500,000 individuals. Of those individuals, 461,213 were free from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes at baseline. Egg consumption among the study participants was noted and the individuals were followed up with after a median period of 8.9 years. The researchers' found that individuals who usually ate about one egg per day had a 26% lower risk of experiencing hemorrhagic stroke; a 28% lower risk of death due to this type of event; and an 18% lower risk of CVD-related mortality. Current NHS guidelines in the UK relating to egg consumption state: "although eggs contain some cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more of an effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs". So, in other words, it’s not eggs that are necessarily the problem when it comes to cholesterol, but rather how you cook them. Indeed, eggs are a great source of healthful nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, phospholipids, and carotenoids.
People who regularly drink more than the UK’s recommended alcohol guidelines risk taking years off their lives, a major new report has found. According to the study of some 600,000 drinkers, having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person's life by between one and two years. People who regularly consume more than 18 alcoholic drinks every week could lose four to five years of their lives. UK government guidelines, which were last updated in January 2016, recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week (equivalent to 6 pints of average strength beer). Previously, the guidelines advised 21 units for men and 14 units for women each week. The authors of the Lancet study say their findings support the UK government’s revised guidelines. Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true. "Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke."
While a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality are huge hurdles for couples who are trying to get pregnant, a new study shows that men with low sperm counts are also at increased risk of illness. The study of 5,177 men in Italy found that those with low sperm counts were 20% more likely to have more body fat, more "bad" cholesterol and higher blood pressure – all factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They were also 12 times more likely to have low testosterone levels. Dr Alberto Ferlin, from the University of Bresci, who led the study, said: "Infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives. "Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention." The study’s authors say that men with low sperm counts should be actively checked for other potential health problems, which may have a greater chance of being rectified if treated earlier. However, the authors of the study stressed that their findings did not prove that low sperm counts cause metabolic problems, merely that the two are linked in some way.
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
Diabetes has long been split into two types: type 1 and type 2. But new research suggests it could actually be five different diseases and treatment could be tailored to tackle each form. Researchers in Sweden and Finland say the more complicated diabetes picture they’ve uncovered could lead to a new era of personalised medicine being ushered in. Affecting approximately one in 11 people around the world, diabetes doesn’t just play havoc with blood sugar levels, but also increases the risk of stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and limb amputation. Type 1 diabetes, which affects around 10% of sufferers in the UK, is a disease of the immune system that attacks the body’s insulin factories, leading to there being a shortage of the hormone to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is associated with poor lifestyle choices and obesity, which affect the way in which insulin works. For the study, the researchers analysed blood samples from 14,775 patients. They found that people could be separated into five distinct diabetes clusters. Talking to the BBC, Prof Leif Groop, one of the researchers, said: "This is extremely important, we're taking a real step towards precision medicine. "In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better."
Just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke, a study has found, dispelling the myth that cutting back, not quitting altogether, can eliminate health issues. The study found that just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s chances of heart disease by about 50% and chances of a stroke by 30% than people who have never smoked. The bottom line is that there is no safe level of smoking when it comes to heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease, not cancer, remains the greatest mortality risk for smokers, accounting for approximately 48% of smoking-related premature deaths. And while the number of people who smoke in the UK has been falling, the percentage of people smoking one to five cigarettes a day has been steadily rising, researchers said. However, cutting down on cigarettes is always a good start and people who do so are more likely to quit in the long-run. Prof Allan Hackshaw from the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London, who led the study, said: "There's been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that's perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer. "But for these two common disorders, which they're probably more likely to get than cancer, it's not the case. They've got to stop completely." For the study, the researchers at UCL analysed data from 141 separate smoking-related studies and published their findings in the BMJ.
A study by Public Health England looking at the heart health of the nation has found that thousands of men face early death at the hands of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to the analysis of 1.2 million people, one in 10 British men has a heart age that’s a decade older than their actual age. Heart disease is the main cause of death among men and the second among women. Public Health England says that 7,400 people will die from heart disease or stroke this month alone. However, most of these deaths are preventable and Public Health England says that just a few small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact. One of the suggestions made was for over 50s to get their blood pressure regularly checked as high blood pressure can be an early sign of a potentially life-threatening condition. Public Health England’s head of cardiovascular disease, Jamie Waterall, urged people not to only start considering their heart health later in life. "Addressing our risk of heart disease and stroke should not be left until we are older", he said. How to improve your heart health: Give up smoking Get active Manage your weight Eat more fibre Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day Cut down on saturated fat Cut down on salt Drink less alcohol
A trial involving an anti-inflammatory drug could represent the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of heart attacks and strokes since statins were introduced to help lower cholesterol, its authors say. The study of 10,000 patients found that anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab reduced the risk of a patient who had already had a heart attack having another one in the future. The four-year trial saw patients receive high doses of statins as well as either canakinumab or a placebo. Those who received canakinumab were found to be 15% less likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event than their counterparts who received the placebo. Furthermore, cancer deaths were also halved in patients who received canakinumab. The results, which have been referred to as “exciting” by the British Heart Foundation, are thought to be down to the effect of the anti-inflammatory drug on unchecked inflammation within the heart’s arteries. Presenting their results at the European Society of Cardiology meeting, held in Barcelona, Spain, the research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, led by the study's lead author Dr Paul Ridker, said the study represented "a milestone in a long journey". "For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk. "This has far-reaching implications." It is thought the trial could now lead to new types of treatment for heart attacks and strokes being developed.
A new type of heart scan that analyses the fat and inflammation around the heart’s arteries could more accurately predict who will have a heart attack. The new way of scanning, developed by a team at the University of Oxford, identifies potential ticking time bomb arteries, allowing high-risk patients to receive intensive treatment and reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Most of us know inflammation as the red, swollen, sore feeling you experience after cutting your skin. However, the same occurs in all the tissues in the body, including inside the heart. Inflammation on the inside of blood vessels is linked to the build-up of unstable plaques, which can break apart and block a coronary artery, starving the heart of oxygen – resulting in a heart attack. "The holy grail in cardiology is the ability to pick up inflammation in coronary arteries, it's been a challenge for the past 50 years," said Prof Charalambos Antoniades, one of the Oxford researchers. Prof Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Discovering which plaques are likely to rupture, so people can be treated before such a devastating event strikes, is a major objective of current research. "If the technique lives up to its promise in larger trials in patients, it could lead to more effective treatment to avoid a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke."
Researchers from Oxford University have discovered a potential “goldmine” for new drugs in one of the unlikeliest places – ticks. They found that proteins contained in the parasites’ saliva are excellent at stopping inflammation of the heart, which can cause myocarditis and lead to heart failure. Ticks are remarkably good at biting and feeding without being detected. This allows them to stay attached to animals and humans for up to 10 days while they feed on their blood. The reason tick bites don’t cause any pain or inflammation is because proteins in their saliva neutralise chemicals called chemokines in the host. It’s now thought that ticks could be used to help treat other conditions, such as stroke and arthritis. Prof Shoumo Bhattacharya, BHF professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford, who led the research, said: "Myocarditis is a devastating disease, for which there are currently very few treatments. "With this latest research, we hope to be able to take inspiration from the tick's anti-inflammatory strategy and design a life-saving therapy for this dangerous heart condition.” Traditionally, tick saliva was obtained by milking the tiny parasites using tubes. Nowadays, though, tick saliva proteins can be grown in yeast from synthetic genes, which allows large amounts to be produced. It should be noted that all of the current research has only been carried out in a laboratory, so it will be several years before any trials are conducted with humans.
Coconut oil is higher in saturated fat than butter, beef dripping and pork lard, and can increase “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. That’s the stark new warning contained in updated advice from the American Heart Association (AHA). A diet high in saturated fat can lead to clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite coconut oil being commonly sold as a health food and a “healthier” alternative to other saturated fats, the AHA says there are no good studies to support this. In fact, 82% of the fat found in coconut oil is saturated, which is higher than butter (63%), beef dripping (50%) and pork lard (39%). And studies show that like other saturated fats, coconut oil can increase “bad” cholesterol. The AHA says people should watch how much saturated fat they eat and replace some of it with unsaturated vegetable oils, like olive oil and sunflower oil. Dr Frank Sacks, lead author of the AHA advice, said: "We want to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet to prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels." Nevertheless, saturated fat is still an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet and shouldn’t be completely cut out, just limited. In the UK, Public Health England advises that men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day and women no more than 20g a day.
A vaccine that helps lower cholesterol will now be trialled on humans following successful studies in mice. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna will now test the safety of their experimental treatment – which stops fatty deposits clogging the arteries – on 72 volunteers. If the trials are successful, the vaccine would offer an alternative for people who currently take pills on a daily basis to reduce their risk of angina, stroke and heart attack. Writing about their cholesterol-lowering vaccine in the European Heart Journal, Dr Guenther Staffler and colleagues from The Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research say it will take many more years of tests before it is known whether the treatment is safe and effective in humans. In studies of mice, the treatment cut low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by as much as 50% over 12 months and appeared to stop the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Regardless of whether the vaccine becomes available in the future, the researchers were keen to stress that it should not be seen as an excuse for people to avoid exercise and eat lots of high-fat food. Nevertheless, the treatment could be useful for individuals who have high cholesterol due to an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia.
People with non-O blood could be at greater risk of stroke and heart attack, research suggests. Scientists say it's because A, B and AB blood contains higher levels of a blood-clotting protein. The research, which was presented at the 4th World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, analysed studies involving 1.3m people. It found that people 15 in 1,000 people with non-O blood suffered a heart attack, compared to 14 in 1,000 people with O blood. While these figures don't sound that startling at first, when applied to a whole population the numbers become more important. It is hoped that the findings will help doctors better identify who is at risk of developing heart disease. However, Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings would not have a large impact on the current advice issued by the charity. "Most of a person's risk estimation is determined by age, genetics (family history and ethnicity) and other modifiable risk factors including diet, weight, level of physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. "People with a non-O blood group type - AO, BO and AB - need to take the same steps as anyone wanting to reduce their CVD risk." So regardless of your blood type, the advice remains the same: improve your diet, weight, level of physical activity and don't smoke. In addition, manage blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes too. There's nothing you can do about your blood group, but you can make positive lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Doctors say that an innovative new drug can cut bad cholesterol to unprecedented levels, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes for millions of people. Accounting for around 15 million deaths each year, heart attacks and strokes are the world's biggest killers. They are also the reason why people take drugs known as statins to reduce their levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL. Bad cholesterol causes blood vessels to fur up, which increases the chances of them blocking, leading to the heart or brain being starved of vital oxygen. The new drug, evolocumab, changes the way a person's liver works to help reduce bad cholesterol and is thought to be much more effective than statins. Evolocumab's potential was seen during a large international trial involving 27,000 patients who were already taking statins. "The end result was cholesterol levels came down and down and down and we've seen cholesterol levels lower than we have ever seen before in the practice of medicine," according to Prof Peter Sever, from Imperial College London. "They would have another 20% reduction in risk and that is a big effect. It is probably the most important trial result of a cholesterol lowering drug in over 20 years," he added. One heart attack or stroke was prevented for every 74 patients taking evolocumab in the two-year trial. The British Heart Foundation's medical director, Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, said: "This trial is a significant advance" in fighting one of the biggest killers in the world.
Despite the fact the number of people who are overweight or obese has risen over the past 30 years, fewer people are actually attempting to shed weight, according to a new study, the findings of which were published in JAMA. Around two thirds of the adult population in the United States are obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. However, new research has found that even though there has been a significant rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese since the 1980s, the percentage of U.S. adults who are trying to lose weight has fallen. For their research, study co-author Dr. Jian Zhang and her colleagues from the Georgia Southern University, analysed the data of 27,350 U.S. adults aged between 20 and 59 years. The analyses revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity increased by 13%, from 53% in 1988-1994 to 66% in 2009-2014. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the percentage of people who attempted to lose weight over the same period actually dropped by 7%, from 56% in 1988-1994 to 49% in 2009-2014. At present, people are deemed to be overweight or obese depending on their body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25 to under 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are proven to help curb weight gain, which is why we should all make a conscientious effort to watch what we eat and exercise more. [Recommended read: BMI Wrongly Labelling People Unhealthy, Finds New Research]
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.
A new study has found the typical "social business diet", which consists heavily of red meats, sweet drinks, processed snacks and alcohol, has a detrimental effect on a person's heart. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times that many individuals do not have, or at least don't think they have, enough time to sit down and eat a healthy meal. Instead, many people rely on grab-and-go food items that can be eaten on the road. However, according to a team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, eating habits such as these up the risks of atherosclerosis - a slow, but steady clogging of one's arteries. In fact, eating out, snacking on the go, and excessive alcohol consumption is more unhealthy than the so-called Western diet. "This business diet is really very bad," said Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiology professor from Icahn. "It hits the arteries hard, and strongly contributes to cardiovascular disease risk, the world's number one killer," he added. The American Heart Association says that cardiovascular disease accounts for more than 17 million deaths across the world each year. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in a person's arteries, and can raise their risk of blood clots, heart attacks, heart disease and stroke. If people want to lower their risk of cardiovascular problems in the future, they should minimise their consumption of red meat, sweets and alocohol, and increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and nuts.
Patients recovering from a stroke can boost their motor skills by playing simple card games, such as snap, according to new research from Canada. Reporting their findings in the Lancet Neurology, the researchers said that playing other games like Jenga and bingo, or a video games console like the Nintendo Wii, also helped boost motor skills and helped patients regain their coordination equally well. By studying 141 patients who had recently suffered a stroke, the Canadian team discovered that recreational activities, such as playing cards and using the Wii, significantly improved motor skills after just two weeks. It's a finding that suggests more therapy, in addition to standard stroke care, is beneficial for patients. Dr Gustavo Saposnik, from St Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said: "We all like technology and have the tendency to think that new technology is better than old-fashioned strategies, but sometimes that's not the case. In this study, we found that simple recreational activities that can be implemented anywhere may be as effective as technology." The research is good news for stroke patients who cannot access the latest technology, but can undertake inexpensive, easily accessible activities that can help with their recovery. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a person's brain is cut off because of a clot or a bleed. The main symptoms are a drooping of the person's face; slurred speech; and numbness/weakness of the arms. A stroke should be treated as a medical emergency and the sufferer given urgent attention and treatment.
A new study has found that obese patients who undergo bariatric weight loss surgery have a greater chance of survival than those who do not. According to the research from a team at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, weight loss surgery decreased the chance of death by as much as 57% compared with not having it. Being obese or overweight has been linked to many diseases, including heart attack, stroke and several different cancers, and can increases a person's risk of death as a result. Of the 48,693 patients (aged 18 to 74 years old), 22,581 underwent bariatric surgery - a gastric band was fitted in 92.8% of cases. The remaining 26,112 obese patients had no surgery at all. The researchers, led by Dr Christina Persson, found that the mortality rate in the group that did not have surgery was 4.21% compared to just 1.1% for the surgical group. That's equivalent to 7.7 deaths per 1,000 people each year versus just 2.1. Cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death in the non-surgical group, followed by cancer, while external causes of mortality, such as suicide and accidents, were found to be the most common causes of death in the surgical group. "The study indicates that the overall all-cause mortality is considerably lower among obese individuals who undergo bariatric surgery compared to non-surgical obese individuals, and the differences lies mainly in cardiovascular disease and cancer," said Dr Persson. The findings of the study were presented at the recent European Obesity Summit in Sweden. To find out how France Surgery can help you undergo bariatric weight loss surgery, contact us today.
A new study suggests that taking aspirin immediately following a mini-stroke significantly reduces a person's chances of suffering a major stroke. Using data from around 56,000 individuals, the study researchers found that if aspirin is taken after a mini-stroke - also called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA - the risk of experiencing a disabling or fatal stroke over the coming days and weeks is reduced, in some cases, by as much as 80 percent. Immediately following a mini-stroke, a person's risk of a major stroke is 1,000 times higher than that of the general population, the researchers noted. Lead researcher Peter Rothwell, a professor and stroke expert at the University of Oxford in England, said: "Our findings confirm the effectiveness of urgent treatment after TIA and minor stroke, and show that aspirin is the most important component. Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke." He added that the findings have implications for doctors, who should give aspirin whenever a TIA or minor stroke is suspected. Mini-strokes and major strokes often exhibit similar symptoms, which include: Numbness or muscle weakness that usually affects one side of the body Difficulty speaking or understanding speech Dizziness or loss of balance Double vision or difficulty seeing in one or both eyes The study was published on May 18 in The Lancet.
It's been widely accepted for some time that a high-salt diet may increase a person's risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. But now a new study has found that a low-salt diet may also be just as dangerous. Published in The Lancet, the findings of the study suggest that people who have a low salt or sodium intake may be increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to those who have an average intake. In fact, the study, which was conducted by researchers at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, says that the only people who should look to reduce their salt consumption are those with high blood pressure. Furthermore, the researchers say that current salt consumption guidelines may be too low, and should be reviewed going forward. At present, it is recommended that Americans consume no more than 2,300mg of salt each day, which is about 1 teaspoon. However, around 90% of US adults exceed this recommendation on a regular basis, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released earlier this year. On the other hand, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends people eat between 5 and 6g of salt each day. The lead author of the study, Andrew Mente, said: "While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels." Despite the study focusing on 130,000 people across 49 countries, its methods have been criticised by experts, while others have questioned the study's findings. The bottom line? Salt should be consumed in moderation, and people with high blood pressure should seek specific medical advice to find out what is best for them.
Surgeons in the UK have said that the number of weight loss operations performed on the NHS each year needs to rise dramatically, so that people become healthier and the health service itself saves money. Writing recently in the British Medical Journal, the bariatric surgeons said that less than 1% of people who could benefit from weight loss surgery are getting treatment, and the numbers are actually dropping, despite rising rates of obesity and diabetes. [Related article: Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes] The surgeons also highlighted that the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to weight loss surgery, and that there are 2.6 million people in the country who stand to benefit from surgery. According to the surgeons, people who have stomach shrinking operations lose 25-35% of their body weight, on average, in just a year. In comparison, the average loss through diets and weight loss drugs is just 7% a year. It's thought that a quarter of adults in the UK are now classified as obese - the second highest rate in Europe behind Hungary - and this reality is putting a huge strain on NHS resources and funds. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has previously indicated that surgery should be considered for severely obese people who have unsuccessfully tried all other means to lose weight. Find out more about bariatric surgery with us in France here.
Last year, we told you about the benefits to your gut of following a Mediterranean diet. Now, research published in the European Heart Journal says that a Mediterranean diet is better for people with heart disease than avoiding what's considered unhealthy in the so-called 'Western diet'. The new research shows that a Mediterranean diet, which includes large amounts of fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods, can decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack in people who already have heart disease. Likewise, the study found that avoiding the unhealthy aspects of a Western diet, such as sweets, sugary drinks and deep-fried foods, also reduced a person's risk of cardiac issues. For the study, researchers from Auckland City Hospital at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analysed the dietary data of some 15,482 people with stable coronary artery disease across 39 countries globally. They found that fewer heart attacks and strokes were witnessed among those people who eat Mediterranean foods. In fact, for every 100 people eating Mediterranean foods, there were three fewer strokes, heart attacks or deaths than seen among the 100 people who consumed the least amount of healthy foods. Lead researcher Prof. Ralph Stewart said: "The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods."
New research from South Korea shows that a nut-rich diet can reduce a person's risk of developing colon cancer. It adds to the list of health benefits already associated with nuts, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and obesity. According to the findings of the research, which was conducted by a team at Seoul National University College of Medicine, eating a serving of nuts three or more times per week appeared to have a big impact on risk. This reduction was noted in both men and women. For the study, a serving of nuts was considered to be 15g, which is actually significantly smaller than serving sizes found across the world. And while many types of nuts were used for the study, the majority of participants consumed peanuts - presumably because of their availability in South Korea. Men who ate three or more servings of nuts every week were found to have a 69% lower risk of colon cancer than those who didn't. The risk reduction in women was even greater, with 81% found to have a lower risk. Also worthy of note is the fact that the researchers discovered that nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk across all of the different areas where colon cancer is seen and different types of colon cancer. So if nuts aren't a part of your regular diet, perhaps they should be...
Flu vaccinations may do a lot more than just reduce your flu risk, if the findings of a new study in Taiwan are anything to go by. That’s because the researchers responsible say that a flu shot can also protect people from a common heart rhythm disorder, which significantly increases the risk of stroke. The study of around 57,000 people in Taiwan found a significant association between the flu and atrial fibrillation (AF or A-fib); a condition that causes a person’s heart to be faster and more irregular. Research has shown in the past that AF increases a person’s risk of stroke by five times. During the study, the researchers discovered that people who had not had a flu shot and got the flu had an 18% greater risk of developing AF than those who did not have the flu. Published in the Heart Rhythm journal, the findings of the research showed that a person’s risk of developing AF was consistently lower when they had received a flu jab. Dr. Tze-Fan Chao and Dr. Su-Jung Chen, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, who lead the research, said: "Influenza vaccination should be encouraged for patients, especially those who have a high risk of atrial fibrillation, to try to prevent the occurrence of atrial fibrillation and subsequent stroke. However, a further prospective study is necessary to confirm our findings.”
Patients who are seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery commonly suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression and binge eating disorders. However, following successful bariatric surgery, the rates of these conditions fall, according to a study published in JAMA. Bariatric surgery is a highly accepted method of promoting weight loss in obese individuals and can also serve to reduce their risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. Dr. Aaron J. Dawes, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, led a research team which wanted to discover how common mental health conditions were in people seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery. The findings of their research show that 23% of bariatric surgery patients were affected by a current mental health disorder, with depression (19%); a binge-eating disorder (17%); and anxiety (12%) the most common. Following surgery, a fall in the rate of depression was observed. Of the 27 studies analysed by the research team, seven revealed an 8-74% drop in the rate of depression after surgery, while six reflected a 40-70% reduction in the rate of depressive symptoms. The report authors noted: "Previous reviews have suggested that self-esteem, mental image, cognitive function, temperament, support networks and socioeconomic stability play major roles in determining outcomes after bariatric surgery." They suggest incorporating these factors into future studies, which would help form part of "an optimal strategy for evaluating patients' mental health prior to bariatric surgery." Photo via: Bassett Healthcare Network
The UK Department of Health has published new guidelines regarding the consumption of alcohol and they make for sobering reading if you’re fond of a regular daily tipple. According to the tough new guidelines, which are based on the findings of worldwide research, any amount of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cancer and, as a result, men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week. That’s roughly equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven glasses of wine. The advice for pregnant women is simple: no alcohol at all until after baby has been born. Furthermore, if people drink, they should do so moderately over three or more days and have some days that are totally alcohol-free. The guidelines also state that people shouldn’t “save up” their units and drink them all over a short space of time, like a weekend. Heavy drinking sessions, it says, increase the risk of accidents and injury. Talking about the revised guidelines, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: "Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low." The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK says that alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions, including some cancers, stroke and heart disease. It is thought that approximately one in 20 of all new cancer diagnoses in the UK are linked to a person’s alcohol consumption.
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.
According to a biennial report into healthcare across Europe, France remains in very good shape. It has the lowest stroke and heart attack death rates on the continent and was one of the few countries to increase healthcare spending in 2014. The report, which also analysed non-EU countries, such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, outlined many areas where France is leading the field. Average life expectancy in France is an impressive 82.1 years and it also boasts just 86 heart attack deaths per 100,000 people. Compare this to the 184 that occur in the UK and you can see how impressive France’s figures are. France is also a big spender when it comes to hospital expenses – 38% of the total healthcare budget (4.4% of GDP). This comes at a time when most European countries are trying to cut their healthcare spending. France increased its own by 0.8%. Finally, France is a big spender on antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals – 469 euros per head compared to an average of 350 euros across the rest of Europe. The Health at a Glance – Europe 2014 report further underlines the great healthcare system we have here in France. So why not contact us today and find out how we can help you take advantage of the fantastic healthcare facilities here in France.
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is seemingly struggling to cope with the demand for its services. Since the beginning of the year, 14 hospitals in the UK have declared ‘major incidents’ because they are unable to cope with the “unprecedented pressure” being placed upon them this year. Surgical procedures and outpatient appointments have been cancelled amid the turmoil and some hospitals have even set up makeshift wards to accommodate patients. But now, one of the UK’s best-loved TV doctors has spoken out about the economic benefits to the NHS of weight loss surgery for obese individuals. Countless studies have shown that being overweight has a significantly detrimental effect on a person’s life, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart problems and stroke. Furthermore, one in four adults and one in five children in the UK are considered obese – a fact that puts a huge burden on the already struggling NHS. Obesity-related problems are thought to cost the NHS around £6 billion a year and Dr Christian Jessen – who presents Channel 4’s Weighing Up The Enemy – believes it makes economic sense to offer gastric band and gastric bypass operations to obese individuals. He said: “It is very clear to me we need to invest more now in this type of procedure in order to save considerable amounts in the future”. It is thought that within two to three years, bariatric surgery pays for itself and so the argument for it to be undertaken on the NHS or privately carries a lot of weight.
The benefits of weight loss surgery have been known for quite some time now and it’s a procedure that has helped many people regain their confidence and start living normal lives again. However, new research has shown that people with metabolic syndrome are more prone to lower urinary tract problems and that weight loss surgery can be used to significantly improve lower urinary tract symptoms. The first of the two studies was conducted by Dr. François Desgrandchamps and his colleagues at the Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, France. They studied 4,666 men over a period of 12 days in 2009 and found that there was a strong link between metabolic syndrome and lower urinary tract symptoms. Furthermore, lower urinary tract symptoms were more severe in men with metabolic syndrome. The second study, conducted by a team at Wakefield Hospital in New Zealand, analysed 72 weight loss surgery patients before and after their procedures. They found that after just 6 weeks patients with lower urinary tract symptoms showed significant improvement. Metabolic syndrome is thought to affect around 34% of adults in the U.S. and puts them at greater risk of strokes, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is diagnosed when an individual displays three or more metabolic risk factors, which include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and high blood glucose levels. For more information about bariatric procedures in France, contact France Surgery.
The President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has left a French clinic after a short stay and returned to Algeria. Bouteflika travelled to France for a check-up last Thursday and was discharged on Saturday before boarding the Algerian presidential plane home. Last year, Bouteflika suffered a stroke and has been plagued by poor health ever since. His recent trip to France on health grounds saw him hospitalised at a private clinic in Grenoble. Reports say that an entire floor of the clinic was set aside for the president to ensure maximum security. At the time of his stroke in 2013 Bouteflika was immediately rushed for treatment in France and this last trip is one of several health-related visits since. Algeria holds a firm place in France’s colonial history and Bouteflika is a veteran of the independence conflict that concluded in 1962. However, now 77-years-old, Bouteflika is an increasingly frail leader and his poor health will be being closely watched by Algeria’s various opposition parties. Bouteflika’s latest visit to France is testament to the world-class health facilities that are available in the country. If you have any healthcare requirements and would like more information about how France Surgery can help facilitate medical procedures, contact us today and we’ll be pleased to assist.
As we get older, our bodies need a bit more TLC to ensure we’re fighting fit for the challenges that life throws at us. Therefore, when we reach the age of 40, there are certain medical tests which are recommended and specifically designed to check your vital systems. Also, these tests will inevitably be accompanied by a series of questions, so that a full picture of your health can be produced. Depending on the results, you may be given personalised advice by your medical professional and instructed to make lifestyle changes going forward. In some circumstances, you’ll be offered medical treatment to help maintain or improve your health. There are three simple tests that will help your medical professional determine your ‘heart age’. These are as follows: Cholesterol test We all need a certain amount of cholesterol for our bodies to function but there is strong evidence to suggest that too much cholesterol – particularly bad cholesterol – increases the risk of vascular diseases. A simple blood test is used to measure your cholesterol and you’ll know the result right away. Blood pressure test The higher your blood pressure the harder your heart has to work to pump blood around your body. This can not only weaken you heart but also increase your chances of developing a blocked artery. Your blood pressure is measured using a cuff that fits around your upper arm and is inflated. BMI test Your BMI or body mass index determines whether you are a healthy weight for your height. People with higher BMIs have a higher chance of developing certain conditions such as heart disease, certain cancers and stroke. Diabetes assessment In addition to the three tests above, a diabetes risk assessment is also recommended for people over 40. Diabetes occurs when your body does not produce enough insulin or when the insulin it does produce is not as effective as it should be. Your medical professional will ascertain through questions and the results of your blood pressure and BMI tests whether you are at risk of type 2 diabetes. A simple blood test will then confirm if your blood sugar is too high.