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Not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy when it comes to heart risk

27/06/2019

We are frequently warned about the health consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle. But new research reveals that not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy. The study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons found that sitting in front of a TV (known as ‘leisure-time sitting’) was associated with a greater risk of heart disease and death. In fact, study participants who watched four or more hours of TV a day were found to have a 50% greater risk of cardiovascular events and death compared to those who watched less than two hours a day. However, the study also found that participants who sat for long periods at work had the same level of risk as those who sat the least, suggesting the type of sitting really does have an impact. Furthermore, the study also revealed that even the most avid TV watchers could reverse the effects of their longer sedentary periods with moderate to rigorous exercise. For example, individuals who watched TV for four hours or more each day, and undertook 150 minutes or more exercise a week, had no increased risk of stroke, heart attack or death. Speaking about the findings of the study, Keith M. Diaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently. The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”

Substituting red meat for plant protein reduces heart disease risk

23/04/2019

We recently wrote about how just one rasher of bacon a day can increase bowel cancer risk. Now, new research has revealed that replacing red meat with plant protein can reduce heart disease risk. For the study, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, conducted a meta-analysis of trials comparing the effects of meat vs. other diets on our health. The results are published in the journal Circulation. It was an approach that allowed the researchers to not only examine the health effects of red meat, but also see whether substituting red meat for other protein sources brought benefits. Analyzing data from 36 randomized controlled trials, the researchers looked at the blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins of the participants. They then compared these levels with those of people who ate less red meat and more chicken, fish, legumes, soy, nuts, or carbohydrates. They found that while there wasn’t much difference in lipoproteins, blood pressure, or total cholesterol, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. In addition, diets rich in high-quality plant protein led to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Marta Guasch-Ferré, lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent. “But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”

Your ability to do push-ups may predict your cardiovascular risk

26/02/2019

How many push-ups (also known as press-ups) can you do? Do you even know? Do you even care? Well maybe you should… That’s because a new study has found that a man’s ability to do push-ups may be a good indicator of their cardiovascular risk. The findings of the study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, may enable physicians to assess cardiovascular risk more easily and more cost effectively. Simply put, the more push-ups a man can do, the lower his cardiovascular risk and vice versa. Speaking about the findings of the study, first author Justin Yang, M.D. said: "Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting.” For the study, researchers measured both the push-up capacity and the submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance of each participant at the beginning. Yearly physical exams and medical questionnaires were then used to gather relevant data. The researchers found that participants who were able to complete over 40 push-ups to begin with had a 96% lower cardiovascular risk than those who could only complete 10 or fewer push-ups. It is still unknown whether the findings of the study also apply to women and men who are older, younger and/or less physically fit than the participants. That’s the study involved 1,104 active male fire fighters with a mean age of 39.6 and mean BMI of 28.7.

Strength training better for the heart than aerobic exercise, study finds

20/11/2018

Strength training exercises benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, new research suggests. The survey of more than 4,000 American adults found that static exercise, like lifting weights, is more effective at reducing the risk of heart disease than cardiovascular exercise. Specifically, while undertaking both static and dynamic exercise was associated with a 30% to 70% reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, the link was strongest for younger individuals who did static exercises. Nevertheless, any amount of exercise brings benefits and doing both static and dynamic types is still better than focussing on just one kind, the researchers from St. George's University in St. George's, Grenada said. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Maia P. Smith, assistant professor at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.” Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend that American adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every week. The same guidelines also stipulate that said activity should be spread across the week and not completed in just one or two days. Are you doing enough physical activity each week? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]

Marital status should be added to the list of cardiovascular risk factors - study

28/06/2018

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.

Healthy but obese women still at increased risk of CVD

31/05/2018

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."

Low calcium levels may raise heart attack risk

10/10/2017

Calcium is well-known for its role in promoting healthy bones, but a new study suggests it could also be beneficial for heart health too. Cardiac arrest, or heart attack, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today. In fact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately 350,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests (SCAs) occur in America every year. Furthermore, almost 90% of people who experience SCA die as a result. The primary cause of SCA is coronary heart disease. However, around 50% of women and 70% of men who die from SCA have no medical history of heart disease, suggesting other significant risk factors are at play. For the study, researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, CA, analysed data from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study. They found that the risk of SCA was increased by 2.3-fold for people who had the lowest blood calcium levels (under 8.95 milligrams per deciliter). More importantly, this risk remained after confounding factors, including demographics, cardiovascular risk factors and medication use, were accounted for. Dr. Hon-Chi Lee, of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, said: “This is the first report to show that low serum calcium levels measured close in time to the index event are independently associated with an increased risk of SCA in the general population”.

Heart attacks and strokes: new drug could be better than statins

29/08/2017

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 Mediterranean diet with lashings of virgin olive oil may help protect the heart

14/02/2017

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.

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