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cardiovascular disease

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Any Physical Activity Better than None!

Even modest levels of physical activity benefit the heart.

Are. you tempted to say you are too tired or too busy to exercise? An 18-year study of 24,000 adults ages 39-79 has found a significant link between physical activity and a reduced risk of heart disease. The elderly who engaged in moderate intensity exercise were 14% less likely to experience a cardiovascular event than their peers who were inactive.

PositiveTip: No gym available? No problem! Seniors should walk, garden, do housework, and other moderate physical activities.

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Breastfeeding Associated with Lower CVD Risk

Breastfeeding for 2 or more years lowered the risk of CHD by 18%.

A study of 300,000 women in China found mothers who breast fed their babies had significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to those who did not. Those who breastfed 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months, 18-24 months, or over 24 months, respectively, had 1%, 7%, 11%, 13%, and 18% lower risk of CHD. Each additional six months of breastfeeding reduced the risk by 4%.

PositiveTip: Encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies. It is best for the baby and good for the mother!

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"T" Therapy May Speed Up Atherosclerosis

Older men should be cautious about testosterone therapy.

Is testosterone treatment of older men with low testosterone levels good for the heart? Apparently not, based on a randomized clinical trial of 170 men aged 65 or older. The experimental group received testosterone gel for a year to attain youthful testosterone levels and had a 20% increase in buildup of noncalcified plaque in their coronary arteries compared to those who received a placebo gel. More research is warranted.

PositiveTip: Plaque progression is not good. Older men, especially those with atherosclerosis should think twice about taking "T" therapy.

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Value of Low-Glycemic Diets Questioned

The glycemic index in the context of a healthy diet may not be as important as thought.

Researchers studied 160 overweight adults randomized to four different diets (low-glycemic index (GI), low-carbohydrate; low-GI, high-carb; high-GI, low-carb; and high-GI, high-carb) for 5 weeks. Each diet was low in saturated fat and dairy products, and included lots of fruits and vegetables. Analysis of the data did not find any major benefit to the low-GI diets. Insulin sensitivity, systolic BP, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels remained the same in all groups. 

PositiveTip: An overall healthy lifestyle and dietary pattern is probably the most important factor in preventing cardiovascular disease.

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The Function of HDL May Be the Key

How much cholesterol can your HDL remove from cells?

We know HDL is the good cholesterol. However, just increasing HDL levels may not lower risk. New evidence suggests "cholesterol efflux"--the ability of the HDL to remove cholesterol from cells may be the key. Researchers followed 2400 people without cardiovascular disease for 9 years. Those with the highest cholesterol efflux, independent of other risks, saw a 67% reduction in cardiovascular risk compared to those with the lowest risk.

PositiveTip: Eat a careful, wholesome diet and get daily physical activity to minimize your risk of heart disease.

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Good News in Nation’s Cardiovascular Health

Hospitalizations and deaths from cardiac or stroke events are down significantly.

Yale researchers mining Medicare data discovered encouraging national trends in cardiovascular disease.  After examining records of 34 million Americans, 65 or older, from 1999-2011, they found reductions in hospitalizations for heart attack (38%), heart failure (30.5%) and ischemic stroke (33.6%). Risk of death one year after hospitalization dropped 23% for heart attack and 13% for heart failure and stroke. Many factors are involved in these improvements.

PositiveTip:  Control the factors you can such as avoid smoking, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

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Why Low Fat Diets Seldom Prevent Heart Attacks

A whole diet approach is most effective in reducing cardiovascular disease

While low fat diets can reduce cholesterol, they're less effective in reducing heart attack risk. New meta analysis of diet and heart disease research from the past 50 years reveals it takes a diet overhaul. Changing the whole diet to something like the Mediterranean diet (lots of fruit and veggies, legumes, and whole grains) has much greater success in reducing heart disease.

PositiveTip: If you're serious about a healthy heart, get serious about your whole diet.

New Guidelines for Old

Patient focus

Late in 2013 new guidelines were published for health care professionals to manage people at risk of cardiac or vascular (stroke) disease. The guidelines were written because the old guidelines did not 1) address the risk of stroke, 2) consider younger patients with risk factors but normal cholesterol numbers, and 3) make recommendations in the area of lifestyle and obesity concerns. The old guidelines focused on cholesterol numbers. The new guidelines focus on the patient.

The guidelines written by the American Academy of Cardiology and the American Heart Association address four specific areas:

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Is There Really "Healthy" Obesity?

Normal BP, blood lipids and glucose did not appear to fully protect the obese.

"Healthy" obese people, i.e. having normal blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood glucose, did not protect them from increased risk for cardiovascular problems or death. Researchers analyzed data from 8 studies with over 60,000 adult participants. Four of those studies lasted 10 or more years and found that metabolically normal obese participants still had a 24% increased risk when compared to normal weight adults. 

PositiveTip: Beware of the "healthy obese" myth!

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Treatment for 'Low-T' May Pose Hazzards

Evidence continues to question the safety of testosterone therapy.

Testosterone therapy in a group of veterans was found to increase the risk of mortality, heart attack, and ischemic stroke. The risk increase between those taking testosterone and those not taking it was 5.8%. This cohort included participants with and without coronary artery disease at baseline, raising a red flag about its safety. Prescriptions for testosterone have increased five-fold over 10 years, fueled largely by direct-to-consumer advertising.

PositiveTip: Falling hormone levels in both men and women is a normal part of aging, not necessarily a disease!