Reach for the fruit bowl instead of that bag of your favorite chips.
Researchers in China followed almost a half-million people for seven years finding when they consumed more fresh fruit they had lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Cardiovascular deaths were 40% lower in those who consumed fresh fruit daily compared to those who never or rarely did. Because the Chinese typically eat little fresh fruit, this study highlights the value of adding just 1-2 servings per day.
PositiveTip: Replace calorie-rich snacks and food items with fresh fruit to help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The "obesity paradox" may not be a real benefit.
Taking a life-course perspective, researchers have found obesity results in a shorter lifespan and an increased risk of cardiovascular (CVD) morbidity and mortality compared with those with a normal BMI (weight). Overweight men and women of all ages developed CVD at a younger age and spent more years living with it, despite not living as long.
PositiveTip: Maintaining a healthy BMI significantly improves quality of life, functional capacity, and decreases disability.
Smoking a single cigarette a day is associated with significantly more risk than non-smokers.
Lighting up just one time per day poses a significantly increased risk for heart disease and stroke. This large meta-analysis of 141 studies in 21 countries found smoking one cigarette a day was associated with a 48-74% increased risk in men, and a 57-118% risk for women.
PositiveTip: Remember, light smoking, smoking fewer cigarettes, and occasion smoking brings a substantial risk of harm.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.