February is Heart Month

| February 1, 2015

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Change Bad Habits And Live Heart Healthy

Not surprisingly, what you eat and how physically fit you are play a role in your health. Here are some guidelines to improve your health habits based on recent studies reported by the American Heart Association (AHA.)

HIGH FITNESS LEVEL REDUCES CHANGEOF DEVELOPING HYPERTENSION

People with the highest fitness levels are less likely to develop hypertension, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“If you’re exercising and you’re fit, your chances of developing hypertension are much less than someone else who has the same characteristics but isn’t fit,” said Mouaz H. Al-Mallah, M.D., senior author of the study and a cardiologist at the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute in Detroit, Michigan. “Increasing exercise and fitness levels probably protects against many diseases.”

More than 57,000 participants in the Henry Ford Exercise Testing Project (The FIT Project) in 1991-2009 were referred for a treadmill stress test because they experienced chest pain or shortness of breath or to rule out ischemia.

Researchers measured the participants’ physical fitness by calculating how much energy they burned in metabolic equivalents (METs), an estimate of the amount of oxygen the body uses per kilogram of body weight per minute. One MET is the amount of energy expended at rest; anything above that represents a level of exertion. High-intensity workouts translate to more METs.

At the beginning of the study, 35,175 participants had a history of high blood pressure.

Researchers found:

  • Those whose maximal exercise output was less than six METs had an over 70 percent chance of having high blood pressure at baseline compared to less than 50 percent for those with METs of greater than or equal to 12.
  • Those who reached 12 METs or more during the stress test had a 20 percent lower risk of developing hypertension compared to those reaching < 6 METs.
  • Of the 8,053 new cases of hypertension diagnosed during the study, 49 percent were in the lower fitness (less than six METs) group and 21 percent were in the higher fitness group (more than 12 METs).
  • There was a relationship between fitness and hypertension regardless of age, gender, race, obesity, resting blood pressure, or diabetes.

Further study is needed to determine how increasing and decreasing fitness levels impact hypertension risk over time, Al-Mallah said.

“Fitness is a strong predictor of who develops hypertension and who does not,” said Al-Mallah, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Wayne State University and head of cardiac imaging at King Abdulaziz Cardiac Center in Saudi Arabia. “Hyper­tension is associated with a lot of other illnesses and adds significantly to healthcare costs, so we need to know how we can reduce it.

“This is a clear message to everyone: patients, physicians and lawmakers. It’s very important to be fit.”

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure affects 1 out of 3 American adults. Normal blood pressure is when the top number in a reading, which measures pressure when the heart muscle contracts, is less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and the bottom number, which measures pressure when the heart relaxes between beats, is less than 80 mm Hg. Blood pressure is considered high when it’s greater than 140/90 mmHg. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range.

Learn more about blood pressure at heart.org/hbp. The National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute partially funded the study.

TRANS FAT CONSUMPTION LINKED TO DIMINISHED MEMORY IN WORKING-AGED ADULTS

High trans fat consumption is linked to worse memory among working-age men, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.

In a recent study of approximately 1,000 healthy men, those who consumed the most trans fats showed notably worse performance on a word memory test. The strength of the association remained even after taking into consideration things like age, education, ethnicity and depression.

“Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory, in young and middle-aged men, during their working and career-building years,” said Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., lead author and professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego. “From a health standpoint, trans fat consumption has been linked to higher body weight, more aggression and heart disease. As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

Golomb and her coauthor studied adults who had not been diagnosed with heart disease, including men age 20 or older and postmenopausal women. Participants completed a dietary questionnaire, from which the researchers estimated participants’ trans fat consumption. To assess memory, researchers presented participants with a series of 104 cards showing words. Participants had to state whether each word was new or a word duplicated from a prior card.

They found:

  • Among men under age 45, those who ate more trans fats showed notably worse performance on the word memory test. The strength of the association remained even after taking into consideration things like age, education, ethnicity and depression.
  • Each additional gram a day of trans fats consumed was associated with an estimated 0.76 fewer words correctly recalled.
  • For those eating the highest amounts of trans fats, this translated to an estimated 11 fewer words (a more than 10 percent reduction in words remembered), compared to adults who ate the least trans fat. (The average number of words correctly recalled was 86.)

“Foods have different effects on oxidative stress and cell energy,” Golomb said. In a previous study, we found chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants and positively impacts cell energy, is linked to better word memory in young to middle-aged adults. In this study, we looked at whether trans fats, which are prooxidant and linked adversely to cell energy, might show the opposite effect. And they did.”

Oxidative stress is associated with the development of diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Industrial trans fats are artificially produced to turn liquid oils into solids at room temperature and extend food shelf life. They can be found in margarines, fast foods, baked goods, snack foods, frozen pizza, coffee creamers and some refrigerated doughs. The Food and Drug Administration is taking further steps to reduce the amount of artificial trans fats in the U.S. food supply.

Analyses in younger women are needed to determine whether effects extend to this group, Golomb said.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute supported the study.

February is Heart Month


Category: Health & Fitness Articles, More Features

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