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Is red meat bad for your health?

Nutritionists and health experts have spent years debating the benefits and risks of eating red meat in an attempt to determine whether it is good or bad for health. So far, results have been mixed.

Researchers say that red meat contains important nutrients, including protein, vitamin B-12, and iron. However, there is evidence to suggest that eating a lot of red meat can raise a person's risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and other health concerns.

This article looks at what the research says, official dietary recommendations, and what amount of red meat might be healthful.

The focus of this article is on the health impacts of red meat. It does not address the ethical and environmental arguments around the consumption of red meat.

How does red meat affect health? Person eating steak or red meat.
Eating red meat may increase a person's risk of developing heart disease or cancer.

Specialists usually classify red meat as muscle meat from beef, pork, lamb, goat, or other land mammals.

On one hand, red meat is a good source of certain nutrients, especially vitamin B-12 and iron. The human body needs these nutrients to produce new red blood cells.

Red meat is also high in protein, which is necessary for building muscle, bone, other tissues, and enzymes.

However, some research has linked regular consumption of red meat to a number of health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers, kidney problems, digestive issues, and mortality.

To further complicate the issue, some studies suggest that the type of red meat a person eats makes the most difference.

Leaner cuts of unprocessed red meat, such as sirloin steaks or pork tenderloin, may be more healthful than other types. This is because they are unprocessed and do not contain excess salt, fat, or preservatives.

Processed red meats — including bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, salami, and similar meats — appear to carry the highest risk of health problems.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Is red meat nutritious? Red meat contains nutrients that are beneficial to health, including iron, vitamin B-12, and zinc. Animal based foods, such as meat and dairy, are the main dietary sources of vitamin B-12. For this reason, people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may need to take supplemental B-12 in order to prevent B-12 deficiency anemia. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one 3.5-ounce (oz) or 100-gram (g) serving of uncooked ground beef contains: 247 calories 19.07 g of fat 17.44 g of protein 1.97 milligrams (mg) of iron 274 mg of potassium 4.23 mg of zinc 2.15 micrograms of vitamin B-12 Many factors can affect the nutritional value of a specific piece of meat. For example, cuts from different parts of the animal vary in their calorie and fat content. Also, the way the farmer raised the animal, the animal's diet, and even the animal's age and sex can affect the nutritional value of the meat. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) list some types of red meat as good sources of heme iron. Heme iron is only present in meat, poultry, and seafood. Nonheme iron occurs in plants and iron fortified foods, such as cereals and plant milks. The NIH state that heme iron is more bioavailable, which means that the body can use it more easily. Although many people get enough iron from their diets, the NIH say that certain people are at risk of iron deficiency, including: infants young children people with heavy periods pregnant women Heart disease and saturated fat pinto beans in a bowl
Nuts and beans are healthful plant based sources of protein. Many different studies have suggested that eating red meat regularly can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. For years, experts have believed that the link between red meat consumption and heart disease is due to the saturated fat that is present in red meat. The American Heart Association (AHA) claim that red meats generally have more saturated fat than other sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, or legumes. They suggest that eating high amounts of saturated fat and any amount of trans fat can raise a person's cholesterol levels and increase their risk of heart disease. They therefore recommend that people limit the amount of red meat they eat and encourage people to choose lean cuts of meat. That being said, red meat is not the primary source of trans fats in the Western diet. Packaged, processed, and fried foods tend to contain the most. The AHA also explain that beans and legumes are heart-healthy alternative sources of protein. Examples include: pinto beans kidney beans garbanzo beans, or chickpeas soybeans lentils, split peas, and black eyed peas A meta-analysis in the journal Circulation looked at 36 different studies. It concluded that replacing red meat with high quality plant protein sources — but not low quality carbohydrates — led to "more favorable" concentrations of fat in the blood. The meta-analysis also found that there were not significant improvements in total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, or blood pressure between the red meat and animal protein diet groups. Other studies have questioned the notion that saturated fat has links with heart disease. The authors of a review of heart disease risk state that researchers have exaggerated the role of saturated fat in the development of heart disease. Also, a team of cardiologists wrote an article stating that the consumption of saturated fat does not clog the arteries or increase the risk of heart disease. Another article says that numerous analyses and reviews do not support the notion that eating saturated fat has links with heart disease. All things considered, there is evidence both for and against saturated fats playing a role in heart disease. Research is ongoing. Heart disease and trimethylamine N-oxide Some studies have suggested that aside from the saturated fats debate, red meat still has other potential heart disease risks. A recent study found that people who eat red meat regularly have higher levels of a metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). Bacteria in the gut produce TMAO during digestion. It is a toxin that researchers have linked to an increased risk of heart disease death. This study shows that people who ate red meat had triple the levels of TMAO compared with those who ate white meat or plant based proteins. However, their TMAO levels returned to normal around 4 weeks after stopping eating red meat. Cancer and mortality Some recent research suggests that eating red meat regularly could increase the risk of cancer or death. The findings of specific studies vary, however. One 2015 paper states that red meat is "probably carcinogenic to humans," and that processed meat is "carcinogenic to humans." This is consistent with the World Health Organization's (WHO) classifications. Specifically, the paper states that based on several large studies, people who ate more red meat were more likely to develop colorectal cancer. The risk was higher for both red meat and processed meat, though processed meat seemed to raise the risk more. The research also found a higher risk of pancreatic and prostate cancer in those who ate red meat. Finally, those who ate more processed meat also had a higher risk of stomach cancer. The authors say that meat processing methods, such as curing and smoking, can create cancer causing chemicals. This may be why researchers have linked processed meat with greater health risks than unprocessed meat. Other research has also shown links between red meat and cancer. For example: One study tracked over 42,000 women for 7 years and found that higher consumption of red meat had links with a higher risk of invasive breast cancer. Conversely, women who ate poultry instead of red meat had a lower risk. Another study, which followed 53,000 women and 27,000 men, found that those who ate red meat, especially processed meat, had higher mortality rates over the course of 8 years. The participants did not have heart disease or cancer when the study began. Increases of "at least half a serving" of red meat per day had a 10% higher mortality risk. A large study that followed more than 120,000 men and women for 10 years found that only processed red meat, not unprocessed types, was associated with a higher risk of death. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Cooking methods and cancer Altering cooking techniques can help to reduce cancer-causing chemicals in red meat.
Using a different cooking technique can help reduce the levels of cancer causing chemicals in the meat. When a person cooks meat at a high temperature, such as by pan frying it or grilling it over an open flame, certain chemicals form in the meat. These chemicals, called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, may cause changes in DNA that lead to cancer. Exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer in animals, but experts do not know for certain that this also happens in humans. The National Cancer Institute say that people can reduce their exposure to these chemicals by: not cooking meat, including white meat, over an open flame or on a very hot metal surface precooking meat in a microwave to reduce the time a person needs to cook it over high heat turning and flipping the meat regularly during cooking not eating charred portions of meat Serving antioxidant rich vegetables, such as dark leafy greens, with cooked meats is another good way to support the body. How much red meat is too much? The guidelines for how much red meat is healthful vary from organization to organization. The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) say that if a person eats red meat, they should limit their intake to 3 servings per week. This would be equivalent to about 12–18 oz per week. They also say to eat little, "if any," processed meat. They explain that meat can be a valuable source of nutrients, but that people do not need to eat meat — red or otherwise — to be healthy. In fact, they say that "people can obtain adequate protein from a mixture of pulses (legumes) and cereals (grains)." The AHA are less specific in their meat recommendations. They say that people should cut back on meat and only eat it "once in a while," sticking to lean cuts and portions that are no larger than 6 oz. However, not everyone agrees that people should avoid or limit red meat. One article states that an "overzealous focus" on limiting red meat can lead people to eat less nutritious foods, such as highly processed junk foods. Also, because researchers have linked highly processed foods with numerous health problems, this may not be a positive trade-off. The article also states that "unprocessed red meats are one of the best sources of high quality protein and make important contributions to nutrient intakes." They can also keep triglyceride levels lower than high carbohydrate diets do. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Summary It is difficult to link one food or food group to health problems. This is because a range of other factors — including genetics, environment, health history, stress levels, sleep quality, lifestyle, and other dietary factors — may play a role in whether or not a person develops a specific condition or disease. Still, the body of evidence claiming that eating high amounts of red meat, especially processed meat, could lead to health problems is growing. Major health organizations, such as the AICR and the AHA, suggest eating more plants and less meat to help combat disease. For this reason, people may wish to cut back on red and processed meat and to focus on foods that contain antioxidants and nutrients — such as fruits and vegetables — that can help prevent health problems. It is important to remember that substituting red meat for processed, low quality carbohydrates can worsen insulin sensitivity, triglyceride levels, and overall health.
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Altering an unhealthy gut microbiome could stave off chronic disease

New research in mice suggests that "remodeling" an unhealthy microbiome into a healthy one could stave off chronic disease by improving cholesterol.
close up of petri dish with bacteria
Scientists modulated the growth of certain bacteria to turn an unhealthy gut microbiome into a healthy one.

Using peptides, scientists turned an unhealthy gut microbiome into a healthy gut that worked to help reduce cholesterol. This, they say, may help ward off certain diseases.

They presented their findings at the American Chemical Society Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition, which took place in San Diego, CA.

The researchers investigated a certain type of molecule and how it interacted with, and altered, the gut microbiome.

Prof. M. Reza Ghadiri — from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA — and team were able to change gut bacteria in such a way that it positively affected cholesterol levels in mice specifically bred to develop arterial plaque when they ate a high fat diet.

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Peptides and the gut microbiome

Prof. Ghadiri and colleagues used mice known as LDL receptor knockout mice, which are the gold standard when studying statins. These are drugs that lower cholesterol in humans.

The molecules the scientists used were peptides called self-assembling cyclic D, L-alpha-peptides, which Prof. Ghadiri developed in a laboratory to kill harmful bacteria.

Peptides are the building blocks of proteins, but self-assembling cyclic D, L-alpha-peptides do not occur anywhere in nature. The researchers also developed them to specifically interact in certain ways with different types of bacteria.

"Our hypothesis was that instead of killing bacteria, if we could selectively modulate the growth of certain bacteria species in the gut microbiome using our peptides, more beneficial bacteria would grow to fill the niche, and the gut would be 'remodeled' into a [heathy] gut," says Prof. Ghadiri.

"Our theory," he adds, "was that [this] process would prevent the onset or progression of certain chronic diseases."

Good results from peptides despite diet

To create appropriate peptides, the scientists developed a mass screening assay and selected the two best peptides after testing them with a representative mouse microbiome in the laboratory.

The study consisted of three groups of mice:

One received a low fat diet. One received a typical Western (high fat) diet. One received a Western diet coupled with one of the two peptides listed above.

The team sequenced the gut microbiome from fecal samples from all three mouse groups before and after the dietary intervention. They also examined their arteries for plaque and measured molecules that can affect metabolism, inflammation, and the immune system itself.

Prof. Ghadiri and team found that the peptides made a significant difference in the mice's arterial health.

"Mice fed the Western diet with our peptides had a 50% reduction in total plasma cholesterol, and there was no significant plaque in the arteries, compared [with] the mice fed a Western diet and no peptides."

Prof. M. Reza Ghadiri

"We also saw suppressed levels of molecules that increase inflammation and rebalanced levels of disease relevant metabolites. These mice resembled those on a low fat diet."

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Potential applications in humans

As to the possible mechanisms behind the findings, Prof. Ghadiri explains that they may be due to how genes affect bile acids, which then can impact the metabolism of cholesterol. Genes that influence atherosclerosis, which is an inflammatory process, may also be involved.

Although this study involved mice, it could be an important stepping stone to helping alter the gut microbiome in humans despite their diet.

This study, which looked at certain aspects of cardiovascular disease, also shed some light on the relationship between blood plasma cholesterol and the development of atherosclerosis.

"This is the first time anyone has shown that there are molecules to purposefully remodel the gut microbiome and turn an [unhealthy] gut into a more [healthy] one," notes Prof. Ghadiri.

"This opens up clear therapeutic possibilities. We can sequence the [gut microbiomes] of individuals and eventually develop therapies."

Prof. M. Reza Ghadiri

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Being easily fatigued may signal future heart problems

People who are easily winded by very light exercise could be at more of a risk for heart disease than others who do not experience the same level of tiredness, recent research finds.
senior woman walking her dog
Finding light physical exercise exhausting may be a sign of future heart disease, says a new study.

The study, appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at a participant pool of 625 individuals with an average age of 68 years.

The study team found that those who tired easily had an overall higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

First, the researchers calculated each person's 10-year risk of heart disease or stroke, using two different formulas.

Then, 4.5 years later, they assessed each participant with a test that consisted of "an extremely slow walk." Each person had to walk for 5 minutes on a treadmill set at a pace of 1.5 miles per hour. This exercise test was to examine their "fatigability."

After studied all the data, the researchers found that those who had higher cardiovascular risk scores from years ago were more likely to report that this simple physical task was exhausting.

"Even if you're exhausted because you have a newborn at home, this would be considered a very easy task," says study author Jennifer Schrack, an associate professor in the epidemiology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD.

"It should be very light exertion. When people think the effort is more than very light, that's informative."

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Risks of cardiovascular disease on the rise

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the current numbers of deaths due to CVD are high, experts believe they will increase over the next 15 years from 17.9 million in 2016 to over 23.6 million in 2030 around the world.

The American Heart Association (AHA) estimate there are 85.6 millions of people in the United States with more than one type of CVD, and approaching half of these adults are 60 years old or above.

CVD is a broad term that can refer to several different conditions. There are several ways to reduce the chances of developing CVD.

Eating well is a significant part of having a healthy cardiovascular system. This means consuming foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium. It is also vital to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish if not vegetarian or vegan, nuts, legumes, and seeds.

Also, it is crucial to be physically active. The WHO goal for maintaining a healthy heart is to do at least 150 minutes each week of moderate anerobic exercise, such as brisk walking.

Many people break this up into five 30-minute sessions each week. Alternatively, they can swap this regime for 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise, such as jogging or running.

Implications of the study

Dr. Salim Virani, a cardiologist at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and a professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who did not participate in the study, voiced one criticism of this latest investigation.

He notes that the researchers did not measure "fatigability" at the beginning of the study, which would have allowed them to compare the two tests 4.5 years later.

However, Schrack says that people can use this symptom as a sign that they should pay more attention to their cardiovascular health and possibly make changes that could reduce their risk of CVD.

"People don't like to hear, 'Eat right and exercise.' These are two of the biggest pieces of public health advice, and we say it relat[ing] to almost every condition. But it's so true."

Jennifer Schrack

"People who are able to maintain their weight, maintain their activity level, tend to have [fewer] effects of fatigue and certainly less cardiovascular risk over time," concludes Schrack.

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What happens if you do pushups every day?

Pushups are a popular exercise for strengthening the core and upper body. Many people incorporate pushups into their regular exercise routine. The benefits of daily pushups include improved muscle mass and cardiovascular health.

Pushups are a type of strength building exercise. Though they mainly activate muscles in the arms and shoulders, they also engage muscles in the core and legs. Therefore, pushups are beneficial for building strength throughout the body.

This article focuses on the effects of daily pushups on the body. We cover the benefits as well as the potential risks. We also discuss whether or not people should do pushups every day.

Increased joint support a man who does Push-ups everyday
Benefits of pushups include increased joint support, muscle tone, and strength.

Pushups are particularly effective at strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joints.

The muscles and tendons in the shoulder area are responsible for keeping the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket.

However, it is important to increase the number of pushups gradually to build up sufficient strength in the muscles. Overloading weak muscles can result in muscle and tendon injuries.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Increased muscle tone and strength There are several different variations of pushups, and each type activates the muscles in different ways. A small 2015 study involving eight volunteers looked at the following pushup variations and compared their effects on different muscle groups: Standard pushup (SP): The hands are shoulder width apart and directly in line with the shoulders. The upper body, or trunk, lines up with the legs, and the body remains rigid throughout. Wide pushup: The distance between the hands is twice that of in the SP. Narrow pushup (NP): The hands are below the center of the breastbone, or sternum, with the thumb and forefinger of each hand touching. Forward pushup (FP): The hands are shoulder width apart but 20 centimeters (cm) in front of the shoulders. Backward pushup (BP): The hands are shoulder width apart but 20 cm behind the shoulders. The study found the following: NPs resulted in the greatest activation of the triceps and pectoralis major muscles, or pecs. FPs and BPs resulted in the greatest activation of the abdominal and back muscles. BPs activated the largest number of muscle groups overall. The authors conclude that BPs might be the most beneficial pushup variation for improving upper body condition and strength. NPs are best suited to people trying to increase the size, tone, or strength of their triceps and pecs. Improved cardiovascular health a senior man playing with a child in a garden
Increased muscular strength may reduce a person's risk of cardiovascular disease. Several studies have linked muscular strength to a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. A 2019 study investigated the link between the number of pushups a person can do and their risk of developing a cardiovascular health issue 10 years later. A total of 1,104 active, middle-aged males took part in the study. The researchers found a significant difference between two groups of males; those who had been able to perform more than 40 pushups, and those who had been able to perform fewer than 10. Males in the 40+ pushup group were 96% less likely to have experienced a cardiovascular problem than males in the 10- pushup group. However, it is important to remember that this study included only active, middle-aged males. Further studies are necessary to determine if these associations are the same for females and for people who are older or inactive. Risks As with most exercises, pushups may increase the risk of certain injuries. Many injuries result from using an improper technique. People should talk to a fitness instructor if they are unsure about how to perform the different variations of pushups. Overall, the benefits of exercise tend to outweigh the risks. However, some potential risks of practicing daily pushups include: Reaching a fitness plateau People who repeat the same exercise daily will notice that it becomes less and less challenging over time. People refer to this as a fitness plateau. It indicates that the muscles are no longer developing. To avoid reaching a fitness plateau, people should incorporate a wide range of exercises into their fitness routine. Doing so will activate many different sets of muscles. People who are keen to maintain muscle may benefit from introducing aerobic exercise. A 2013 study found that people who do aerobic exercise tend to maintain greater muscle strength across their lifespan. Ideally, a thorough workout routine should also incorporate the following types of exercise: core development balance training stretching Back pain Certain pushup variants, such as the BP and the FP, increase activation of the lower back muscles. This may lead to lower back pain and discomfort. Pushups also cause temporary compression of the intervertebral joints in the spine. An intervertebral joint is the point at which two sections of backbone come together. A cushion of tissue called an intervertebral disc separates each section of the backbone. Excessive weight bearing exercises may contribute to wear and tear of these discs, resulting in pain and stiffness. People with existing back conditions should talk to a doctor before incorporating pushups into their fitness routine. Wrist pain Some people experience pain in the wrists when performing weight bearing exercises such as pushups. Most pain occurs along the back part of the wrist when a person bends the hand backward. A 2017 study found that 84% of people experiencing pain along the back of the wrist in response to weight bearing had a physical abnormality within the wrist. Around 76% of these cases were due to a small ganglion cyst. The second most common cause of pain was a partial ligament tear. It is not clear if these abnormalities were the result of repeated weight bearing exercises. Nonetheless, people who experience wrist pain during pushups should see a doctor. They can offer advice on how to support the wrist during exercise. Alternatively, a doctor may recommend a different exercise technique. Elbow injury a women with a sore elbow
Fast pushups may cause elbow strain. A 2011 study investigated the effect of pushup speed on elbow joints. The researchers tested three different pushup speeds: fast, medium, and slow. The study found that faster pushup speeds resulted in greater forces on the elbow joints, ligaments, and other surrounding tissues. They concluded that faster pushups could increase the risk of injury to these structures. The study also showed that slower pushup speeds resulted in greater muscle activation. Overall, these findings suggest that slower pushups are safer and more likely to result in improved muscle development. Summary Doing daily pushups can help build muscle tone and strength in the upper body. Other potential benefits include improved cardiovascular health and better support around the shoulder joints. However, practicing pushups every day does come with some risks. These include lower back pain, wrist pain, and elbow injury. People can reduce these risks by learning the proper technique for the pushup variations they want to incorporate. People who choose to practice pushups every day should also try to incorporate other forms of exercise. This is likely to provide a greater overall health benefit than pushups alone.
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How do nicotine-free e-cigarettes affect blood vessels?

New research examines the effects of a few puffs of nicotine-free electronic cigarettes on endothelial function, a measure of blood vessel health.
man vaping
New research examines the short term effects of vaping nicotine-free e-cigarettes.

As more and more people are trying to quit smoking, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are gaining popularity.

According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 12% of adults in the United States have tried e-cigarettes at least once in their lives, and almost 4% of U.S. adults use e-cigarettes on a regular basis.

Advertisers promote e-cigarettes as a "more healthful" or less harmful alternative to conventional tobacco-based cigarettes. However, the long term health implications of prolonged e-cigarette use require more research.

E-cigarettes typically use electric heating to deliver nicotine through aerosolization of an e-liquid. Some studies have questioned the safety of e-cigarettes, or "vaping," but what are the effects of vaping nicotine-free e-cigarettes?

New research, appearing in the journal Radiology, investigates this issue. Alessandra Caporale, a postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory for Structural, Physiologic, and Functional Imaging at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is the lead author of the study.

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Studying the short term effects of vaping

Caporale and her colleagues looked at the short term effects of vaping. They asked 31 healthy, nonsmoking adults with an average age of 24 years to take an MRI scan before and after using a nicotine-free e-cigarette.

The e-cigarettes contained propylene glycol and glycerol with tobacco flavoring but did not provide any nicotine. For the study, the participants took 16 puffs, which lasted 3 seconds each.

The researchers constricted the participants' blood vessels and released them. Then, they measured the participants' "reactive hyperemia," a brief increase in blood flow after the occlusion of an artery.

Some studies have argued that reactive hyperemia can be a good predictive measure of vascular function and endothelial function, although other researchers question its reliability.

Vaping impairs endothelial function

The scans revealed reduced blood flow in the femoral artery — the main artery that delivers blood to the thigh and leg. The team also noted reduced reactive hyperemia.

Based on these measures, the researchers concluded that "inhaling nicotine-free electronic cigarette aerosol transiently impacted endothelial function in healthy nonsmokers."

The endothelium is a thin layer of cells that lines the inside of blood vessels. A damaged endothelium means poor circulation and thick arteries. It can also potentially result in blocked blood flow to the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Specifically, the study found that the femoral artery's dilation decreased by 34%. The peak blood flow also dropped by 17.5% after vaping, while venous oxygen levels dipped by 20%, and reactive hyperemia decreased by almost 26%.

Felix W. Wehrli, Ph.D., a professor of radiologic science and biophysics and the study's principal investigator, comments on the findings.

He says, "While e-cigarette liquid may be relatively harmless, the vaporization process can transform the molecules — primarily propylene glycol and glycerol — into toxic substances."

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"Beyond the harmful effects of nicotine, we've shown that vaping has a sudden, immediate effect on the body's vascular function and could potentially lead to long term harmful consequences."

Prof. Felix W. Wehrli, Ph.D.

"E-cigarettes are advertised as not harmful, and many e-cigarette users are convinced that they are just inhaling water vapor," says Caporale.

"But the solvents, flavorings, and additives in the liquid base, after vaporization, expose users to multiple insults to the respiratory tract and blood vessels."

"I would warn young people to not even get started using e-cigarettes," Prof. Wehrli states. "The common belief is that the nicotine is what is toxic, but we have found that dangers exist independent of nicotine."

"Clearly, if there is an effect after a single use of an e-cigarette, then you can imagine what kind of permanent damage could be caused after vaping regularly over years," the author concludes.

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Intense light may boost heart health

A novel use of intense light therapy may help decrease the tissue damage experienced during heart attacks, reveals new research in mice.
woman holding her chest
New research introduces a potential novel therapy for heart attacks.

The study, out of the University of Colorado and appearing in the journal Cell Reports, shows that exposing lab mice to intense light for a week improved their outcomes after heart attacks.

The research also suggests that this procedure could benefit humans, and the researchers outline the reason why.

"We already knew that intense light can protect against heart attacks, but now we have found the mechanism behind it," says the study's senior author Dr. Tobias Eckle, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

Boosting specific gene protects heart

In the study, the researchers discovered that intense light influences the functions of the PER2 gene, which is expressed by a part of the brain that controls circadian rhythms.

By boosting this gene through intense light therapy, the researchers discovered that the mice's heart tissue received extra protection when it experienced issues with oxygen, such as during a heart attack.

Additionally, this intense light also heightened cardiac adenosine, which is a specialized chemical that helps with blood flow regulation. In concert, both benefits helped protect heart health.

Also, when they studied the mice, the researchers found that being able to physically perceive light was vital, as blind mice experienced no benefits from the intense light.

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Humans had similar benefits

The next step was to see if humans could benefit from light therapy. The researchers worked with healthy human volunteers and exposed them to 30 minutes of intense light.

On five consecutive mornings, the researchers exposed the participants to 10,000 lumens of light and drew blood several times.

The researchers found that PER2 levels increased in response to light therapy in the human participants as it did in the mice. They also reported that the human volunteers saw a decreased level of plasma triglycerides and improved metabolism.

Dr. Eckle explained that light plays an essential part in human health, not only in regulating the circadian rhythm but in cardiovascular health as well.

He adds that according to prior studies, more people throughout the U.S. experience heart attacks during the darker months of winter, even in states that traditionally get more sunshine, such as Hawaii and Arizona.

Heart disease and its impact on U.S. adults

Heart disease is widespread throughout the United States. Around 610,000 people die from heart disease every year, which accounts for 1 out of every 4 deaths.

Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease, and around 735,000 people in the U.S. experience a heart attack annually.

While most people know that chest pain is a sign of a heart attack, other less obvious signs include shortness of breath, upper body pain, nausea, cold sweats, lightheadedness, and discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.

There are many ways that people can reduce their risk of developing heart disease, such as eating better and exercising more. However, it is vital that research to discover new ways to protect the cardiovascular system continues.

This study using intense light highlights how something seemingly unrelated to heart health can have such protective benefits.

This study could have a significant impact on the treatment of heart patients in the future. Eckle says that "if the therapy is given before high risk cardiac and non-cardiac surgery, it could offer protection against injury to the heart muscle which can be fatal."

Eckle believes there are other possibilities, too, adding that "drugs could also be developed that offer similar protections based on these findings."

"However, future studies in humans will be necessary to understand the impact of intense light therapy and its potential for cardio protection."

Dr. Tobias Eckle

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Simple dietary changes may reduce cancer risk, increase lifespan

A new study that involved more than 50,000 participants over a period of 2 decades concludes that eating flavonoid rich foods could stave off disease and extend life.
Woman shopping for vegetables
A study probes the link between polyphenol consumption and mortality.

A considerable amount of research has focused on the role of nutrition in disease risk and mortality.

Despite growing interest, it is a notoriously difficult topic to study for a range of reasons, and drawing reliable conclusions about how food impacts specific health outcomes is challenging.

Although it is obvious that food is vital to our survival, delving deeper into the details of how single compounds impact disease and mortality in humans is difficult.

With that said, researchers have now firmly and scientifically established that eating more fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced cardiovascular and overall mortality risk.

However, exactly how fruits and vegetables protect health is less well known; although a wide array of nutrients are likely involved, many researchers believe that flavonoids play a significant part.

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The flavonoid family

Flavonoids are a class of chemicals called polyphenols. They are present in a range of natural foods, including fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, red wine, and tea.

These compounds have six subclasses:

flavonols flavan-3-ols flavanones flavones anthocyanins isoflavones

Each of these has the potential to impact the body in different ways and to different degrees.

Recently, a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University in Australia set out to investigate if these compounds actually can extend life and protect health.

The paper, which now appears in the journal Nature Communications, outlines their findings.

The authors write that their primary aim was to "investigate the association of total flavonoid and flavonoid subclass intakes with all cause, [cardiovascular disease]-related, and cancer-related mortality."

The researchers also wanted to see how lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco affected the benefits derived from flavonoids.

Flavonoid research

Earlier studies investigating flavonoids produced interesting results. In short-term studies, they appear to boost certain markers of cardiovascular health. Other papers have described a potential anticancer role for flavonoids.

Although earlier research has hinted at benefits, there are significant gaps. As the authors of the new study explain:

"Evidence from observational studies is incomplete; studies on cancer mortality are scarce, and additional research is necessary to establish the specific role of flavonoid subclasses and to determine the dose of total and specific flavonoids required to achieve maximum benefit."

To investigate, the scientists took data from the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health cohort. In total, 56,048 adults took part. During the 23-year followup, 14,083 of the participants died.

After controlling for a range of factors, the authors conclude:

"[W]e provide evidence that an achievable dietary intake of total and individual flavonoid subclasses is associated with a lower risk of all cause, [cardiovascular disease]-related, and cancer-related mortality."

Specifically, they found that those who consumed around 500 milligrams (mg) of flavonoids every day had the lowest risk of cancer- or cardiovascular disease-related deaths. Above the 500 mg threshold, there was no additional benefit.

The scientists also analyzed the impact of each of the six types of flavonoid. They found the same effect across the board.

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500 mg each day

To put the 500 mg threshold into perspective, lead researcher Dr. Nicola Bondonno provides an actionable example:

"It's important to consume a variety of different flavonoid compounds found in different plant based food and drink. This is easily achievable through the diet: one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100 grams of blueberries, and 100 grams of broccoli would provide a wide range of flavonoid compounds and over 500 mg of total flavonoids."

The researchers found that the benefits of flavonoids were particularly pronounced in participants who currently smoked and who consumed more than two alcoholic beverages each day. These participants saw the greatest benefits.

However, Dr. Bondonno makes an important point, explaining that "flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption. By far the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol."

Exactly how flavonoids might reduce the risk of disease is unclear. However, some scientists believe that their anti-inflammatory qualities might be important.

Alcohol and tobacco both increase levels of inflammation and damage blood vessels. However, as Dr. Bondonno explains, "Flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve blood vessel function, which may explain why they are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer."

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Strengths and limitations

This study has significant strengths — not least the large number of participants and the long follow-up duration. The scientists also captured a wide range of characteristics, lifestyle factors, and other relevant information to help refine their analysis and reduce statistical noise.

However, there are always limitations. For instance, the study was observational, which means that it is not possible to prove conclusively that flavonoids cause the decrease in mortality and disease risk.

For instance, as the authors explain, there is a possibility that flavonoids are "a marker of other unobserved and potentially protective dietary factors."

Importantly, the study only captured dietary information at the start of the study; there is every chance that the participants' diets changed significantly over the following 2 decades.

The authors also note that their sample group was predominantly white, so the relationship between flavonoids and health outcomes may be different in other populations.

In conclusion, this study adds weight to the idea that flavonoids might protect health. However, as ever, scientists will need to carry out more research.

In the meantime, consuming increased quantities of fruits and vegetables will do no harm.

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What to know about forehead veins

Bulging veins can appear anywhere on the body, including the forehead. Veins can expand due to pressure or stress. Skin changes associated with aging may make veins in the forehead appear larger than they are.

Genetic factors or age can influence whether someone gets large veins on their forehead. The skin becomes thinner as the body ages, which can make veins appear more pronounced or larger than they are.

Enlarged veins can appear in the center of the forehead or the sides of the face, near the temples. Bulging forehead veins rarely indicate a medical emergency.

Read on to learn more about bulging forehead veins, including causes and treatments. Possible causes of bulging forehead veins include:

Pressure Inflated Forehead veins
Laughing, sneezing, and screaming may all increase pressure in the head.

An increase in pressure can cause the veins to protrude through the skin. Factors that increase pressure in the neck and head include:

A bulging forehead vein may develop from a tension headache. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, which occur because of tightness in the muscles of the shoulders, scalp, or jaw.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Pregnancy Hormone changes during pregnancy can lead to higher blood volume, which may result in enlarged veins. Progesterone levels increase during pregnancy. Progesterone thickens the uterine lining, preparing the uterus to receive a fertilized egg. Progestin also dilates or expands the blood vessels, which may make them appear larger under the skin. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), progesterone levels are ten times higher in females who are pregnant than those who are not. Temporal arteritis Temporal arteritis, or giant cell arteritis, is a type of vasculitis affecting the veins near the temples. Vasculitis refers to inflammation of the blood vessels. Temporal arteritis causes inflammation in the temporal arteries and the surrounding blood vessels. This can lead to bulging veins that extend from the temples to the middle of the forehead. Other symptoms of temporal arteritis include: Sun exposure A Cheerful woman enjoying a sunny day on a balcony
Prolonged sun exposure may cause veins near the skin's surface to dilate. Spending too much time in the sun can damage skin tissue and veins. The heat from the sun causes veins to dilate so that they can regulate the body's internal temperature. However, dilated veins near the surface of the skin have the potential to pop or break, resulting in spider veins. Spider veins refer to small red, blue, or purple lines that appear right below the surface of the skin. These lines indicate broken veins, and they can develop anywhere on the body, including the face. Why might a new vein appear or become visible? A bulging vein might appear suddenly if someone loses a significant amount of weight. People with less body fat may have more prominent veins. Thinning skin due to gaining weight could also explain new bulging veins. Hormonal changes and high blood pressure could also result in the sudden appearance of forehead veins. According to the American Institute of Stress, both physical and mental stress can significantly raise blood pressure. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Is treatment necessary? In most cases, forehead veins do not require treatment. People who do not like the way their forehead veins look can choose to undergo procedures that reduce their visibility. Treatments for forehead veins include: Electrosurgery: This procedure uses high frequency electrical currents to cut or destroy blood vessels. Sclerotherapy: Doctors use this standard medical procedure to treat varicose and spider veins. It does not require surgery. During sclerotherapy, a doctor will inject a salt solution directly into a vein, causing it to collapse. Endovenous laser surgery: This procedure uses a laser to close or shrink veins. The heat from the laser destroys the tissue lining the walls of blood vessels. The body will naturally absorb the dead tissue. When to see a doctor male patient speaking to doctor
If headaches and dizziness accompany large forehead veins, a person should speak to their doctor. Although large forehead veins do not indicate a medical emergency, people may want to speak with a doctor if they experience: headaches dizziness blurred or double vision pain or tenderness near the temples, mouth, or jaw Even if someone does not experience symptoms, they can still consult a doctor about possible treatment options for large forehead veins. People should carefully consider all the benefits and risks associated with surgical and nonsurgical treatments before making a decision. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Summary Several factors can contribute to the appearance of bulging forehead veins. These can include natural reasons, such as genetics, aging, and sun exposure. An underlying medical condition that affects the cardiovascular system, such as vasculitis, may also cause large forehead veins. Large forehead veins do not require treatment unless someone does not like the way they look. People can choose from a variety of surgical and nonsurgical procedures to reduce the appearance of forehead veins. People should ask a trained medical professional to review the potential risks and benefits associated with any treatment.
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What to know about brain aneurysms

A brain aneurysm, sometimes called a cerebral aneurysm, is a weak spot in a brain artery. The weak spot creates a balloon that fills with blood.

The walls of the artery are weaker near an aneurysm, which means that the aneurysm can break open, or rupture. A ruptured aneurysm is a life threatening condition that can cause serious brain injuries or stroke. However, not all aneurysms rupture.

People with an aneurysm may need ongoing monitoring to ensure that it is not growing. A doctor may need to remove a larger aneurysm.

In this article, we provide an overview of brain aneurysms, including the types, symptoms, causes, complications, and treatments.

Brain aneurysm statistics A Female doctor analyzing MRI scan of a Brain aneurysm
Around 3–5% of people in the United States experience a brain aneurysm during their lifetime.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, brain aneurysms affect an estimated 3–5% of people in the United States during their lifetime. They are more common in females than in males and tend to affect adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years.

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation state that ruptured brain aneurysms account for just 3–5% of all new stroke cases. If an aneurysm does rupture, it is fatal in about 40% of cases, with 15% of people dying before they reach the hospital.

Types of aneurysm Doctors classify aneurysms according to the shape of the weak spot in the artery. There are three main types of aneurysm: Saccular aneurysms form a pocket on the outside of an artery. They are the most common type of cerebral aneurysm. Some people refer to them as berry aneurysms due to their appearance. Fusiform aneurysms occur when the blood vessel expands on all sides. This type of aneurysm is more common after an injury to a blood vessel. Mycotic aneurysms are those that form a sac around an artery. They happen when an infection from another area of the body gets into the bloodstream and spreads to the brain. Myocarditis, a type of heart infection, is a common culprit, but mycotic aneurysms are very rare. The size of an aneurysm is a significant predictor of whether or not it will rupture: Small aneurysms are less than 11 millimeters (mm) across — about the size of a large pencil eraser. Large aneurysms are 11–25 mm in diameter — roughly the size of a dime. Giant aneurysms are 25 mm or larger — more than the diameter of a quarter. Some aneurysms grow over time, and a small number grow rapidly. Growth, especially rapid growth, increases the risk that the aneurysm will rupture. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Symptoms and early warning signs Larger aneurysms are more likely than smaller ones to cause symptoms before they rupture, but most aneurysms do not cause any symptoms during this stage. When people with an unruptured aneurysm do experience symptoms, they may include: pain above or behind the eye that gets worse or does not go away with time numbness weakness paralysis or twitching on one side of the face vision changes, such as blurred or double vision a dilated pupil in only one eye Sometimes an aneurysm leaks before it ruptures. Doctors call this a sentinel rupture or sentinel bleed. Sentinel ruptures sometimes cause sentinel headaches. A sudden, severe headache — especially one that does not fit a person's usual headache pattern or that is worse than any other headache they have ever had — could be a sentinel headache. Other symptoms of a sentinel rupture include: nausea or vomiting vision changes confusion or changes in consciousness a stiff neck light sensitivity fainting or seizures cardiac arrest Anyone who has symptoms of an aneurysm should seek immediate medical care. If a person has previously received a diagnosis of an unruptured aneurysm, it is essential that they make the emergency care team aware of this. Causes and risk factors a father and son hug.
A person may be at risk of a brain aneurysm if they have a family member who has experienced one. Brain aneurysms are more common in females than in males and more likely to affect adults between 30 and 60 years old. In addition, genetic and lifestyle factors that weaken the walls of blood vessels greatly increase the risk of aneurysm. Risk factors for brain aneurysms include: genetic conditions that weaken blood vessels, including polycystic kidney disease, some connective tissue disorders, and arteriovenous malformations (AVM) a close family member, such as a parent, child, or sibling, having an aneurysm uncontrolled high blood pressure drug use disorder, particularly that involving drugs that raise blood pressure, such as amphetamines and cocaine using illicit drugs intravenously smoking a brain tumor head injuries infections in the arteries Diagnosis While brain imaging techniques, such as CT scans and MRI scans, can help doctors diagnose some aneurysms, an angiogram allows them to make a definitive diagnosis. To perform a cerebral angiogram, a doctor will insert a small, thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in the groin and direct it into the blood vessels of the brain under X-ray guidance. There, they will inject a dye that makes it easier to see the blood vessels and any unusual structures. An angiogram can help the doctor assess the size and severity of the aneurysm, as well as its type. This information helps them make appropriate treatment recommendations. Treatment Not all brain aneurysms require immediate treatment. If the aneurysm is small, a doctor may recommend monitoring it over time. The best treatment option will depend on the following factors: the person's age any neurological or medical conditions whether the aneurysm has ruptured the risk of the aneurysm rupturing any family history of subarachnoid hemorrhage A person with a family or personal history of aneurysm rupture may need treatment even if the aneurysm is small. A doctor may recommend an endovascular procedure or surgery to treat the aneurysm. Endovascular procedure During an endovascular procedure, a surgeon inserts a catheter through the groin, then navigates to the aneurysm. Next, they pack the aneurysm with metal coils or a stent to redirect the blood flow. Doing this stops blood from flowing into the aneurysm, which prevents rupture. Surgery Surgery for an aneurysm requires an operation on the brain, which will take place under general anesthesia. This procedure usually requires a person to spend several days in the hospital, and it may be necessary to shave the person's head. During the operation, a surgeon clips the aneurysm to prevent blood from flowing into it. Following this treatment, most aneurysms do not reoccur. Risks of treatment Both endovascular treatment and brain surgery come with risks, including: heart or lung damage stroke surgical complications, such as infection death surgery failure that makes further treatment necessary Complications An unruptured aneurysm typically does not cause any complications. However, a ruptured aneurysm can cause serious, lasting health conditions, and it can be fatal. Possible complications of a ruptured brain aneurysm include: hemorrhagic stroke, a type of stroke that occurs as a result of bleeding in the brain rebleeding, which happens when an aneurysm ruptures again changes in the sodium level in the brain, which may cause permanent brain damage vasospasm, a spasm that causes arteries to narrow, limiting blood flow to the brain and potentially causing serious brain damage or a stroke seizures hydrocephalus, which happens when cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the brain, causing dangerous pressure that may damage this organ Prevention woman running to try and help herself sleep better
A healthful lifestyle may help reduce the risk of a brain aneurysm. Some aneurysms are not preventable. However, a healthful lifestyle can support blood vessel health and reduce the risk of an aneurysm. People can reduce their risk using the following strategies: quitting smoking, if applicable abstaining from using drugs that elevate blood pressure avoiding or limiting medications that increase blood pressure, under the guidance of a doctor adopting a healthful lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise talking to a healthcare professional about strategies to control blood pressure seeking advice on further strategies to reduce aneurysm risk if a first degree relative (a parent, child, or sibling) has had an aneurysm People who have unruptured aneurysms should talk to a doctor about how to minimize the risk of rupture. Ongoing monitoring can reduce this risk and guide a doctor's treatment decisions. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Differences between an aneurysm and stroke An aneurysm is not a stroke, but it can cause one. When an aneurysm bursts, this deprives the brain of blood, potentially leading to a stroke. The symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm and stroke are similar but not identical. While both cause neurological symptoms, such as dizziness or blurred vision, aneurysms also typically cause headaches. Both conditions are serious medical emergencies that demand immediate treatment. Therefore, a person should see a doctor whether they have symptoms of an aneurysm, stroke, or both. Learn more about the differences between aneurysms and stroke here. Outlook Among people who survive an aneurysm rupture, about 25% die from complications within 6 months, and 66% have lasting neurological damage. For this reason, it is important to identify and treat aneurysms as early as possible. Prompt medical care increases a person's chances of survival.
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'Intensive blood pressure management' may preserve brain health

New research compares intensive blood pressure control with standard blood pressure management and finds that the former correlates with a lower chance of developing white matter lesions later in life.
man taking his blood pressure
Managing your blood pressure 'intensively' may prevent brain damage later in life, new research suggests.

Numerous large, cohort studies have linked midlife hypertension to mild cognitive impairment and dementia later on.

Some of these studies found a higher risk of lesions in the brain's white matter in older age among people with high blood pressure in their 50s.

The white matter of the brain consists of bundles of axons, which are the thin elongations of neurons. White matter is "white" due to myelin — the protective substance that covers the axons. Unlike gray matter, white matter continues to evolve in our adulthood and midlife.

Previous studies have tied abnormalities in the brain's myelin, such as the thinning of this layer, with a range of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's and other dementias.

White matter lesions, which appear on an MRI scanner, reflect such myelin disruptions. White matter lesions can also indicate high water content, higher glial cell sensitivity to injury, porous brain blood vessels, or ministrokes.

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New research explores the connection between midlife hypertension and white matter lesions, which may lead to cognitive impairment later in life.

Specifically, a team of researchers asked themselves if intensive blood pressure treatment correlates with a limited "progression of small vessel ischemic disease, as reflected by cerebral white matter lesion volume."

Dr. Nick Bryan, Ph.D., from the Department of Diagnostic Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, is the corresponding author of the new paper.

Dr. Bryan and team examined the brain scans of 449 participants and found that intensive control of blood pressure in their 50s did, indeed, corresponded with a lower likelihood of white matter lesions later on.

The findings of the research now appear in JAMA.

The researchers examined the brain scans of the participants who had enrolled in the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).

As part of SPRINT, the participants — who were 50 years old on average at baseline and at high cardiovascular risk — undertook brain scans at the beginning of the study and 4 years later.

During this time, the participants received either standard treatment, which reduced systolic blood pressure to less than 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or intensive treatment to lower systolic blood pressure below 120 mm Hg.

Over the 4 years, the total volume of white matter lesions rose by 0.92 cm3, on average, in the intensive treatment group. By contrast, white matter lesion volume rose by 1.45 cm3, on average, among the participants who received standard treatment.

"Intensive treatment significantly reduced white matter lesion accumulation in people who had a higher chance of experiencing this kind of damage because they had high blood pressure," reports study co-author Dr. Clinton B. Wright, the director of the Division of Clinical Research at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Another co-author of the study, Lenore J. Launer, Ph.D., who is a senior investigator at NIH's National Institute on Aging (NIA) Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, also comments on the findings.

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She says: "SPRINT MIND has produced promising initial results in the battle against the nation's growing problem with aging brain disorders. Both the brain scans and cognitive tests reinforce the potential benefits that intensive blood pressure management may have on the brain."

"We hope that these findings will become the foundation for future studies on how to protect the brain throughout a person's life," adds Launer.

The findings strengthen the results of a previous study that found intensive blood pressure control reduces mild cognitive impairment occurrence.

"These findings on white matter lesions — primarily in the aggressive control of blood pressure — are encouraging as we continue to advance the science of understanding and addressing the complexities of brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and related dementias," adds Dr. Richard J. Hodes, the director of the NIA.

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Study finds 'disturbingly' high levels of 'ugly cholesterol'

New research shows that levels of remnant particle cholesterol, also known as "ugly cholesterol," in the blood are much higher than experts previously thought.
close up of doctor's hands and blood test
New research points to high levels of remnant cholesterol in the blood.

This research explored the link between remnant cholesterol and cardiovascular disease and came to an alarming conclusion.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark led the study.

Their findings now appear in the journal Atherosclerosis.

Hopes are high that this finding could have a positive impact on both the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in the future.

The team used data from the Copenhagen General Population Study, which included cholesterol specific test results from around 9,000 people.

Using an advanced measuring method called metabolomics, researchers were able to identify the amounts of good, bad, and "ugly" cholesterol within each sample.

They found that equal parts of all of these types of cholesterol make up total cholesterol, which means that the impact of having higher levels of ugly cholesterol is much greater than scientists previously thought.

"Our results show that the amount of remnant cholesterol in the blood of adult Danes is just as high as the amount of the bad LDL [low density lipoprotein] cholesterol," says chief physician Prof. Børge Nordestgaard, from the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital.

"We have previously shown that remnant cholesterol is at least as critical as LDL cholesterol in relation to an increased risk of myocardial infarction and stroke, and [this] is therefore a disturbing development."

Prof. Børge Nordestgaard

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Measuring cholesterol and what it means

When someone gets their cholesterol checked, it is not a single blood test result. Instead, the test results include different levels of different types of cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL) (or good cholesterol), LDL (or bad cholesterol), triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

Generally, for better health outcomes, people should strive for higher levels of HDL and lower levels of LDL and triglycerides. Breaking it down in this way provides more information than a simple total cholesterol test.

The method the scientists used in this study (metabolomics) offers even more vital information.

Prior studies on this topic have shed some light on remnant cholesterol; researchers have found that being overweight or having obesity was the main cause of high levels of both remnant cholesterol and triglycerides in adults.

Prof. Nordestgaard notes that with the new knowledge the team gleaned from this study, the prevention of cardiovascular disease should not only focus on LDL cholesterol, as that is not the only type that can lead to health issues.

"So far, both cardiologists and [physicians] have focused mostly on reducing LDL cholesterol, but in the future, the focus will also be on reducing triglycerides and remnant cholesterol," he says.

High cholesterol treatment

If someone discovers that their cholesterol levels are not optimal, there are a few options available for treatment.

Focusing on heart healthy foods — which includes eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, poultry, and fish — is a good way to help improve these levels. It is also important to reduce the consumption of foods high in saturated fat and sugar.

Also, people should try to avoid being sedentary, as physical activity can help improve cholesterol levels. Furthermore, cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease in people with high cholesterol.

Making lifestyle changes — such as improving the diet, getting more exercise, and quitting smoking — can help improve cholesterol levels. However, if those methods do not work, doctors can also prescribe medication.

Losing weight may be the best thing someone can do to lower their "ugly" cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

"Our findings point to the fact that prevention of myocardial infarction and stroke should not just focus on reducing the bad LDL cholesterol, but also on reducing remnant cholesterol and triglycerides."

Prof. Børge Nordestgaard

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Plant based diet may reduce cardiovascular death risk by 32%

New research adds to the mounting body of evidence that eating more plant based foods and fewer animal ones may contribute to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
person chopping vegetables
Eating more vegetables and less meat contributes to a healthy heart, new research suggests.

Not only is eating fewer animal products good for the planet, but it is also good for your health, as more and more studies suggest.

Particularly, a growing body of evidence is showing that a plant based diet could benefit cardiovascular health.

By way of example, one such recent study found that eating more plant based foods slashes the risk of heart failure by 40%, while another one found that a vegetarian diet cuts the risk of heart disease death by the same percentage.

Now, a new study appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association strengthens these findings, as researchers find that eating more vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and fewer animal products correlate with a much lower risk of dying of a heart attack or other serious cardiovascular event.

Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, is the lead author of the new study.

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Studying dietary intake and heart health

Rebholz and colleagues examined data from 12,168 middle aged people who had enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The ARIC project clinically followed the participants between 1987 and 2016.

The researchers in the latest study categorized the participants' diet using four diet indexes: "In the overall plant based diet index and provegetarian diet index," they explain, "higher intakes of all or selected plant foods received higher scores."

"[I]n the healthy plant based diet index, higher intakes of only the healthy plant foods received higher scores," while "in the less healthy plant based diet index, higher intakes of only the less healthy plant foods received higher scores."

The researchers applied three Cox proportional hazards models to calculate hazard ratios and assess "the association between plant based diet scores and incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all cause mortality."

25% lower risk of death from any cause

The findings reveal that the participants who had the highest intake of plant based foods and scored the highest on the indexes were 16% less likely to have a cardiovascular condition — such as a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure — when the researchers compared them with adults who consumed the smallest amount of plant based foods.

High plant based food consumers were also 25% less likely to die from any cause and had a 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular condition.

"While you don't have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant based foods and a smaller proportion of animal based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease," says the lead researcher.

"There might be some variability in terms of individual foods, but to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, people should eat more vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits, legumes, and fewer animal based foods."

Casey M. Rebholz

Dr. Mariell Jessup, the chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association (AHA), who was not involved in the study, also comments on the results.

She says, "The [AHA] recommend[s] eating a mostly plant based diet, provided the foods you choose are rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, sodium (salt), cholesterol and artery clogging saturated and trans fats."

"For example, French fries or cauliflower pizza with cheese are plant based but are low in nutritional value and are loaded with sodium (salt). Unprocessed foods, like fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains, are good choices," Dr. Jessup explains.

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Study strengths and limitations

The study's lead researcher also points out that this is one of the first studies to examine this association in the general population. By contrast, most previous research has found cardiovascular benefits for plant based diets in smaller populations, such as vegetarians.

Also, the "findings are pretty consistent with previous findings about other dietary patterns, including the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, which emphasize the same food items," Rebholz adds.

However, the study has some limitations, such as the self-reported nature of the dietary intake.

Also, the ARIC study measured the dietary intake of plant based and animal based foods decades ago, say the scientists, so the measurements may not reflect the modern food industry.

Finally, the study cannot prove causation.

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Fat burning heart rate: Everything you need to know

The fat burning heart rate is supposed to be the rate at which a person's heart should beat per minute to achieve maximum fat burning results.

Fitness professionals and people looking to get in shape often talk about the fat burning heart rate. For people looking to lose weight, hitting a fat burning heart rate could sound like an excellent idea.

While there may be evidence to suggest that this method primarily burns fat, there are more factors that a person should consider when working out.

Keep reading for more information on a fat burning heart rate and whether it is effective for weight loss.

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What is the fat burning heart rate? a man measures his heart rate to see how much fat he is burning
A person's heart rate starts to increase when they exercise. A person's heart rate is often a good indicator of the intensity of the exercise or activity that they are doing. When sitting or lying down, a person's heart rate is usually 60–100 beats per minute. This rate is a person's resting heart rate. When a person exercises, their heart rate starts to increase. A person's maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate a person can safely achieve, often during high intensity exercises. Most people working at this intensity will have shorter workouts because it is hard to maintain. The fat burning heart rate supposedly falls between these two extremes. When a person is hitting their fat burning heart rate, their body is burning more stored fat than sugar and other carbohydrates. As a result, people often focus on reaching the fat burning zone when they exercise to burn the maximum amount of fat. Chart and how to calculate There is an equation for figuring out a person's maximum heart rate and fat burning heart rate. The fat burning heart rate is based on the maximum heart rate. It is important to note that these equations are not suitable for determining safe heart rates for children. To calculate the maximum heart rate, a person should subtract their current age from 220. For example, a 40-year-old's maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute. To calculate the fat burning heart rate zone, a person should determine the upper and lower limits. The upper limit is 70% of the maximum heart rate. The lower limit is about 50% of the maximum heart rate. Using the same example, a 40-year-old's fat burning heart rate is between 90 (50% of 180) and 126 (70% of 180) beats per minute. People interested in increasing their endurance and cardiovascular strength often train at higher levels. Sometimes called the cardio zone, people training for performance increases often train at 70–85% of their maximum heart rate. The following chart shows the breakdown of heart rates based on a person's age. an infographic for fat burning heart rate
Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Is it effective? The fat burning heart rate zone has some merit, but it is limited, and some people may rely on it too much. The idea of the fat burning heart rate zone is based on how the body burns fuel when exercising. In general, the higher the heart rate, the more fat the body burns compared with other calorie sources, such as carbohydrates. This has led many to believe that hitting and staying in the fat burning heart rate zone is the best way to burn fat and lose weight. However, the reality is more complex. According to an older study from 2009, the optimal heart rate for burning fat is actually between 60.2% and 80%. The authors also found that these heart rate "zones" had considerable overlap, and that people could get similar results from any heart rate, as long as they were exercising. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) caution against relying too heavily on the fat burning heart rate. The ACE point out that calculating maximum heart rate based on 220 is not very accurate, since many more factors than age alone determine a person's fitness level. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today They suggest that a person should work with a fitness trainer to help determine their exercise capabilities. The ACE also have their own heart rate chart that shows heart rate zones based on age and the fitness level of the person. Like the authors of the 2009 study, the ACE also point out that a person will burn fat regardless of whether they are in the fat burning or cardio zone during exercise. It likely makes little difference which "zone" a person is in when it comes to burning fat and losing weight. Still, for some, keeping an eye on their heart rate during exercise can help them maintain their intensity or pick up their pace if the activity is not challenging enough. A person should always speak to a doctor before starting a new exercise program. A doctor or other healthcare provider can recommend healthy heart rate levels and other tips for people who are looking to lose weight. Summary A person's fat burning heart rate falls within a range of values based on their age. However, people will burn calories and fat regardless of their heart rate when exercising. A person who is interested in burning fat should discuss their goals with a doctor, who can recommend exercises and safe heart rates based on their needs and fitness levels.
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Periumbilical pain: What to know

Periumbilical pain is a painful sensation around the belly button. It is a common complaint, and because many conditions can cause it, it may be challenging for doctors to diagnose.

In this article, we explore the causes and treatment of periumbilical pain. Also, we will review when a person should seek emergency medical attention.

What is periumbilical pain? Periumbilical pain
An umbilical hernia, acute appendicitis, or a small bowel obstruction can all cause periumbilical pain.

Periumbilical pain occurs in the area surrounding and including the belly button.

When diagnosing abdominal pain, doctors must know where the pain is located.

For example, when a person has appendicitis, the pain often starts around the periumbilical region and then moves to the right lower side of the abdomen. Sometimes, people with appendicitis may report pain in the right side and not in the periumbilical region.

Doctors may need to carry out further examinations to accurately diagnose periumbilical pain.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Causes The causes of periumbilical pain can range from mild discomforts to surgical emergencies. People with this type of pain may have difficulty telling their doctor exactly where they feel it. However, depending on the area of the abdomen, pain can be associated with many different conditions. For example, pain in the upper right area of the abdomen could suggest a liver condition, while pain in the upper left area could signal a heart attack or pancreatitis. Some of the causes of periumbilical pain listed below may present in different ways. For example, some people with gastritis, esophagitis, or peptic ulcers may also feel pain in the upper middle area of the abdomen, or the epigastric region. Umbilical hernia If a person has an umbilical hernia, they may notice a bulge in their belly button area, as well as pain. An umbilical hernia occurs when an organ or a part of an organ pushes through the abdominal wall. Infants and young children are more likely to experience an umbilical hernia. In adults, umbilical hernias are more common in women or people with increased abdominal pressure relating to pregnancy or obesity. Acute appendicitis People with appendicitis need a rapid and accurate diagnosis, followed by surgery to remove the appendix. Appendectomy is the most common abdominal surgery among children. People with acute appendicitis may experience periumbilical pain that migrates to the right side. They may also experience a loss of appetite, fever, and tenderness on the right side. Mesenteric artery ischemia Doctors define mesenteric artery ischemia as a lack of blood flow to the small intestine. People can have acute or chronic mesenteric ischemia. In acute mesenteric ischemia, people may have a sudden onset of periumbilical pain, nausea, and vomiting. Abdominal aortic dissection People with an aortic dissection must seek immediate medical attention. An abdominal aortic dissection is when a tear forms in the aorta, which is the major artery supplying blood to the body. Doctors estimate that 3 out of every 1,000 people who present to the emergency department for back, chest, or abdominal pain have an abdominal aortic dissection. The surgeon must treat the abdominal aortic dissection immediately, as mortality can reach up to 50% in the first 48 hours. Small bowel obstruction patient having a ct scan
A doctor may suggest a CT scan to help diagnose a small bowel obstruction. People with a small bowel obstruction have a blockage in their intestine. Several factors can cause these blockages, including: scar tissue in the abdomen hernias cancer inflammatory bowel disease stool impaction foreign bodies Another cause of small bowel obstruction is volvulus, a problem that occurs when a loop in the intestine twists and blocks the bowel. People with small bowel obstruction may experience: periumbilical pain abdominal distension, or a bloated-looking belly nausea vomiting mild-to-severe constipation in some cases, loose stools and gas Children can also experience small bowel obstructions. Some doctors can diagnose a small bowel obstruction by conducting a physical exam. The use of CT, ultrasound, and X-ray imaging has improved the accuracy of small bowel disease diagnosis. Most people with small bowel disease will require surgery to unblock the intestine. Doctors can treat some obstructions using a nonsurgical technique called nasogastric decompression. Gastritis, esophagitis, or peptic ulcer disease People with gastritis, esophagitis, or peptic ulcer disease may report periumbilical pain. Other people with these conditions may experience the pain in the upper central area of the abdomen. Gastritis can be acute or chronic. Some people may not report any symptoms, or they may have very mild symptoms. Other people may experience abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea. Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus, which is the pipe that connects the mouth to the stomach. The most common symptoms that people with esophagitis report are chest pain, painful swallowing, and difficulty swallowing. People with esophagitis may feel pain in the upper central region of the abdomen or the periumbilical region. People with peptic ulcer disease have ulcers in the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine, or the duodenum. Symptoms of peptic ulcer disease vary depending on a person's age and the location of the ulcers. People with peptic ulcer disease may report epigastric or periumbilical pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms. Periumbilical pain in children Appendicitis is the most common reason for emergency abdominal surgery among children. Children with appendicitis need immediate medical attention and a quick diagnosis. Children may complain of abdominal pain in the periumbilical, central, or epigastric regions. The pain will eventually move to the right lower side of the abdomen. It can be difficult to diagnose appendicitis in children because typical symptoms are the exception and not the rule in this age group. Children may report vague, nonspecific symptoms such as stomach pain, or they may develop a fever or vomit. Doctors may need to confirm and clarify a child's symptoms by conducting a physical examination or by running blood tests, an ultrasound, CT scans, or an MRI. Diagnosis Periumbilical pain is a symptom of many conditions, so a doctor will ask about a person's full medical history. Blood tests and imaging techniques, such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs, are useful tools when the doctor is uncertain of the diagnosis. Periumbilical pain may not always suggest the presence of a condition involving the abdominal tract. For example, an abdominal aortic dissection can cause periumbilical pain but is a problem with blood flow. Treatment Treatment for periumbilical pain depends on the underlying cause. Surgery is the usual treatment for an umbilical hernia. However, people with umbilical hernias may develop another one, even after successful surgery. If the cause is acute appendicitis, a surgeon will need to remove the appendix immediately. Fluids, pain relievers, and antibiotics are also part of the treatment plan. People with mesenteric artery ischemia will also require surgery. Doctors will give a person fluids and antibiotics to help prevent an infection. After the operation, they will prescribe anticoagulants to prevent recurrence. Once a doctor confirms that a person has an abdominal aortic dissection, emergency surgery is necessary. Doctors will also usually prescribe beta-blockers. People with gastritis, esophagitis, or peptic ulcer disease do not require surgery. Doctors will treat these conditions using medications that can reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today When to see a doctor a patient with hyperkalemia speaking to doctor in office
A person should talk to a doctor if they have periumbilical pain, as a diagnosis is often difficult. People with periumbilical pain should seek medical attention, as it is often difficult to determine what is causing it. Some causes of periumbilical pain — such as appendicitis, small bowel obstruction, hernias, and aortic dissection — require surgery. People should always take children with periumbilical pain to a doctor. Certain conditions, including appendicitis, must receive prompt treatment. This is because the risk of complications increases over time. Gastritis, esophagitis, and peptic ulcer disease may not require emergency medical attention, but people should speak with a doctor about how to relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Summary People experiencing periumbilical pain should speak to a doctor, who can help determine the underlying cause. Doctors may find it challenging to diagnose periumbilical pain because it is a symptom of a variety of conditions. People with periumbilical pain may have a condition that affects a structure of the abdominal tract or a problem with blood flow to these structures. Many conditions that cause periumbilical pain require surgery to treat them. People with gastritis, esophagitis, and peptide ulcer disease may not require emergency medical care but should still seek advice from a doctor.
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7 'simple' steps for heart health may also stave off dementia

New research suggests that "Life's Simple 7" steps for maintaining heart health may also be a useful tool for predicting dementia risk and preventing the neurological condition.
senior monitoring his blood pressure
Managing your blood pressure is one of the seven actionable steps people in their 50s can take to maintain their cardiovascular health.

The lead author of the new study is Séverine Sabia, of the department of Epidemiology of Ageing and Neurodegenerative Diseases at Inserm, a public research institution affiliated with the Université de Paris in France.

Sabia and her colleagues set out to examine the link between the American Heart Association's (AHA) guidelines for optimal cardiovascular health — which they dub "Life's Simple 7" — and the risk of developing dementia later in life.

"Life's Simple 7" are modifiable risk factors which, according to the AHA, can help keep heart disease at bay.

Making lifestyle changes along these seven parameters can improve a person's cardiovascular health, the AHA advises. Life's Simple 7 are:

manage blood pressure manage cholesterol lower blood sugar stay physically active follow a healthful diet lose weight stop smoking (or don't start)

In the new research, Sabia and her team looked at how well people adhered to these steps at 50 years of age. They also examined the link with dementia over the following 25 years. The research team published its findings in The BMJ.

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Studying heart health and dementia risk

As the authors note in their paper, previous studies have already pointed to Life's Simple 7 as potential guidelines for preserving brain health into older age. However, the existing evidence has so far been inconclusive.

So, for the current study, Sabia and team examined data on 7,899 participants who were 50-year old British men and women. All of the individuals had taken part in the Whitehall II Study — an analysis of sociobehavioral factors on long term health.

At the start of the study, the participants were in perfect cardiovascular health and did not have dementia. The Whitehall II Study started in 1985–1988 and Sabia and team followed the dementia cases through to 2017.

Over the average follow-up period of 25 years, 347 of the 7,899 participants developed dementia at an average of 75 years old.

The researchers measured the adherence to the seven parameters by using a three point score for each of them.

In total, the "cardiovascular health score was the sum of seven metrics (score range 0–14), and the researchers categorized these into poor (scores 0–6), intermediate (7–11), and optimal (12–14) cardiovascular health."

A healthy heart may keep the brain healthy

After adjusting for potential confounders, the research revealed that a high adherence score to the seven cardiovascular parameters correlated with a lower risk of dementia later.

Specifically, in the group with a poor cardiovascular score, dementia occurred at a rate of 3.2 cases per 1,000 person years.

In the group with an intermediate cardiovascular score, the rate was 1.8 per 1,000 person years, while only 1.3 cases of dementia occurred per 1,000 person years among those who scored the highest.

Importantly, higher adherence to Life's Simple 7 at 50 years of age also correlated with a higher brain volume and higher grey matter volume at the average age of 70 years, as MRI scans reflected.

However, the study is observational and cannot establish causality. The participants also reported their own adherence to the cardiovascular parameters, which may have increased bias.

Nevertheless, "Our findings suggest that the Life's Simple 7, which comprises the cardiovascular health score, at age 50 may shape the risk of dementia in a synergistic manner," write the authors.

"Cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable, making them strategically important prevention targets," add Sabia and colleagues, concluding:

"This study supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health."

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Do rising obesity levels explain cardiovascular mortality trends?

For decades, deaths caused by cardiovascular events, such as stroke, had been on the decline in high income countries. Recently, however, this decline has come to a halt, and some countries are even experiencing rising rates of stroke and heart disease-related deaths. Why?
crowd of people in movement
In some high income countries, cardiovascular-related mortality rates are increasing, and researchers are wondering why this is happening.

"In high income countries, the very substantial decline in [cardiovascular] mortality over the past half-century has been a major, yet often unheralded, global public health achievement."

This is what Prof. Alan Lopez and Tim Adair, Ph.D. write in the introduction to a new study paper, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The journal reviews current trends in mortality associated with stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Prof. Lopez and Adair, from the University of Melbourne in Parkville, Australia, note that "recent evidence from national vital statistics systems in these countries suggests that the long term decline in CVD and specifically heart disease mortality may be stagnating, with rates even rising in some populations, particularly at ages [of under] 75 years."

The researchers looked at vital statistics recorded from 2000 onwards in 23 high income countries. These are Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Greece, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Denmark, Israel, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Finland, Italy, and Singapore.

These statistics all came from the World Health Organization (WHO) Mortality Database and included mortality rates related to cardiovascular events.

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Obesity trends may play key role

Lopez and Adair found that the rate of decline in CVD-related mortality has slowed down 'considerably' in 12 of the high income countries they investigated in their study. This, in particular, was the case for adults aged 35–74.

Moreover, the most recent data show that CVD death rates have increased for females in the U.S. and Canada over the last year. In Australia, the U.K., and New Zealand, the decline in cardiovascular mortality has slowed down from year to year.

So, why are people once more at an increased risk of premature death due to events such as stroke and heart disease, even in the richer countries of the world?

Prof. Lopez and Adair have a theory. They believe that part of the answer lies in the ever increasing rates of obesity that coincide with the trends in stroke and heart disease mortality.

"Each of these countries has very high levels of obesity. In Australia, close to one-third of adults are obese," notes Prof. Lopez.

"These increases in obesity levels mean that a significant portion of the population has been exposed to the cardiovascular disease risks associated with being overweight for several decades," he continues.

However, not all high income countries face an obesity epidemic. For instance, the researchers point out that Italy and France report the lowest number of cases of obesity among the 23 countries featured in the current study.

A threat to future life expectancy rates

This is why the researchers believe that obesity may only be one part of the problem. The rest may come down to the prevalence of other risk factors for cardiovascular problems, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

"Obesity, of course, is likely to be only a partial explanation; Italy and France, where the deceleration in [cardiovascular] mortality in recent years is among the most notable [...], each has below-average obesity levels but higher smoking prevalence among both men and women," the researchers write in their paper.

Going forward, the two authors suggest that countries should invest more in inputting preventive strategies and advising their citizens on the most healthful lifestyle choices.

"In order to combat this, significant investment in preventive health measures is needed, particularly those aimed at increasing physical activity, improving diet and reducing obesity," says Adair.

"Failure to address these issues could confirm the end of the long term decline in cardiovascular disease deaths and threaten future gains in life expectancy."

Tim Adair, Ph.D.

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Why older adults need regular metabolic risk screening

The Endocrine Society have revised their clinical practice guideline on identifying adults at higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
doctor talking to senior patient
New guidelines recommend that older adults should undergo regular screening for metabolic risk.

The previous edition of the guideline was in 2008. The recent revision looks at metabolic risk in the light of the latest research on blood pressure and blood fats.

The emphasis is on measures to identify and decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) rather than on defining metabolic syndrome.

ACSVD is a type of heart or artery disease that develops as a result of atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up inside artery walls and cause them to narrow and impede blood flow. This process can lead to stroke and heart attack.

While the focus is on people aged between 40 and 75 years, the guide also applies to older and younger adults.

A recent paper in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism details the new document.

The recommendations urge doctors to make regular checks of peoples' blood pressure, waist size, blood sugar, blood fats, and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which people sometimes call good cholesterol.

They urge doctors to measure waist size as a routine part of clinical exams. People should receive blood pressure checks at least every year, but more frequently if blood pressure is high.

The checks are in addition to the usual ones doctors use for assessing heart disease risk, such as smoking, family history, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or bad cholesterol.

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Metabolic risk factors

The measurements assess five metabolic risk factors that can raise a person's risk of type 2 diabetes and ASCVD.

Waist size is a measure of abdominal fat, a high amount of which can indicate metabolic risk. Similarly, having low levels of HDL cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, and high levels of triglycerides (blood fats) are also potential indicators of metabolic risk.

"Doctors haven't been doing enough to measure waist circumference," says Dr. James L. Rosenzweig of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, MA, "but it's essential to identifying patients at metabolic risk earlier and preventing more cases of heart disease and diabetes."

Dr. Rosenzweig is chair of the panel that developed and wrote the guidelines.

People who have three or more of the five risk factors are at metabolic risk and therefore have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes and ASCVD.

The guideline suggests that doctors screen those with one or two risk factors every 3 years and those with three or more on a more frequent basis.

While the revised document discusses new medical options, it emphasizes that doctors should give priority to changing lifestyle and behavior.

Lifestyle and behavior changes

The guideline gives some specific recommendations on lifestyle and behavior changes.

For example, individuals at metabolic risk who have excess weight – according to body mass index (BMI), waist size, or both – should aim to lose 5% or more of their body weight during their first year of adopting a healthful lifestyle.

Another recommendation is that when treating people with prediabetes, doctors should prescribe lifestyle changes to reduce blood sugar before resorting to drug prescription.

Individuals at metabolic risk should also undergo "global assessment of 10-year risk for either coronary heart disease or atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease" to guide decisions on appropriate medical and drug treatments.

"Global risk assessment includes the use of one of the established cardiovascular risk equations," note the authors.

The purpose of a global risk assessment of a disease is to guide efforts to prevent it by assessing its major risk factors. The risk factor measurements go into an equation that calculates the risk of experiencing a major disease event in a certain period.

For example, a 10-year global risk assessment for coronary heart disease uses equations that bring together risk factors, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, to calculate the percentage risk of experiencing a significant health event in the next 10 years.

A 10% global 10-year risk of coronary heart disease, for instance, means that there is a 1 in 10 chance of having a heart attack or dying in the next 10 years.

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Future directions and genetic risk

The guideline document also has a section on knowledge gaps that warrant further research.

One such gap concerns the "identification and analysis of genetic markers for metabolic risk" and how they relate to ASCVD and type 2 diabetes.

In an extensive discussion about this topic, the authors conclude that while genetic markers appear able to predict ASCVD and type 2 diabetes, the risk prediction equations have not yet incorporated them.

They also point out that by changing their lifestyle to a more healthful one, a person can reduce the risk of ASCVD and type 2 diabetes "at any level of genetic risk and may have slightly greater benefits for individuals at higher genetic risk."

Currently, however, there is no data to back up the hypothesis that when people know their genetic risk, they are likely to change behavior and adopt more healthful lifestyles, add the authors.

"We emphasize the importance of lifestyle, dietary, and behavioral changes as the first line treatment. However, treatment with medication is appropriate if goals are not met with lifestyle changes alone."

Dr. James L. Rosenzweig

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Stopping statins may increase cardiovascular risk

A large new study following thousands of participants found that older people who stop taking statins have a significantly increased risk of hospital admission due to cardiovascular problems.
older man taking medication
New research suggests that interrupting statin use may increase the risk of poor cardiovascular health in older people.

Statins are a class of drugs that people take to keep their blood cholesterol levels under control.

Aside from this, they also have another use — that of protecting against heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions and events.

However, statins' effectiveness in protecting the heart health of older individuals has remained a matter of debate.

Knowing this, Dr. Philippe Giral, from Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, France, and a team of specialists set out to investigate how giving up statins could affect the health of healthy individuals aged 75 years and over.

"A particularly relevant practical question is whether existing statin therapy can be stopped in older people with no history of cardiovascular disease," write Dr. Giral and colleagues in their study paper, which appeared today in the European Heart Journal.

"This issue," the researchers add, "currently concerns a large proportion of the population over the age of 75 years, as well as large numbers of people under the age of 75 years, currently taking evidence-based treatment with statins and reaching ages for which only limited evidence of efficacy is available."

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In the current study, the team analyzed the health information of 120,173 participants living in France. All of these individuals reached the age of 75 years between 2012 and 2014, had no history of cardiovascular disease, and had been taking statins regularly in the 2 years prior to joining the study.

The team followed the participants' health developments over a maximum of 4 years, with an average follow-up period of 2.4 years.

During this time, the researchers noted that 17,204 individuals (14.3% of the total number of participants) stopped taking statins altogether for at least 3 months. In total, 5,396 (4.5%) of the study participants had to go to the hospital due to cardiovascular issues.

The researchers found that people who stopped taking statins had a 33% increase in the risk of requiring hospital admission for cardiovascular problems.

More specifically, older people who discontinued statin use had a 46% higher risk of experiencing heart problems and a 26% higher risk of experiencing a vascular event, such as a stroke.

"We estimated that an extra 2.5 cardiovascular events per 100 people would occur within 4 years among those who discontinued their statins at the age of 75 years compared to those who continued taking their statins," notes Dr. Giral.

Based on the study findings and the team's ensuing estimates, Dr. Giral advises older individuals not to halt their statin treatment later in life. Equally, the researcher suggests that doctors encourage their patients to continue taking any prescribed statins as a preventive therapy.

"To patients, we would say that if you are regularly [taking] statins for high cholesterol, we would recommend you don't stop the treatment when you are 75. To doctors, we would recommend not stopping statin treatment given for primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases in your patients aged 75."

Dr. Philippe Giral

While they say that the current study's findings provide some evidence to support the importance of statin use well into older age, the authors also caution that their investigation was observational. Thus, it shows an association between interrupting the use of statins and an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Future work needs to determine whether this relationship is truly causational, the researchers note. Nevertheless, they believe that the current research can contribute to improving general guidelines regarding the use of statins as a preventive therapy.

"While we wait for results from randomized controlled trials, carefully conducted observational studies such as this can provide useful information for doctors and patients and can contribute to establishing more precise guidelines on the use of statins for primary prevention in the elderly," says co-author Prof. Joël Coste.

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Both blood pressure numbers may predict heart disease

According to new research, both high systolic and high diastolic blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke.
nurse taking patient's blood pressure
New research suggests that both blood pressure readings are equally important.

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide. In the United States, more than 600,000 people die of heart disease every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one-quarter of deaths due to cardiovascular disease are preventable.

Blood pressure readings are critical for analyzing and monitoring blood pressure. These tests record blood pressure using two measurements: systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Understanding these numbers is key to controlling blood pressure.

The systolic pressure shows how much pressure the blood places on the arteries when the heart beats, while the diastolic blood pressure shows the pressure while the heart is resting between beats. The American Heart Association (AHA) advise that blood pressure numbers below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) are normal.

When readings range from 120–129 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, the person has elevated blood pressure. Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is consistently over 130 mm Hg systolic or more than 80 mm Hg diastolic.

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Which number is more important?

When doctors evaluate the risk of high blood pressure, they usually pay more attention to systolic blood pressure, which they consider a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in older adults.

Decades of research have indicated that high systolic blood pressure is more likely than diastolic pressure to predict heart disease, but now, a new study finds that both numbers in blood pressure readings have a strong association with heart attack and stroke risk.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente, a healthcare company in Oakland, CA, carried out the study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research involved more than 36 million blood pressure readings from 1.3 million people. The results challenged previous findings and showed the importance of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

"This research brings a large amount of data to bear on a basic question, and it gives such a clear answer," says Kaiser Permanente stroke specialist Dr. Alexander C. Flint, who is the lead author of the study.

The study's senior author is Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, executive director of Interventional Cardiovascular Services at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School — both in Boston, MA.

Large amounts of data reveal the answer

Dr. Flint explains that previous research has influenced cardiology guidelines, which have focused primarily on systolic pressure to predict the risk of heart disease. Some experts even argue that it might be possible to ignore the diastolic number.

The new study is the largest of its kind. The findings confirmed that systolic pressure has a greater effect, but they also demonstrated that both systolic and diastolic pressure can predict the risk of heart attack or stroke.

The researchers analyzed the effects of systolic and diastolic hypertension on a variety of adverse outcomes, such as "myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, or hemorrhagic stroke," over 8 years and found that both components independently predicted heart attack and stroke.

The recently updated American College of Cardiology and AHA guidelines now recommend more closely monitoring people at increased risk of high blood pressure. The findings of the new study that both systolic and diastolic hypertension have an effect at the lower threshold of 130/80 mm Hg support this change.

The National Institutes of Health's Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) has also produced similar results.

"This analysis, using a very large amount of longitudinal data, convincingly demonstrates that both are important, and it shows that in people who are otherwise generally healthy, lower blood pressure numbers are better."

Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt

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Vitamins and supplements for increased blood flow

Good blood flow delivers oxygen and vital nutrients to cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body.

Poor blood flow can give rise to many symptoms, including:

numb, tingling, or cold hands and feet swollen abdomen, legs, ankles, or feet digestive problems fatigue muscle cramping or joint pain paler or blueish skin slow healing time erectile dysfunction chest pain confusion or lightheadedness

Taking medications that improve blood flow may help manage conditions that cause poor circulation. However, some vitamins and supplements might also help increase circulation or contribute to healthy blood flow.

Learn about them, and what the research says, in this article.

Vitamins and supplements for blood flow Although there is no solid scientific evidence to support their use, many preliminary studies and research articles suggest that certain vitamins and supplements may improve blood flow. Examples include: Vitamin B-3 taking vitamins with B12 to increase blood flow
Vitamin B-3 may help increase blood vessel function and reduce blood levels of 'bad' cholesterol.

Vitamin B-3, or niacin, can help improve blood flow in several ways. For example, it can:

Inflammation in the blood vessels can lead to the development of conditions such as atherosclerosis, which can damage them or cause them to narrow.

As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) point out, vitamin B-3 may help lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides. However, it does not directly reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

It is essential not to take too much vitamin B-3, as it can cause adverse effects. The upper limit for adults is 35 milligrams (mg) per day.

Vitamin B-3 is available in capsules and as a powder in drugstores and online.


The body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the protein within blood that carries oxygen. The body also needs iron to make myoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to muscles.

The body also uses iron to make connective tissues, including those within blood vessels that allow them to control blood pressure.

Adults should never consume more than 45 mg of iron per day. Taking too much iron can cause serious side effects, such as vomiting and fainting. Taking a very high dose can lead to a coma and even be life threatening.

People can buy iron supplements at a pharmacy or online.

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L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid present in some meats and nuts. It helps stimulate the release of nitric oxide, a compound that causes the smooth muscles lining blood vessel walls to relax.

The author of a 2016 review found some evidence for the use of L-arginine supplements to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but he cautioned that the study was limited and the evidence was weak.

To get blood flow benefits, it may be important to consume L-arginine alongside B vitamins. Some research suggests that L-arginine cannot promote the release of nitric oxide without sufficient levels of folic acid and vitamins B-6 and B-12.

The same study looked at 80 adults, ages 40–65, with mild to moderately high blood pressure. The participants took 2.4 grams (g) of l-arginine, 3 mg of vitamin B-6, 0.4 mg of folic acid, and 2 micrograms of vitamin B-12.

After 3 months, those taking the supplements experienced significant improvements in blood vessel health and a reduction in blood pressure compared with those who took a placebo.

L-arginine is available for purchase online.

Omega-3 fatty acids

omega 3 pills on a black table.
A person can buy omega-3 fatty acids in most local pharmacies and online.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids that encourage the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow.

In a 2014 study, healthy men who consumed 2.2 g of EPA and 1.4 g of DHA in a fish oil supplement once daily for 4 weeks experienced increased blood flow to their legs after exercise.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that people take no more than 3 g per day of EPA and DHA combined, from both dietary sources and supplements.

Look for omega-3 fatty acids in drugstores and online.


Compounds called capsaicinoids, which are present in some hot peppers, may improve blood flow because they:

reduce free radical damage and inflammation increase vascular health lower blood pressure reduce cholesterol levels reduce inflammatory chemicals within blood vessels

Many people take capsaicin as a supplement, but it is also present in many peppers, especially chilli peppers and cayenne peppers.

People should be aware that capsaicin can cause bothersome side effects, even in small doses. These include:

stomach pain burning sensations nausea bloating

Capsaicin is available to purchase in some drugstores and online.


Antioxidants called flavonoids may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

In some in vitro studies, a particularly strong flavonoid called quercetin — which is present in onions — had the ability to improve blood vessel wall dysfunction linked to atherosclerosis, one of the leading causes of heart attack.

In a small 2013 study, 23 healthy men who consumed 4.3 g of onion extract (51 mg of quercetin) once daily for 30 days showed improved blood vessel widening after meals.

People can look for quercetin capsules online or at a pharmacy.

Beetroot powder

Red beetroot powder contains nitrates, which are compounds that the body converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax blood vessels, increasing how much blood they can carry.

In a small 2017 study of seven women and five men ages 57–71, those who drank 140 millilitres of nitrate-rich beetroot juice had significantly reduced blood pressure and blood vessel inflammation 3 hours later, compared with those who drank a placebo.

People can buy beetroot powder supplements online.

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Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, two compounds that might relax blood vessels by producing nitric oxide and reducing inflammation.

Preliminary research has suggested that cinnamon consumption could help reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

However, the NIH state that studies have not proven that cinnamon can help treat any health condition.

Cinnamon supplements are available in many grocery stores and online.

Learn more about the health benefits of cinnamon here.


Garlic contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, such as allicin, which may help relax and widen blood vessels.

In a 2017 randomized, placebo-controlled trial, adults with coronary artery disease consumed either garlic powder or a placebo twice daily for 3 months.

The garlic powder improved blood flow in the upper arm compared with a placebo. However, the researchers did not find the evidence to be statistically significant. More research is necessary to determine if garlic is beneficial to blood flow.

Learn about the other possible benefits of garlic in this article.

People can often find garlic at their local grocery store. Those who do not like the taste can try supplements, such as these available for purchase online.


Curcumin is a naturally occurring phenol, a type of antioxidant, present in the spice turmeric.

In a 2017 study, 39 healthy, middle-aged and older adults consumed either 2,000 mg per day of curcumin or a placebo for 12 weeks.

Those who had curcumin experienced an improvement in elements of blood vessel functioning.

Curcumin is available for purchase in some drugstores, health food stores, and online.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Do they work? Eating a vitamin-rich diet is essential to blood vessel and cardiovascular health. That means getting the daily recommend amount of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients contributes to good blood flow. In most cases, however, there is not enough research to know precisely how specific vitamins and supplements impact blood flow. Also, everyone responds to nutrients differently, especially based on factors such as underlying health conditions, age, and lifestyle habits. It is crucial to note that the FDA do not regulate supplements, so people should only purchase reputable brands. Other treatments for blood flow woman swimming in pool
A person may improve blood flow through lifestyle adjustments, such as exercising more. Plenty of lifestyle adjustments may help improve blood flow, including: exercising regularly eating a healthful, balanced diet staying hydrated reducing or managing stress getting a gentle massage quitting smoking Summary Many vitamins, minerals, and other supplements have the potential to help increase blood flow. However, not a lot of research suggests that any specific vitamin or supplement can directly improve blood flow. That said, consuming a healthful array of nutrients is vital for overall health. For people with circulation issues, vitamins may not be an appropriate treatment option. These individuals should speak to a doctor about medical options. Some supplements can interact with other medications or make certain conditions worse. Always talk with a doctor before trying supplements or vitamins for blood flow problems. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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