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Strength training tied to better heart health than aerobic

Exercises that build strength can benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, according to recent research.
woman's hand holding weight
New research suggests that strength training is the best exercise for heart health.

A survey of 4,000 adults revealed that static activity, such as strength training, had stronger links to reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases than dynamic activity, such as walking and cycling.

The researchers point out, however, that any amount of either kind of exercise brings benefits, and that it is probably better to do both than to increase either.

"Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level," says Dr. Maia P. Smith, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University in Grenada.

She explains, however, that while "static activity appeared more beneficial than dynamic," the findings also revealed that those who engaged in both kinds of activity "fared better" than those who just increased the amount of only one type.

The study featured at the 2018 American College of Cardiology Latin America Conference that took place last week in Lima, Peru.

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Recommended amounts and type of exercise

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), guidelines recommend that adults in the United States should be physically active for at least 150 minutes each week.

This activity should consist of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, or a combination. It is better to spread the exercise across the week than complete it all in 1 or 2 days.

The guidelines also advise doing exercise that strengthens the muscles, such as resistance or weight training. People should do this on at least 2 days per week.

Even greater benefits accrue from 300 minutes of exercise per week, say the AHA. They also recommend breaking up prolonged bouts of sitting — even getting up and doing some light activity is better than just sitting, they add.

The Go4Life program from the National Institute of Aging (NIA), which is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), advises older adults to do four types of exercise:

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Endurance, or aerobic, exercises that increase breathing and raise heart rate. Strength, or resistance, exercises that strengthen major muscle groups in the upper and lower body and improve their function. Balance exercises to reduce the risk of falls and the disabilities that they can cause. Flexibility exercises that stretch the body and increase a person's range of movement.

Aerobic activity includes walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, gardening and all forms of sports, such as golf, tennis, and volleyball.

Push-ups, static rowing, resistance training, dips, arm and leg raises, and hand grips are all examples of strength-building exercises.

Practicing Tai Chi and yoga can improve balance and flexibility as can simple exercises that involve the use the body or everyday objects, such as a chair.

Types of exercise and cardiovascular risk

Dr. Smith and her colleagues used data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 4,086 adults in the U.S.

This included information that individuals gave about types of physical activity and the presence of cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, being overweight, having high cholesterol, and having diabetes.

The team analyzed the cardiovascular risk factors against the type of activity in terms of whether it was static, such as weight training, or dynamic, such as walking or cycling.

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After adjusting the people for age, gender, ethnicity, and smoking status, they looked at the results in two age groups: 21-44 years (younger adults) and over 45 years (older adults).

These revealed that 36 percent of the younger adults compared with 25 percent of the older adults reported doing static exercise.

For dynamic exercise, 28 percent of the younger adults compared with 21 percent of the older adults said that they engaged in this type.

'Both activity types were beneficial'

Doing either type of exercise was linked to a lowering of cardiovascular risk factors of between 30 and 70 percent. The link was strongest for younger adults and doing static exercises.

Dr. Smith suggests that future studies should do more to differentiate between the two types of exercise so that scientists can see their separate effects on health more clearly.

Only around 1 in 5 adults and teens in the U.S. meet the recommended 150 minutes per week of "heart-pumping" activity, say the AHA.

With this in mind, perhaps the more pressing message of the recent study, as Dr. Smith concludes, is that – since "both activity types were beneficial" – clinicians should encourage people to "exercise regardless."

"The important thing is to make sure they are engaging in physical activity."

Dr. Smith

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Blood pressure medications: Everything you need to know

Medications for high blood pressure are vital for helping to prevent a range of complications, including heart disease and stroke.

This article outlines the various blood pressure medications along with their associated side effects and risks.

Diuretics blood pressure medication
Blood pressure medications may cause different side effects.

Excess salt can cause a buildup of fluid within the blood vessels, which raises blood pressure. Diuretics help the body eliminate excess salt and water by increasing urine output.

Possible side effects of diuretics include:

weakness dizziness or light-headedness heightened sensitivity to sunlight rashes muscle cramps vomiting diarrhea constipation low blood pressure electrolyte imbalances

People taking diuretics may also experience a decreased libido, though this is less common.

Some medications can interact with diuretics, so a person should speak to a doctor about all of the drugs they are taking. Drugs that may interact with diuretics include:

Diuretics may not be suitable for people who tend to become dehydrated quickly. They can also make the following conditions worse:

Beta-blockers Beta-blockers reduce blood pressure by blocking the effects of certain stress hormones, such as epinephrine. Blocking these hormones slows down the nerve impulses traveling through the heart. As a result, the heart rate slows down and pumps blood less forcefully around the body. Some side effects of beta-blockers may include: Less common side effects include: slow heartbeat wheezing or difficulty breathing swelling of the hands or feet rash or itchy skin insomnia depression low blood pressure Some drugs and medications can change the effectiveness of beta-blockers. These include: alcohol caffeine other blood pressure medications cough and cold medications, including antihistamines and decongestants insulin and some oral medications for diabetes allergy shots medicines to treat asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) some antidepressants Beta-blockers may not be suitable for people with the following conditions or problems: ACE inhibitors woman outdoors with flu or cold infection coughing
A side effect of ACE inhibitors is a dry cough. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) is an enzyme that causes the body's blood vessels to narrow, which leads to an increase in a person's blood pressure. ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure by blocking ACE, thereby relaxing the blood vessels and allowing blood to flow more freely. A dry cough is the most common side effect of ACE inhibitors. Less common side effects include: loss of taste a metallic taste in the mouth loss of appetite an upset stomach diarrhea constipation headaches tiredness and fatigue feeling dizzy or lightheaded skin that is sensitive to sunlight low blood pressure Medications that may interact with ACE inhibitors include: diuretics other blood pressure medications medications and supplements containing potassium People who have any of the following medical conditions should speak to a doctor before taking ACE inhibitors: diabetes heart disease lupus kidney disease allergies to other medications ACE inhibitors may also be unsuitable for people who have had a heart attack, and those who have received a kidney transplant. Angiotensin II receptor blockers Angiotensin II is an enzyme that narrows the blood vessels. Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) block the enzyme's path to specific receptors, which allows the blood vessels to remain open. Headaches and dizziness are the most common side effects of ARBs. Less common side effects include: The following medications can increase or decrease the effect of ARBs: diuretics medications and supplements containing potassium other blood pressure medications some heart medications over the counter medicines for allergies, colds, and flu ARBs may not be suitable for people who have previously had a bad reaction to ACE inhibitors. They may also not be suitable for people with the following conditions: Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Calcium channel blockers Calcium causes the smooth muscles of the heart and arteries to contract more strongly. Calcium channel blockers slow the entry of calcium into these muscles, which reduces the strength of the contractions and lowers the blood pressure. Common side effects of calcium channel blockers include: tiredness flushing swollen feet or ankles Less common side effects include: palpitations nausea dizziness shortness of breath upset stomach constipation rash or itchy skin Drinking grapefruit juice while taking some calcium channel blockers can increase the risk of side effects. Calcium channel blockers may interact with the following medications and supplements: diuretics other blood pressure medications some heart medications, such as antiarrhythmics and digitalis some eye medications People taking more than 60 milligrams per day of some calcium channel blockers may experience low blood sugar levels. Also, calcium channel blockers may not be suitable for people with the following conditions: very low blood pressure heart failure or other conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels kidney or liver disease depression Alpha-blockers man with a headache sat on his sofa
Headaches are a possible side effect of alpha-blockers. Certain hormones in the body, such as norepinephrine, can bind to chemical receptors called alpha-receptors. When this happens, the blood vessels narrow and the heart pumps blood faster, causing a rise in blood pressure. Alpha-blockers reduce blood pressure by preventing norepinephrine from binding to alpha-receptors. This relaxes the blood vessels, which allows blood to flow more freely. Possible side effects of alpha-blockers include: rapid heart rate a drop in blood pressure when standing up dizziness headaches nausea feeling tired, weak, or lethargic disturbed sleep skin rash or itchiness loss of bladder control in women erectile dysfunction in men Other substances that lower blood pressure may cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure when taken alongside alpha-blockers. These substances include: alcohol medications containing benzodiazepine or barbiturates other blood pressure medications Alpha-blockers may make the following medical conditions worse: Alpha-2 receptor agonists Similar to alpha-blockers, these drugs lower blood pressure by preventing the release of norepinephrine. Alpha-2 receptor agonists may cause the following side effects: tiredness feeling faint or dizzy after standing up slow heart rate anxiety a headache dry mouth nausea upset stomach constipation fluid retention erectile dysfunction Alpha-2 receptor agonists may react with some anesthetics and other blood pressure medications. Combined alpha- and beta-blockers A doctor may prescribe a drug that has both alpha- and beta-blocker activity. The alpha-blocker activity decreases the narrowing of blood vessels, while the beta-blocker activity slows the heart rate, causing it to pump blood less forcefully. Doctors usually give combined alpha- and beta-blockers in an intravenous (IV) drip to people experiencing a hypertensive crisis. This is when blood pressure rises rapidly to a dangerously high level. Doctors may also prescribe combined alpha- and beta-blockers for people who are at high risk of heart failure. People may experience the side effects of both alpha- and beta-blockers. Some types of combined alpha- and beta-blockers may interact with the following medications: insulin digoxin some general anesthetics They may also not be suitable for people with the following conditions: asthma severe bradycardia (slow heart rate) liver disease decompensated heart failure diabetes allergies to other medications pheochromocytoma Central agonists Central agonists lower blood pressure by preventing the brain from sending signals to the nervous system to increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels. As a result, the heart pumps blood less forcefully, and blood vessels remain open. Central agonists can cause the following side effects: feeling faint or weak when standing slow heart rate drowsiness or lethargy anemia dizziness headaches sleep disturbances fever dry mouth an upset stomach or nausea constipation swollen legs or feet The following side effects may also occur, but are less common: depression anxiety erectile dysfunction The following substances can cause a person's blood pressure to drop too low when combined with central antagonists: alcohol sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications containing benzodiazepines and barbiturates Central agonists may make the symptoms of the following medical conditions worse: Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors doctor speaking with patient
If another blood pressure medication is ineffective, a doctor may prescribe PAIs. Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors (PAIs) block the neurotransmitters in the brain that cause blood vessels to constrict. Blocking these receptors allows the blood vessels to stay relaxed and open, lowering a person's blood pressure. Doctors usually prescribe PAIs only if other blood pressure medications have been ineffective. There are several types of PAI, and the side effects differ between types. Possible side effects include: nasal congestion dry mouth a headache heartburn diarrhea lightheadedness, dizziness, or weakness when standing fainting erectile dysfunction Some PAIs may interact with the following substances: alcohol asthma medications diuretics other blood pressure medications Additionally, people who are taking tricyclic antidepressants and intend to come off these medications should speak to a doctor. Stopping these medications too quickly while taking certain PAIs can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Some types of PAIs may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions, including: congestive heart failure diseases of the vascular system asthma peptic ulcers fluid retention pheochromocytoma depression ulcerative colitis Direct-acting vasodilators Vasodilators, or blood vessel dilators, relax and widen the walls of the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow through them more easily. Direct-acting vasodilators specifically target the arteries. The two main types of direct-acting vasodilator are hydralazine hydrochloride and minoxidil. Minoxidil is the more potent of the two drugs. Doctors usually prescribe it to people with persistent and severe high blood pressure. Hydralazine hydrochloride may cause the following side effects, which usually subside within a few weeks of beginning treatment: heart palpitations headaches swelling around the eyes joint pain Possible side effects of minoxidil include: weight gain due to fluid retention excessive hair growth, in rare cases The following drugs may enhance the effects of vasodilators: diuretics and other blood pressure medications medications for erectile dysfunction, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra) Taking erectile dysfunction medications in combination with a vasodilator can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. Some types of vasodilators may not be suitable for people with the following conditions: Risks during pregnancy Some blood pressure medications are not safe to take during pregnancy due to the risk to the pregnant woman or unborn child. Some medications may be suitable during specific trimesters, while others pose risks throughout pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant should talk to their doctor about treatment options for high blood pressure. Summary There are many types of blood pressure medications. Which one a doctor prescribes will depend on the underlying cause of a person's high blood pressure, as well as their existing conditions and other regular medications. Anyone experiencing long-term or intolerable side effects from a blood pressure medication should speak to a doctor, who may be able to prescribe an alternative.
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What causes lightheadedness?

Lightheadedness is a feeling of faintness, dizziness, or being close to passing out. It can occur alongside vertigo, which affects balance and makes a person feel as though they or their surroundings are spinning. Although lightheadedness and vertigo can feel similar, they have different causes.

Experiencing some episodes of lightheadedness is normal. In most cases, these episodes will pass quickly, especially if a person sits or lies down to rest.

In this article, learn about the common causes of lightheadedness. We also cover possible underlying medical conditions and treatment options.

Causes woman sitting down holding her temples due to lightheadedness
Causes of lightheadedness can include illnesses, anxiety, and dehydration.

The most common cause of lightheadedness is orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure when a person stands up.

Positional changes, especially quick ones, divert blood flow temporarily from the brain to the body. It is more likely that this will result in lightheadedness when a person is dehydrated or ill.

The feeling usually passes quickly, especially if a person sits down again.

Other common causes of lightheadedness include:

allergies illnesses, such as the cold or flu altitude sickness hyperventilating anxiety stress dehydration prolonged exposure to hot weather low blood sugar alcohol, tobacco, or drug use certain medications

Sometimes, lightheadedness may have a more severe underlying cause, such as:

If lightheadedness is due to a more serious underlying condition, a person will usually experience additional symptoms.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Home remedies Woman drinking water on a hot day due to lightheadedness
A person should drink lots of water in hot weather to reduce their risk of falling or fainting. Most of the time, a person experiencing an episode of lightheadedness can manage their symptoms with home remedies and lifestyle changes. A person who is prone to experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness should use the following tips to reduce their risk of falling or fainting: Getting up slowly after sitting or lying down. Drinking lots of water, especially in hot weather or during exercise. Eating or drinking something sugary or with simple carbohydrates when feeling faint. Lying or sitting down until the episode passes. Getting enough sleep. Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. Limiting salt intake. Anyone who thinks that their medication may be causing lightheadedness should speak to a doctor. Treatment While lightheadedness does not usually require medical care, a doctor may sometimes recommend one of the following treatments, depending on the underlying cause: medications physical therapy psychotherapy compression stockings to keep blood from pooling in the legs Medications could include: diuretics anti-anxiety medications antinausea medications medications for migraines If a doctor recommends physical therapy for lightheadedness, a physical therapist is likely to teach a person exercises to improve their balance. In people who have lightheadedness due to anxiety, a doctor may recommend psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help them manage this condition. A therapist may provide other coping mechanisms to reduce a person's stress levels. In very rare cases, a doctor may advise surgery for repeated episodes of lightheadedness and vertigo. A surgeon will perform a labyrinthectomy, which is the removal of part or all of the inner ear. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today When to see a doctor person holding both hands over heart because of chest pains
A person should seek emergency medical attention if chest pain accompanies lightheadedness or dizziness. Most people do not need to seek medical attention for an occasional episode of lightheadedness. However, it is essential to seek emergency medical attention for lightheadedness or dizziness when one or more of the following symptoms accompany it: weakness on one side of the body facial drooping or numbness slurred speech chest pain pain in the arm, neck, or jaw sudden severe headache fainting numbness or inability to move the arms or legs vision changes, such as double vision a rapid or irregular heartbeat seizures vomiting A person should also see a doctor immediately if lightheadedness occurs following a head injury. Takeaway Lightheadedness is a common experience, and it usually resolves very quickly with no lasting effects. People who frequently experience lightheadedness can usually manage the symptoms at home. In some cases, lightheadedness may occur as a result of an underlying medical cause, in which case a person is likely to experience additional symptoms. Anyone who has concerns about lightheadedness should speak to a doctor.
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What is lupus?

Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs.

Due to its complex nature, people sometimes call lupus the "disease of 1,000 faces."

In the United States, people report around 16,000 new cases of lupus each year, and up to 1.5 million people may be living with the condition, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.

The Foundation say that lupus affects women in particular, and it is most likely to appear between the ages of 15 and 44 years.

Lupus gained public attention in 2015 after the singer Selena Gomez announced she received a diagnosis in her late teens and underwent treatment for the condition.

Lupus is not a contagious disease. A person cannot transmit it sexually or in any other way to another person.

However, in rare cases, women with lupus may give birth to children who develop a form of lupus. This is called neonatal lupus.

Types There are different kinds of lupus. This article will focus mainly on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but other types include discoid, drug-induced, and neonatal lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus A malar rash is a symptom of lupus. Image credit: Doktorinternet, 2013.
A malar rash is a key symptom of lupus. Image credit: Doktorinternet, 2013.

SLE is the most familiar type of lupus. It is a systemic condition. This means it has an impact throughout the body. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

It is more severe than other types of lupus, such as discoid lupus, because it can affect any of the body's organs or organ systems. It can cause inflammation in the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, blood, heart, or a combination of these.

This condition typically goes through cycles. At times of remission, the person will have no symptoms. During a flare-up, the disease is active, and symptoms appear.

Discoid lupus erythematosus

In discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) — or cutaneous lupus — symptoms affect only the skin. A rash appears on the face, neck, and scalp.

The raised areas may become thick and scaly, and scarring may result. The rash may last from a number of days to several years, and it may recur.

DLE does not affect the internal organs, but around 10 percent of people with DLE will go on to develop SLE, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. It is not clear, however, if these individuals already had SLE and just showed clinical signs on the skin or if there is a progression from DLE or SLE.

Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus

Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus refers to skin lesions that appear on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun. The lesions do not cause scarring.

Drug-induced lupus

In around 10 percent of people with SLE, symptoms occur because of a reaction to certain prescription drugs. According to Genetics Home Reference, some 80 drugs may cause the condition.

These include some of the drugs that people use to treat seizures and high blood pressure. They also include some thyroid medications, antibiotics, antifungals, and oral contraceptive pills.

Drugs that are commonly associated with this form of lupus are:

Drug-induced lupus typically goes away after the person stops taking the medication.

Neonatal lupus

Most babies born to mothers with SLE are healthy. However, around 1 percent of women with autoantibodies relating to lupus will have a baby with neonatal lupus.

The woman may have SLE, Sjögren's syndrome, or no disease symptoms at all.

Sjögren's syndrome is another autoimmune condition that often occurs with lupus. Key symptoms include dry eyes and a dry mouth.

At birth, babies with neonatal lupus may have a skin rash, liver problems, and low blood counts. Around 10 percent of them will have anemia.

The lesions usually go away after a few weeks. However, some infants have a congenital heart block, in which the heart cannot regulate a normal and rhythmic pumping action. The infant may need a pacemaker. This can be a life-threatening condition.

It is important for women with SLE or other related autoimmune disorders to be under a doctor's care during pregnancy.

Causes Lupus is an autoimmune condition, but the exact cause is unclear. What goes wrong? The immune system protects the body and fights off antigens, such as viruses, bacteria, and germs. It does this by producing proteins called antibodies. White blood cells, or B lymphocytes, produce these antibodies. When a person has an autoimmune condition, such as lupus, the immune system cannot differentiate between unwanted substances, or antigens, and healthy tissue. As a result, the immune system directs antibodies against both the healthy tissue and the antigens. This causes swelling, pain, and tissue damage. The most common type of autoantibody that develops in people with lupus is an antinuclear antibody (ANA). The ANA reacts with parts of the cell's nucleus, the command center of the cell. These autoantibodies circulate in the blood, but some of the body's cells have walls permeable enough to let some autoantibodies through. The autoantibodies can then attack the DNA in the nucleus of these cells. This is why lupus affects some organs and not others. Why does the immune system go wrong? Several genetic factors probably influence the development of SLE. Some genes in the body help the immune system to function. In people with SLE, changes in these genes may stop the immune system from working properly. One possible theory relates to cell death, a natural process that occurs as the body renews its cells, according to Genetics Home Reference. Some scientists believe that, due to genetic factors, the body does not get rid of cells that have died. These dead cells that remain may release substances that cause the immune system to malfunction. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Risk factors: Hormones, genes, and environment Lupus may develop in response to a number of factors. These may be hormonal, genetic, environmental, or a combination of these. 1) Hormones Hormones are chemical substances that the body produces. They control and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs. Hormonal activity could explain the following risk factors: Sex: The U.S. National Institutes of Health note that females are nine times more likely to have lupus than males. Age: Symptoms and diagnosis often occur between the ages of 15 and 45 years, during the childbearing years. However, 20 percent of cases appear after the age of 50 years, according to Genetics Home Reference. As 9 out of 10 occurrences of lupus affect females, researchers have looked at a possible link between estrogen and lupus. Both men and women produce estrogen, but women produce more. In a review published in 2016, scientists observed that estrogen can affect immune activity and induce lupus antibodies in mice that are susceptible to lupus. This may explain why autoimmune diseases are more likely to affect women than men. In 2010, researchers who published a study on self-reported flares in the journal Rheumatology found that women with lupus report more severe pain and fatigue during menstruation. This suggests that flares may be more likely at this time. There is not enough evidence to confirm that estrogen causes lupus. If there is a link, estrogen-based treatment could regulate the severity of lupus. However, more research is necessary before doctors can offer it as a treatment. 2) Genetic factors Researchers have not proved that any specific genetic factor causes lupus, although it is more common in some families. Genetic factors may be the reason why the following are risk factors for lupus: Race: People of any background can develop lupus, but it is two to three times more common in people of color, compared with the white population. It is also more common in Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women. Family history: A person who has a first- or second-degree relative with lupus will have a higher risk of developing it. Scientists have identified certain genes that may contribute to the development of lupus, but there is not enough evidence to prove that they cause the disease. In studies of identical twins, one twin may develop lupus while the other does not, even if they grow up together and have the same environmental exposures. If one member of a twin pair has lupus, the other has a 25-percent chance of developing the disease, according to a study published in Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism in 2017. Identical twins are more likely to both have the condition. Lupus can happen in people with no family history of the disease, but there may be other autoimmune diseases in the family. Examples include thyroiditis, hemolytic anemia, and idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Some have proposed that changes in the x-chromosomes might affect the risk. 3) Environment Environmental agents — such as chemicals or viruses — may contribute to triggering lupus in people who are already genetically susceptible. Possible environmental triggers include: Smoking: A rise in the number of cases in recent decades may be due to higher tobacco exposure. Exposure to sunlight: Some suggest that this may be a trigger. Medication: Around 10 percent of cases may be drug-related, according to Genetics Home Reference Viral infections: These may trigger symptoms in people who are prone to SLE. Lupus is not contagious, and a person cannot transmit it sexually. Gut microbiota Recently, scientists have been looking at gut microbiota as a possible factor in the development of lupus. Scientists who published research in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in 2018 noted that specific changes in gut microbiota feature in both people and mice with lupus. They call for more research into this area. Are children at risk? Lupus is rare in children under the age of 15 years unless their birth mother has it. In this case, a child may have lupus-related heart, liver, or skin problems. Infants with neonatal lupus may have a higher chance of developing another autoimmune disease later in life. Symptoms The symptoms of lupus occur in times of flare-ups. Between flare-ups, people usually experience times of remission, when there are few or no symptoms. Lupus has a wide range of symptoms, including: fatigue a loss of appetite and weight loss pain or swelling in joints and muscles swelling in the legs or around the eyes swollen glands, or lymph nodes skin rashes, due to bleeding under the skin mouth ulcers sensitivity to the sun fever headaches chest pain upon deep breathing unusual hair loss pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress (Raynaud's phenomenon) arthritis Lupus symptoms
Lupus affects people in different ways. Symptoms can occur in many parts of the body.
Effect on other body systems Lupus can also affect the following systems: Kidneys: Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) can make it difficult for the body to remove waste products and other toxins effectively. Around 1 in 3 people with lupus will have kidney problems. Lungs: Some people develop pleuritis, an inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity that causes chest pain, particularly with breathing. Pneumonia may develop. Central nervous system: Lupus can sometimes affect the brain or central nervous system. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, depression, memory disturbances, vision problems, seizures, stroke, or changes in behavior. Blood vessels: Vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels, can occur. This can affect circulation. Blood: Lupus can cause anemia, leukopenia (a decreased number of white blood cells) or thrombocytopenia (a decrease in the number of platelets in the blood, which assist in clotting). Heart: If inflammation affects the heart, it can result in myocarditis and endocarditis. It can also affect the membrane that surrounds the heart, causing pericarditis. Chest pain or other symptoms may result. Endocarditis can damage the heart valves, causing the valve surface to thicken and develop. This can result in growths that can lead to heart murmurs. Other complications Having lupus increases the risk of a number of health problems.: Infection: Infection becomes more likely because both lupus and its treatments weaken the immune system. Common infections include urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, yeast infections, salmonella, herpes, and shingles. Bone tissue death: This occurs when there is low blood supply to a bone. Tiny breaks can develop in the bone. Eventually, the bone may collapse. It most commonly affects the hip joint. Pregnancy complications: Women with lupus have a higher risk of pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and preeclampsia, a condition that includes high blood pressure. To reduce the risk of these complications, doctors often recommend delaying pregnancy until lupus has been under control for at least 6 months. Video The following video explains how lupus causes symptoms. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Classification: 11 symptoms The American College of Rheumatology use a standard classification scheme to confirm a diagnosis. If a person meets 4 out of 11 criteria, a doctor will consider that they may have lupus. The 11 criteria are: Malar rash: A butterfly-shaped rash appears across the cheeks and nose. Discoid rash: Raised red patches develop. Photosensitivity: A skin rash appears after exposure to sunlight. Oral or nose ulcers: These are usually painless. Non-erosive arthritis: This does not destroy the bones around the joints, but there is tenderness, swelling, or effusion in 2 or more peripheral joints. Pericarditis or pleuritis: Inflammation affects the lining around the heart (pericarditis) or lungs (pleuritis). Kidney disorder: Tests show high levels of protein or cellular casts in the urine if a person has a kidney problem. Neurologic disorder: The person has seizures, psychosis, or problems with thinking and reasoning. Hematologic (blood) disorder: Hemolytic anemia is present, with a low white blood-cell count or low platelet count. Immunologic disorder: Tests show that there are antibodies to double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), antibodies to Sm, or antibodies to cardiolipin. Positive ANA: The test for ANA is positive, and the person has not used any drugs that might induce it. However, even this system sometimes misses early and mild cases. Underdiagnosis can occur because the signs and symptoms of lupus are not specific. On the other hand, some blood tests can lead to overdiagnosis, because people without lupus can have the same antibodies as those with the condition. Diagnosis A blood test for lupus
A blood test can help to diagnose lupus. Diagnosis can be difficult because of the varied symptoms that may resemble symptoms of other illnesses. The doctor will ask about symptoms, carry out a physical examination, and take a personal and family medical history. They will also consider the 11 criteria mentioned above. The doctor may request some blood tests and other laboratory investigations. Biomarkers Biomarkers are antibodies, proteins, genetic, and other factors that can show a doctor what is happening in the body or how the body is responding to treatment. They are useful because they can indicate if a person has a condition even when there are no symptoms. Lupus affects individuals in different ways. This makes it difficult to find reliable biomarkers. However, a combination of blood tests and other investigations can help a doctor to confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests Blood tests can show whether certain biomarkers are present, and biomarkers can give information about which autoimmune disease, if any, a person has. 1) Antinuclear antibody Around 95 percent of people with lupus will have a positive result in the ANA test. However, some people test positive for ANA, but they do not have lupus. Other tests must confirm the diagnosis. 2) Antiphospholipid antibodies Antiphospholipid antibodies (APLs) are a type of antibody directed against phospholipids. APLs are present in up to 50 percent of people with lupus. People without lupus can also have APLs. A person with APLs may have a higher risk of blood clots, stroke, and pulmonary hypertension. There is also a higher risk of pregnancy complications, including a loss of pregnancy. 3) Anti-DNA antibody test Around 70 percent of people with lupus have an antibody known as the anti-DNA antibody. The result is more likely to be positive during a flare-up. 4) Anti-dsDNA antibody The anti-double-stranded DNA antibody (anti-dsDNA) is a specific type of ANA antibody that occurs about 30 percent of people with lupus. Fewer than 1 percent of people without lupus have this antibody. If the test is positive, it may mean that a person has a more serious form of lupus, such as lupus nephritis, or kidney lupus. 5) Anti-Smith antibody Around 20 percent of people with lupus have an antibody to Sm, a ribonucleoprotein that is present in the nucleus of a cell. It is present in fewer than 1 percent of people without lupus, and it is rare in those with other rheumatic diseases. For this reason, a person with anti-sm antibodies is likely to have lupus. It is not usually present with kidney lupus. 6) Anti-U1RNP antibody Around 25 percent of people with lupus have anti-U1RNP antibodies, and fewer than 1 percent of people without lupus have them. This antibody may be present in people who have Raynaud's phenomenon, and Jaccoud's arthropathy, a deformity of the hand due to arthritis. 7) Anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies Between 30 and 40 percent of people with lupus have anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies. These also occur with primary Sjögren's syndrome and in people with lupus who test negative for ANA. They are present in small amount in about 15 percent of people without lupus, and they can occur with other rheumatic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. If a mother has anti-Ro and anti-La antibodies, there is a higher chance that a baby born to her will have neonatal lupus. A person with lupus who wishes to become pregnant have tests for these antibodies. 8) Anti-histone antibodies Antibodies to histones are proteins that play a role in the structure of DNA. People with drug-induced lupus usually have them, and people with SLE may have them. However, they do not necessarily confirm a diagnosis of lupus.Serum (blood) complement testA serum complement test measures the levels of proteins that the body consumes when inflammation takes place.
If a person has low complement levels, this suggests that inflammation is present in the body and that SLE is active. Urine tests Urine tests can help to diagnose and monitor the effects of lupus on the kidneys. The presence of protein, red blood cells, white blood cells, and cellular casts can all help to show how well the kidneys are working. For some tests, only one sample is necessary. For others, the person may need to collect samples over 24 hours. Tissue biopsies The doctor may also request biopsies, usually of the skin or kidneys, to check for any damage or inflammation. Imaging tests X-rays and other imaging tests can help doctors see the organs affected by lupus. Monitoring tests Ongoing tests can show how lupus continues to affect a person or how well their body is responding to treatment. Treatment and home remedies There is currently no cure for lupus, but people can manage their symptoms and flares with lifestyle changes and medication. Treatment aims to: prevent or manage flares reduce the risk of organ damage Medication can help to: reduce pain and swelling regulate the activity of the immune system balance hormones reduce or prevent joint and organ damage manage blood pressure reduce the risk of infection control cholesterol The exact treatment will depend on how lupus affects the individual. Without treatment, flares can occur that may have life-threatening consequences. Alternative and home therapies Exercise can help to reduce pain and relieve stress.
Exercise can help to reduce pain and relieve stress. Apart from medication, the following may help to relieve pain or reduce the risk of a flare: applying heat and cold participating in relaxation or meditation activities, including yoga and tai chi doing regular exercise when possible avoiding exposure to the sun avoid stress, as far as possible Some people use the supplement thunder-god vine. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) warn that this can be poisonous. It is important to speak to a doctor before using it. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Outlook In the past, people who had a diagnosis of lupus would not usually survive for more than 5 years. Now, however treatment can significantly increase a person's lifespan, according to the National Institutes of Health. Effective therapy also makes it possible to manage lupus, so that a person can live an active, healthy life. As scientists learn more about genetics, doctors hope that one day they will be able to identify lupus at an earlier stage. This will make it easier to prevent complications before they occur. Sometimes people choose to join a clinical trial, as this can give access to new medications. To find out more about clinical trials click here.
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What are the treatments for obesity?

Obesity can happen for a number of reasons, including diet, a sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors, a health condition, or the use of certain medications. A number of treatment options can help people to achieve and maintain a suitable weight.

Carrying excess weight can increase the risk of a number of health problems. Losing weight can be frustrating and difficult, but even losing just 5–10 percent of body weight can bring significant health benefits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For a person who weighs 250 pounds (lb), or 114 kilograms (kg) this would mean losing 12–25 lb, or 5.7–11.4 kg. A small reduction in weight is an important achievement.

Losing weight slowly and constantly, for example, 1–2 lb each week, is often better than losing a lot quickly, because it is more likely to stay off once a person reaches their target weight.

Exercise and dietary changes are useful weight-loss tools. For some people, however, these are not effective. In this case, medication or surgery might be an option.

Sometimes, a health condition — such as a hormonal problem — can result in weight gain. In this case, treating the imbalance can help to solve the problem.

1. Dietary changes salad for weight loss
Replacing high-fat foods with more fruits and vegetables can help a person to lose weight.

One reason why excess weight and fat accumulate is when a person consumes more calories than they use. Over time, this can lead to weight gain.

Some types of food are more likely to lead to weight gain. Some processed foods contain additives, such as high-fructose corn syrup. This can cause changes in the body that result in additional weight gain.

Reducing the intake of processed, refined, and ready-made food that is high in sugar and fat, while increasing the consumption of whole grains and other high-fiber foods — such as fresh fruits and vegetables — can help a person to lose weight.

One advantage of a high-fiber diet is that the body feels full more quickly, making it less tempting to eat more. Whole grains help a person to feel full for longer, because they release their energy more slowly.

Fiber and whole grains can also help to reduce the risk of a number of conditions related to metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that involves a number of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems. It is more common in people with obesity.

A doctor or dietitian can help to suggest a strategy and possibly a suitable weight-loss program.

Avoid crash-dieting

Trying to lose weight quickly by crash-dieting carries the following risks:

New health problems may develop. Vitamin deficiencies can occur. It is more difficult to achieve healthy weight loss.

In some cases, a doctor may suggest that a person with severe obesity should follow a very low-calorie liquid diet. A health professional should monitor this strategy to ensure that the person remains safe while following the diet.

2. Physical activity Students go up stairs
Climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator can be good exercise. While the body does burn some calories even when a person is just sitting or sleeping, for most people, the more active they are, the more calories the body will burn. However, this can take time. To lose one pound of fat, a person needs to burn 3,500 calories. Good ways to start getting active include: walking briskly swimming using the stairs instead of the elevator getting off the bus or train one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way Doing chores such as gardening, housework, or walking the dog all contribute. The CDC suggest doing 60–90 minutes of moderately intense activity most days of the week. People who are not used to exercising or who find it difficult to be active due to health or mobility problems should speak to a health professional about how to exercise and how to get started. A person who is not in the habit of exercising should not start with too strenuous an activity, as this could pose a health risk. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 3. Weight-loss medications A doctor will sometimes prescribe medication, such as orlastat (Xenical) to help a person lose weight. However, they usually only do this if: dietary changes and exercise have not resulted in weight loss the person's weight poses a significant risk to their health The National Institutes of Health note that people should use medication alongside a reduced-calorie diet. Orlastat does not replace lifestyle changes. Side effects include gastrointestinal symptoms, such as fatty stool and increased or decreased defecation. Some people have reported unwanted effects on the respiratory system, muscles and joints, headaches, and others. From 1997 to 2010, doctors were able to prescribe sibutramine, too, but the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) withdrew approval in 2010, due to concerns about serious adverse effects. 4. Surgery Weight loss, or bariatric, surgery involves removing or changing a part of a person's stomach or small intestine so that they do not consume as much food or absorb as many calories as before. This can help an individual to lose weight and also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other aspects of metabolic syndrome that can occur with obesity. Surgery can either make the stomach smaller, or it can bypass part of the digestive system. Gastric sleeve or gastric band The surgeon uses a gastric sleeve or a gastric band to make the stomach smaller. After the operation, a person cannot consume more than about one cup of food during each sitting. This significantly reduces food intake. Gastric bypass The procedure enables food to bypass parts of the digestive system, specifically the first part of the mid-section of the small intestine. It may also reduce the size of the stomach. This is generally more effective than restrictive procedures, but there is a higher risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as the body can no longer absorb as many nutrients. A doctor may recommend surgery for a person who has a body mass index of 40 or above, or lower than 40 if they have other health issues. Surgeons often do bariatric surgery as a laparoscopic, or keyhole procedure. 5. Hormonal treatment Hormonal treatment might one day help people with obesity. Scientists who published a study in 2014 noted that part of the success of bariatric surgery may be the impact it has on gut hormones. Harnessing these hormones could lead to novel, non-surgical options. The researchers suggest that combining certain hormones might provide an effective therapy. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 6. Browning white fat cells Humans and other mammals contain two types of fat cell: Brown-fat cells burn calories and produce heat. White-fat cells store calories. Scientists have been looking for ways to reprogram white-fat cells so that they behave more like brown-fat cells. They call this "beiging" fat cells. If they can do this, they might be able to produce a therapy that can cause the body to burn fat more quickly. Experts do not yet know how to achieve this, but a research team who published a review in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology expressed hope that new genetic tools in the pipeline might hold the key. Health risks and weight Obesity increases the risk of a number of health problems. blood pressure
High blood pressure is one aspect of metabolic syndrome. Some of these — such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure — come under the umbrella of metabolic syndrome, a collection of features that often occur together, frequently with excess weight and obesity. Health risks that increase with obesity include: Osteoarthritis: Additional strain on the joints can lead to bone and cartilage degeneration. Coronary heart disease: Heart disease becomes more likely when a person carries extra weight. This is often due to high cholesterol levels and the extra weight putting additional strain on the heart and blood vessels. Gallbladder disease: Consuming foods that are high in sugar and fat may not necessarily lead to obesity, but it can cause the liver to overproduce cholesterol, resulting in gallstones. High blood pressure: Excess adipose tissue in the body may secrete substances that affect the kidneys. This can result in high blood pressure, or hypertension. The body may also produce extra insulin, and this, too, can raise blood pressure. Respiratory problems: These can occur if the extra weight puts pressure on the lungs, reducing the space available for breathing. Several cancers: According to the CDC, 13 types of cancer become more likely to occur if a person has obesity, including colorectal cancer. Sleep apnea: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) note that weight reduction often improves the symptoms of sleep apnea. Stroke: Obesity often develops alongside a buildup of cholesterol. In time, this increases the risk of blockages in the blood vessels. These, in turn, can lead to heart disease and stroke. Type 2 diabetes: This is a key aspect of metabolic syndrome. Takeaway Help is available for people who are concerned that they have too much weight. A change in diet and increase in exercise can help in many cases. If these do not work, a doctor may be able to recommend another solution.
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Heart attacks increasingly common in young women

New research finds a worrying trend in the incidence of heart attacks in recent decades. The results indicate that young women are more likely than young men to need hospitalization for heart attacks, as well as to develop other cardiometabolic conditions.
young woman holding her chest
More and more young women develop heart disease, and doctors should pay more attention to women, say the authors of a new study.

Cardiovascular disease — an umbrella term that covers different types of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, stroke, congenital heart defects, and peripheral artery disease causes about 1 in 3 deaths in the United States.

Also, cardiovascular disease accounts for almost 836,546 deaths each year, making it the "leading killer of both women and men" in the U.S.

However, there are sex differences in the prevalence of some cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease — a cardiovascular condition that can ultimately lead to heart attacks.

An established body of research has shown that coronary heart disease is more prevalent among men at any age, which may have led to the common perception that "heart disease is a man's disease."

However, more recent studies have started to point out an "alarming" trend, which is a steady increase in the number of young women who die of coronary heart disease.

Now, new research, presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions meeting in Chicago and subsequently published in the journal Circulation, adds to the mounting evidence that heart attacks are increasingly common among young women.

Dr. Sameer Arora, a cardiology fellow at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, is the lead author of the study.

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Heart attacks no longer an old man's disease

Dr. Arora and colleagues examined data on almost 29,000 people aged 35–74 years old who doctors admitted to hospital for acute myocardial infarction between 1995 and 2014.

The researchers found that the proportion of young patients who doctors admitted to the hospital for a heart attack "steadily increased, from 27 [percent] in 1995–1999 to 32 [percent] in 2010–2014."

The study also found that this increase was even more substantial in women. Namely, 21 percent of the heart attack hospital admissions were of young women at the beginning of the study, but this proportion jumped to 31 percent by the end.

Additionally, the research revealed that young women were less likely than young men to receive cardiovascular treatments, such as antiplatelet drugs, beta blockers, coronary angiography, or coronary revascularization.

Finally, young women were at a higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease compared with young men.

The study's lead author comments on the findings, saying, "Cardiac disease is sometimes considered an old man's disease, but the trajectory of heart attacks among young people is going the wrong way [...] It's actually going up for young women."

"This is concerning," continues Dr. Arora. "It tells us we need to focus more attention on this population."

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A 'wake-up call to male physicians'

Dr. Arora explains why cardiologists and other healthcare professionals need to pay more attention to women's cardiovascular health.

"Traditionally, coronary artery disease is seen as a man's disease, so women who come to the emergency department with chest pain might not be seen as high-risk," he says.

"Also, the presentation of heart attack is different in men and women. Women are more likely to present with atypical symptoms compared to men, and their heart attack is more likely to be missed."

Dr. Ileana L. Piña, a cardiologist and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, also chimes in on the findings.

She says that the results are "another wake-up call to physicians, especially male physicians" to take better care of women's heart health.

"The number one killer of women is not breast cancer or uterine cancer; the number one killer of women is heart disease [...] And, until we pay attention to this, these kinds of figures are going to keep coming up."

Dr. Ileana L. Piña

Dr. Piña, who was not involved in the research, says that traditional gender roles, which continue to prevail, may stop women from looking after their health.

"It's hard when a woman is working two jobs and taking care of the family, too," Dr. Piña says.

"[Women will] do anything for their families, but they often leave themselves for last. We need to teach women to change their health attitude and take care of themselves," she warns.

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What are the best fish to eat for health?

Fish contains high levels of nutrients and protein, particularly oily fish, such as salmon and tuna. Fish often has less cholesterol and saturated fat than meat, and it is a staple of the healthful Mediterranean diet. Fish also provides vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, zinc, and iron.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommend that most people eat seafood twice weekly as part of a balanced diet.

Oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial fats that humans must obtain from their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have potential health benefits, such as helping prevent cardiovascular disease.

As fish is a low-fat protein source, incorporating it into the diet can also potentially lead to weight loss.

In this article, we look at eight of the best types of fish to eat, including their nutritional profiles and how to cook them.

1. Wild-caught salmon Salmon being cut with a knife and fork
Salmon is a good source of vitamin D and calcium.

All types of salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.

This fish is also a good source of vitamin D and calcium. However, for higher levels of nutrients, it is better to choose wild-caught salmon rather than farmed salmon.

Wild salmon tends to contain more omega-3s and vitamins and has less saturated fat.

How to cook it

A straightforward way to prepare salmon is to steam it in parchment paper.

To do this:

Chop up and sauté some vegetables, such as carrot or zucchini. Make a bed of the vegetables on top of the parchment paper. Place the salmon fillet on top of the vegetables and sprinkle fresh herbs over the top. Fold the paper to seal the parcel. Bake the parcel in the oven at a high temperature for 10 minutes or until it flakes with a fork. 2. Tuna Tuna is generally safe to eat in moderation. Some types of tuna contain more mercury than others, and people should make sure that they limit their consumption of these varieties. Canned white, or albacore, tuna has a higher mercury content than canned light, or skipjack, tuna. Tuna is low in calories and high in vitamins and protein. A 100 gram (g) serving of skipjack tuna contains 22 g of protein. People should be aware that certain varieties of tuna, including bluefin tuna, are under threat from overfishing. Where possible, they should choose a type that is not at risk, such as skipjack. How to cook it Tuna is easy to prepare. Brush a tuna steak with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Sear on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until the fish flakes easily. 3. Rainbow trout Most trout that is available in grocery stores is the product of farming in freshwater ponds and concrete raceways, which mimic a flowing river. There are strict regulations governing trout farming in the U.S., which limit the number of chemicals that farmers can use. This regulation results in lower mercury levels, making this variety of farmed fish a safer and more healthful choice. Farmed rainbow trout contains 19.94 g of protein per 100 g as well as 4.30 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12. How to cook it Baking or grilling trout with some olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs is a simple method of preparation. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 4. Pacific halibut Halibut is a firm, white fish with a mild flavor. It may be a good choice for people who do not usually enjoy fish but would like to add it to their diet. Halibut contains 18.56 g of protein per 100 g and is also a good source of potassium and vitamin D. How to cook it It is possible to prepare and eat halibut in a variety of ways. A simple option is to marinate halibut fillets in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, basil, and parsley. Grill or pan-sear the fillets until they flake easily. People can add brown rice and vegetables to create a hearty meal. 5. Mackerel Mackerel fish on ice
Mackerel is high in omega-3 and vitamin B-12. Mackerel is a firm, white fish with a strong flavor. It tends to have more omega-3s and vitamin B-12 than other types of fish. Choosing pickled or smoked mackerel may increase the sodium content of the fish, so people should check for this on food labels. Smaller varieties, such as Atlantic and Spanish mackerel, are better choices because larger fish tend to contain higher levels of mercury. How to cook it People can poach mackerel fillets with a little bit of wine, water, sliced onion, and some pepper. 6. Cod Cod is a flaky, white fish that is easy to prepare. Cod is a good source of phosphorus, niacin, and vitamin B-12. It is high in protein but low in fat and calories, making it an ideal choice for people who are trying to control their body weight. How to cook it Seasoning cod and roasting it in the oven makes it very flavorsome. Serve it with roasted vegetables, such as zucchini, asparagus, onions, and peppers. 7. Sardines Sardines are another oily fish, and they offer a lot of nutritional benefits. Sardines are rich in calcium, iron, selenium, protein, vitamin B-12, and omega-3 fatty acids. People can enjoy sardines fresh, but they are more commonly available canned or frozen. People eating canned sardines should check the label for oil and sodium content. How to cook them Canned sardines can add flavor and texture to a salad. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 8. Herring Herring is another fish that belongs to the sardine family. Herring is a beneficial source of omega-3 fatty acids and also provides 17.96 g of protein and 13.67 mcg of vitamin B-12 in each 100 g. Pickled or smoked herring has a higher sodium content, which people should be aware of when planning meals. How to cook it It is possible to buy boned and filleted herring, which is simple to bake, pan-sear, or grill. Are there any fish that you should avoid? Some people have concerns about eating fish because they worry about its mercury levels. Mercury, a potential contaminant in fish, is a toxic metal that can cause genetic abnormalities or damage to the brain or kidneys. In general, larger fish contain the most mercury as this metal has had more time to build up in the body of the fish. Eating a variety of fish helps ensure that a person's overall mercury intake is low. People should avoid tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel because these fish contain high levels of mercury. There are also ethical concerns about overfishing, so people should choose their fish from a sustainable source and avoid varieties that are under threat. Resources are available to help a person choose healthful types of fish that they can eat without having a significant impact on the environmental. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium run a program called Seafood Watch that uses information from health organizations and environmental groups to recommend seafood from all over the world. Takeaway Eating fish a couple of times each week is a great way to get lean protein along with important nutrients. Some types of fish are better choices than others due to a lower likelihood of contaminants, such as mercury. A doctor can make individual recommendations about the consumption of mercury-containing fish for children, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those with health conditions.
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Vitamin D, fish oil supplements of little benefit to heart health

Two new randomized trials challenge the view that vitamin D and fish oil supplements hold any real benefit in the fight against chronic conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.
man taking fish oil supplements
Do fish oil supplements really protect the heart?

The results of the first and second trial were presented at Scientific Sessions, held by the American Heart Institute (AHA) in Chicago, IL, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Vitamin D and fish oil supplements have lately been the subject of much hype in the medical research community, mass media, and among the general public, due to their alleged benefits in combatting cancer and heart disease.

For example, recent studies in mice found that vitamin D benefits heart cells and suggested that the vitamin may prevent cardiovascular blockages.

Other studies identified persistent links between a lack of vitamin D and the development of breast cancer and bowel cancer.

Experts also believe that omega-3 fatty acids — which are in seafood, some nuts, and seeds — benefit the heart. The AHA, for example, recommend an intake of at least 2 servings of fish every week for optimal cardiovascular health.

As a result, many Americans have turned to omega-3 fish oil supplements to stave off heart disease. A survey carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that almost 19 million Americans are taking fish oil supplements.

But do vitamin D and fish oil supplements really work?

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Vitamin D, fish oil no better than placebo

The two new studies were randomized, placebo-controlled trials led by Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the chief of the division of preventive medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA.

The trials examined the effect of a daily intake of vitamin D and omega-3-containing fish oils on the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

The studies involved almost 26,000 healthy adult participants, 20 percent of whom were African-American. None had a history of heart disease or cancer. The men in the study were at least 50 years old, and the women were at least 55.

Some participants took a daily dosage of 2,000 international units of vitamin D and 1 gram of fish oil.

Other participants received the same dosage of vitamin D plus a placebo, and others took the same daily dosage of fish oil with a placebo. The final group received two dosages of placebos.

Dr. Manson and the team followed the participants for 5 years. By the end of the study period, they had found no overall benefits.

In the first trial, they conclude:

"Supplementation with [omega-3] fatty acids did not result in a lower incidence of major cardiovascular events or cancer than placebo."

In the second trial, they surmise that "Supplementation with vitamin D did not result in a lower incidence of invasive cancer or cardiovascular events than placebo."

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Does fish oil stave off heart attacks?

Dr. Manson and the team did find a link between fish oil and a lower risk of heart attacks, particularly among people who did not eat fish regularly, as well as among African-Americans.

Overall, fish oil supplements reduced the risk of a heart attack by approximately 28 percent. Among African-Americans, fish oil supplements lowered this risk by 77 percent, compared with participants who took only a placebo.

Finally, the researchers found that no supplement involved in the trial led to severe side effects, such as bleeding, excessive calcium, or gastrointestinal problems.

The New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial related to the trials. In it, authors Dr. John F. Keaney and Dr. Clifford J. Rosen warn that the trials' "positive" results regarding fish oil supplementation and heart attack risk "need to be interpreted with caution."

They continue, noting that other large randomized trials of omega-3 fatty acids do not support these findings.

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Chronic noise can impact heart health

Exposure to a high level of noise on a regular basis can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system, according to new research.
Loud noise protect ears
A new study examines the impact of chronic noise on heart health.

The leader of the study was Dr. Azar Radfar, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The findings will be presented at Scientific Sessions 2018, held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

Dr. Radfar's team found that noise exposure causes an elevated stress response in the human brain.

This can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels, which can cause serious health problems, including a heart attack or stroke.

The research included 499 participants, who were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer at the study's start.

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Noise and cardiovascular events

The participants underwent positron emission tomography (PET) and CT scans of their brains and blood vessels. The researchers also looked at the activity of the amygdala, a region of the brain that regulates stress and emotional response.

The team estimated participants' regular exposure to noise by comparing their home addresses with data from the United States Department of Transportation's National Transportation Noise Map, which includes information about levels of roadway and aviation noise.

Years later, the researchers examined the participants' medical records for evidence of cardiovascular events. Of the 499 original participants, 40 had experienced a heart attack or stroke in the 5 years that followed the initial testing.

After analyzing the data, the team discovered that participants with the highest levels of noise exposure also had the most noticeable stress-related brain activity. In addition, they had more inflammation in their arteries.

Increased blood vessel inflammation is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, so finding a link between this inflammation and cardiovascular events was no surprise.

However, participants with the most stress-related brain activity were more than three times as likely to experience a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Even after accounting for other risk factors, such as air pollution, smoking, and diabetes, the team concluded that participants exposed to higher levels of noise pollution had an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

"A growing body of research reveals an association between ambient noise and cardiovascular disease, but the physiological mechanisms behind it have remained unclear," explains Dr. Radfar, adding, "We believe our findings offer an important insight into the biology behind this phenomenon."

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Heart health

Cardiovascular health is an extremely important topic of study. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is responsible for around 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S., or about 610,000 deaths each year.

Many elements can increase the likelihood of developing heart disease. While we cannot control some risk factors, such as age, we can influence our overall risk to a certain extent.

Tobacco smoke, physical inactivity, and being overweight are three risk factors that a person can avoid. By following a healthful diet, quitting smoking, and exercising, it is possible to reduce the chances of developing heart disease.

Stress can also increase cardiovascular risk, as can alcohol consumption. In addition, people with diabetes or high blood pressure have a higher risk.

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What are the next steps?

Determining whether decreasing noise exposure can reduce the risk of heart disease will require further research. The study's authors urge doctors to consider high noise levels as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events.

While simply moving away from an area with noise pollution is usually not an option, the authors urge their readers to consider ways to decrease high levels of ambient noise.

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Could blue light reduce blood pressure?

Exposure to blue light may help combat hypertension, according to a recent study. If the findings are replicated in a larger sample, blue light could provide a cost-effective and side effect-free intervention.
Blue light style
Blue light may be the future of blood pressure treatment.

The results of an investigation into the effects of blue light on high blood pressure were recently published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is widespread in the United States and many other Western countries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure is a primary or contributing cause of almost 1,000 deaths every day in the U.S.

Hypertension is also a risk factor for more serious conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. For these reasons, managing blood pressure effectively is a high priority.

Currently, doctors usually prescribe medications such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and calcium channel blockers to help manage hypertension. Although these can be effective, side effects are common and include a persistent dry cough and dizziness.

Because high blood pressure is so prevalent, a great deal of research has investigated its causes. The importance of lifestyle, including diet and exercise, cannot be overstated, while other risk factors play smaller roles.

For instance, studies have demonstrated that exposure to sunlight influences hypertension. Blood pressure is, on average, lower during the summer months, and some research has linked high levels of long-term sunlight exposure to a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

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The bittersweet symphony of sunlight

Exposure to excessive levels of sunlight damages the skin, causing premature aging. Research has also established that ultraviolet (UV) light is a carcinogen — excessive exposure increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

On the other hand, as sunlight hits our skin, it drives a chemical reaction that produces vitamin D, which plays a range of essential roles in the body.

UV light also affects nitric oxide (NO) levels, and NO is an important signaling molecule in humans and virtually all other organisms.

The inner lining of blood vessels — called the endothelium — releases NO. This causes the smooth muscles around the blood vessels to relax, thereby lowering blood pressure.

When sunlight hits the skin, compounds such as nitrites break down to produce NO, which then diffuses into the deeper tissues and, finally, enters the blood vessels.

The interaction between sunlight, NO, and the smooth muscles of the blood vessels may explain why sunlight has a hypertension-minimizing effect.

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A bolt from the blue

Finding a way to harness the benefits of UV light while removing the negative effects would be a significant discovery. Enter: blue light.

Recently, researchers from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in Germany joined forces to investigate whether blue light without UV wavelengths has the potential to ease hypertension.

Earlier studies demonstrated that visible blue light, in a range of 420–453 nanometers in wavelength, can induce the production of NO without damaging DNA.

The latest study goes one step further. For the first time, researchers assessed whether blue light exposure could produce enough NO to significantly reduce high blood pressure.

Their proof-of-concept study involved 14 male participants aged 30–60, none of whom had preexisting cardiovascular issues, hypertension, or diabetes.

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Blue light benefits

Each participant visited the testing facility twice, with 1 week between sessions. During one visit, they were exposed to 30 minutes of whole-body blue light. At the other, they received 30 minutes of "control light."

Most importantly, the scientists looked for changes in blood pressure. They also assessed other parameters, including heart rate, blood flow in the forearm, circulating levels of NO, and pulse wave velocity, a measure of how stiff the arteries are.

Members of the team took measurements before, during, and after the light exposure. They found that 30 minutes of whole-body blue light significantly lowered systolic blood pressure — the pressure in blood vessels as the heart contracts — by 8 millimeters of mercury.

According to the authors, this reduction was equivalent to, or more significant than, "the blood pressure-lowering effect sizes observed by typical blood pressure-lowering medications."

The other parameters also improved significantly under blue light, including pulse wave velocity. As expected, serum NO levels also increased. The authors conclude:

"Our present study demonstrates for the first time that whole-body blue light exposure at doses that are comparable to daily sunlight exposure decreases systolic blood pressure [...] in young, healthy male volunteers."

Of course, this pilot study included a very small number of participants, and it will need to be replicated on a much larger scale.

If the findings are duplicated, however, this could be a game-changer for the management of hypertension in some populations.

As one of the study's authors, Christian Heiss, a doctor and a professor at the University of Surrey, explains, "Exposure to blue light provides an innovative method to precisely control blood pressure without drugs. Wearable blue light sources could make continued exposure to light possible and practical."

Although blue light therapy could never replace changes in diet and lifestyle, it may provide additional benefits for certain people. As Dr. Heiss notes, "This would be particularly helpful to those whose blood pressure is not easily controlled by medication, such as older people."

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7 benefits of rooibos tea

Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) tea is a red herbal tea that comes from the fermented leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub, a plant native to South Africa.

Many people enjoy it as an alternative to green or black tea. Unfermented green rooibos tea is also available.

Rooibos tea has a sweet, delicate, and earthy flavor. It contains several antioxidants, which may help explain some of the tea's health benefits.

In this article, we list the potential health benefits of rooibos tea. We also cover how to brew and flavor each cup.

7 potential health benefits Research into the effects of rooibos tea is limited. However, based on existing studies, the health benefits may include: 1. Caffeine-free Rooibos tea
Rooibos tea is caffeine-free and low in tannins.

Rooibos tea is free from caffeine, which may make it a good option for pregnant people, children, and those who are sensitive to caffeine.

While caffeine may have some health benefits, not everyone can consume caffeine safely. It may interfere with sleep, worsen anxiety, and cause physical effects such as jitteriness and heart palpitations.

Caffeine is present in black tea, green tea, and coffee. Rooibos tea is a good alternative for people who would like to reduce their intake of caffeine or avoid it completely.

2. Low in tannins

Red rooibos tea contains very low levels of tannins. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds present in many plant foods, including black tea, green tea, and red wine.

Tannins interfere with the body's absorption of iron, particularly nonheme iron, which is the form that comes from plant-based foods.

According to the results of a 2013 study, drinking six cups of rooibos tea daily for 6 weeks did not negatively affect the participants' iron status.

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3. Rich in antioxidants

Rooibos tea contains several antioxidants, with the green variety containing higher levels than the red. Some of the most notable antioxidants in the tea are quercetin and aspalathin.

Antioxidants are important for human health because they stop free radicals from damaging cells in the body.

The results of an animal study on rooibos tea suggest that it can improve the antioxidant status of the liver.

Studies in humans have found that rooibos tea consumption increases the levels of antioxidants in the body, but that the effects are small and wear off quickly.

However, other research suggests that the tea has no effect on antioxidant levels in the blood.

4. Heart health

Antioxidants are important for a healthy heart, which is why rooibos tea may provide cardiovascular benefits. It may also keep cholesterol levels in check.

In a 2011 study, 40 people at risk of cardiovascular disease drank six cups of rooibos tea daily for 6 weeks.

At the end of this period, the participants had significantly reduced low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels and significantly increased high-density lipoprotein, or "good," cholesterol levels, in comparison with the control group.

Rooibos tea may also improve heart health by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which increases blood pressure. A small study reported that rooibos tea inhibited ACE activity 30–60 minutes after consumption.

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5. Diabetes management

Loose rooibos tea on a plate
Research suggests that the antioxidants in rooibos tea may have antidiabetic potential.

Rooibos tea may help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels under control and therefore reduce the risk of complications.

Animal research has found that the antioxidant aspalathin, which is present in rooibos tea, has antidiabetic potential.

Aspalathin may also help people with diabetes reduce their risk of vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis. These are both factors that play a role in the development of heart problems.

People who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people who do not have diabetes, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Research suggests that aspalathin helps suppress the vascular inflammation that results from high blood sugar levels.

There are low levels of aspalathin in red rooibos tea, but it is more abundant in the unfermented green tea.

6. Weight management

Rooibos tea is calorie-free, so it may be a good beverage option for those who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

According to the results of a 2014 study, rooibos tea may also benefit weight management by increasing levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that helps regulate food intake and sends signals to the body that it has had enough food.

The tea also stopped the formation of new fat cells and encouraged quicker fat metabolism.

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7. Fewer wrinkles

If a person applies rooibos tea topically, it may improve the appearance of the skin by reducing wrinkles, according to some research.

A 2010 study compared cosmetic blends made of herbal extracts in a gel base. The extracts were ginkgo, soybean, and a mixture of tea and rooibos.

The researchers found that the tea and rooibos mixture was most effective at reducing wrinkles, while ginkgo was best for moisturizing the skin.

However, it is unlikely that drinking rooibos tea will provide any notable skin benefits.

Other reported benefits

Some people advocate drinking rooibos tea to help treat:

There is no scientific evidence on the effects of rooibos tea for these complaints, however.

Making rooibos tea People can enjoy rooibos tea hot or cold, in a similar manner to black tea. For the best results, brew it according to the instructions on the packet. As a general rule, use 8 ounces of boiling water per teabag or a heaping teaspoon of loose leaves. Allow the tea to steep for at least 5 minutes. Drink the tea plain or add dairy milk, plant-based milk, honey, or sugar to taste. Rooibos tea is available in grocery stores and online. Takeaway Rooibos tea is a good alternative to black or green tea, especially for people who want to avoid caffeine or tannins. It is also rich in antioxidants, which may provide benefits for the heart and liver. However, research into the benefits of rooibos tea is very limited, and many of the existing studies are in animals and human cells. While it is unclear how effective rooibos tea is for health conditions in humans, most people can enjoy drinking it without any risks. Any health benefits are a bonus. 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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Heart attack: Some risk factors affect women more

Some of the main factors that can predispose a person to heart attack include smoking cigarettes, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol, being overweight, and having diabetes. Whom do these risk factors affect the most, however?
womans heart concept illustration
How do risk factors for heart attack impact men vs. women? A new study weighs in.

During a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, the heart stops functioning normally.

This is because its blood supply is cut off, often by a blood clot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States experiences a heart attack every 40 seconds, and each year, around 790,000 people go through such an event.

The current stance is that men are more at risk of heart attack compared with women, while women's risk increases after going through menopause.

However, researchers from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom have now conducted a study that indicates that women may be more affected by certain risk factors for heart attack than men.

In the study paper, which now appears in The BMJ, the team reports that a smoking habit, diabetes, and high blood pressure render women even more vulnerable than men to heart attacks.

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The researchers analyzed the data of 471, 998 participants, of whom 56 percent were women. The participants were aged 40–69, and they had no history of cardiovascular disease.

In the first instance, the investigators' findings were not surprising. They confirmed that both men and women are at heightened risk of heart attack if they smoke, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, or have a body mass index (BMI) of over 25, which indicates an unhealthy weight or potential obesity.

Also unsurprisingly, men who smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day had more than twice the risk of experiencing a heart attack compared with men who had never smoked. However, the surprise came when the researchers looked at the data of female participants.

Women who smoked had a more than three times higher risk of heart attack than women who had never smoked. The researchers refer to this as "excess risk."

Women with high blood pressure and diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) also had an increased risk. However, the excessive increase in risk did not apply to women with a high BMI.

More specifically, the researchers found that high blood pressure was tied to an over 80 percent increase in relative risk in the case of women compared with men.

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With type 1 diabetes, women had an almost thrice as high relative risk of heart attack as men, and for type 2 diabetes, women had a 47 percent higher relative risk.

"Overall, more men experience heart attacks than women. However, several major risk factors increase the risk in women more than they increase the risk in men, so women with these factors experience a relative disadvantage," explains lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Millett.

When looking at how the risk of heart attack changed with age, the researchers found that the hazards associated with smoking and high blood pressure decreased with age for both men and women.

Yet the excess risk associated with women remained consistent, regardless of age.

"These findings highlight the importance of raising awareness around the risk of heart attack women face, and ensuring that women as well as men have access to guideline-based treatments for diabetes and high blood pressure, and to resources to help them stop smoking."

Dr. Elizabeth Millett

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Broken heart syndrome: How complications affect death risk

New research finds that people who develop cardiogenic shock as a complication of broken heart syndrome have an increased risk of death, both in the short-term and in later years.
senior having a heart attack
Broken heart syndrome may feel very similar to a heart attack.

Stressful life events can sometimes put a strain on the heart, quite literally.

A large-scale study from 2018, for example, has confirmed that psychological distress caused by anxiety or depression can boost a person's risk of a heart attack and stroke.

The link between depression and cardiovascular disease is not new. Recently, however, researchers have identified biochemical pathways behind the association, and stress appears to play a key mediating role.

One adverse cardiovascular event that can result from intense stress is broken heart syndrome, a rare condition that mimics the symptoms of a heart attack. It tends to affect women more commonly than men.

People with broken heart syndrome — also called takotsubo cardiomyopathy or stress-induced cardiomyopathy — experience sudden, intense chest pain, along with shortness of breath. Although this can feel similar to a heart attack, the syndrome does not cause blocked arteries.

Instead, part of the heart enlarges and does not pump correctly. Some researchers believe that stress-induced hormones, produced in response to extremely stressful emotions, such as intense grief, anger, or surprise, cause this effect.

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Although broken heart syndrome can be life-threatening, most people fully recover within weeks.

However, 1 in 10 people develop complications such as cardiogenic shock — which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

New research has examined the risk of premature mortality among people who developed cardiogenic shock as a result of broken heart syndrome.

The leader of the team was Dr. Christian Templin, Ph.D., the head of acute cardiac care at University Hospital Zurich's University Heart Center in Switzerland.

He will present the findings at Scientific Sessions 2018, held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

The new study will also appear in Circulation, the journal of the AHA.

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Dr. Templin and the team accessed information from the largest database relevant to broken heart syndrome: the International Takotsubo Registry.

The researchers studied information about 198 people who developed cardiogenic shock as a result of the syndrome. They compared this with data from 1,880 people who had the syndrome but not the complication.

The average age of the former group was 63.4 years, while that of the latter was 67.2 years.

Results revealed that, in people who developed cardiogenic shock, physical stress was more than twice as likely to have caused broken heart syndrome.

The stressful event may have been an asthma attack or a surgical procedure, for example.

Also, the patients with cardiogenic shock were more likely to die in the hospital and more likely to have died within 5 years of developing the syndrome.

Specifically, 23.5 percent of the study population with cardiogenic shock died in the hospital, compared with only 2.3 percent of those who had not developed the complication.

An arrhythmia, an abnormality in the heart's left ventricle, and a history of diabetes or smoking were also more prevalent in the group with cardiogenic shock. Diabetes and smoking are common risk factors for heart disease.

Finally, the results showed that the patients with cardiogenic shock were more likely to survive the initial episode if they received cardiac mechanical support.

The study's lead author comments on the findings, saying, "The history and parameters that are easily detectable on admission to the hospital could be helpful to identify broken heart syndrome patients at higher risk of developing cardiogenic shock. For such patients, close monitoring could reveal initial signs of cardiogenic shock and allow prompt management."

"For the first time, this analysis found [that] people who experienced broken heart syndrome complicated by cardiogenic shock were at high risk of death years later, underlining the importance of careful long-term follow-up, especially in this patient group."

Dr. Christian Templin, Ph.D.

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A natural pigment can help decrease cardiovascular risk

According to new evidence, anthocyanin — a pigment present in a variety of fruits and vegetables — could help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease when ingested in high quantities.
assortment of berries
A plant pigment may help keep cardiovascular problems at bay, find the authors of a recent systematic review.

Cardiovascular diseases affect the well-being of many people across the globe. In the United States alone, around 84 million people have some type of cardiovascular problem.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are "the number one cause of death globally," and one key strategy for lowering cardiovascular risk is to encourage people to follow healthful diets.

Plenty of fruits and vegetables should be a dietary staple when it comes to looking after heart and blood vessel health, as these foods are filled with essential nutrients.

However, some specific fruits and vegetables may help keep cardiovascular diseases at bay. This is what the authors of a new systematic review featured in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition have concluded.

The investigators — based at Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom — focused on studies looking at the beneficial properties of anthocyanins, which are natural pigments that lend many fruits and vegetables their reddish, purple, or bluish colors.

Some types of fruit with high anthocyanin content include acai berries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, some cherries, and some grapes. Eggplants, some sweet potatoes, and red cabbage also contain this pigment.

Anthocyanins are also a class of flavonoids, which are natural antioxidants that act at the cell level and have a protective effect against cellular degeneration.

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The researchers identified and analyzed 19 prospective cohort studies looking at the effect of anthocyanins on the health of the heart and the circulatory system.

In total, these studies presented data collected from over 602,000 individuals from across the U.S., Europe, and Australia, and their authors monitored participants for periods between 4 and 41 years.

In the new review, the team focused on how dietary anthocyanin intake compared with the incidence of heart disease and cardiovascular events, including stroke, heart attacks, and death due to heart disease-related causes.

They found that individuals who had the highest anthocyanin intake had a 9 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and an 8 percent lower risk of death due to heart disease, when compared with peers who integrated the fewest anthocyanin sources in their diets.

"Our analysis is the largest, most comprehensive evaluation of the association between dietary anthocyanin intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease," notes study co-author Prof. Glyn Howatson, from the Department of Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University.

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"Evidence has been growing in recent years to suggest that these natural plant compounds might be especially valuable for promoting cardiovascular health," he adds.

However, the researchers also warn that the benefits that anthocyanins seem to provide may not apply across populations. This is because, when the scientists tried differentiating the links between the pigment and cardiovascular risk based on location, they noticed that the association only remained significant for groups based in the U.S.

Thus, the researchers suggest that anthocyanins may be particularly relevant for cardiovascular health in the context of North American dietary habits.

This review, the authors also disclose, received financial support from the Cherry Marketing Institute, a nonprofit organization funded by U.S.-based tart cherry growers and processors.

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Mediterranean diet: New evidence of its heart-healthy benefits

New research adds to the list of the Mediterranean diet's potential cardiovascular benefits. The results suggest that fish and vegetables trigger the production of a gut-derived metabolite that reduces signs of hypertension and heart abnormalities in rats.
mediterranean food on a plate
A diet rich in fish and vegetables triggers a heart-healthy compound, new research indicates.

Various recent studies have hailed the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which mainly consists of vegetables, fish, and whole grains.

Results of some studies have linked the diet with good cardiovascular health and a longer lifespan, and some research has suggested that it helps protect against health issues, such as diabetes and stroke.

Researchers believe that the heart-healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet result from the quantity of monounsaturated fats, which increase levels of "good" cholesterol and improve its functioning.

New research adds to the list of reasons why the Mediterranean diet may be good for the heart.

The results indicate that a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) reduced cardiac fibrosis, or the thickening of the heart, and signs of heart failure in rodents. Other studies have associated the compound with eating seafood and vegetables.

Tomasz Huć, of the Medical University of Warsaw in Poland, is the first author of the paper, which was just published in the American Journal of Physiology — Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

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Studying TMAO and heart health in rats

Blood levels of TMAO increase after consuming foods that are high in the compound, such as fish, seafood, and vegetables. The liver also produces TMAO with the help of gut bacteria, explain the researchers.

As Huć and his colleagues note, the role of TMAO in the cardiovascular system has been unclear, with several studies yielding contradictory results.

Some studies suggest that TMAO has a harmful effect on the cardiovascular system, while others indicate that the compound has protective effects in animal models.

Huć and his team set out to study the effects, using a model of rats that were predisposed to hypertension. One group of rodents received a low dosage of TMAO, which was added to their drinking water, while another group received no supplemental TMAO.

The dosage was high enough, however, to increase the amount of TMAO in the blood to four or five times normal levels.

The rats received supplementation for either 12 weeks or 56 weeks. The researchers compared them with a control group of rodents that were not genetically predisposed to developing high blood pressure.

Between weeks 7 and 16 of the rats' lives, the team measured their blood pressure and left ventricular end-diastolic pressure.

The researchers also used echocardiography to assess the structure and functioning of the rodents' hearts and electrocardiography to monitor their heartbeats.

Because previous studies point to an inverse correlation between TMAO levels and kidney function, the researchers also examined the rats for signs of kidney damage.

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How TMAO protects the heart

The dosage of TMAO did not appear to affect the development of hypertension in rodents predisposed to the condition.

In fact, the condition of the rats' hearts improved, even after taking TMAO supplementation for 56 weeks. Huć and his colleagues explain:

"[A] four- to fivefold increase in plasma TMAO does not exert negative effects on the circulatory system. In contrast, a low-dose TMAO treatment is associated with reduced cardiac fibrosis and [markers of] failing heart in spontaneously hypertensive rats."

"Our study provides new evidence for a potential beneficial effect of a moderate increase in plasma TMAO on pressure-overloaded heart," the authors continue.

The researchers note that fully understanding the effects of TMAO on the cardiovascular system will require further studies.

However, a person could indirectly conclude from these findings that a Mediterranean diet rich in fish and vegetables may benefit the heart.

While some older studies indicate that the body makes TMAO in response to the intake of beef and eggs and that the compound has a harmful effect, Huć and his team pay heed to the evidence that TMAO is produced after the ingestion of fish, seafood, and vegetables.

They acknowledge that "it seems that a fish-rich and vegetarian diet, which is beneficial or at least neutral for cardiovascular risk, is associated with a significantly higher plasma TMAO than red meat- and egg-rich diets, which are considered to increase the cardiovascular risk."

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What hookah smoking can do to your blood vessels

New research is suggesting that hookah smoking can impair the endothelial function of blood vessels, which is a key indicator of cardiovascular health.
hookah smoking
Hookah smoking may harm your blood vessels, shows a recent study.

More and more people are giving up smoking, and they are sensible to do so.

Cigarette smoking is "the leading preventable cause of death in the United States," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with cigarettes causing over 480,000 yearly deaths.

However, as the use of regular cigarettes is declining, more and more people are turning to alternatives that many perceive as safer, such as electronic cigarettes or hookah smoking.

However, is hookah smoking truly safe? Several recent studies suggest that the answer is "no." For example, a study that Medical News Today covered in 2016 found that a single session of hookah smoking delivers 10 times the amount of carbon monoxide present in a regular cigarette.

Another more recent study found that hookah, also known as shisha, smoking can stiffen the arteries to a degree comparable with that which normal cigarettes can achieve.

Arterial stiffness is a predictor for stroke, and so is the enlargement of the aorta, which is another effect that hookah smoking was found to have.

Now, new research presented at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2018 — which took place in Chicago, IL — adds to the evidence that suggests hookah smoking may indeed harm cardiovascular health.

Mary Rezk-Hanna, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing, is the lead author of the study.

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Studying the effects of hookah smoking

Rezk-Hanna and colleagues examined 30 young, healthy adults before and after they took part in a session of hookah smoking. The participants were 26 years old, on average.

The team examined the participants' blood levels of nicotine before and after the smoking session and measured their exhaled carbon monoxide levels and a marker of artery function called flow-mediated dilation of blood vessels.

The latter measure describes the dilation, or widening, of blood vessels when blood flow increases. Flow-mediated dilation is a measure of the endothelial function of arteries, and many consider endothelial dysfunction to be "the initial phase of the atherosclerotic process."

In this study, the researchers compared the results of these measures with the effects of one normal cigarette in age-matched people who smoke regular cigarettes.

Also, Rezk-Hanna and team took the same measurements before and after hookah smokers were asked to use an electronic device to vape a mixture of carbon monoxide gas that mimicked the effects that people normally get from charcoal-heated hookah smoking.

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How hookah smoking may harm the arteries

The researchers revealed that exhaled carbon monoxide levels were nine to 10 times higher in charcoal-heated hookah smoking than in electronically heated hookah or regular cigarette smoking. Nicotine levels, however, were equally high across all smoking sessions.

Also, the study discovered that flow-mediated dilation was higher after charcoal-heated hookah smoking, while electronically heated hookah or traditional cigarette smoking lowered flow-mediated dilation. A lower flow-mediated dilation indicates endothelial dysfunction.

The researchers explain that the main difference between charcoal-heated and electrically heated hookah is that charcoal briquettes produce high levels of carbon monoxide.

This chemical, in turn, dilates blood vessels, which, the authors speculate, might mask the damaging effects of charcoal-heated hookah smoking on endothelial function.

So, hookah smoking may harm blood vessel function in the same way as cigarette smoking.

"Hookah is the only form of tobacco product that uses burning charcoal briquettes to heat the flavored tobacco in the water pipe. So, in addition to toxic substances from tobacco and nicotine, hookah smoke exposes users to charcoal combustion products, including large amounts of carbon monoxide."

Mary Rezk-Hanna, Ph.D.

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Can this Amazonian diet offer a solution to heart disease?

In the United States, hundreds of thousands of people die every year from causes related to heart disease. Cardiovascular health is a fragile asset, but one population from the Bolivian Amazon seems to possess the secret to a life free of heart disease. What is it?
rice plantain and beans
Researchers map out the diet that may have rendered a Bolivian people 'immune' to heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 610,000 people die because of heart disease-related problems each year in the United States.

At global level, cardiovascular diseases caused around 31 percent of all deaths in 2016 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) note.

The main modifiable factor that specialists focus on when it comes to prevention strategies against heart disease is diet.

American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines indicate that to keep heart disease at bay, a person should follow a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and oily fish.

Is this the best diet for the heart? A team of anthropologists from the University of California–Santa Barbara has recently decided to look for clues among the peoples of the Bolivian Amazon.

One particular population, called the Tsimane, are remarkable in that they almost never develop heart disease, and only very rarely do they have hypertension, unhealthful cholesterol levels, obesity, or type 2 diabetes.

The researchers thought that one key factor in the Tsimane's seeming imperviousness to heart disease might be their diets. The Tsimane, the investigators note, have so far been minimally influenced by globalization trends.

Their food tends to come from natural sources, and they purchase very little produce from markets. In this respect, the Tsimane differ from their neighbors, the Moseten, with whom they share the same language but not the same diets and lifestyles.

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A carb-rich diet

Unlike the Tsimane, who are more sheltered, the Moseten acknowledge outside influences, which have impacted their dietary habits as well as their lifestyles. As a result, the Moseten may also be more at risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases when compared with their more isolated "cousins."

"Our prior work," says senior study co-author Prof. Michael Gurven, "showed that the Tsimane have the healthiest hearts ever studied, so naturally there's a lot of interest in understanding why and how."

So, to understand what sets the Tsimane apart and allows them to enjoy such perfect heart health well into old age, the researchers interviewed them about their daily dietary and lifestyle choices.

"We conducted a detailed analysis of the Tsimane diet and then compared it to what modern Americans typically eat, and to the diets that claim to be heart healthy," says Prof. Gurven.

The investigators also compared the Tsimane's choices with those of the Moseten, the people with whom they are most closely related. In total, the team spoke to 1,299 Tsimane and 229 Moseten, and they compiled detailed profiles of the two people's diets.

In the study paper that appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers report that the Tsimane's usual diet was high in carbohydrates and protein but low in fat.

The Tsimane diet was high-calorie — amounting to 2,433–2,738 kilocalories per day — and it comprised 64 percent carbs, 21 percent protein, and 15 percent fats.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Tsimane do not appear to eat a variety of foods. Instead, their meals tend to gravitate around a few dietary staples. The researchers say that about two-thirds of calories come from complex carbohydrates, present in foods such as rice and plantain.

Around 16 percent of calories come from fish — of which they eat over 40 different species — and another 6 percent from wild game. The Tsimane buy only 8 percent of their foods from the market.

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The challenge of changing lifestyles

Another surprise, given the lack of great dietary diversity, is that the Tsimane do not have many micronutrient deficiencies. While this people tends to run low on calcium and some vitamins — such as D, E, and K — they absorb a lot of potassium, magnesium, and selenium.

These nutrients, the researchers say, may help boost cardiovascular health, and the Tsimane consume them at levels that are higher by far than the typical amount present in North American diets.

Furthermore, the Tsimane eat almost twice as many fiber-rich foods as the Moseten or U.S. populations. However, the researchers also express the concern that, as globalization trends increase, the Tsimane are slowly giving in to harmful influences from outside of their own society.

So, they found that over the 5-year period during which they conducted the present study, the Tsimane's total energy and carbohydrate intake soared, and many of them have started to add larger quantities of lard, oil, sugar, and salt to their diets.

"This is a key time," says the study paper's lead author, Thomas Kraft. "Roads are improving in the area, as is river transport with the spread of motorized boats, so people are becoming a lot less isolated compared to the past. And it's happening at a pretty rapid pace."

Prof. Gurven goes on to say that, given the opportunity to bulk-buy ingredients such as sugar, it is unsurprising that the Tsimane are, little by little, transitioning to less healthful diets. "Getting calories cheaply with less effort — who wouldn't?" he asks.

Yet, he also adds that the Tsimane's search for higher calorie counts may be due to the fact that they actually lead very active lifestyles.

"[They're] also physically active — not from routine exercise, but from using their bodies to acquire food from their fields and the forest, which is also an important lesson," says Prof. Gurven.

"You can't look at what you're eating irrespective of what you're doing with your body. If you're physically active, you can probably get away with more flexibility in the diet."

Prof. Michael Gurven

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Daily serving of nuts may stave off weight gain

Two new studies suggest that a small daily serving of nuts may benefit overall metabolic health and keep off the weight we tend to gain as we enter adulthood.
serving of nuts
A daily serving of nuts may prevent weight gain and improve metabolic health in the long run, two new studies suggest.

From providing cardiovascular benefits to potentially improving fertility, and even boosting memory and intelligence, the health benefits of nuts are numerous — and no wonder.

Nuts are packed with unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein, and other beneficial chemicals, which may all contribute to good health.

However, can nuts aid weight loss? Are certain types of nuts better able to support good metabolism?

Two new studies delved deeper into these questions. The authors will present the findings at Scientific Sessions 2018, a conference to be held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

The first study — led by Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D., a research associate in the nutrition department of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA — looked at the long-term effects of nuts and peanuts on body weight.

The second study examined the effects of Brazil nuts on satiety, blood sugar, and insulin response.

It was supervised by Mee Young Hong, Ph.D., a registered dietician and a professor in the School of Exercise & Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University in California.

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Nuts prevent weight gain in adulthood

The first study explored nut consumption in:

25,394 healthy men who had taken part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study 53,541 women who had participated in the Nurses' Health Study 47,255 women who had taken part in the Nurses' Health Study II

The three groups had filled in food frequency questionnaires once every 4 years.

The researchers discovered that replacing foods that had less nutritional value with a 1-ounce serving of nuts and peanuts lowered the risk of weight gain and obesity over the 4-year follow-up intervals.

More specifically, replacing a serving of red meat, processed meat, french fries, desserts, or potato chips with a serving of nuts correlated with significantly less weight gain in the long run.

The study's first author comments on the findings, saying, "People often see nuts as food items high in fat and calories, so they hesitate to consider them as healthy snacks, but they are in fact associated with less weight gain and wellness."

"Once people reach adulthood, they start to gradually gain about 1 pound a year of weight, which seems small. But if you consider gaining one pound over 20 years, it accumulates to a lot of weight gain," Liu notes.

"Adding 1 ounce of nuts to your diet in place of less healthy foods — such as red or processed meat, french fries or sugary snacks — may help prevent that slow, gradual weight gain after you enter adulthood and reduce the risk of obesity-related cardiovascular diseases."

Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D.

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Brazil nuts benefit insulin, glucose responses

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of consuming Brazil nuts in 22 healthy adult participants, 20 of whom were women.

The participants added either 36 grams of pretzels or 20 grams of Brazil nuts to their normal diet in two trials. At least 48 hours passed between trials.

The Brazil nuts and pretzels contained about the same number of calories and the same amount of sodium. Both triggered a sense of fullness, but the Brazil nuts contributed to an increased feeling of satiety.

Forty minutes after the participants had consumed their snacks, the researchers found that the pretzels had caused significant increases in blood sugar and insulin levels, whereas the Brazil nuts had not.

The study's senior author explains, "While both Brazil nuts and pretzels increased a sense of fullness after they were eaten, eating Brazil nuts stabilized postprandial (after eating) blood glucose and insulin levels, which may be beneficial in preventing diabetes and weight gain."

Although the study was observational, the researchers speculate that selenium may explain the benefits of Brazil nuts. Prior studies had linked the mineral with better insulin and blood sugar responses, and Brazil nuts are rich in selenium.

However, the researchers caution that because only 9 percent of participants were men, the study's findings may not apply to all.

"Our study allows researchers and clinicians to consider the possible beneficial role of Brazil nuts to help people feel full and maintain a healthy level of glucose, reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes."

Mee Young Hong, Ph.D.

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It may only take one energy drink to harm your blood vessels

Is it safe to consume energy drinks in any quantity? From students pulling all-nighters to fitness enthusiasts, many people use these boosters, but a new study suggests that a single energy drink could immediately harm blood vessel function.
colorful energy drink
How do energy drinks affect vascular health? A new study investigates.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), energy drinks are among the most commonly used dietary supplements in the United States.

The NCCIH note, specifically, that men "between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks," and that "almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly."

Because they contain high levels of caffeine, taurine, and other stimulating substances, the safety of energy drinks has always been the subject of intense debate.

For instance, the authors of one study covered by Medical News Today expressed concerns that energy drinks may act as a gateway for illicit drug use. Other research indicates that having too many energy drinks may cause liver damage.

Mostly, however, researchers have been concerned about the impact of energy drinks on cardiovascular health. Reportedly, having more than two such drinks per day may endanger the heart.

Now, specialists from the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston are preparing to present evidence that a single energy drink may have serious negative effects on blood vessel function.

Dr. John Higgins and colleagues are due to present their findings next week at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2018, which will be held in Chicago, IL. During the 3-day summit, specialists will present the latest findings and advances related to cardiovascular health and care.

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The study included 44 young, healthy participants. All were medical students in their 20s who did not habitually smoke.

The researchers tested the participants' endothelial (blood vessel) function at baseline, to establish how energy drinks would affect it.

The participants then each had a 24-ounce energy drink. Ninety minutes later, the researchers again performed the endothelial function tests.

At the 90-minute mark, the tests showed that the students had poorer artery flow-mediated dilation than they had before consuming the energy drinks.

Artery flow-mediated dilation indicates blood vessel health. At baseline, it was about 5.1 percent in diameter, on average.

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Following energy drink consumption, this measurement fell to 2.8 percent in diameter. The researchers explain that this indicates acute impairment of blood vessel function.

The authors of the study speculate that the impairment of vascular function may result from a combination of substances typically used in energy drinks, including caffeine, taurine, sugar, and herbal stimulants.

Dr. Higgins and his team explain that it is still unclear whether energy drinks are safe to consume, and in what quantities. They add:

"As energy drinks are becoming more and more popular, it is important to study the effects of these drinks on those who frequently drink them and better determine what, if any, is a safe consumption pattern."

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Can cottonseed oil help lower your 'bad' cholesterol?

High levels of cholesterol can be harmful, and they can increase a person's risk of serious cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke. A high-fat diet can contribute to raised cholesterol levels, but some researchers say that ingesting a specific type of oil may prevent this negative effect.
vial with cottonseed oil
A new study compares the effects of cottonseed oil and olive oil on cholesterol levels.

Generally speaking, there are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as "good" cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which people describe as "bad" cholesterol.

Healthcare professionals often refer to LDL cholesterol as "bad" because the overaccumulation of this fatty substance can interfere with blood circulation and increase a person's risk of heart attack or stroke.

Conversely, they tend to say that HDL cholesterol is "good" because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the body. It does this by taking the LDL cholesterol to the liver, which will break it down and process the resulting waste.

In order to prevent LDL cholesterol from reaching high levels in the blood, specialists advise people to adhere to diets that promote high HDL and low LDL cholesterol.

However, researchers from the University of Georgia in Athens have found that adding cottonseed oil to a high-fat diet can actually decrease a person's LDL cholesterol levels.

The study paper reporting these results appears in the journal Nutrition Research.

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Pitting cottonseed oil against olive oil

The researchers worked with a group of 15 male participants aged 18–45 who were within healthy weight ranges. They asked the participants to follow one of two versions of a high-fat diet, each of which included a particular component.

In one version of the diet, the researchers used olive oil to enrich the meals. In the other, they used cottonseed oil instead. All of the participants adhered to their assigned diet for a period of 5 days.

After comparing the effects of the two diet regimens on the participants, the investigators found that those who had followed the cottonseed oil-enriched diet had lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Conversely, the participants who had followed the olive oil-enriched diet saw no significant changes.

"One of the reasons these results were so surprising is because of the magnitude of change observed with the cottonseed oil diet," says study author Jamie Cooper, an associate professor at the University of Georgia.

"To see this amount of change in such a short period of time is exciting," she adds.

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Effects on LDL vs. HDL cholesterol levels

The individuals on the cottonseed oil-enriched diet saw, on average, a decrease of approximately 8 percent in total cholesterol levels. Their LDL cholesterol levels decreased by 15 percent on average, and their triglyceride levels decreased by 30 percent.

As for the levels of HDL cholesterol, these actually increased by about 8 percent for individuals on the cottonseed oil-enriched diet.

The researchers speculate that a specific type of fatty acid called dihydrosterculic acid, which is present in cottonseed oil but not in olive oil, may prevent triglyceride accumulation.

"By doing that," Cooper explains, "it pushes the body to burn more of that fat because it can't store it properly, so you have less lipid and cholesterol accumulation."

Cooper also suggests that the polyunsatured fats and omega-6 that are abundant in cottonseed oil may have beneficial effects.

The authors explain that several sponsors — including the nonprofit company Cotton Incorporated, the University of Georgia Clinical and Translational Research Unit, and the Augusta University and University of Georgia Medical Partnership — financially supported the recent study.

In the future, the investigators aim to learn more about the effects of cottonseed oil on health by recruiting older participants who already have high cholesterol levels and extending the dietary intervention period.

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