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Health & Wellness

Federal Panel Recommends Screening all Adults for Obesity

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As everyone awaits for the Supreme Court’s decision on Obama’s healthcare law, the federal health advisory panel, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said that doctors should screen the weight and height for all patients to determine if they are obese.

Though the move could significantly increase insurance coverage of weight loss treatments, the recommendation is part of the effort to combat the obesity epidemic in the country. According to the statistics posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the obesity rate in the United States. Even more alarming is the fact that even child obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades.

Obesity puts a person at greater risk of acquiring several health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer – some of the leading causes of death. People with a body mass index of 30 or above are already considered obese.

Susan Curry, a member of the task force and dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health in Iowa City, said “The good news is that even what you might consider to be modest rather than radical weight loss has tremendous health benefits, including lowering diabetes risk and blood pressure.”

The U.S. government-backed panel also recommends that screened patients should be referred to intensive diet and exercise programs if necessary. Curry adds that effective weight loss programs include both nutrition and exercise support.

Following a review of the medical literature, the task force concluded that intensive behavioral programs with at least 12 sessions typically helped people lose between nine and 15 pounds, or about 6 percent of their original weight.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

New Blood Pressure Guidelines in England and Wales

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England and Wales have revised their blood pressure guidelines, which will recommend home-based extra checks for patients with high blood pressure, through a mobile device that records blood pressure over a 24-hour period, based on advice from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The rationale behind this recommendation is the fact that 25 percent of patients may have what was termed as “white coat” hypertension, which essentially means a temporary increase in blood pressure due to stress. These patients may find visiting a GP stressful, thereby increasing their blood pressure temporarily. This may, in turn, lead to misdiagnosis, and the unnecessary dispensing of prescriptions.

An estimated 25 percent of adults in the UK are said to suffer from high blood pressure, defined as having a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or more. Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and the National Health Service (NHS) spends about £1 billion annually on drugs alone.

In order to address the issue, NICE is advising doctors in England and Wales to move towards “ambulatory,” home-based monitoring of blood pressure. This will be accomplished through a device that automatically reads a patient’s blood pressure every half hour, day and night.

The recommendation, according to predictions, may lead to savings of up to £10.5M annually for the NHS.

Professor Richard McManus of the University of Birmingham, one of the authors of the study, said: “This research shows that ambulatory blood pressure monitoring at the time of diagnosis of high blood pressure would allow better targeting of treatment and is cost-saving… Treatment with blood pressure lowering medication is usually lifelong and so it is worth getting the decision to start right in the first place.”

Health & Wellness

Regular Consumption of Sugary Drinks Linked to High Blood Pressure

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If you are among those who have a penchant for sodas and other sugary drinks, you may be in for more than just high blood sugar and cavity-prone teeth;  you may also end up suffering an increase in blood pressure.

sugary drinksAccording to a feature on the Los Angeles Times, a study published in the journal Hypertension found a link between the regular consumption of sugary drinks and a rise in blood pressure. This was determined by the INTERMAP (International study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure) study, which conducted an analysis of data from 2,696 middle-aged adults in the United States and the U.K. The blood pressure of the study participants was taken on several occasions, and urine analysis samples were taken for two 24-hour periods. The participants were also asked about their diet in the previous 24 hours.

Ian Brown of Imperial College London and colleagues reported that an extra serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage daily led to a rise in systolic blood pressure of 1.6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and an elevation of diastolic blood pressure  by 0.8 mm Hg higher blood pressure readings.

The opposite relationship, however, was observed for diet drinks.

What may be the reason for this link? There are animal studies, as well as a few clinical trials, that indicate that extra glucose and fructose have an effect on blood pressure. In the case of fructose, scientists gave the following explanation, as shared on the feature: “Fructose is ultimately metabolized to uric acid, which can cause the body to reduce blood levels of nitric oxide.” Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate; if the body has less of it, then blood pressure may rise.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Your Desk Job May Be Hurting Your Heart

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A study further solidifies the need for people to get moving, as shared in a feature on Time.com.

A study led by Genevieve Healy, a research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia, revealed that sitting for long periods of time without moving is not good for the heart. It is the first study of its kind to look into the heart health consequences of prolonged sitting, according to Time.

desk jobThe research gathered and analyzed data from more than 4, 700 participants, who were part of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, between 2003 and 2006. The intensity of physical activity done by the participants was measured through accelerometers, which were worn 14.6 hours a day for seven days. The waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and C-reactive protein concentrations of the participants were measured, in order to assess heart health. For a certain group of participants, diabetes markers (triglyceride levels, plasma glucose, and insulin) were also measured.

The results of the study showed that prolonged sedentary periods resulted in larger waist sizes and higher levels of blood fats, despite the fact that these same participants engaged in rigorous physical activities outside of the hours when they were sedentary. The people who fared well were those who exercised regularly, while at the same time taking breaks at regular intervals during normal desk-strapped day, to stand or take a walk.

Dr. Healy said the following in a statement: “Our research showed that even small changes, which could be as little as standing up for one minute, might help to lower this health risk… It is likely that regular breaks in prolonged sitting time could be readily incorporated into the working environment without any detrimental impact on productivity, although this still needs to be determined by further research. ‘Stand up, move more, more often’ could be used as a slogan to get this message across.”

Early Disease Detection

Awareness Among Those Suffering from Hypertension Increases

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A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed relatively good news in terms of high blood pressure awareness. According to a feature on WebMD, the CDC report shared that more people who are suffering from high blood pressure know that they have the condition.

hypertensionThe percentage of Americans who are aware that they are suffering from high blood pressure has increased to 80.6% in 2007-2008, from 69.6% in 1999-2000. This increase is accompanied by an increase in the percentage of people who are taking medications for the conditions, which went up to 73.7% in 2007-2008, from 60.2% in 1999-2000.

Researchers have attributed findings that indicated an increase in the percentage of people whose high blood pressure was controlled in the past decade to this apparent increase in awareness.

Nieca Goldberg, M.D., director of the Women’s Heart Program and clinical associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, shared the following of the report from the CDC: “We are now seeing more people being treated with medication, particularly younger people. There has to be a greater effort to impress healthy lifestyles on young people because long standing hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke and heart failure.”

The report signifies that efforts towards increasing public awareness in hypertension seem to be working. Despite the increase in awareness, however, the incidence of hypertension among adults has held steady over the past decade. This is true for men and women, all adult age groups, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican-Americans.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Blood Pressure Medication May Increase Cancer Risk

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A study published Monday in the medical journal Lancet Oncology indicates that a certain class of blood pressure medicine may increase cancer risk, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Dr. Ilke Sipahi, lead author of the study and associate director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, shared: “The risk for the individual patient is modest, however, when you look at it from the population level, millions and millions of people are on these drugs and it can cause a lot of excess cancer worldwide.”

high blood pressureThe study involved an analysis of five previous studies on about 60,000 patients. The researchers indentified a link between patients taking medication known as angiotensin-receptor blockers or ARBs and cancer. ARBs are prescribed to patients worldwide in the management of high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetic kidney disease.

Results of the analysis indicate that patients on ARBs had a higher risk of about 1 percent of developing cancer when compared to patients who are not taking the medication. The types of cancers mentioned were cancers of the prostate, breast and lungs. About 85 percent of patients on ARBs were on Micardis (termisartan), manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim Corp.

The results of the study do not necessarily mean that these patients should give up taking ARBs altogether, at least not until they have gone to their respective physicians for a consultation. It should, however, prompt regulatory agencies to take a closer look at these drugs, as expressed by Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen in an accompanying commentary in the Lancet Oncology.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Cut Back on Sodas to Lower Blood Pressure

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The results of a study conducted by Dr. Liwei Chen of the Louisiana State University Health Science Center reveal that blood pressure may be lowered through the reduction of intake of sugary drinks, the foremost example of which will be a soda. The findings were published in the journal Circulation.

soda cansThe American Heart Association has identified sugar – something that soda pop certainly delivers a lot of – as a contributory factor not just to obesity but to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There are states that have responded by placing a tax on sweetened soft drinks in order to help pay for the treatment of diseases related to obesity.

Chen worked with a team to look into the effect of sugar intake on blood pressure. They gathered data on more than eight hundred adults between the ages of 25 and 79 who had borderline high blood pressure and stage I hypertension. The test population was initially asked to drink 10.5 ounces – or 310 ml – of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup-sweetened drinks such as soft drinks and lemonade. This was then reduced to half a serving by the end of 18 months.

After the reduction of the average consumption of sweetened beverages by half, the researchers observed that both the systolic and diastolic blood pressures had fallen significantly.

Chen shared that American adults drink, on average, 2.3 servings of sugar-sweetened drinks daily. This translates to 28 ounces or 828 ml. Reducing this intake by half will help reduce blood pressure.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Processed Meats Can Lead to Increased Health Risk

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Be wary of that hotdog sandwich with everything on it and bacon-all-you-want meals on breakfast buffets, eating these processed meats regularly can be a one-way ticket to heart disease and diabetes. This is what a study conducted by Renata Micha of the Harvard School of Public Health and her colleagues revealed.

processed foodsOn the list are bacon, salami, sausages and hotdogs; basically, anything behind the deli counter that has undergone some sort of processing – smoking, curing, salting and the addition of chemical preservatives – are suspect, according to Micha. The researchers are pointing to salt and chemical preservatives contained in processed meats as the reason for the increased risk for the two previously-mentioned health conditions.

The study focused solely on heart disease and diabetes; it did not look at high blood pressure or cancer, conditions that are also linked to meat consumption. The study of Micha and her colleagues is called a meta-analysis, the term used to refer to an analysis of other researches.

Intake of unprocessed meat – whether it is beef, pork or lamb – did not seem to lead to an increase in risk for heart attack and diabetes, the researchers found.

The recommended diet normally calls for reduced meat intake. Based on the findings of the study, those who eat one serving or less of processed meats per week have less risk. Those who ate only unprocessed red meat did not have higher heart attack or diabetes risk.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Foods to Help Manage High Blood Pressure

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Having a high blood pressure is a major bummer for most food enthusiasts out there. People with high blood pressure need to watch what they eat all the time. To help out, here are foods recommended for those with high BPs:

boiled broccoliGarlic

Garlic is known as a home remedy for people with high blood pressure. Either chewed or introduced to your meal, garlic is an effective supplement that helps lower and manage blood pressure. Garlic helps with thinning the blood and prevents blood vessels from clogging or tightening.

Spinach

Spinach is a very healthy vegetable that is rich in magnesium and folate. Just remember that overcooking often makes spinach lose some nutrients and vitamins. Take advantage of the nutritional effects of spinach, just like Popeye does!

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a very healthy source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C and E. It is also a great source of lycopene, which is known to lower the risks of heart disease. Its antioxidants help prevent LDL cholesterol from sticking to the walls of the blood vessels, which in turn prevents the raising of blood pressure. Drinking tomato juice or making your own natural tomato sauce for dishes are great ways of enjoying tomatoes.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a great source of potassium and chromium, which act as a regulators for blood sugar and insulin. To maintain its levels of nutrients, it is important that the broccoli is not overcooked. You may place broccoli in a pan with small amounts of water to help with the retention of vitamins and other nutrients.

Early Disease Detection

Hypertension: A Neglected Disease

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High blood pressure is a condition that we have talked about a number of times in previous posts, but apparently, as a country, there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of efforts towards preventing it.

According to a feature on Reuters, a report released by the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academy of Science, indicated that more should be done to fight high blood pressure. To do that, a panel of health scientists and officials is calling on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help Americans eat better and urge physicians to treat the condition “more aggressively.”

blood pressureCommittee chair David Fleming, director for Public Health for Seattle and King County in Washington, revealed the following in a phone interview: “Hypertension as a disease is relatively easy to diagnose and it’s inexpensive to treat. Yet despite that, one in six deaths in the United States is due to hypertension, and it costs our health care system $73 billion each year in expenses. In that context, hypertension is really a neglected disease in this country. There’s a huge gap between what we could do and what we are doing.”

Among the things that could be done is to encourage Americans to cut back on salt intake, sticking to the recommended maximum intake of 2,300 mg a day. It is also advisable to help obese Americans to lose ten pounds, which will effectively cut high blood pressure rates for the entire population by up to 8 percent.

Another issue highlighted in the report is the fact that 86% of people who have high blood pressure are covered with health insurance and see their doctors regularly. The gap is that there are doctors who “fail to follow guidelines,” which is being singled out as the reason why some patients do not even know that they have the condition.

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