High Blood Pressure During and After Exercise May Be Markers for Disease Later in Life

Higher blood pressure during exercise and delayed blood pressure recovery after exercise are associated with a higher risk of hypertension, preclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease and death among middle-aged to older adults.

Blood pressure responses to exercise are significant markers of cardiovascular disease and mortality risk in young to middle-aged adults. However, few studies have examined the associations of midlife blood pressure responses to submaximal (less than the maximum of which an individual is capable) exercise with the risk of cardiovascular outcomes and mortality in later life.

BUSM researchers evaluated the association of blood pressure changes and recovery with indicators of preclinical disease among participants from the Framingham Heart Study (average age 58 years, 53 percent women). They then followed these participants to assess whether these blood pressure changes were associated with the risk of developing hypertension, cardiovascular disease or dying.

They observed that both higher exercise systolic blood pressure (SBP) and exercise diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were associated with a greater risk of developing hypertension. Additionally, both delayed SBP and DBP recovery after exercise were associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

“The way our blood pressure changes during and after exercise provides important information on whether we will develop disease in the future; this may help investigators evaluate whether this information can be used to better identify people who are at higher risk of developing hypertension and CVD, or dying later in life,” explained corresponding author Vanessa Xanthakis, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics and an Investigator for the Framingham Heart Study.

Dr. Xanthakis recommends that people know their blood pressure numbers, speak to their physician regarding changes during and after exercise and follow a healthy lifestyle (including a regular physical activity schedule) to help lower risk of disease later in life.

These finding appear online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Source: Boston University School of Medicine

Vegans Outperform Omnivores in Endurance Tests

Katelyn Thomas wrote . . . . . . . . .

Despite routine questions about where they get their protein from, a new study by Montreal researchers suggests vegans have higher endurance levels than omnivores.

In a world where many believe the consumption of animal products is synonymous with strength, researchers from l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) set off to find out if the vegan diet is as detrimental to muscle strength and endurance as society makes it seem.

“It’s a popular belief, and I don’t believe in this, and this is why we decided to do the study,” said Guy Hajj Boutros, a lecturer at UQAM and researcher at McGill University who co-authored the study, in an interview with CTV News. Hajj Boutros has a master’s degree in exercise physiology.

“We saw that there aren’t a lot of studies done on this topic,” Hajj Boutros said. “If there are, they’re done more on vegetarians. They didn’t focus on vegan diets.”

The researchers noted veganism’s recent rise in popularity, given the evidence of a decrease in cardiovascular diseases among vegan folks.

“Still, in the general population, there is a popular belief that a vegan diet may be associated with a lower exercise performance in vegan individuals due to the lack of certain nutrients such as protein, creatine, vitamin B12 and vitamin D,” reads the study, published in the Nature Research Journal at the beginning of April.

The study found that in young, physically-active women, being vegan is not detrimental to muscle strength or endurance – in fact, when it comes to the latter, it’s better.

The researchers had 28 women who have been vegan for least two years and 28 omnivore women with similar body composition perform strength tests and endurance tests after asking them to log their meals for a period of three days.

Hajj Boutros said they decided to use these tests because they’re easy to perform and “can define strength and endurance, which is very important to measure performance in general.”

One of the endurance tests is designed to see how long the person can keep going before they have to stop.

“It’s a fatigue test,” Hajj Boutros said. “And the vegans actually performed better.”

The reason vegans performed better could be because of their intake of carbohydrates, Hajj Boutros said.

“When you eat more carbohydrates, you’re actually increasing the amount of sugar in the muscle. When you increase this, you have better endurance capacity.”

Hajj Boutros said that despite popular belief, vegans actually do get all the nutrients they need to be healthy – and protein intake isn’t a problem.

“You have to understand that you don’t need a lot of protein as everyone is saying,” he said, noting that while it is important, people tend to exaggerate. “In general, people eat a lot more protein than they need.”

When people ask for advice regarding their diets – like whether or not they should be vegan, or if they should be eating eggs – Hajj Boutros says the choice is ultimately theirs.

“Just do something that makes you feel better,” he said. “And if you try (being vegan) and it makes you feel better, then do it.”

Source: CTV

Get Moving, Seniors: It’s Good For Your Brain

Want to give your brain a boost? Go for a swim, take a walk, or spin your partner on the living room floor.

A new study finds that aerobic exercise can improve older adults’ thinking and memory, even if they’re longtime couch potatoes.

This type of exercise increases blood flow to the brain and counters the effects of normal aging, according to the study published online May 13 in the journal Neurology.

“As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise program later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense,” said study author Marc Poulin, of the University of Calgary School of Medicine in Canada.

“Sure, aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body. As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our finding may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease,” Poulin said in a journal news release.

The study included 206 adults, average age 66, with no history of memory or heart problems.

For six months, they took part in supervised exercise program three times a week. As they progressed, their workout increased from an average 20 minutes a day to least 40 minutes. They were also asked to work out on their own once a week.

At the end of the exercise program, participants had a 5.7% improvement on tests of executive function, which includes mental abilities used to focus, plan, recall instructions and multi-task. They also had 2.4% increase in verbal fluency, a measure of how quickly a person can retrieve information.

“This change in verbal fluency is what you’d expect to see in someone five years younger,” Poulin said.

On average, blood flow to their brain increased 2.8% — a gain tied to a number of improvements in types of thinking that typically decline with age.

“Our study showed that six months’ worth of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve your verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness,” Poulin said.

“At a time when these results would be expected to be decreasing due to normal aging, to have these types of increases is exciting,” he said.

Source: HealthDay

Today’s Comic

Strenuous Exercise Safe for People at High Risk of Knee Arthritis

People at high risk for knee osteoarthritis (OA) may be nervous and reluctant to participate in strenuous physical activities such as jogging, cycling, singles tennis and skiing. But a new Northwestern Medicine study that followed high-risk individuals for 10 years showed vigorous exercise did not increase their risk of developing OA and may even protect them from it.

“Our study findings convey a reassuring message that adults at high risk for knee OA may safely engage in long-term strenuous physical activity at a moderate level to improve their general health and well-being,” said Alison Chang, associate professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder in the United States, affecting an estimated 32.5 million adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The knee is the most commonly affected joint. The lifetime risk of developing symptomatic, radiographic knee OA (as diagnosed on an x-ray) is approximately 38% to 45%. The estimated median age of diagnosis is 55 years.

In this observational study of 1,194 persons at high risk for but without radiographic evidence of knee OA who were followed for up to 10 years, long-term participation in strenuous physical activities was not associated with risk of developing radiographic knee OA. In fact, the vigorously exercising individuals in the study were 30% less likely to develop OA, although the number was not considered statistically significant.

The activities included jogging, swimming, cycling, singles tennis, aerobic dance and skiing. Persistent extensive sitting was not associated with either elevated or reduced risk.

Excessive body weight, history of joint injury or surgery, aging and chronic knee symptoms place an individual at elevated risk for developing knee OA. Although regular physical activity and exercise provide multiple health benefits, uncertainty about whether vigorous physical activity participation could cause pain and further tissue damage is a common concern. The researchers’ analysis showed nearly 50% of the adults at high risk for this disease did not engage in any strenuous physical activity over eight years.

“People suffering from knee injuries or who had arthroscopic surgical repair of ACL or meniscus are often warned that they are well on the path to develop knee OA,” Chang said. “They may be concerned that participating in vigorous activities or exercises could cause pain and further tissue damage. To mitigate this perceived risk, some have cut down or discontinue strenuous physical activities, although these activities are beneficial to physical and mental health.”

How the study worked:

The study analyzed data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a longitudinal observational study of men and women (age range: 45 to 79 years) with or at an increased risk of developing knee OA, recruited from four communities in the U.S. At the study onset and subsequent visits for up to 10 years of follow-up, the participants received X-rays for both knees to determine knee OA disease status and reported their weekly strenuous physical activity participation and sitting patterns.

In 1,194 participants who had no knee OA confirmed by X-ray at the study onset, researchers identified four distinct long-term trajectory patterns of strenuous physical activity participation and three distinct trajectory patterns of extensive sitting over an 8-year period. They then examined if long-term engagement of strenuous physical activity or extensive sitting behavior were each associated with risk of developing knee OA.

“Adults at high risk for knee OA may safely engage in long-term strenuous physical activity at a moderate level,” Chang said. “Health care providers may consider incorporating physical activity counselling as part of the standard care for high-risk individuals at an early stage when physical activity engagement is more attainable.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Today’s Comic

Gentle Yoga May Deliver Migraine Relief

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

People suffering from regular migraines despite medication might consider investing in a yoga mat.

That’s according to a new trial that tested the effects of a gentle yoga practice — with slow-paced physical postures, breathing exercises and relaxation. Researchers found that people who added the practice to their usual migraine medication suffered about half as many headache attacks as they normally did.

In contrast, study patients who stuck with medication alone saw only a small decline in migraine flare-ups.

The findings appear in the online issue of the journal Neurology.

Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have migraine headaches, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. For people who suffer frequent episodes, there are medications that can help prevent them. But it may not be enough.

“The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone,” lead researcher Dr. Rohit Bhatia, a neurologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, said in a journal news release. “And all you need is a mat.”

Instruction helps, too, however. In this study, migraine patients first had classes with a yoga teacher three times a week for one month. After that, they practiced at home with a manual for another two months.

By that three-month mark, their average headache frequency had dropped. They also felt their migraines were less disruptive to their daily lives, based on a standard rating scale.

Migraines cause episodes of intense head pain, along with symptoms like nausea, visual disturbances and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people need to take preventive medication, but lifestyle choices — including sufficient sleep, regular meals and exercise — are always key, experts said.

“Physical exercise is one important part of migraine management,” said Dr. Rachel Colman, an assistant professor of neurology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

But a problem for some people is that higher-impact exercise, like running, can be a migraine trigger, said Colman, who was not involved in the study.

So yoga may offer a lower-impact way to be active, she said.

Beyond physical exercise, yoga includes other ways to practice “mindfulness” — such as breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditation.

And research shows that in general, mindfulness practices can support the parasympathetic nervous system, said Dr. Cynthia Armand, a neurologist at the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.

That’s the “rest and digest” arm of the nervous system, explained Armand, who was not involved in the study. It puts the brakes on the sympathetic nervous system — which governs “fight or flight” and its accompanying surge in stress hormones.

For the study, Bhatia’s team recruited 160 adult patients in India with episodic migraines — meaning between four and 14 a month. Most were taking preventive medication, mainly certain blood pressure drugs or antidepressants.

The researchers randomly assigned half to add yoga to their usual medications; all patients were given lifestyle advice.

After three months, people in the yoga group were having 48% fewer migraine episodes — dropping from an average of nine a month, to just under five. There was little change in the comparison group, who went from an average of just under eight migraines a month, to just shy of seven.

Armand and Colman called the results promising.

“I think people can be encouraged by this, and consider adding yoga to their standard care,” Colman said.

An important point, Armand said, is that it appeared safe. No study participants reported suffering headaches or nausea during their yoga practice.

A caution, though, is that yoga exists in many different styles. The practice in this study consisted of gentler poses and plenty of breath work and relaxation — not the fast-paced and strenuous styles offered in many real-world classes.

Colman recommended people with migraines avoid “hot yoga,” which is practiced in heated rooms, since dehydration is a major trigger of headaches.

Armand agreed on that point, and said that in general, it’s wise to know what kind of yoga you’re getting into beforehand.

“You want to make sure you’re at the right place, with the right instruction,” she said.

Source: HealthDay