Study: Lots of Sugary Drinks Doubles Younger Women’s Colon Cancer Risk

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Rates of colon cancer among young Americans are on the rise, and a new study suggests that drinking too many sugary beverages may be to blame — at least for women.

Women who drank two or more sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, fruity drinks or sports and energy drinks per day had double the risk of developing colon cancer before the age of 50, compared to women who consumed one or fewer sugary drinks per week.

“On top of the well-known adverse metabolic and health consequences of sugar-sweetened beverages, our findings have added another reason to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages,” said study author Yin Cao, an associate professor of surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study included more than 95,000 women from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II. The nurses were aged 25 through 42 when the study began in 1989 and provided information on their diet every four years for nearly 25 years.

Of these, 41,272 reported on what, and how much, they drank in their teen years. During 24 years of follow-up, 109 women developed colon cancer before turning 50.

Having a higher intake of sugar-sweetened drinks in adulthood was associated with a higher risk of the disease, even after researchers controlled for other factors that may affect colon cancer risk such as a family history. This risk was even greater when women consumed sodas and other sugary drinks during their teen years.

Each daily serving in adulthood was associated with a 16% higher risk of colon cancer, but when women were aged 13 to 18, each drink was linked to a 32% increased risk of developing colon cancer before 50, the study found.

But substituting sugar-sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened beverages, coffee or milk was associated with a 17% to 36% lower risk of developing colon cancer before age of 50, the study found.

“Reducing sugar-sweetened beverage intake and/or replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with other healthier beverages would be a better and wiser choice for long-term health,” Cao said.

The new study was not designed to say how, or even if, drinking sugary beverages causes colon cancer risk to rise, but some theories exist. People who consume sugary beverages are more likely to be overweight or obese and have type 2 diabetes, all of which can up risk for early-onset colon cancer. The high-fructose corn syrup in these drinks may also promote the development of colon cancer in its own right, Cao said.

The research does have its share of limitations. Participants were predominantly white women, and as a result, the findings may not apply to men or women of other ethnicities.

The study was published online in the journal Gut.

Researchers not involved with the new study are quick to point out that only an association was seen, and that more data is needed to draw any definitive conclusions about the role that sugary drinks play in promoting early-onset colon cancer.

“Clearly more research is needed before we can give this a stamp of approval and say with confidence that this association is actually causation,” said Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based gastroenterologist. “No one thinks sugar-sweetened beverages are health-promoting [and] you should reduce your sugar-sweetened beverage intake as much as possible.”

Dr. Patricio Polanco, an assistant professor in the division of surgical oncology in the department of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, agreed.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages cause a bunch of other conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and now we have more data that they could be related to colon cancer, too,” Polanco said.

Exactly why colon cancer is on the rise in younger people is not fully understood. Lifestyle factors such as higher rates of obesity and possibly greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may play a role. “We still believe there may be some genetic contribution that has not yet been characterized,” he said.

The best way to protect yourself from colon cancer is to undergo regular screening, Polanco stressed.

Due to the rise in colon cancer in young people, the American Cancer Society now recommends regular screening at age 45 for people at average risk for the disease.

Source: HealthDay

5 Critical Steps to Help Prevent a Stroke

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

If there’s one good thing that can be said of strokes, it’s this: The vast majority of them don’t need to happen.

Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes and working with health care practitioners to control stroke risk factors. Researchers have identified numerous steps people can take to lower stroke risk, but health experts agree, trying to do them all at once can feel overwhelming.

“The biggest mistake people make is they are overly ambitious, and then they fail and give up,” said Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, a Canadian neurologist and global expert in the field of stroke. “You have to start small.”

The rewards are enormous, said Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, a neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s “not just for preventing stroke, but for preventing dementia as well. You can do the same things to prevent both. You are killing two birds with one stone.”

Here are five ways to get started on the road to prevention.

If you smoke, quit

Studies show that for every five cigarettes a person smokes each day, the risk of having a stroke goes up by 12%. For Black adults, smoking cigarettes more than doubles the risk of stroke compared to never smoking, a 2020 study found.

“People understand that smoking causes lung cancer, but they don’t understand it also damages the brain and blood vessels,” Bushnell said. “In terms of stroke prevention, quitting smoking is the lowest hanging fruit.”

Move more

More active men and women have a 25%-30% lower risk of stroke than those who are least active. Physical activity has been shown to lower cholesterol, help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure – all factors that can reduce stroke risk.

“The evidence for physical activity is undeniable,” said Bushnell, who co-authored a 2014 statement from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association on stroke prevention. “Even just moving around for 10 minutes every hour is better than sitting for an extended period of time. You don’t have to run a 5K.”

Hachinski placed exercise among the top three things a person could do to lower stroke risk – and agrees it needn’t be overly ambitious. “The worst thing that can happen is to sit all day. Walking is the best exercise there is. Get up and walk around.”

Keep blood pressure under control

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is the leading cause of strokes. Half of all men – 52% – and 43% of women in the U.S. have blood pressure that is too high, according to AHA statistics. While it can be controlled through lifestyle changes or by taking medication, only about 1 in 5 adults keep it properly managed. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and eating an unhealthy diet can push blood pressure out of the healthy range.

At-home monitoring and regular communication with doctors to make sure medications are working are important to keep high blood pressure in check, Bushnell said.

“People have to keep track of their own blood pressure,” she said. “They have to know what their numbers are, know their medications and how to take them.”

Eat a healthy diet

“One of the most subtle things that happens to people as they get older is they put on weight,” Hachinski said.

Being careful to choose healthy foods can minimize weight gain, he said. But there’s value to making healthier food choices regardless of weight.

“Nutrition is more important than weight loss,” agreed Bushnell. “There are multiple diets shown to decrease the risk of stroke,” such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets. Both emphasize eating a lot of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish and nuts, while cutting back on foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fats.

Start early

Strokes happen to young people, too. About 10%-15% of all strokes occur in adults age 50 or under. Recent research shows Black young adults have up to four times the risk as their white peers.

And recent research shows the same factors that cause strokes in older adults – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes – are causing strokes in younger adults.

“You don’t think about disease when you are young,” Hachinski said. But that’s when good habits should start.

Hachinski recommends people start monitoring their blood pressure, cholesterol, lipids and blood sugar levels as soon as they transition from a pediatrician to a primary care physician as a young adult. “If you’re going off to college or leaving home, your habits will change at this time. You begin eating on your own. This is a good time to think about how to prevent disease.”

Other life transitions – such as moving in with a partner – should also be triggers for checking health metrics, he said. “It’s a good time to take inventory, because it’s when habits will change.”

It doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, Hachinski said. Focus on just one thing to get started. “Identify the most important thing you are lacking,” he said. “Is it exercise? Are you snacking too much?”

Set a specific and measurable goal, he said, and then break it into parts and stick to it until you reach it. Having a partner can help maintain motivation, as long as that person has healthy habits. “If you can get someone to do it with you, you double your chances for success.”

Source: American Heart Association

New Drug Shows Promise Against Tough-to-Manage Asthma

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

An experimental injectable drug appears more versatile than existing medications in treating people with different forms of severe, hard-to-control asthma, clinical trial results show.

There are many different types of asthma brought on by many different triggers, and a number of monoclonal antibody medications — called “biologics” — have been crafted to target distinct asthma triggers.

This new drug, tezepelumab, is yet another monoclonal antibody, but it targets an inflammatory protein thought to play an early role in many different types of asthma, said researcher Dr. Andrew Menzies-Gow, director of the lung division at Royal Brompton Hospital in London, England.

A phase 3 clinical trial found that tezepelumab is effective in quelling severe asthma among patients who had widely varying causes of their shortness of breath, according to a report published May 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Phase 3 is the final stage required for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

“Managing severe asthma is challenging, with multiple inflammatory pathways often contributing to the complexity of a patient’s disease,” Menzies-Gow said. He added that the results of this clinical trial “underscore the potential of tezepelumab to transform treatment for a broad population of severe asthma patients, regardless of their type of inflammation.”

For example, patients benefited from the drug whether or not they suffer seasonal allergies, the results showed.

Asthma is a common lung problem. Between 5% and 10% of people with asthma suffer from severe symptoms and frequent asthma attacks even though they are on the maximum available treatment, Menzies-Gow said.

Tezepelumab blocks a protein called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) that promotes multiple inflammatory processes that have all been linked to asthma attacks, the study authors said in background notes.

The researchers tested tezepelumab in more than 1,000 people, with about half randomly assigned to receive an inactive placebo and the other half receiving monthly 210 mg injections of the drug.

The trial participants were chosen to reflect the different causes of severe asthma. For example, about half had elevated levels of eosinophil, a type of white blood cell that promotes swelling throughout the entire respiratory system rather than just the airways.

Dr. James Li, an allergist-immunologist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who was not involved with the research, said, “In this particular study, the subjects had to have had two asthma exacerbations in the previous 12 months — so, uncontrolled asthma. It’s for the worst cases, so to speak.”

After a year’s treatment, patients on tezepelumab experienced fewer asthma attacks and better lung function, asthma control, and health-related quality of life than those on placebo, the researchers reported.

Further, the patients improved regardless of the specific problem causing their asthma:

People with a low eosinophil count had a 41% reduced rate of asthma attacks, while those with a high count had a 70% reduction.
People affected by seasonal allergies had a 58% reduction in asthma attacks, while asthmatics not sensitive to allergens had a 51% reduction.
“The current biologic treatments that we have are used in subsets of severe asthma,” Li said. “This particular medication showed effectiveness regardless of eosinophil count or allergy status.”

This drug will add to the arsenal of biologic drugs available to treat people with severe asthma, said Dr. Richard Lockey, an allergy specialist in Tampa, Fla., and past president of the World Allergy Organization.

“Most of the drugs that we already have available show this kind of efficacy, but this may interfere with more inflammatory pathways,” Lockey said, saying it could prove the first choice in treating some forms of asthma and a back-up option for others.

Tezepelumab also proved safe, with no significant side effects, the experts noted.

The FDA granted tezepelumab its Breakthrough Therapy Designation in 2018, which is intended to expedite the development and regulatory review of promising new drugs.

Source: HealthDay

5 Things to Know About Blood Pressure Before It’s a Problem

Michael Merschel wrote . . . . . . . . .

Blood pressure is more than just numbers your doctor writes on a chart.

To explain it, Dr. Shawna Nesbitt, medical director of the Hypertension Clinic at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, talks about plumbing.

Think of blood vessels as pipes in a house, she said. Those pipes feed blood to the whole body. If the pressure in them gets too high, it can damage the pipes or whatever they connect to – such as the heart, brain or kidneys.

“Controlling it doesn’t just matter to one of those organs. It matters to all of those organs,” said Nesbitt, also a professor of medicine and associate dean of student diversity and inclusion at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

In other words – high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a big deal. Here are five things you might not know about it.

You should start thinking about it before you have it.

Blood pressure tends to increase as people age. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore it until it’s a problem, said Dr. Raymond Townsend, director of the hypertension program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

It rarely has symptoms. “So unless you check it, you don’t know,” he said.

It could be wreaking invisible havoc, for example, by aging the circulatory system, Townsend said. “You may be 60 years old, but if you’ve had untreated high blood pressure for a while, your blood vessels may be 80.”

High blood pressure affects 121.5 million U.S. adults, American Heart Association statistics show. It is defined as a systolic pressure (the top number) of 130 or higher or a diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 80 or higher that stays high over time.

People who are Black; have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or kidney disease; and women who had blood pressure issues during pregnancy should pay extra attention, Nesbitt said.

The good news, Townsend said, is if you spot high blood pressure before it does damage, “you’re in the primary prevention game. And that’s where you want to be. Because we have great evidence to show that managing your blood pressure will keep your heart, brain and kidneys working a whole lot longer.”

Managing it protects your brain.

If high blood pressure damages your brain’s blood vessels, bad things can happen. A stroke is one. But the risk goes beyond strokes.

Neurologists are finding that dementia is a vascular disease, which means high blood pressure can cause a little damage in lots of small areas of the brain, Nesbitt said. “And because you’ve got a little damage in a lot of places, then you have the sum total of all of those areas that just don’t function so well anymore.”

Townsend said studies suggest people whose blood pressure is better controlled tend to score better on tests of cognitive function.

Lowering blood pressure isn’t a cure-all for brain health, he said, but prevention is key. “The goal is to preserve it at its high level when you’re 30 or 40 years of age.”

Black Americans need to pay special attention.

Hypertension is far more common in Black adults in the U.S. than in adults of other races and ethnicities. Yet it’s less of a problem for people of African heritage living in other countries. “Which makes you question why it is so much more prevalent in America than in other places,” Nesbitt said.

Systemic problems, such as the fact that Black Americans are more likely to lack access to healthy food or safe places to exercise, are significant factors. So is the stress of dealing with racism.

“What we are looking at is a manifestation of the living conditions of Black Americans,” she said. “And because we have rampant examples of differences in how we live, and how we experience the world every day, those things have a toll on our physical health. And blood pressure’s one of the first things that we see that makes that difference very evident.”

Watching sodium? Remember potassium, too.

Sodium has long been singled out for its relationship to high blood pressure. But many experts these days emphasize the importance of the sodium-potassium balance, Townsend said.

Potassium helps regulate blood flow. And if you’re eating a lot of processed foods, you’re probably getting too much of the former and not enough of the latter, Nesbitt said.

The DASH or Mediterranean diets offer a healthy balance of nutrients. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, sweet potatoes and low-fat dairy products.

Little changes can make a big difference.

For decades, Townsend said, researchers have known the most important predictor of blood pressure when you’re older is excess weight.

But you don’t have to go to extremes to help blood pressure, he said. “You may be 40 or 50 pounds overweight, but if you lose 10 or 15, not only are you headed it in the right direction, often you begin to see some benefit.”

There isn’t a quick fix for high blood pressure, Nesbitt said. But you don’t have to fix everything at once.

“I always talk to patients about the changes that you can make that you will commit to,” she said. Someone having four alcoholic beverages a day might cut back to one or two for a sustained period. Once they develop that habit, they can attack the next.

“It is important that we keep focus on that we’re not doing this for vanity’s sake,” she said. “We’re doing this for your healthy lifestyle and longevity. This is for the long run.”

Source: American Heart Association

Managing Children’s Weight, Blood Pressure & Cholesterol Protects Brain Function Mid-life

Managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in children may help protect brain function in later life, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. This is the first study to highlight that cardiovascular risk factors accumulated from childhood through mid-life may influence poor cognitive performance at midlife.

Previous research has indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people older than 60 have at least mild loss of brain function. Cognitive deficits are known to be linked with cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet, as well as depression and low education level.

Many diseases that cause neurological deficits, such as Alzheimer’s, have a long preclinical phase before noticeable symptoms begin, so finding links between childhood obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors is important for cognitive health. The researchers noted that there are currently no cures for major causes of dementia, so it is important to learn how early in life cardiovascular risk factors may affect the brain.

“We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups,” said the study’s first author Juuso O. Hakala, M.D., a Ph.D. student at the Research Centre of Applied and Prevention Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, in Turku, Finland. ”Our results show active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, beginning from early childhood, can also matter greatly when it comes to brain health. Children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a national, longitudinal study on cardiovascular risk from childhood to adulthood in Finland. Researchers followed the participants’ cardiovascular risk factor profiles for 31 years from childhood to adulthood. Baseline clinical examinations were conducted in 1980 on approximately 3,600 randomly selected boys and girls, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, all of whom were white. More than 2,000 of the participants, ranging in ages from 34 to 49, underwent a computerized cognitive function test in 2011. The test measured four different cognitive domains: episodic memory and associative learning; short-term working memory; reaction and movement time; and visual processing and sustained attention.

Researchers found:

  • Systolic blood pressure, total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as body mass index, from childhood to midlife are associated with brain function in middle age.
  • Consistently high systolic blood pressure or high blood total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were linked to worse memory and learning by midlife when compared with lower measures.
  • Obesity from childhood to adulthood was associated with lower visual information processing speed and maintaining attention.
  • Having all three cardiovascular risk factors was linked to poorer memory and associative learning, worse visual processing, decreased attention span, and slower reaction and movement time.

These results are from observational findings, so more studies are needed to learn whether there are specific ages in childhood and/or adolescence when cardiovascular risk factors are particularly important to brain health in adulthood. Study limitations include that a definite cause-and-effect link between cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance cannot be determined in this type of population-based study; cognition was measured at a single point in time; and because all study participants are white, the results may not be generalizable to people from other racial or ethnic groups.

Source: American Heart Association