You Could Gain Years of Life by Keeping Heart Disease at Bay

Heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 cause of death, killing about 650,000 people every year. Life expectancy is cut short by the disease and the health problems that stem from it. But by how much – and what can people do to take those years back?

For heart attacks alone, more than 16 years of life are lost on average, according to American Heart Association statistics. Researchers estimate people with heart failure lose nearly 10 years of life compared to those without heart failure.

“In the past few years, there have been tremendous gains in reducing cardiovascular disease and increasing life expectancy, but we’ve hit a plateau,” said Paul Muntner, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Some people are at greater risk than others.

African Americans, for example, are more likely to have high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, and they live 3.4 years less than their white counterparts. Among the six largest Asian American subgroups, research shows Asian Indian, Filipino and Vietnamese populations lose the most years of life to heart disease – up to 18 years for some – compared with white people.

The risk of early death also is high for people with a history of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, researchers found people with all three conditions had their life expectancy cut by 15 years compared to those without any of the health problems. Even having just two of the conditions reduced life expectancy by 12 years.

But there is hope.

A 2012 study found non-smokers without diabetes who had optimal cholesterol and blood pressure lived an average of 14 years longer than people with two or more of those risk factors.

“Applying a healthy lifestyle, even taking a small step, like a brisk 30-minute walk five times a week, can add up to a longer life,” said Yanping Li, a senior research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Li led a recent study showing women who adapted a healthy lifestyle could expect to live 14 years longer than those who didn’t, while men would have 12 additional years of life.

“The healthier lifestyle, the longer life expectancy,” Li said.

“Even modest changes have been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk by 20% to 30%,” Muntner said. “If we can just shift the curve a little bit, there will be incredible gains in terms of life expectancy as well as reducing cardiovascular risk.”

Great strides have been made in the past 50 years, Muntner said. Far fewer people develop hypertension and high cholesterol, and many who do are being treated. Rates of obesity and diabetes, on the other hand, are skyrocketing.

“We have a long way to go, but I think we can do it just based on what we’ve seen in the past,” Muntner said. “It’s not just about living longer. Preventing heart disease and strokes will also lead to a higher quality of life.”

Source: HealthDay


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Happiness Linked with Longer, Healthier Lives

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

Happiness may truly be some of the best medicine available to us, a new study suggests.

People happy with themselves and their well-being tend to live longer and healthier lives than those who are perpetually down in the dumps, British researchers report.

Women in their 50s who reported enjoying their lives had a projected live expectancy of nearly 37 more years, compared with just 31 years in those who felt depressed and unhappy in their lives, according to researchers with University College London.

The same went for men in their 50s — guys who were happy had a life expectancy of 33 more years, compared with about 27 years for miserable men.

Happier men and women also tended to age more gracefully and enjoy more years free from disability or chronic disease, the investigators found.

The new study is “one of many that are pointing in the same general direction, that people who are happier and more optimistic and have a higher degree of life satisfaction, they tend to be healthier and they tend to live longer,” said James Maddux, a professor emeritus of clinical psychology with George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. He had no role in the study.

The study results were published online in JAMA Network Open. For the study, the researchers analyzed survey data from nearly 9,800 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The information was collected between 2002 and 2013, and average age was 64.

The team specifically looked at each participant’s report of “subjective well-being” — essentially, how much they are enjoying their life and how they feel about their own health and mood.

Nancy Mramor, a psychologist in Pittsburgh who specializes in health, stress and wellness, said, “It’s the perception of how well you are, not the actual fact of how well you are.” Mramor wasn’t involved in the study.

The researchers then tracked participants to see how well their sense of their own well-being jibed with their actual health.

People with a more positive outlook not only tacked more years onto their life, they also tended to enjoy better health, the results showed.

For example, 50-year-old men completely happy with their lives could expect to live nearly 30 more years free from disability and 21 years free from chronic disease. That compared with 20 and 11 years, respectively, for depressed men who aren’t enjoying life.

Women at age 50 who enjoy life can expect to live more than 31 years free from disability and 22 years free from chronic disease, compared with about 21 years and 12 years for those who are unhappy and depressed.

The health advantage associated with a positive outlook persisted as folks grew older. At ages 60, 70 and 80, those with a high enjoyment of life and no depression lived longer and healthier than those who didn’t.

There’s no clear explanation yet for why this association between happiness and health exists, the experts said. And the study does not prove cause and effect.

One possibility is that a constant state of unhappiness produces a lot of stress, Mramor said.

“Automatic negative thoughts create a stress response in the nervous system, which creates wear and tear on the body,” Mramor said. “When you’re thinking I’m in great health, even when you’re not, you’re sending all these positive signals to the body. There’s evidence that freedom from stress takes a heavy burden off your body.”

It’s also possible that folks who are happier just tend to lead healthier lives, Maddux said.

“Happier people have something to live for,” Maddux said. “They like their lives, and so they tend to take care of themselves more than people who are miserable.”

People can change their outlook on life if they want, Mramor and Maddux agreed.

Mramor said, “You can definitely retrain your thinking. But you have to recognize there’s a need for it, and you have to have a desire to do it.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy can help adults adjust the way they view their lives and respond to stress, Maddux said.

It’s even better if, as children, we are taught how to manage our stress and focus on the pleasures in life, Mramor said.

“It’s much harder to change long-held negative or pessimistic beliefs than it is to train positive ones in the first place,” said Mramor, who teaches stress management techniques to children. “The younger you start, the quicker they learn and the more deeply those patterns of thought become embedded. It can take six months in adults what I can accomplish with children in six weeks.”

However, there’s no guarantee that changing your outlook will lengthen your healthy life span. Maddux noted that genetics also plays a strong role in whether you are upbeat or downcast.

“It could be the same genetic ingredients that produce people who are generally happy and optimistic and upbeat also maybe programs their bodies to live longer and healthier,” Maddux said.

Source: HealthDay

Low Fruit and Vegetable Intake May Account for Millions of Deaths

Chiara Townley wrote . . . . . . . . .

Findings from a new study suggest that inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables may be a major factor in heart disease death.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants.

A diet that includes fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and improve digestive health.

Previous research — part of the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study — confirmed that a diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables can even lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

After analyzing these results and combining them with findings from other studies, researchers estimated that the risk of heart disease is 20% lower among individuals who eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, compared with those who eat fewer than three servings per day.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommend that adults eat at least 1.5 to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2–3 cups per day of vegetables. According to another study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only around 1 in 10 adults meet these guidelines.

The global impact of inadequate nutrition

Now, a new study — the results of which the researchers presented at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting in Baltimore, MD — suggests that a low fruit intake can cause 1 in 7 deaths from heart disease, and that a low vegetable intake can cause 1 in 12 deaths from heart disease.

Analyzing data from 2010, researchers found that low fruit consumption resulted in almost 2 million deaths from cardiovascular disease, while low vegetable intake resulted in 1 million deaths. The global impact was more significant in countries with a low average consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The data suggest that low fruit consumption results in more than 1 million deaths from stroke and more than 500,000 deaths from heart disease worldwide every year, while low vegetable intake results in about 200,000 deaths from stroke and more than 800,000 deaths from heart disease per year.

“Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world,” says study co-author Victoria Miller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Medford, MA.

Tracking death toll by region, age, and sex

The researchers tracked the death toll by region, age, and sex using diet surveys and food availability data of 113 countries. They combined these with data on causes of death in each country and data on the cardiovascular risk linked to low fruit and vegetable intake.

The findings showed that fruit intake was lower in South Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, while vegetable consumption was lower in Central Asia and Oceania. Countries in these regions have low average fruit and vegetable intakes and high rates of deaths from heart disease and stroke.

When the researchers analyzed the impact of inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption by age and sex, they found that the biggest impact was among young adults and males. Miller adds that females tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“These findings indicate a need to expand the focus to increasing availability and consumption of protective foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes — a positive message with tremendous potential for improving global health”, said Senior study author Dariush Mozaffarian, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Source: Medical News Today

Highly Processed Food Tied to Heart Disease and Earlier Death

People who get many of their meals from packages may have heightened risks of heart disease, stroke and premature death, two large studies suggest.

The findings, published online in the journal BMJ, are the latest to point the finger at “ultra-processed” foods.

They include not only “junk food” — like chips, sweets and fast food — but also the breads, processed meats, jarred sauces and frozen meals that many people consider staples.

In one study, researchers followed more than 100,000 French adults for about five years.

They found that the more ultra-processed foods people ate, the higher their odds of a first-time heart condition or stroke: Those who ate the most processed foods were 23% more likely to suffer cardiovascular trouble compared to those with the lowest intakes.

And it wasn’t only because those foods were loaded with sugar, salt or fat — or because those people were heavier, exercised less or had other unhealthy habits.

Instead, there might be other things about highly processed foods that take a health toll, according to researchers Bernard Srour and Mathilde Touvier, from the University of Paris.

Other studies, they noted, have hinted that additives or contaminants formed during food processing have negative effects on metabolism and the cardiovascular system.

The researchers stressed that their study can’t prove cause and effect.

But taken along with other research linking processed foods to ill health effects, they said the message is straightforward: Strive to eat more “whole” and minimally processed foods.

Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist not involved in the study, had the same advice.

“I like to say: The longer the shelf life, the shorter your life,” said Freeman, who directs cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver.

Based on the overall body of research, he said, the most heart-healthy diet is one rich in whole foods — particularly plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.

To make that more affordable and convenient, Freeman pointed to healthy, packaged options — like fresh-frozen vegetables.

Srour agreed that not all packaged food is bad. It’s the degree of processing that seems key.

For example, he said a canned soup made of water, vegetables, vegetable oil, herbs and spices would not fall into the “ultra-processed” category. A dried soup loaded with preservatives would.

The French study included more than 105,000 men and women who were, on average, 43 years old at the start. Over the next five years, just over 1,400 suffered a heart attack or stroke, or developed clogged heart arteries.

The risk was 23% greater among those who ate the most ultra-processed foods — even with a host of other factors considered, including body weight, exercise habits, and salt, sugar and fat intake.

In the second study — of nearly 20,000 Spanish adults — ultra-processed foods were linked to a shorter life span: Those with the highest intake were 62% more likely to die over two decades, compared to those with the lowest intake.

Again, factors such as weight and lifestyle habits did not fully explain the link.

Then what else could be going on?

There is growing evidence that heavy processing itself plays a role, said Mark Lawrence, a professor of public health nutrition at Deakin University in Australia. He wrote an editorial published with the studies.

Food additives and compounds produced by industrial processes — such as acrylamide and acrolein — may help explain the health risks tied to highly refined foods, according to Lawrence.

“It’s ultra-processing that’s the problem,” he said, adding that convenient, minimally processed food can fit into a healthy lifestyle. Simple switches — from sugary drinks to water, or sweet treats to fresh fruit — are good starting points, Lawrence said.

The fewer nutritionally empty foods we eat, the more room there is for nutrient-rich ones, Freeman pointed out.

“It behooves us all,” he said, “to use nature to our advantage — to eat more nutritious foods, and rely less on medication.”

Source: HealthDay


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Among Older Women, 10,000 Steps Per Day Not Needed for Lower Mortality

In the world of step goals and activity trackers, the number 10,000 can sound like a magic one. Many wearable devices that track the number of steps a person takes each day come pre-programmed with a daily goal of 10,000 steps. But while a large body of evidence shows that physical activity is good for a person’s health and longevity, few studies have examined how many steps a day are associated with good health, particularly long-term health outcomes. A new study led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital sought to address this knowledge gap by examining outcomes over an average of more than four years for older women in the Women’s Health Study who had measured their steps for a full week. The team reports that, among older women, taking as few as 4,400 steps per day was significantly associated with lower risk of death compared to taking 2,700 steps per day. Risk of death continued to decrease with more steps taken but leveled off at around 7,500 steps per day — less than the 10,000 steps default goal in many wearables. The team’s results are presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting and published simultaneously in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Taking 10,000 steps a day can sound daunting. But we find that even a modest increase in steps taken is tied to significantly lower mortality in older women,” said I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD, an epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the Brigham. “Our study adds to a growing understanding of the importance of physical activity for health, clarifies the number of steps related to lower mortality and amplifies the message: Step more — even a little more is helpful.”

According to previous studies, the average number of steps taken by people in the U.S. is between 4,000 and 5,000 per day. The origin of the 10,000-step goal is unclear but may trace back to 1965, when a Japanese company began marketing a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter” in Japanese.

To conduct their study, Lee and colleagues included participants from the Women’s Health Study, a randomized trial originally conducted to evaluate risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer among women taking low-dose aspirin and vitamin E. When the original trial ended, participants were invited to participate in a long-term observational study. For the present study of steps and health, almost 18,000 women were asked to wear an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer device — a research grade wearable — on their hips for seven consecutive days during all waking hours. The team analyzed 16,741 of the women who were compliant with wearing the device; their average age was 72.

Participants were followed for an average of more than four years, during which time 504 women died. Participants in the bottom 25 percent of steps walked (average of 2,700 steps per day) were at greatest risk of death, with 275 women dying. Those who walked modestly more (average of 4,400 per day) were at 41 percent lower risk of death. Risk of death continued to decrease with more steps walked, up to 7,500 steps per day, after which risk leveled off. The team also found that for women who walked the same number of steps per day, the intensity — how fast or slow they walked — was not associated with risk of death.

Due to the observational nature of the study, the authors cannot definitively separate cause from correlation (that is, to differentiate between “do more steps lower mortality?” or “do women in better health step more?”). However, the team did take several measures to try to ensure that the association observed was more likely causal than not, such as excluding women with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and less than excellent or good self-rated health and excluding the first year of follow-up data. The findings also are supported by previous experiments showing physical activity causes beneficial changes in short-term markers of health e.g., blood pressure, insulin/glucose levels, lipid profile, inflammation, and more.

The Women’s Health Study included primarily older, white women, and further studies will be needed in younger and diverse populations to determine if the findings are applicable to other groups, especially those who may, on average, take more steps. Other outcomes — such as quality of life and risk of specific diseases — were not assessed, but will be addressed in future studies.

“Of course, no single study stands alone. But our work continues to make the case for the importance of physical activity,” said Lee. “Clearly, even a modest number of steps was related to lower mortality rate among these older women. We hope these findings provide encouragement for individuals for whom 10,000 steps a day may seem unattainable.”

Source: Science Daily


Read also at Reuters:

Daily strides may mean longer life for older women . . . . .


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