Health Points: Wednesday

The new study involving nearly 39,000 women helps sort out the combined effects of physical activity and body mass on women's chances of developing heart disease, said Gulati, who wasn't involved in the research.

The study by Harvard-affiliated researchers appears in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Participants were women aged 54 on average who filled out a questionnaire at the study's start detailing their height, weight and amount of weekly physical activity in the past year, including walking, jogging, bicycling and swimming. They were then tracked for about 11 years. Overall 948 women developed heart disease.
Numerous claims have been made about water — that it prevents headaches, removes dangerous “poisons,” improves the function of various organs and is associated with reduced risk for various diseases. But none of these is supported by scientific evidence. The authors were not even able to find a study leading to the “eight glasses a day” rule, whose origin remains unknown.


The researchers, in the June issue of The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, say some studies have found evidence that drinking extra water helps the kidneys clear sodium, and long-term sodium retention might increase the risk of hypertension, but no clinical significance for the phenomenon has been established. Water also helps clear urea, but urea is not a toxin.

I never used to be a napper. In fact, daytime slumber was virtually beyond a congenitally wired type like me. My buddies would catch 40 winks on the long bus ride home from our high school, but for me that was out of the question. With age, however, my metabolism has changed. After the double whammy of a late-morning run and lunch, I'm pretty much a goner. I lie down and nod off in much the same way that Marlene Dietrich fell in love in that old song of hers: because I can't help it.


While it lasted, though, my nap resistance put me in sync with the American way of sleep: Do it all at once and strictly at night. Traditionally, we've begrudged ourselves naps. They may be forced on toddlers, recommended for pregnant women and tolerated among senior citizens with nothing better to do, but they've been frowned upon for worker bees in their prime. Recently, however, sleep scientists have discovered advantages to napping, which they view not just as solace but also as something akin to brain food. No longer written off as a cop-out for the weak and the bored, the nap is coming into its own as an element of a healthy life.
If only the millions of others beset with chronic health problems recognized the inestimable value to their physical and emotional well-being of regular physical exercise.


“The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise,” Frank Hu, epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in the Harvard Magazine.
A House-Senate conference committee claims it's getting closer to adopting a bill that would ban smoking in most Pennsylvania workplaces, but it can't seem to close the deal.


The deeply divided six-member committee had planned to meet today to vote on compromise legislation to prohibit people from lighting up in most workplaces and public places.

But late yesterday, the chairman called off the meeting, saying the bill still isn't ready despite months of negotiations.

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, a staunch critic of smoking, said the delay should only be for "a short period," meaning, probably, a few days.
According to an analysis of government statistics being released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the average dollar amount employees must pay per year for family health coverage went up by 30 percent from 2001 to 2005. During that time, incomes increased by just 3 percent.


"Nationally, insurance premium costs are going up ten times faster than people's incomes," said RWJF spokesman Michael Berman. "And in some regions, the gap is even greater. So what we've tried to do with this report is highlight for the nation's leaders what families already know; that it's getting harder and harder to afford health insurance in America."
Perhaps because Mayor Bloomberg's plan for congestion pricing in New York City has failed, the Big Apple is now trying to make up for it by becoming more bicycle-friendly. As it is, 112,000 New Yorkers bicycle on an average day, an increase of 10% over the last decade. The proposal, which is part of a new Department of Transportation strategic plan, hopes to double that number by 2015, as well as
  • Add 200 miles worth of new bicycle lane between 2007 and 2009
  • Install 37 bicycle shelters and 5,000 bike parking racks by 2011
  • Install 15 additional miles of protected on-street bike lanes by 2010 and 30 miles from 2011 to 2015
The company declined to discuss details in the so-called not approvable letter from the Food and Drug Administration. It would not comment on whether the agency had asked for further data or new clinical trials.


The drug, which was expected to be called Cordaptive, combines long-acting niacin with a new drug that prevents the flushing side effect common to niacin -- an uncomfortable sensation of burning in the face and neck that leads many patients to discontinue taking it.

Analysts widely expected the drug to be approved, especially after a committee of European regulators last week recommended it be cleared for sale there.
It's far from the only strength-boosting exoskeleton out there, but Honda's so-called "walking assist device" is one of the few that you can actually take for a test spin -- if you happen to be attending the Barrier Free 2008 trade show in Osaka, Japan next week, that is. Apparently employing some of the same technology developed by Honda for its ASIMO robot, the walking assistant is able to obtain information from hip angle sensors to help keep its wearer upright, with the device's motors also able to increase the wearer's natural stride. That, Honda says, should make the device ideal for the elderly or those with weakened leg muscles, although we're sure they could find at least a few other buyers if it ever actually hits the market at a reasonable price.
What follows are 10 of the tips for sabotaging the stress in your life, every one somehow related to nutrition and fitness.
  1. Eat a healthy breakfast
  2. Eat more fiber
  3. Eat oatmeal
  4. Eat almonds
  5. Drink black tea
  6. Hydrate
  7. Stretch
  8. Exercise
  9. Do yoga
  10. Sleep
Broccoli also contains the phytonutrients sulforaphane, indoles, kaempferol and isothiocyanates (they'll be a test later). These difficult-to-pronounce compounds have significant anti-cancer and other health effects. Here's what the literature says about it:
  • Men who ate more than a serving of either broccoli or cauliflower each week almost halved their risk of developing advanced-stage prostate cancer
  • Broccoli appear to have a unique ability to eliminate Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) - a bacteria responsible for ulcers. It has even been shown to eliminate Helicobacter when resistant to antibiotics.
  • Crucifers, including broccoli provide significant cardiovascular benefit. Those who diets most frequently included broccoli, tea, onions, and apples-the richest sources of flavonoids-gained a 20% reduction in their risk of heart disease.
The administration's decision to give the Defense Department and other agencies an early role in the process adds to years of delay in acting on harmful chemicals and jeopardizes the program's credibility, the Government Accountability Office concluded.


At issue is the EPA's screening of chemicals used in everything from household products to rocket fuel to determine if they pose serious risk of cancer or other illnesses.

A new review process begun by the White House in 2004 is adding more speed bumps for EPA scientists, the GAO said in its report, which will be the subject of a Senate Environment Committee hearing Tuesday. A formal policy effectively doubling the number of steps was adopted two weeks ago.

The DASH Diet is Good...

Okay, I go to admit. I couldn’t remember what the DASH diet is, so, I ran it through Wikipedia and here’s what came up:
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or the DASH diet is a diet promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the NIH, an organisation part of the government of the USA) to control hypertension. A major feature of the plan is limiting intake of sodium, and it also generally encourages the consumption of nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables while lowering the consumption of red meats, sweets, and sugar. It is also "rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber."


The DASH diet is based on NIH studies that examined three dietary plans and their results. None of the plans were vegetarian, but the DASH plan incorporated more fruits and vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, beans, and nuts than the others studied. Not only does the plan emphasize good eating habits, but also suggests healthy alternatives to "junk food" and discourages the consumption of processed foods.
Doesn’t sound too bad—pretty Fuhrman-friendly—maybe that’s why the DASH diet has been shown to cute the risk of heart disease. Ed Edelson of HealthDay News reports:
The DASH -- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension -- study, reported in the same issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, is the first to look at the diet's effect on the incidence of heart disease and stroke, said study author Teresa T. Fung, an associate professor of nutrition at the Simmons College School for Health Studies in Boston.


"Previously, the benefits that were reported were for hypertension [high blood pressure]," Fung said. "No previous study looked at cardiovascular endpoints such as heart disease and stroke."

The study reported on 88,517 female nurses aged 34 to 59 who started with no evidence of cardiovascular disease or diabetes in 1980. In the 24 years that followed, the one-fifth of women in the group whose diets were most similar to that recommended in DASH -- low in animal protein, moderate in low-fat dairy products and high in plant proteins -- were 24 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 18 percent less likely to have a stroke than the one-fifth of women with the lowest DASH scores.

While the study was not the kind of carefully controlled trial that gets the highest regard in research, it carries a message, Fung said. "This report actually shows that those people whose diet resembles the DASH diet reduce the risk of actual cardiovascular disease," she said.
Now, I’m certainly not going to abandon my nutritarian lifestyle for the DASH, but, the benefits of cutting salt, limiting saturated fat, and eating lots of fruits and veggies are truly undeniable. From Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat for Health:
As the consumption of animal products, saturated fat, and processed foods drops down to low levels in a population’s diet, heart disease goes to lower and lower levels, reaching less than one percent of the total cause of death. Eating a diet lower in saturated fat and higher in fruits and vegetables dramatically reduces the occurrence of the clots that cause heart disease and embolic strokes. However, hemorrhagic strokes are not caused by atherosclerosis—the buildup of fatty substances in arteries—and the resultant clots. These strokes are caused by a hemorrhage or rupture in a blood vessel wall that has been weakened by years of elevated blood pressure as a result of chronic high salt intake. The weakened wall ruptures and lets blood flow into and damage brain tissue…


…When a diet is high in fatty animal products and high in salt, the thickened blood vessel walls caused by the unhealthful, heart-attack-promoting diet actually protect against the occurrence of this more uncommon cause of strokes. In medical studies, higher cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of other strokes…

…A recent study looked at the effects of a diet with more fruits and vegetables combined with a low saturated fat intake. It showed a 76 percent reduction in heart-disease-related deaths for those consuming more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and less than 12 percent of calories from saturated fat, compared to those with less vegetation and more saturated fat.1 Even this small increase in vegetation and mild reduction in saturated fats showed a dramatic reduction in heart-disease-related deaths.
I’ll think of the DASH as just that, a short little burst of health, but eating a vegetable-based nutrient-dense diet—THAT’S FOR THE LONG HAUL!
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Atherosclerosis and High Blood Pressure: Organ Trouble

It seems plaque build up in the arteries not only harms the heart, but other organs too. Theresa Waldron of HealthDay News reports:
"Atherosclerosis is usually associated with plaque formation in arteries," said study author Rita K. Upmacis, an associate research professor in pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. "But using a mouse model of atherosclerosis, we have demonstrated that the effects of this disease are more widespread, affecting . . . the heart, liver and lungs."


The finding, scheduled to be presented this week at the American Chemical Society annual meeting, in New Orleans, centers around the availability of nitric oxide (NO), an important gas within the body that relaxes blood vessel walls and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Certain substances in plaque remove NO and create a toxic substance known as peroxynitrite, which hampers the function of enzymes necessary to the health of blood vessel walls.
And high blood pressure isn’t exactly doing your brain any favors either. More from Will Boggs, MD of Reuters:
High blood pressure is associated with worse brain function than normal blood pressure in people aged 60 and older, according to a report by doctors at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC.


"Optimal control of blood pressure may be beneficial in attenuating the risk of cognitive decline as the population ages," they conclude.

Dr. Thomas Olabode Obisesan and associates used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) to investigate whether abnormal blood pressure is independently associated with lower cognitive function in men and women between 60 and 74 years old at study entry.
I’m not doctor, but, I think the solution is clear. Try eating a diet that prevents both heart disease and high blood pressure. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
When you eat to maximize micronutrients in relation to calories, your body functions will normalize; chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol melt away; and you maintain your youthful vigor into old age. Heart disease and cancer would fade away and become exceedingly rare if people adopted a lifestyle of nutritional excellence. But in the here and now, what is exciting to so many people is that when your diet is high enough in micronutrients, excess weight drops off at a relatively fast rate. It’s like you had your stomach stapled. You simply don’t crave to overeat anymore. In fact, it becomes too difficult to overeat when you eat your fill of high-micronutrient food.
And hey, just think about how GREAT you’ll feel!

Vytorin Bad, Statins Good?

Vytorin is a bust, so, doctors are urging people “to turn back to statins.” Yeah, great idea! More from the Associated Press:
Millions of Americans already take the drug or one of its components, Zetia. But doctors were stunned to learn Vytorin failed to improve heart disease, even though it worked as intended to reduce three key risk factors.


"People need to turn back to statins," said Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz, referring to Lipitor, Crestor and other widely used brands. "We know that statins are good drugs. We know that they reduce risks…"

…The study tested whether Vytorin was better than Zocor alone at limiting plaque buildup in the arteries of 720 people with super high cholesterol because of a gene disorder.

The results show the drug had "no result. In no subgroup, in no segment, was there any added benefit" for reducing plaque, said Dr. John Kastelein, the Dutch scientist who led the study.
Why are we so caught up with statins? It’s not like statins are some miracle. They’ve got loads of problems. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
The known side effects for various statins (the most popular and effective medications to lower cholesterol) include hepatitis, jaundice, other liver problems, gastrointestinal upsets, muscle problems and a variety of blood complications such as reduced platelet levels and anemia.
Alright damn it! Let’s talk side effects. Here are the know side effects of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. More from Dr. Fuhrman:
The cholesterol-lowering effects of vegetables and beans (high-protein foods) are without question. However, they contain an assortment of additional heart disease-fighting nutrients independent of their ability to lower cholesterol.1 They fight cancer, too. Cancer incidence worldwide has an inverse relation with fruit and vegetable intake.2 If you increase your intake 80%, the risk of getting cancer drops 80%.
Now here’s a novel idea. Put down the cheeseburger, toss the statins out the window, and go for a jog—sheesh!
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