Friday, February 26, 2010

Migraine Sufferers Face Increased Risks of Cardiovascular Disease

According to a new study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, migraine sufferers are twice as likely to have heart attacks as people without migraine. The study, published in the February 10 online issue of Neurology, found that migraine sufferers also face increased risk for stroke and were more likely to have key risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“Migraine has been viewed as a painful condition that affects quality of life, but not as a threat to peoples' overall health,” said lead investigator Richard B. Lipton, M.D., senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Neurology at Einstein. Lipton directs the Headache Center at Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein.

“Our study suggests that migraine is not an isolated disorder and that, when caring for people with migraine, we should also be attentive to detecting and treating their cardiovascular risk factors,” he told the press.

More than 29 million Americans suffer from migraine, according to the National Headache Foundation. There are two major forms, migraine without aura and migraine with aura. Both forms involve pulsing or throbbing pain, pain on one side of the head, nausea or vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine with aura has additional neurological symptoms including flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or a graying out of vision. Migraine is most common between the ages of 25 and 55; women are affected three times more frequently than men.

Previous research has shown that migraine with aura is associated with heart disease and stroke, particularly in health care professionals over the age of 45. The Einstein study, however, showed that both migraine with aura and migraine without aura are risk factors for heart disease and stroke in people from all walks of life between the ages of 18 and 80.

The data also shows that people with migraine were about 50 percent more likely than controls to have diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol, all well-known cardiovascular risk factors. The study found that these risk factors may contribute to – but do not fully explain – the increased risk of heart attack and stroke in persons with migraine.

“Migraine sufferers should not be alarmed by our findings,” said Dr. Lipton. “While we found an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, the percentage of people actually affected remains small.”


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Obesity Raises Kidney Stone Risk

A new study from Johns Hopkins shows that obesity nearly doubles the risk of developing kidney stones, but the degree of obesity doesn’t appear to increase or decrease the risk one way or the other. This means that no matter how far into the category of obesity a person may slip, they have a very significantly raised risk of having to deal with kidney stones (as well as all the other diseases and complications that affect obese people).

“The common thinking was that as weight rises, kidney stone risk rises as well, but our study refutes that,” says study leader Brian R. Matlaga, assistant professor of urology at Johns Hopkins. “Whether someone is mildly obese or morbidly obese, the risk for getting kidney stones is the same.” The findings are published in the February Journal of Urology.

Over the last decade, several epidemiological studies have shown a strong connection between obesity and kidney stone disease. However, as obesity continues to rise worldwide, Matlaga and his colleagues wondered whether different subcategories of obesity, ranging from mildly to morbidly obese, presented different risks. Matlaga says that he and his colleagues aren’t sure why obese people are more at risk for kidney stones, though metabolic or endocrine factors unique to obesity are likely reasons, along with dietary factors such as a high-salt diet. The researchers plan to study these potential risk factors in subsequent studies.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Weight Problems in Your 20's Can Kill You in Your 40's

Dr. Dale J. Hamilton, diabetes clinical services chief at The Methodist Hospital in Houston has released information that may be of interest to readers in their 20's who are overweight. That is, people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes in their 20s will be at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke in their 40s if they do not change their lifestyle.

”If your blood pressure is 136/88 and you’re a man with a waist over 40 or a woman with a waist over 35 it spells trouble,” says Dr. Hamilton. “These are two of the five symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a problem that can lead to type 2 diabetes. All you need is three to begin seeing increased atherosclerosis.”

High triglyceride levels over 150, insulin resistance and a low HDL (good cholesterol) are factors of metabolic syndrome, along with high blood pressure and central obesity. More than 47 million Americans have it according to the American Heart Association. Many of these patients will end up suffering with type 2 diabetes, which may lead to coronary artery disease and stroke later in their lives. If you knew that you would be debilitated in your 40's after having a stroke, would you continue the same lifestyle today, in your 20's?

“Small changes every day can help curb big problems later on,” Hamilton said. “Losing five to 10 pounds will help lower blood pressure. Reducing saturated fats, carbohydrates, and eating about two-thirds the amount you eat now will help you lose weight around the middle. Walk 45 minutes a day instead of 30.”

There are many experts who believe that it was replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup in processed foods in the United States and Canada in the 1990s has caused the rise of type 2 diabetes cases. High fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar in corn starch to fructose, another form of sugar. It has become popular because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar. It has also become a popular ingredient in many sodas and fruit-flavored drinks.

“The problem with high fructose corn syrup is that it promotes central obesity,” Hamilton said. “Another problem with it is that it fools your body into thinking you are hungry. I don’t think you need to eliminate it from your diet, you just need to be aware of how much of it you are consuming on a daily basis because too much can lead to serious weight gain.”

Keep in mind, he said, type 2 diabetes symptoms often go untreated because there are few or no symptoms until it is too late. “Having three or more of the risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes over an extended period of time is the equivalent of already having a heart attack,” Hamilton said. “These risk factors need to be treated aggressively in order to curb the problem and give you a better chance at a longer, healthier life.”


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Energy Drinks and Alcohol: A Horrible Combination

The University of Florida Health Science Center is reporting that energy drinks, favored among young people for the caffeine jolt, also play a lead role in several popular alcoholic drinks, such as Red Bull and vodka. But combining alcohol and energy drinks may create a dangerous mix, according to new research.

In a study of college-aged adults exiting bars, patrons who consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol had a threefold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated and were four times more likely to intend to drive after drinking than bar patrons who drank alcohol only. The study appears in the April issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.

“Previous laboratory research suggests that when caffeine is mixed with alcohol it overcomes the sedating effects of alcohol and people may perceive that they are less intoxicated than they really are,” said the study’s lead researcher Dennis Thombs, an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health. “This may lead people to drink more or make uninformed judgments about whether they are safe to drive.”

Experts believe that among college drinkers, as many as 28 percent consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks in a typical month.

“There’s a very common misconception that if you drink caffeine with an alcoholic beverage the stimulant effect of the caffeine counteracts the depressant effect of the alcohol and that is not true,” Goldberger said. “We know that caffeine aggravates the degree of intoxication, which can lead to risky behaviors.”


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lower IQ Appears to Equal Higher Risk of Disease, Death

Previous research has shown that lower intelligence scores - as reflected by written or oral tests of IQ - have been associated with a raised risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, a new study funded by Britain's Medical Research Council, which set out to gauge the relative importance of IQ alongside other risk factors, has found that lower intelligence scores were associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and total mortality at a greater level of magnitude than found with any other risk factor except smoking.

The findings, published in the February issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, are derived from a population study designed to investigate the influence of social factors on health. The present analysis was based on data collected in 1987 in a cohort of 1145 men and women aged around 55 and followed up for 20 years. Data were collected for height, weight, blood pressure, smoking habits, physical activity, education and occupation. Tests for cognitive ability (IQ) were assessed using a standard test of general intelligence.

Scientists took nine major risk factors for cardiovascular mortality and compared them with data from the study participants. Results showed that the most important risk factor was cigarette smoking, but it was followed by low IQ. Similar results were apparent when the health outcome was total mortality.

Commenting on the public health implications of the findings, the study's principal investigator Dr David Batty said that the individual skills reflected in a person's IQ may be important in the management of personal cardiovascular risk.

"From a public health perspective, there is the possibility that IQ can be increased, with some mixed results from trials of early learning and school readiness programs," said Dr Batty.

Personally, I'd suggest that those with a higher IQ have read about factors relating to personal health and have taken action, resulting in a reduced risk factor.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Antidepressants May Increase Risk of Stroke and Death

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have determined that postmenopausal women who take antidepressants face a small but statistically significant increased risk for stroke and death compared with those who do not take the drugs. The new findings are from the federally-funded, multi-institution, "Women’s Health Initiative Study" which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The research, published in the December 14 online edition of Archives of Internal Medicine, examined data from 136,293 study participants, aged 50 to 79, who were not taking antidepressants when they enrolled in the study, and who were followed for an average of six years. When they looked at those who began taking antidepressants, the researchers found no difference in coronary heart disease (defined as fatal and non-fatal heart attacks) but they did observe a significant difference in stroke rates. In fact, antidepressant users were 45 percent more likely to experience strokes than women who weren’t taking antidepressants.

The study also found that when overall death rates (all-cause mortality) were compared between the two groups, those on antidepressants had a 32 percent higher risk of death from all causes compared with non-users.

Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller, senior author, points out that more research is needed to determine the reasons behind these differences. And, because this was an observational study, the findings are not as conclusive of causality as would be the case for a randomized controlled trial.

Still, it certainly adds to the evidence that taking a pharmaceutical anti-depressant is a major life decision.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Memory Failing? You May Be at Higher Risk for Stroke

Men and women who experience memory loss or a decline in their thinking abilities may be at a higher risk of stroke, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with dementia. This warning comes to us courtesy of a new report published in the February 2, 2010 issue of Neurology.

Study author Bernice Wiberg, MD (Uppsala University, Sweden) and his colleagues took 930 men in Sweden around the age of 70, all without a history of stroke, and put them through mental tests which are used by doctors to measure cognitive decline.

During a 13-year period, 166 men developed a stroke or transient ischemic attack, or TIA. Brain infarction is the most common cause of stroke -- this happened to 105 patients. It causes tissue damage when the proper amount of blood does not reach the brain. Hemorrhage is another kind of stroke.

The study found that people who were among the bottom 25 percent of performers in at least one of the cognitive tests were three times more likely to have a stroke or a brain infarction compared to those who scored among the top 25 percent of performers on the tests.

“Our results support the idea that cognitive decline regardless of whether a person has dementia may predict risk of stroke,” said Wiberg. The test which was most successful of the three tests used is a simple test that, with more research, could be used to identify those persons for whom stroke prevention measures should be considered.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pomegranate Juice's Healthy Properties

New research from Israel was presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 43rd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in Denver, CO. It seems that pomegranate juice may reduce complications in kidney disease patients on dialysis, including the high morbidity rate due to infections and cardiovascular events. While this is a preliminary study, it does suggest that 12 months consumption of pomegranate juice “has a continuous, accumulative, beneficial effect for dialysis patients.”

The researchers found that pomegranate juice consumption yields a lower level of oxidative stress, reduced inflammation, an improvement in lipid profile, and reductions in blood pressure. Wow, all of this from one of the oldest "superfruits" used by humans -- and a truly delicious beverage!

There appear to be many benefits to drinking pomegranate juice. The authors noted that recent studies have claimed it to be a rich source of antioxidants, and that it lowered both cholesterol and blood pressure – especially in diabetic and hypertensive patients. Israeli researchers reported that patients on dialysis, in addition to their renal disease, also suffer from increased risks of diabetes (over 50 percent increased risk), hypertension (over 80 percent risk increase), and cardiovascular disease. They also noted that kidney disease patients are exposed to high levels of oxidative stress.

Among dialysis patients, vitamin E is a well documented to reduce cardiovascular events, and other polyphenols are known to reduce lipid oxidation and oxidative stress. I think that we can now add Pomegranate juice to the recommendations for dialysis patients, as it is known for its strong antioxidant activity. The antioxidant capacity of pomegranate juice is due to its high concentration of anthocyanins and hydrolysable tannins, including both allegic, and gallagic acids, and the poniculagenim – which originate from the pomegranate and contribute up to 50 percent of its antioxidant activity.