Health Briefs

January 01, 2014

Vascular study

     A recently completed research study found clear evidence that an apple a day really does help keep the doctor away. Researchers from the UK’s University of Oxford found that one apple each day was just as effective as taking statins in preventing vascular-related deaths after age 50 as taking statins. Results of the study were published in the British Medical Journal.

    Statins are commonly prescribed to help lower cholesterol and to prevent the reoccurence of heart disease and strokes. Previous studies on statin usage have shown them to be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other potentially-deadly vascular conditions, no matter the patient’s individual risk profile. The equally-beneficial results from an apple a day suggest that even small changes in nutrition and lifestyle habits can deliver powerful health benefits and cut the mortality rates of a number of deadly diseases.


Stress-related gene variant boostsheart attack and death risks

    Heart disease patients with a stress-sensitivity genetic variant are much likely to suffer a heart attack or other deadly event compared with patients without the genetic variant. That’s the findings of a recent research study conducted at Duke University Medical Center in the US.

    The results of the study, published in the online journal Plos One, help explain why some patients are more likely to suffer potentially-fatal cardiovascual conditions. Earlier studies on the gene known as 5HTR2C revealed that, during periods of elevated stress, people with the 5HTR2C genetic variant had twice as much of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstream compared to people without the genetic variant. High levels of cortisol – a hormone produced in the adrenal gland that regulates emotional and physiological responses to stressful situations – can have a damaging effect on health, including higher levels of blood sugar and impairments to the body’s reproduction, digestion, growth and immune system functions among others.


Walking more lowers heart attack and stroke risk

      Reducing your risk of suffering a potentially-deadly heart attack or stroke may literally be steps away. A new study of pre-diabetes patients found significant benefits from walking more, including a much lower heart disease risk. The study involved over 9,000 adults in 40 countries who were pre-diabetes and thus at greater risk of suffering heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular events. Results of the study were published in a recent issue of The Lancet.

      Each participant joined a 12-month program involving exercise, weight loss and dietary changes to cut fat intake. Researchers recorded the number of steps taken each day at the beginning of the program and again 12 months later.

    The study showed that a participant’s heart disease risk was affected both by their walking amount at the start of the program and by the extent of change during the 12 months. Each additional 2,000 steps per day at the start correlated to a ten percent reduction in future heart disease risk. And each increase of 2,000 daily steps during the 12-month period lowered the risk by an additional eight percent. And the benefits came regardless of the participant’s body weight or level of activity at the start of the program.

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