Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of premature mortality in the developed world, and hypertension is its most important risk factor.
Hypertension was implicated as a primary or contributing factor in more than 348,000 deaths in the US in 2009, with costs to the nation in excess of $50 billion annually. Controlling hypertension is a major focus of public health initiatives, and dietary approaches to address hypertension have historically focused on sodium.
Nonetheless, the potential benefits of sodium reduction are debatable; studies have shown that the reduction in blood pressure achieved by restricting salt is slim.
Recent data encompassing over 100,000 patients indicates that sodium intake between 3-6 g/day is associated with a lower risk of death and cardiovascular events compared with either a higher or lower level of intake. “Thus, guidelines advising restriction of sodium intake below 3 g/day may cause harm,” the authors write.
Processed foods happen to be major sources of not just sodium, but also of highly refined carbohydrates: that is, various sugars and the simple starches that give rise to
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, say that heat-processed meats contain high levels of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). These compounds have been associated with the worsening of many degenerative diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
AGEs already naturally exist in the body at low levels. But in their study, the researchers found that consuming foods with high levels of AGEs increases the body’s levels of AGEs, therefore raising the risk of associated diseases.
To reach their findings, the investigators monitored the cognitive health of mice that consumed foods with high levels of AGEs – foods that are commonly found in the Western diet. This diet is high is saturated fats, red meats and “empty” carbohydrates, and low in seafood, poultry, whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Western diet led to Alzheimer’s and metabolic syndrome in mice
Mice that consumed foods with high levels of AGEs demonstrated high levels of AGEs in their brains, compared with mice that ate a diet low in AGEs.
A new study claims to provide further evidence that oral human papillomavirus infections can be transmitted via oral-to-oral and oral-to-genital routes.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US, newly infecting 14 million Americans every year.
High-risk HPV infections – such as HPV 16 and HPV 18 – account for around 5% of cancers worldwide, including oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the throat). It is estimated that each year, around 8,400 people are diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancers that may be caused by oral HPV infection.
But how people contract oral HPV is a subject that has been widely debated in medical research. Some studies have suggested that the virus can be contracted through oral sex with a person who has a genital HPV infection, while others have claimed the infection can be spread through engaging in open-mouthed kissing with a person infected with oral HPV. However, many studies have not found such associations.
Now, researchers from Canada say their new study – published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
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The researchers, from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), will publish their results in the journal Physiology and Behavior.
They conducted their study in rats, whose physiological systems are very similar to those of humans. Placing them in two groups, the team then fed the 32 female rats one of two diets for a period of 6 months.
The first group ate a normal rat’s diet of unprocessed foods – such as ground corn and fish meal – whereas the second group was fed a lower-quality, processed diet with much more sugar. This diet served as a proxy for a junk food diet, the team says.
Observing changes over 3 months, the team noticed the rats on the junk food diet became obese, whereas the group that ate a normal, unprocessed diet did not.
These results are hardly surprising, but when the researchers gave the rats a task of pressing a lever in order to receive a reward of food or water, they found that rats on the junk food diet took much longer breaks than the lean rats. In a 30-minute session, the obese rats took breaks nearly twice as long as the
Big data in the healthcare industry is about to get even bigger thanks to the move toward electronic health records. Electronic medical records are getting a boost due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, medical researchers can expect a massive influx of healthcare data to analyze.
The scientific community is abuzz about the potential for big data in the medical research arena. According to Science 2.0, a science blog, some of the clearest opportunities recently identified in this area revolve around reducing costs in several key areas:
. High-cost patients – Did you know that just 5 percent of patients account for roughly half of all US healthcare costs? By targeting these high-cost patients, big data has the potential to make a huge impact on total healthcare spending in the United States. This is a good example of the Pareto principle at work.
. Readmissions – With nearly one third of readmissions deemed to be preventable, using big data to predict which patients are at a high risk of readmission could lead to better interventions and reduced re-admissions.
. Triage – Big data could also be used to improve
The researchers, from the Weill Cornell Medical College, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, have published their results in the BMJ.
They say their findings uncover a discrepancy between what type of care cancer patients want and what they actually receive.
Overall, the team found that terminal cancer patients who receive chemotherapy during the last months of their lives are less likely to die where they wish and are more likely to undergo invasive medical procedures – including CPR and mechanical ventilation – than patients who did not receive the therapy.
Dr. Holly Prigerson, of Weill Cornell Medical College, says that the reasons for the link are complicated, but they may originate in misunderstanding of the purpose and consequences of palliative chemotherapy.
For the study, investigators assessed data from 386 patients in a federally funded study, called Coping with Cancer.
This 6-year study followed terminally ill people and their caregivers until the patients died, and the researchers looked at how psychosocial factors influenced patient care.
After asking the caregivers to rate their patient’s care, quality of life and where the patient would have wanted to die, the researchers reviewed patient medical
In a linked editorial to the studies, two writers say the results reveal a “J-shaped curve” for health benefits of exercise, whereby more does not always mean better. They also say the research raises questions about intensity and duration of physical activity at different points in life.
The first study was conducted by researchers in Germany, who, for 10 years, assessed the frequency and intensity of physical activity in more than 1,000 individuals with stable coronary artery heart disease for 10 years.
Participants were mostly in their 60s and had participated in a cardiac rehabilitation program to help them exercise regularly. The researchers tracked survival of all participants as part of the study.
Currently, heart disease patients are advised to participate in up to an hour of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least five times a week. The breakdown of study participant activity was as follows:
- 40% were physically active two to four times per week
- 30% were physically active more than four times per week
- 30% were physically active less than two times per week
- 10% rarely or never did any exercise.
Though the most physically inactive were twice as likely to have a heart
The study, published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, was conducted by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 3 adults in the US have high blood pressure, putting them at risk for two leading causes of death – heart disease and stroke.
But in this latest study, researchers found “significant differences” in the mechanisms that cause high blood pressure in women, compared with men.
“This is the first study to consider sex as an element in the selection of antihypertensive agents or base the choice of a specific drug on the various factors accounting for the elevation in blood pressure,” says Dr. Carlos Ferrario, lead author and professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist.
He notes that traditionally, the medical community “thought that high blood pressure was the same for both sexes,” and therefore medical treatment was based on that idea.
Vascular disease risks higher in women
To look at potential differences, Dr. Ferrario and his team studied 100 men and women with untreated high blood pressure who were 53-years-old or more.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly recommend against bed-sharing with an infant – defined as sleeping on the same surface as an infant, such as a chair, sofa or bed.
But according to a 2013 study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the percentage of infants who share a bed with a parent, another caregiver or a child more than doubled between 1993 and 2010, from 6.5% to 13.5%.
Some of you may be surprised by this increase, given the well-documented health risks that have been linked to infant bed-sharing.
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study from the AAP citing bed-sharing as the primary cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – the leading cause of death among infants aged 1-12 months.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that among 8,207 infant deaths from 24 US states occurring between 2004-2012, 69% of infants were bed-sharing at the time of death.
“Bed-sharing may increase the risk of overheating, rebreathing or airway obstruction, head covering and exposure to tobacco smoke. All of these are risk factors for SIDS,” Dr.
is a collective term used to describe the problems that people with various underlying brain disorders can have with their memory, language and thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is the best known and most common disorder under the umbrella of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and is believed to currently affect 5.3 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is most common in people aged over 65, in which a tenth of the population has the condition.
The authors of the study, published in Neurology, state that low concentrations of vitamin D are associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Worryingly, there are high rates of vitamin D deficiency in older adults – the group most at risk from developing dementia.
The CDC report that one third of the US population do not get sufficient amounts of vitamin D, with 8% of the population at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure and foods such as milk, eggs, cheese and fatty fish.
Vitamin D and dementia: a strong association
For the study, the researchers tested 1,658 dementia-free
I have been researching effects of meditation on health for 30 years and have found it has compelling benefits.
Over the past year, I have been invited by doctors in medical schools and major health centers on four continents to instruct them on the scientific basis of mind-body medicine and meditation in prevention and treatment of disease, especially cardiovascular disease.
Research on Transcendental Meditation (TM), for example, has found reduced blood pressure and insulin resistance (useful for preventing diabetes), slowing of biological aging, and even a 48% reduction in the rates of heart attack, stroke and death.
I would consider those to be benefits. And so does the American Heart Association, which last year released a statement saying that decades of research indicates TM lowers blood pressure and may be considered by clinicians as a treatment for high BP.
Research on meditation has also shown a wide range of psychological benefits.
For example, a 2012 review of 163 studies that was published by the American Psychological Association concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique had relatively strong effects in reducing anxiety, negative emotions, trait anxiety and neuroticism, while aiding learning, memory and self-realization.