Heart Beat: March 2011
DIABETES RATES CLIMB AMONG U.S. ADULTS
The number of American adults treated for diabetes jumped from about 9 million in 1996 to 19 million in 2007, according to a report issued in January by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The largest increase was among adults aged 45 to 64. The number of patients with diabetes in that age group climbed from 3.6 million to 8.9 million. Among adults 65 and older, the number of diabetes patients nearly doubled from 4.3 million to 8 million in that time. Researchers say the most obvious culprit is the huge increase in adults who are overweight and obese, but that some of the higher numbers are the result of greater testing and at younger ages. Researchers also noted that with diabetes comes complications with cardiovascular health and potential damage to the kidneys, eyes, feet and nerves.
CAROTID STENTING MAY BE AS SAFE AS SURGERY FOR OCTOGENARIANS
A study presented in January at the International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy found that stenting may be as safe as surgery to treat carotid artery disease in octogenarians. Researchers added, however, that the interventionalist who performs the carotid artery stenting should have done at least 100 procedures and that the stenting should be done at a high-volume center. Older patients are often difficult to treat with stents because they have more calcification in their arteries, including the aorta, which makes it more difficult to guide the catheter through blood vessels to the portion of the carotid artery that is blocked and receiving the stent. Because of this, older patients are often advised to have surgery to repair narrowing in carotid arteries, an intervention known as endarterctomy.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES LINKED TO LOWER HEART RISK
Two recent studies highlight the importance of making fruits and vegetables key parts of your everyday diet. One study, published in the Jan. 19 issue of the European Heart Journal, found that people who ate at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who consumed fewer than three servings a day. Examples of one serving include a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot. The second study, published in the Nov. 24, 2010 online issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, touted the advantages of red and blue berries and vegetables in fighting hypertension. The key nutrients in blueberries, strawberries and blood oranges are anthocyanins, antioxidants that have multiple health benefits. In this study, people who consumed the most anthocyanins had eight percent lower blood pressure than those who ate the least.
STUDY RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT STATINS FOR LOW-RISK ADULTS
An analysis of 14 studies involving more than 34,000 patients suggests that individuals with no previous heart disease and who are at low risk for heart disease may not see a benefit for statin therapy. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, released in January, found that the cholesterol-lowering medications do not appear to be any more effective in preventing cardiovascular disease than weight management through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Because statins have been proven to be effective at lowering LDL cholesterol levels, some health experts have advocated the drugs’ use in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. But the Cochrane Review says there is little information available about the long-term effectiveness of statins for primary prevention and that prescribing the drugs to low-risk individuals should be done cautiously if at all.
RED MEAT CONSUMPTION LINKED TO HIGHER STROKE RISK
Women who eat about 3.5 ounces of red meat per day had a 42 percent higher risk of stroke than those who ate an ounce or less per day, according to a study published online Dec. 16, 2010 in the journal Stroke. Possible explanations include red meat’s higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, which are linked to poor cardiovascular health. Another factor could be sodium, because the rates of stroke were higher for processed meats than fresh meats. Though the study included only women, researchers suggest similar risks are likely to be found in men who eat red meat.