Heart Beat March 2016 Issue

Sugary Drinks, Heart Failure Risks and Bad Exercise Habits

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Linked to Increase of Visceral Fat

Drinking sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages on a regular basis may boost your body’s amount of visceral fat, the type of fat that may affect the risk of heart disease and diabetes. In a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers found a direct correlation between the consumption of sugary drinks and an increase in visceral fat. Visceral fat wraps around organs such as the intestines and liver. It affects hormone function, including the role of insulin in managing blood glucose levels. Increased visceral fat appears to increase the risk of insulin resistance, a factor in type 2 diabetes, which is itself a risk factor for heart disease. There was not a similar connection noted between artificially sweetened (diet) sodas and visceral fat. The study involved about 1,000 people. Researchers found that the greatest increase in visceral fat among the study participants was among those who drank at least one sugary beverage daily. This study further underscores the recommendations by health experts to avoid or at least minimize your consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Follow “Simple 7” Heart Measures to Help Reduce Heart Failure Risk

If you can control the items on the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “Life’s Simple 7” checklist for a healthy heart, you may significantly lower your risk of developing heart failure, according to research published in the AHA journal Circulation: Heart Failure. Managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting active, eating better, losing weight and stopping smoking were all associated with improved heart health. In a study of more than 3,200 people who were followed for an average of 12.3 years, those who managed the most items on the checklist cut their risk of heart failure by more than half. Those who were poorest at managing their risk factors were also more likely to experience structural and functional changes to the heart. This process is known as cardiac remodeling and it’s associated with a higher risk of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart has become too weak to pump enough blood to properly meet the body’s demand. Fortunately, a number of the conditions on the Simple 7 list can be managed with the same lifestyle changes. For example, getting more active and eating better may help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol profile. Quitting smoking can also help you improve your blood pressure. For help with your Simple 7 checklist, ask your doctor.

Cardiologists Sound the Alarm About Poor Exercise Habits

The American College of Cardiology’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Leadership Council is calling on adults to exercise more, saying the cardiovascular risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle are profound. Rather than worry about the risk of injury from too much exercise, Americans should do a better job of being more physically active throughout the day. In a report published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the Council stressed the benefits of even minor exercise improvements, such as standing more and taking walks throughout the day. The report noted that more exercise leads to even greater reductions in cardiovascular disease risk. The doctors on the council also said that worries about the possible health risks of too much vigorous exercise, such as marathon running, are diverting attention away from the importance of just getting more moderate-intensity exercise.

Cocoa Flavanols May Improve Vascular Function in Kidney Patients

Cocoa flavanols, micronutrients found in cocoa, are associated with improved vascular health in patients with end-stage renal disease, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. While it’s not clear how cocoa flavanols help improve blood vessel function, researchers are confident that the ingestion of cocoa flavanols in supplement form may help reverse blood vessel problems caused by hemodialysis, a treatment for renal (kidney) disease. Cocoa flavanols may also help lower diastolic blood pressure, the study found. In the study, patients took supplements containing the flavanols, but other research suggests that moderate dietary cocoa consumption confers some heart benefits.

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