Heart Beat May 2019 Issue

In The News: May 2019

There's Good News and Bad News About Heart Disease in America

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The American Heart Association's (AHA) Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2019 Update, published online Jan. 31 in Circulation, contains both good news and bad news. Rates of heart disease dropped 1.8 percent from 2015 to 2016, and rates of stroke dropped 0.8 percent. However, these declines were not enough to bump these two forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD) from their positions as the No. 1 and No. 5 causes of death in this country.

The AHA update included data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which found that 48 percent of adults in this country have CVD (defined as heart disease, heart failure, hypertension or stroke). When adults with hypertension were excluded, the figure dropped to 9 percent. This suggests hypertension is responsible for the vast majority of CVD cases.

When it comes to other risk factors for CVD, improvements were seen in two areas: The number of nonsmokers rose from 73 percent in 1999-2000 to 79 percent in 2015-2016, and cholesterol levels dropped across the board between 1999 and 2016.

For other risk factors, the news was not so good: Fewer than 23 percent of adults are meeting the 2008 federal guidelines for physical activity. Additionally, obesity and severe obesity increased significantly among adults between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016.

A Diet of Highly Processed Junk Foods Could Kill You

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Junk food and convenience foods may simplify your life, but they also endanger it. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine Feb. 11, 2019, found that people who regularly consume a significant quantity of foods the researchers term "ultra processed" are at increased risk of death. They include packaged snacks, soft drinks, breads, candies, processed meats and frozen meals.

French researchers analyzed the results of food questionnaires completed every six months by 44,551 adults ages 45 and older participating in an ongoing study on food habits. On average, more than 29 percent of their total calories came from ultra processed foods. During the seven-year study, 602 participants died. After carefully adjusting for other factors, the researchers concluded that every 10 percent increase in the amount of ultra processed foods consumed increased the risk of all-cause death by 14 percent. Ultra processed foods tend to be high in calories, carbohydrates, salt and fat and low in fiber and vitamins. In addition, they may contain harmful food additives and contaminants.

Sedentary Lifestyle Dangerous for Women

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A study published Feb. 19, 2019, in Circulation confirmed that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The study included 5,500 women ages 63 to 97 with no history of a cardiovascular (CV) event. Over a period of up to 4.9 years, participants documented the average amount of sedentary time spent per day, as well as the length of each sedentary session. During this period, 545 CV events occurred. After adjusting for other CV risk factors, the researchers found those who spent around 11 hours a day sitting down had 1.5 times the risk of a CV event than those who spent about nine hours a day sedentary. The women who sat for longer periods of time before getting up and moving around also were at greater risk than those who sat for shorter periods.

Snacking on Tree Nuts May Lower CV Risk from Type 2 Diabetes

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An analysis of the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found that adults with type 2 diabetes who ate five or more 28-gram (1 ounce) servings of tree nuts per week had a 17 percent lower risk of CVD, a 34 percent lower risk of death from CVD, a 20 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease and a 31 percent lower risk of death from all causes than adults who ate less than one serving (1 ounce) per month. For each increase in serving of nuts per week, the risk of CVD dropped 3 percent, and risk of death from CVD dropped 6 percent (Circulation Research online, Feb. 25, 2019).

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