Heart Beat September 2019 Issue

In The News: September 2019

Popular Joint Supplement May Protect Against Heart Attack

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Many people take glucosamine supplements to relieve joint pain from osteoarthritis. The good news is that this practice may offer some protection against heart attack and stroke, as well. British researchers surveyed more than 466,000 patients, none of whom had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease at the time. As reported in BMJ May 14, 2019, during the next seven years there were 5,745 heart attacks, 3,263 strokes and 3,060 cardiovascular deaths in the group. After adjusting for other risk factors, habitual glucosamine use was associated with a significantly lower risk of all types of fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events.

Developing Type 2 Diabetes in Midlife Is Bad for the Brain

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A study published online June 5, 2019, in Diabetologia found that developing type 2 diabetes in middle adulthood doubles the risk of stroke later in life. Of 33,086 individuals enrolled in the Swedish Twin Registry, 3.8% developed type 2 diabetes in their 40s and 50s. Most were males who were overweight, had heart disease and/or hypertension and were drinkers and smokers. Over time, 9.4% of the total participants developed cerebrovascular disease after age 60. Those with diabetes had twice the risk of individuals without diabetes. When discordant twin pairs were analyzed (meaning one twin developed diabetes and the other did not) the results were the same. This indicated that the risk of stroke was not due to socioeconomic background or childhood events, since the twins were raised in the same environment.

If You Eat Little or No Meat, Don't Change a Thing

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Red meat has long been known to be a risk factor for heart disease, but just what role it plays is unclear. A look at two large prospective health studies has added clarity to the issue, and the news is not good for frequent meat eaters. Researchers reported online June 12, 2019, in BMJ that increasing the intake of red meat over an eight-year period significantly increased the risk of death over the next eight years. The added risk was seen with all kinds of meat, but was particularly high with increased consumption of processed meats, such as luncheon meats, bacon and hot dogs.

These findings were based on an analysis of 28,000 men and 53,500 women participatants in the ongoing Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses' Health Study. In response to questionnaires, they self-reported changes in red meat consumption. The researchers categorized these changes as increased, decreased or relatively neutral. After adjusting for various risk factors, an increase in total red meat consumption by up to 3.5 servings a week over eight years was linked to a 10% higher risk of death. When the increase was largely in processed meats, the risk rose to 13%.

On the other hand, replacing one serving of meat a day with fish decreased the risk of death by 17%. Substituting other healthy options, including legumes, skinless poultry, eggs, whole grains or vegetables, also had a favorable effect.

FDA Approves Tobacco Cigarettes That Heat but Don't Burn

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Americans can now light up tobacco cigarettes that don't burn, don't smell and don't produce smoke, yet apparently provide the same experience as traditional cigarettes. Known as "heat sticks," the devices enable smokers to inhale addictive nicotine without many toxic additives. Heat sticks are wildly popular in parts of Europe, where users claim the devices make them feel better and cough less than they did when smoking cigarettes. The FDA makes no claims about the products' safety alone or in comparison to standard cigarettes. However, the agency did find formaldehyde levels to be 66% to 91% lower than in traditional cigarettes.

For now only Philip Morris heat stick products will be introduced into the U.S. The products will be available through boutique stores in Atlanta, then distributed through convenience stores and gas stations nationwide. The FDA will be watching closely in hopes that heat sticks do not entice a great number of youths to smoke.

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