A lack of healthy red blood cells produces anemia and may increase the risk of dying after a stroke

Anemia Causes Higher Risk of Death After Stroke

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS MEN WITH ANEMIA HAVE INCREASED RISK OF DEATH WITHIN FIRST YEAR FOLLOWING STROKE

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the world. It develops when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to your cells. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type, but there are many others, each with its own cause and treatment. New research now suggests that anemia may increase your risk of death following a stroke.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association meeting in February. Researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine reviewed the medical records of 3,750 men who had suffered an ischemic stroke and were treated in one of 131 Veterans Administration Hospitals in 2007.

When they compared survival rates of those with anemia to non-anemic patients they found severe anemia increased the risk of dying 3.5 times while the patient was still in the hospital and 2.5 times within the first year following the stroke. Those with moderate anemia had twice the risk of dying within six months to a year after their stroke and for those with mild anemia the risk was 1.5 times higher than those without anemia.

During an ischemic stroke a blood vessel to the brain is blocked or a blood clot occurs within the brain. The researchers believe anemia restricts the body’s natural response to raise the blood pressure after a stroke in order to force more blood to the brain. Anemia also decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the brain after a stroke when it is most needed.

The report concluded that stroke survivors with anemia have an increased risk of dying within the first year and should be closely monitored.

The researchers stated further studies are needed to see if the results are the same for women and blacks, who were not included in their population. They also said they would like to determine what type of anemia patients who suffer strokes have and whether a blood transfusion might prevent them from dying.

Are you ready to be tested to see if you have anemia?

Caffeine is consumed in many forms around the world yet questions remain about its health benefits

The World’s Most Popular Drug: Caffeine

CAFFEINE IS CONSUMED IN MANY FORMS AROUND THE WORLD YET QUESTIONS REMAIN ABOUT ITS HEALTH BENEFITS

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Have you had your first cup of coffee yet today? If so then you’ve ingested about 100 mg of caffeine. If you’re on your second or third cup of coffee, you’re close to the recommended upper limit for daily caffeine consumption. For many that leads to a love-hate relationship with all things caffeine. People love the way they feel when they have and hate the way they feel when they don’t.

But is caffeine really that bad for us?

Caffeine has been in our diets since the first cup of tea was sipped in China in 10th century BC. Since then, the history of the world can be traced to the distribution of caffeine-rich tea from Asia, coffee beans from Africa and cocoa from South America. Today caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world.

To help you deal with your caffeine habit, I’ve prepared a Q/A to report on the latest research.

Are there any health benefits to caffeine?

Yes, caffeine is an antioxidant and helps fight the free radicals found in the body that attack healthy cells and cause disease. The anti-inflammatory effects of caffeine also improve immune function and caffeine can help with allergic reactions by its anti-histamine action.

Does caffeine increase the risk for heart disease?

No, several large studies found no link between caffeine and elevated cholesterol levels or increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Caffeine does cause a temporary rise in blood pressure in those who are sensitive to it, but more research is need to determine if it increases the risk for stroke in people who have hypertension.

Can caffeine cause osteoporosis?

No, not if there is adequate calcium in the diet. Consuming more than 700 mg a day may increase calcium losses in urine, but adding one ounce of milk to a cup of coffee will replace these losses.

Is caffeine a diuretic?

Yes, caffeine will increase the need to urinate, but it does not lead to excessive fluid losses. The amount excreted is not greater than the amount of fluid contained in the caffeine-containing beverage consumed.

Is the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee always the same?

No, the amount can differ widely from cup to cup brewed from the same brand and among different brands. Even decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine.

Are there any groups that should limit their intake of caffeine?

Yes, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists pregnant women should have no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, or the amount of caffeine in about 12 ounces of coffee. Women who drink larger amounts than that appear to have an increased risk of miscarriage compared to moderate drinkers and non-drinkers.

Is caffeine safe for children?

Yes, in moderation. Studies suggest that children can consume up to 300 mg of caffeine a day, although some children may be more sensitive than others its stimulant effects. The introduction of energy drinks containing caffeine has made it easier for children to get more than they should.

Are coffee and tea the main sources of caffeine in the diet?

Yes, but other sources include cola beverages, chocolate, energy drinks, over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medicines, and some “diet” pills.

Is caffeine addictive?

Maybe, depending on how you define addictive. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause mild physical dependence if used regularly. If you stop consuming it you may experience withdrawal symptoms including headache, anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. It does not, however, interfere with your physical, social or economic well-being the way additive drugs do.

When did you first experience the effects of caffeine?

Campaign raises heart disease awareness in woman using red dress symbol and helps them prevent heart disease by learning heart facts

Red Dress Symbol Helps Prevent Heart Disease in Women

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

CAMPAIGN RAISES HEART DISEASE AWARENESS IN WOMAN USING RED DRESS SYMBOL AND HELPS THEM PREVENT HEART DISEASE BY LEARNING HEART FACTS

As we all know by now, Michelle Obama wore a red dress to the inaugural ball. When she made her appearance it answered the biggest question since the election, “Who designed her gown?” I’m sure no one was thinking about her choice as a symbol for heart disease awareness in women.

But if seeing that Jason Wu gown was a reminder to women to learn our risk factors to prevent heart disease, it may have saved many lives. One woman out of every four in the United States will die from heart disease this year. Knowing the heart facts represented by that red dress is important for us all, but even more so for African American women whose rates of heart disease are twice those of white women.

What Is Heart Disease?

Any disease affecting the heart or the blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to it is a form of heart disease. It includes hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke (loss of blood to the brain), dysrhythmias (abnormalities in heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure (inability to pump sufficient blood), inflammatory heart disease (inflammation of the heart muscle) and rheumatic heart disease (infection in the heart).

These are not just diseases that happen to men or old people.

Heart disease occurs in women at the same rate as men, and at any age, but women are much less likely to pay attention to the early warning signs. That’s a problem because there is no cure for it. No pills, no procedures, no surgery can make heart disease go away. Once you have it you’ll always have it. Early intervention is the only way to minimize the damage and extend the quality of one’s life.

So what are we waiting for ladies?

What Can We Do To Prevent Heart Disease?

The risks for heart disease fall into two simple categories: Risks you can’t change and those you can. Age and family history fall into the first category. Smoking, being inactive or overweight are in the second.

I love this handy wallet card that lists the questions you should ask your doctor to find out your personal risk of heart disease. It provides a place to record the all-important “numbers” that help determine your risk, explains what the goals are for improving those numbers, and suggests things you can do to lower them. One recommendation is to adopt a heart-healthy diet, which is good for the entire family.

Are you ready to get started? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there will be plenty of red dresses to remind you. Once you know how to prevent heart disease, be sure to share the red dress story to raise heart disease awareness in your daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers, and other women in your life so they can lower their risk, too.

Heart disease research shows eggs unfairly blamed for clogged arteries in cardiovascular disorders

Clogged Arteries Are Not Due to Eggs

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

HEART DISEASE RESEARCH SHOWS EGGS UNFAIRLY BLAMED FOR CLOGGED ARTERIES IN CARDIOVASCULAR DISORDERS

One of the first things I remember learning about cardiovascular disorders as a student dietitian was that clogged arteries was the common cause. I vividly recall the illustration in my textbook of a heart attack triggered by a blockage in the flow of blood. The heart disease research available at the time hinted that it was the cholesterol in eggs that was responsible for that blockage.

I’d like to revisit the subject of eggs, cholesterol and heart disease as we celebrate American Heart Month.

Eggs were first linked to the rising rates of cardiovascular disorders in this country back in the 1970s. As a result, dietary guidelines started recommending that we limit our consumption of egg yolks to no more than 3 per week.

That triggered a lot of diners to add egg white omelets to their menus, but it didn’t slow down the rates of heart disease. It is the number one cause of death for men and women alike, and has held that distinction for over 60 years. More Americans will die of heart disease this year than all forms of cancer combined.

600,000 deaths a year can’t possibly be due to eggs.

What’s Do You Like With Your Eggs?

Some of the earliest evidence used to blame eggs for heart disease was based on research that showed the people who ate the most eggs had a greater incidence of heart attacks than those who ate few eggs. But as we should all know by now, that kind of data does not prove causation.

A closer look on the plates of the egg eaters revealed they liked their eggs with bacon or sausage, fried potatoes, buttered toast and cream in their coffee, followed by a cigarette. When more diligent researchers took a look at what else the big breakfast crowd was eating, they found plenty of other incriminating evidence. Their diets were filled with meats high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, yet eggs took all the blame for their chest pain.

Then there was the research that showed heart disease was caused by clogged arteries, and the plaque clogging our arteries was formed by cholesterol, and eggs were high in cholesterol. The advice that followed was to eat fewer eggs to stop plaque formation. But the dots hadn’t been connected yet that could prove the cholesterol in eggs was the same cholesterol that found in heart-stopping plaque.

As it turned out, those dots didn’t connect. The dietary cholesterol we get from egg yolks, liver and lobster is not the same cholesterol that ends up causing clogged arteries. Instead, we make our own custom cholesterol, mostly from saturated fat, and eggs are low in saturated fat.

Vindication of the Egg

A large scale study published this month in the British Medical Journal provides a much-needed defense of the egg. Scientists did a meta-analysis of 17 previously published reports on egg consumption and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. The analysis included over 12,000 cases of either heart disease or stroke and follow up that covered more than 7 million “person years.” The conclusion was that consuming up to an egg a day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among non-diabetic people.

Getting to The Heart Truth About Heart Disease

Just like eating eggs does not cause heart disease, wearing red doesn’t stop it. The Heart Truth campaign uses the red dress to promote awareness of the risk factors for heart disease in women so we will take action to lower our risk. The first step is to know these numbers:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Blood glucose
  • Body Mass Index (based on height and weight)
  • Waist circumference

If your numbers are too high, work with your health care team to lower them. At least you won’t have to worry about giving up eggs to do it!

Metabolic Syndrome Causes Greater Disease Risk Than Obesity Alone

Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity

RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE, STROKE AND DIABETES INCREASE WITH METABOLIC SYNDROME

Metabolic Syndrome is what you have when you are overweight, and most of your excess weight is around your middle. Along with that apple shape you also have to have any two of these other conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and too little HDL, the good cholesterol.

The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 35% of American adults meet these criteria. This means only about half as many people have Metabolic Syndrome as those who are just overweight. But Metabolic Syndrome is far worse. It doubles your risk for heart disease and stroke and increases your risk for diabetes by five times.

How to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome?

The quickest way to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome is to use a cloth tape measure to take an honest reading of your waist measurement. Place the beginning of the tape on top of one hip bone and bring it around your back, over the other hip bone, on top of your navel, then reconnect it at the hip bone. The tape should make a circle around you that is the same distance from the floor all the way around. Do this without pulling too tight or holding your breath. Now compare your reading to the values below to see if you are at risk.

Waist circumference: Women greater than 35 inches, Men greater than 40 inches

Medications: You use prescription drugs to lower cholesterol and to lower blood pressure

If your waist circumference is too large but you aren’t on two prescriptions, here are the numbers you need to have to avoid starting on medications and qualifying for Metabolic Syndrome.

  • Triglycerides: less than 150mg
  • HDL Cholesterol: over 50mg for women, 40mg for men
  • Blood Pressure: less than 130/85
  • Fasting Blood Sugar: less than 100mg

How do you treat Metabolic Syndrome?

There is no single treatment regimen for Metabolic Syndrome. Each risk factor – your weight, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood pressure – must each be managed in the best way possible to bring them back into a normal range.

The one common denominator to treating all of the risk factors, other than to quit smoking, is a healthier diet and more physical activity. Even if only a small amount of your excess weight is lost, a better diet and more exercise will improve your other numbers, and that’s important.

A study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that increasing the fiber content of the diet did more to lower the risk for Metabolic Syndrome than reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Of course, controlling fat intake is important, but if you want to focus on foods you can add to your diet in place of some other foods you’re now eating, go for more high fiber whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. They belong in your daily diet for lots of other reasons that are good for your health, anyway, so why not get started?

Is your muffin top putting you at risk for Metabolic Syndrome?