Posts Tagged ‘heart disease’

REPOST: 6 Health Hazards Linked to Lack of Sleep

This report from ABC News talks about a few health hazards linked to sleep deprivation. Find out about these diseases below:


Lack of sleep has been linked to a number of health problems including heart disease and cancer.

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Beyond leaving you drowsy and irritable, sleepless nights can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health.

“We know sleep is a critical biological function that influences a wide variety of physiological process,” said Dr. Susan Redline, a sleep specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Sleep deficiency can affect mood and the ability to make memories and learn, but it also affects metabolism, appetite, blood pressure, levels of inflammation in the body and perhaps even the immune response.”

Lack of sleep has been linked to stroke, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression and the country’s No. 1 killers: heart disease and cancer. Read on to learn the health hazards of sleep deficiency and how you can sleep better.

Heart Disease

Getting seven hours of shut-eye after a day of healthy eating and moderate exercise can lower the risk of heart disease by up to 65 percent, according to a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

“It is always important to confirm results,” study author Monique Verschuren of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands said in a statement. “But the evidence is certainly growing that sleep should be added to our list of [cardiovascular disease] risk factors.”

The study added to a growing body of evidence that sleep is key for heart health. A 2011 study published in the European Heart Journal found people who slept fewer than six hours a night were 48 percent more likely to develop or die from heart disease.


A study of more than 5,600 people found those who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely to suffer a stroke than their well-rested counterparts.

“We speculate that short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors, and once these traditional stroke risk factors are present, then perhaps they become stronger risk factors than sleep duration alone,” Megan Ruiter of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said in a statement.

Stroke risk is also higher in people who are overweight, diabetic or hypertensive — all conditions linked to poor sleep.

Obesity and Diabetes

Sporadic and irregular sleep can raise blood sugar levels and slow the body’s metabolism, increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes, according to an April 2012 study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health,” said study author Orfeu Buxton, a neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Sleep deficiency can also lead to bad food choices, according to a study that found the sight of unhealthy food activated reward centers in the brains of sleep-deprived people.

“The results suggest that, under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods,” said study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York. “Indeed, food intake data from this same study showed that participants ate more overall and consumed more fat after a period of sleep restriction compared to regular sleep.”

Anxiety and Depression

Sure, sleepless nights make for miserable mornings. But chronic sleep deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression — both serious mood disorders.

“People feel more anxious, restless, irritable, less satisfied,” said Dr. Mark Dyken, director of the University of Iowa’s Sleep Disorders Center in Iowa City, Iowa, adding sleep deficiency can impact careers and relationships. “They have difficulty focusing and sometimes feel like they just don’t care anymore.”

Brain imaging suggests sleep deprivation can boost activity in the brain’s emotional centers, according to a study presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston.

“Our results suggest that just one night of sleep loss significantly alters the optimal functioning of this essential brain process, especially among anxious individuals,” study author Andrea Goldstein from the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. “This is perhaps never more relevant considering the continued erosion of sleep time that continues to occur across society.”


Sleep deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Cancer found women who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely develop breast cancer, and a 2010 study published in the journal Cancer found those who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely to have colorectal polyps, which can lead to colon cancer.

The biological mechanisms are unclear, but lack of sleep has been shown to boost levels of inflammation in the body and interfere with the immune response, both of which have been implicated in cancer.

“Sleep is restorative,” said Dyken. “And if you don’t get it, your health will suffer.”

Dry, Damaged Skin
Dark circles and puffy eyes can make you look tired, but new research suggests lack of sleep can take a serious toll on your skin, causing it to lose moisture and recover more slowly from sun damage.

“When our skin gets dehydrated we’re more prone to eczema and other skin conditions,” said Dr. Elma Baron, director of UH Case Medical Center’s Skin Study Center in Cleveland, who led the study of 60 women sponsored by Estee Lauder. “Good sleepers have better skin barrier function, and poor sleepers lose more moisture through the skin.”

Sleep quality and duration also seemed to impact skin’s pigmentation and laxity, according to Baron, and good sleepers tended to feel better about the way they looked.

“I think it emphasizes the importance of good quality sleep and adequate sleep,” said Baron.

The study was presented at the International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is currently being prepared for publication, according to Baron.

Get Your Sleep

With hectic work and family schedules, getting a good night’s sleep is no easy feat. But experts say a little planning can go a long way, helping you feel refreshed the next morning and for many to come.

“Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, and avoid reading anything that’s going to make you excited or worried,” said Dyken. “Try not to exercise or eat a big meal within three hours of your bedtime, but don’t go to bed hungry, either.”

Caffeine and alcohol can also interfere with sleep, according to Redline.

“Much of sleep deficiency is self-inflicted,” she said. “But adults should do their best to get to bed at regular times and aim to have seven-and-a-half hours on average of sleep. Set your schedule such that you honor and respect your sleep needs.”

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REPOST: Vitamins: Good or Bad?

This article from reveals that dependence on vitamin supplements may actually do more harm than good. Read about it here:

We are not a post-vitamin society, yet.



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As the iconic Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor would say, “[guttural grunt], more power.”

If I’m properly remembering Home Improvement, things rarely went awry for Taylor and his wife Jill. His North Star was the simple, relentless pursuit of the twentieth-century American “more is more” ethos. Taylor owned a multi-story house, had three stylish boys, a happy marriage, and a career that afforded him both celebrity and pursuit of his passion. Meanwhile the family’s painfully levelheaded neighbor, Wilson, squandered most of his time clinging to eccentric cultural anachronisms alone in his backyard. It was strongly implied that he had lost the bottom half of his face in some sort of terrible accident.

The moderate Al Borland was also perpetually drab, surpassed by Taylor in every quantifiable metric of success.

Taylor is not America’s Doctor today, though. (America’s Doctor is of course Dr. Mehmet “A Revolutionary New Way to Live Years Longer: It’s Red Palm Oil” Oz.) On the whole, twenty-first century medicine is ushering in a revival of moderation. This weekend, Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, wrote a fact-heavy piece in the Opinion section of The New York Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins.” It was the most popular article on the Times’ site.


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I know what it’s like to be reduced to a headline. People sometimes put articles on their Facebook walls without reading past the headlines, I hear. Offit’s actual point is more nuanced, if no less reactionary: Multivitamins are not a panacea; more is not always better; more is sometimes quite bad. Some of the anti-supplement data he cites is compelling:

In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1994, 29,000 Finnish men, all smokers, had been given daily vitamin E, beta-carotene, both or a placebo. The study found that those who had taken beta-carotene for five to eight years were more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease.

Two years later the same journal published another study on vitamin supplements. In it, 18,000 people who were at an increased risk of lung cancer because of asbestos exposure or smoking received a combination of vitamin A and beta-carotene, or a placebo. Investigators stopped the study when they found that the risk of death from lung cancer for those who took the vitamins was 46 percent higher.

Then, in 2004, a review of 14 randomized trials for the Cochrane Database found that the supplemental vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene, and a mineral, selenium, taken to prevent intestinal cancers, actually increased mortality.

Another review, published in 2005 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that in 19 trials of nearly 136,000 people, supplemental vitamin E increased mortality. Also that year, a study of people with vascular disease or diabetes found that vitamin E increased the risk of heart failure. And in 2011, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tied vitamin E supplements to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Finally, last year, a Cochrane review found that “beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A.”

When you put it that way, vitamins look bad. Beta-carotene, very bad. The fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), as a rule of thumb, are the easiest to get too much of. Still reductive notions swaying perception too far against nebulous notions of vitamins is also bad. Everything we knew is not wrong.

First, talking in aggregate about all vitamins (which is like lumping “medications” as one thing) in binary good-or-bad terms misses all the points. We still don’t know the exact ideal amounts of many vitamins, though we know more about some than others. For example, just three months ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reversed its position on vitamin D and calcium supplements for postmenopausal women. Michael LeFevre, chair of the task force that made the statement, said, “What we’re saying is that a practice that we have commonly used for years — literally, years — routinely in postmenopausal women just doesn’t work.”

Likewise, as Offit says, presently “respected organizations” do not recommend multivitamin supplements for “otherwise healthy” people. The official position of the National Institutes of Health is, “The present [2006] evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of multivitamins by the American public to prevent chronic disease.” Still many people do benefit from multivitamins. “Otherwise healthy” in this case does not include, for example, those on limited diets, some elderly adults, people who’ve had gastric bypass, or people who drink a lot; all of whom are relatively prone to vitamin deficiencies.

Similarly while vitamin A supplementation is not recommended in industrialized countries — and can be outright dangerous to pregnant women — the World Health Organization does recommend it in resource-poor places. Vegans may need to be on B12, but it is not recommended for most people. Vitamin C supplements, too, which are commonly taken in hopes of warding off impending colds, are not recommended as they have not actually been shown to work.

There is also the concern that deficiencies don’t just manifest as overt syndromes like scurvy, but sometimes as more insidious pathologies. They have been tied in limited research to cancers, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. (Likewise vitamin excess has been tied to many of the same things.) Still the USPTF maintains that there’s “not enough evidence” to blanket-recommend that we take (or that we do not take) vitamins A, C, E, or multivitamins, folic acid, or antioxidant supplements for purposes of preventing cancer or heart disease. Expect more research on all of that, particularly in high-risk patients.

One of the most important points to note where supplementation is very recommended is folic acid in pregnancy, which is necessary for normal cell division, as a supplement to all women trying to conceive — sometimes to all women of childbearing age. (True you can get pregnant at 60 now with IVF, but the point is to address cases of unplanned pregnancy, where neural tube defects like spina bifida can result from insufficient folate before the woman even knows she’s pregnant and thinks to start taking prenatal vitamins).

Bottom line, we understand the majority of people to be best off without any vitamin supplements. Just because they are non-prescription and still live inside a “health halo,” vitamins are not harmless. They could shorten or extend your life; at this point, taking vitamins randomly is metabolic roulette. So, not to sound like the caveat at the end of a pill commercial, talk to your doctor about vitamins — just like you would about prescription medications — before waving any sort of pro or anti-vitamin flag. Not everyone needs the same things, and more doesn’t mean better. Be the Al Borland of nutritional supplements.

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REPOST: Meditation can reduce stress and lower risk of heart disease

Relieve stress and reduce the risk of acquiring heart disease through meditation. Learn more about it from this Health News article.


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Transcendental meditation has swept the news this morning touting an ability to dramatically reduce heart disease and heart complications.
Transcendental meditation (TM) is rooted in Indian culture, founded in the 1950s. It found widespread acceptance in the 1960s and 1970s, and has since become less of a form of religion and more of a technique of relaxation and spirituality. A form of mantra meditation, TM technique is taught in seven steps and helps the individual calm the mind and body.

The study focused on teaching the TM technique as a stress-reduction approach to a group of 201 African American patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). According to the press release, African Americans have higher rates of CHD-related illness and death, and that psychosocial stress might be a contributing factor. The researchers theorized that the effects of a stress reduction intervention would help reduce CHD risk factors and perhaps prevent CHD-related morbidity and mortality.
Between 1998 and 2007, study participants either engaged in meditation techniques for 20 minutes twice per day, or spent the same amount of time practicing other heart-healthy lifestyle behaviors that they were taught in a cardiovascular health education program.

The results found that TM appears to reduce the risk of death, heart attack and stroke, while also lowering blood pressure and stress levels far better than the control group which practiced heart-healthy behavior.

Transcendental meditation did not, however, improve other “mitigating factors” of CHD such as depression, isolation and lack of social support.
It seems evident that meditative practices, such as TM, are not the cure-all for heart disease but may provide some added benefits to those suffering from it.

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Big Doses of Vitamin C May Lower Blood Pressure

Discover how Vitamin C help lower blood pressure and reduce risks of heart disease in this article from

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Taking large doses of vitamin C may moderately reduce blood pressure, according to an analysis of years of research by Johns Hopkins scientists. But the researchers stopped short of suggesting people load up on supplements.

“Our research suggests a modest blood pressure lowering effect with vitamin C supplementation, but before we can recommend supplements as a treatment for high blood pressure, we really need more research to understand the implications of taking them,” says Edgar “Pete” R. Miller III, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Roughly 30 percent of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, or hypertension, an important risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Successful treatment may include drugs, exercise, weight loss, and dietary changes such as reducing salt intake. Some experts believe that large amounts of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient found primarily in fruits and vegetables, could lower pressure as well, but randomized, controlled dietary intervention studies — the gold standard of nutrition research — have produced mixed results.

Miller and his colleagues reviewed and analyzed data from 29 randomized, controlled, previously published clinical trials that reported systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure values and also compared vitamin C intake to a placebo. What they found is that taking an average of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily — about five times the recommended daily requirement — reduced blood pressure by 3.84 millimeters of mercury in the short term. Among those diagnosed with hypertension, the drop was nearly 5 millimeters of mercury.

By comparison, Miller says, patients who take blood pressure medication such as ACE inhibitors or diuretics (so-called “water pills”) can expect a roughly 10 millimeter of mercury reduction in blood pressure.

Five hundred milligrams of vitamin C is the amount in about six cups of orange juice. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults is 90 milligrams.
“Although our review found only a moderate impact on blood pressure, if the entire U.S. population lowered blood pressure by 3 milliliters of mercury, there would be a lot fewer strokes,” Miller says. Miller cautions, however, that none of the studies his team reviewed show that vitamin C directly prevents or reduces rates of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

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Scientists have focused on vitamin C’s potential role in blood pressure reduction because of the nutrient’s biological and physiological effects. For example, vitamin C may act as a diuretic, causing the kidneys to remove more sodium and water from the body, which helps to relax the blood vessel walls, thereby lowering blood pressure.

Nutritional supplements are a $28 billion-a-year industry, and marketing claims, newspaper stories and testimonials often make them hard to resist, Miller says. People often view supplements as a “natural alternative” and preferable to drugs for high blood pressure or other ailments, he adds, despite mounting evidence that many supplements don’t work and in some cases may cause harm.

“People love to take vitamins regardless of the evidence or lack of it,” Miller says. “We’re trying to raise the bar and provide evidence-based guidance about whether supplements help or actually do harm.” With respect to vitamin C, he says, the jury is still out.

Other study authors from Johns Hopkins include Stephen P. Juraschek, an M.D., Ph.D. candidate; Eliseo Guallar, M.D., Dr.Ph.; and Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., M.P.H.