06Jul

Statins May Worsen Heart Failure for Some

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4, 2009 (Health.com) — Its widely known that cholesterol-lowering statins can benefit patients with heart disease, but a new study suggests they may actually harm some people with heart failure.

Heart disease can occur when arteries become clogged, but in heart failure, the heart gets progressively weaker and larger.

Still, since the study included a small number of patients and looked at only one point in time, its too early to say if the findings have implications for heart failure patients taking statins, according to lead author Lawrence P. Cahalin, PhD, of Northeastern University, in Boston. Cahalin presented his findings on Tuesday at the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting in San Diego.

Tamara Horwich, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, agrees that the results need to be interpreted with caution. “I just dont think we can draw any conclusions about statins having benefits versus ill effects in some patients,” says Dr. Horwich, who wasnt involved with Cahalins study.

In heart failure, the enlarged heart struggles to pump a sufficient amount of blood, which can cause fluid to collect in the limbs and lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and fatigue. However, one type of heart failure, systolic, occurs when the lower chambers of the heart cant contract with enough force to drive blood throughout the body.

In the other type, diastolic heart failure, the heart muscle is so stiff that it can no longer relax enough to fill with blood between beats. About half of people with heart failure have systolic; the other half have diastolic, which becomes more common with age and is more likely to strike women.

About 5 million Americans have heart failure.

Currently, there are no guidelines on whether patients with heart failure should take statins. Some studies have shown that they can be helpful, while others have found no benefit. The decision of whether to prescribe these drugs is typically based on a patients cholesterol levels, his age, and whether he also has coronary artery disease, according to Dr. Horwich.

“Theres not a consensus,” she says. “Its up to the individual physician to make a decision.”

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20317642,00.html

06Jul

7 Ways to Keep Alcohol From Ruining Your Diet

If you have more than a few drinks a week, the calories start to add up fast. Slim your drink order with this expert advice.

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by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Over the years, many of my clients have confided that too many cocktails on the weekend, followed by alcohol-induced overeating, cancels out their work-week healthy eating efforts. And as a result, instead of seeing results, they remain “stuck” in a weight loss plateau. Sound familiar? This trend is supported by a new UK survey, which found that in a single evening out on the town, 40% of women consume about 1,000 calories in alcohol alone. In addition, more than half say that imbibing makes them hungrier, and four in five admit that drinking diminishes their willpower, causing them to indulge in foods like burgers, pizza, and chips. If alcohol is your diet downfall, try putting these seven tips into action.

Next: Eat before you drink

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01Jul

Fats You Can—and Should—Eat

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It’s just not fair: Fat got a bad rap decades ago because scientists assumed, based on the misinterpretation of a couple of large studies, that eating foods containing fat would lead directly to obesity and heart disease. Fatty foods were made out to be our sole dietary vice, responsible for raising our cholesterol levels, clogging our arteries, and causing us to get, well, fat.

And that made a kind of intuitive sense—why wouldn’t the fat you consume wind up as the fat you see on your butt and thighs? But “the low-fat diet backfired,” says Frank Hu, MD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “America’s obesity epidemic skyrocketed even while our fat intake went down.” So experts are getting off the “fat is evil” bandwagon these days—and we should, too.

The upside of eating fat

Like carbohydrates and protein, fat is an essential nutrient. This means that your body requires it for key functions, such as absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. “Fat is also an important energy source and is vital for keeping your skin and hair healthy and smooth,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It.

Even more surprising: Research is revealing that eating the right fats can actually lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and improve your cholesterol levels. That’s because all fats are not created equal, Dr. Hu points out. It’s not the total amount of fat in your diet that affects how much you weigh or whether you’re at risk for heart disease, according to rigorous studies from the past decade. What matters is the type of fats you choose (and, when it comes to dropping pounds, the total number of calories you eat). Here’s a breakdown.

Good fats

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)

Found in plant foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and canola oil, and in poultry

MUFAs can actually lower cholesterol levels, and, in doing so, your risk of heart disease. In fact, a Journal of the American Medical Association study showed that replacing a carb-rich diet with one high in monounsaturated fats can do both, and reduce blood pressure, too.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)

Found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, and corn and soybean oils

Like MUFAs, PUFAs have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk. One type is the omega-3 fatty acid, which is plentiful in some kinds of fish—not to be confused with omega-6 fatty acids, found in meats, corn oil, and soybean oil. Some research finds that Americans eat about 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3; we should be aiming to get closer to four times as much. To do so, Dr. Hu says, sub in fish for meat when you can.

Ok-in-moderation fat

Saturated fat

Found in meat and dairy products such as cheese, butter, and milk

We’ve been warned for decades to eat less saturated fat—after all, it raises “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels, and thus, it was assumed, ups your risk of heart attack and stroke. Lately, though, research has begun to vindicate it. For instance, a 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition review of 21 studies was unable to find a link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease or stroke. Some types have been entirely exonerated: “Stearic acid, found in dark chocolate, is clearly non-harmful,” says David L. Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. The same may be true of lauric acid, a type of saturated fat abundant in coconut oil, but there’s not enough evidence to say for sure, Dr. Katz says.

While some experts, like Dr. Katz, say there’s no downside to cutting out saturated fats, others believe keeping them in the mix helps us avoid getting too many bad-for-you refined carbohydrates instead. Bottom line: You don’t need to ban them. Just make sure most of your fat intake is unsaturated, eat red meat only once or twice a week, and use olive oil instead of butter when possible.

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20582466,00.html

29Jun

21 Important Facts About Vitamin B12 Deficiency

You can eat a ton of veggies and still not get enough vitamin B12. Here are the risks, symptoms, and ways to treat a deficiency.

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by Esther Crain

Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse. It helps make DNA, nerve and blood cells, and is crucial for a healthy brain and immune system. Your metabolism wouldn’t run smoothly without it. But B12 isn’t like other vitamins. It’s only found in animal products like eggs, meat, shellfish, and dairy. Up to 15% of people don’t get enough B12, and they’re more likely to be vegetarians, have celiac disease or other digestion problems, or be an adult over 50. The signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include exhaustion, rapid heartbeat, brain fog, and other symptoms, says Maggie Moon, RD, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist and owner of Everyday Healthy Eating. Read on to find out more about the causes, symptoms, and cures for a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Next: Vegetarians and vegans are at risk

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29Jun

7 Ways to Keep Alcohol From Ruining Your Diet

If you have more than a few drinks a week, the calories start to add up fast. Slim your drink order with this expert advice.

alcohol-wrecks-diet

Credit: Getty Images

by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Over the years, many of my clients have confided that too many cocktails on the weekend, followed by alcohol-induced overeating, cancels out their work-week healthy eating efforts. And as a result, instead of seeing results, they remain “stuck” in a weight loss plateau. Sound familiar? This trend is supported by a new UK survey, which found that in a single evening out on the town, 40% of women consume about 1,000 calories in alcohol alone. In addition, more than half say that imbibing makes them hungrier, and four in five admit that drinking diminishes their willpower, causing them to indulge in foods like burgers, pizza, and chips. If alcohol is your diet downfall, try putting these seven tips into action.

Next: Eat before you drink

» View All

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27Jun

The Top 5 Cholesterol Myths

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American men rank 83rd in the world in average total cholesterol.

(ISTOCKPHOTO)

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about cholesterol, there may be a few more surprises in store. Check out these common myths about high cholesterol; find out whos most likely to have it, what types of food can cause it, and why—sometimes—cholesterol isnt a bad word.

Myth 1: Americans have the highest cholesterol in the world

One of the world’s enduring stereotypes is the fat American with cholesterol-clogged arteries who is a Big Mac or two away from a heart attack. As a nation, we could certainly use some slimming down, but when it comes to cholesterol levels we are solidly middle-of-the-road.

The Cholesterol-Inflammation Connection

Inflammation is cholesterol’s partner in crime  Read moreAccording to 2005 World Health Organization statistics, American men rank 83rd in the world in average total cholesterol, and American women rank 81st; in both cases, the average number is 197 mg/dL, just below the Borderline-High Risk category. That is very respectable compared to the top-ranked countries: In Colombia the average cholesterol among men is a dangerous 244, while the women in Israel, Libya, Norway, and Uruguay are locked in a four-way tie at 232.Myth 2: Eggs are evil

It’s true that eggs have a lot of dietary cholesterol—upwards of 200 mg, which is more than two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 300 mg a day. But dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly as dangerous as was once thought. Only some of the cholesterol in food ends up as cholesterol in your bloodstream, and if your dietary cholesterol intake rises, your body compensates by producing less cholesterol of its own.

While you don’t want to overdo it, eating an egg or two a few times a week isn’t dangerous. In fact, eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain unsaturated fat, a so-called good fat.

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20259746,00.html

24Jun

10 Fast Weight Loss Tips (We Tried Them!)

How can I lose weight? Here’s expert advice for losing weight and burning fat fast!

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by Melissa Daly

From Health magazine

Sick of chasing fad diets? Time to hop off the bandwagon and get some down-to-earth advice from people who have been there, done that.

Sure, we spend our days sifting through the latest research and asking super-toned celebrities about their workout secrets. At the end of the day, though, peeling off the pounds is just as challenging for us as it is for anyone else.

These 10 diet tricks aren’t always easy to stick to, but they’ve worked for us.

Next: Put away the (food) scale

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22Jun

10 Things You Should Never Do When You’re Angry

When you’re mad, everyday tasks like driving and using Facebook may later prove regrettable.

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by Linda Melone

Getting into a heated argument doesn’t just put you in a bad mood. It can also compromise your ability to perform everyday tasks—like driving—in ways that could be dangerous for you or the people around you. Here, top experts discuss what you should never do when under the influence of anger, with tips for regaining your composure.

Next: You shouldn’t sleep on it

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22Jun

10 Home Remedies You Can Find in Your Kitchen

Searching for natural remedies? These foods can help a variety of ailments.

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by Rachel Swalin

You already know that consuming the right foods can boost your intake of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. But there are a few out there that could also alleviate some of your most pesky daily problems, like hiccups or even rashes like eczema. Though it’s important to keep in mind that serious conditions need the attention of a doctor, it might not hurt to reach for one of these 10 items the next time you have a minor health problem.

Next: Ginger for menstrual cramps

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22Jun

Menopause Causes Cholesterol Jump, Study Shows

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FRIDAY, Dec. 11, 2009 (Health.com) — Doctors have known for years that a woman’s risk of developing heart disease rises after menopause, but they weren’t exactly sure why. It wasn’t clear whether the increased risk is due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause, to aging itself, or to some combination of the two.

Now, we have at least part of the answer: A new study shows beyond a doubt that menopause, not the natural aging process, is responsible for a sharp increase in cholesterol levels.

This seems to be true of all women, regardless of ethnicity, according to the study, which will be published next week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“As they approach menopause, many, many women show a very striking increase in cholesterol levels, which in turn increases risk for later heart disease,” says the lead author of the study, Karen A. Matthews, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Over a 10-year period, Matthews and her colleagues followed 1,054 U.S. women as they went through menopause. Each year the researchers tested study participants for cholesterol, blood pressure, and other heart disease risk factors such as blood glucose and insulin.

In nearly every woman, the study found, cholesterol levels jumped around the time of menopause. (Menopause usually occurs around age 50 but can happen naturally as early as 40 and as late as 60.)

In the two-year window surrounding their final menstrual period, the women’s average LDL, or bad cholesterol, rose by about 10.5 points, or about 9%. The average total cholesterol level also increased substantially, by about 6.5%.

Other risk factors, such as insulin and systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), also rose during the study, but they did so at a steady rate, suggesting that the increases—unlike those for cholesterol—were related to aging, not menopause. Of all the risk factors measured in the study, the changes in cholesterol were the most dramatic.

The jumps in cholesterol reported in the study could definitely have an impact on a womans health, says Vera Bittner, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wrote an editorial accompanying Matthewss study.

“The changes don’t look large, but given that the typical woman lives several decades after menopause, any adverse change becomes cumulative over time,” says Dr. Bittner. “If somebody had cholesterol levels at the lower ranges of normal, the small change may not make a difference. But if somebody’s risk factors were already borderline in several categories, this increase may tip them over the edge and put them in a risk category where treatment may be beneficial.”

In a first, the study did not find any measurable differences in the impact of menopause on cholesterol across ethnic groups.

Experts have been unsure how ethnicity may affect the link between menopause and cardiovascular risk, because most research to date has been conducted in Caucasian women. Matthews and her colleagues were able to explore the role of ethnicity because their research is part of the larger Study of Womens Health Across the Nation (SWAN), which includes substantial numbers of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American women.

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20326394,00.html