Study Suggests that a Coffee-Infused Heart is a Healthy Heart

Using data from a large, ongoing study, researchers have discovered what they think is a direct link between increased coffee consumption and better heart health.

That direct link is a strong one, too. Researchers, funded by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, found that for every additional 8 oz. cup of coffee people drank, their risk of experiencing a heart failure, stroke, or coronary disease decreased by 8%, 7%, and 5%, respectively. [1]

The data comes from the Framingham Heart Study, the country’s longest-running epidemiological study, which began in 1948 and originally focused on 5,209 people living in Framingham, Massachusetts. Over time, younger generations of Framingham residents were added to the study. [2]

Researchers were able to sift through the mounds of data from 3 generations of participants using machine learning. They backed up their findings by “using traditional analysis in two studies with similar sets of data” that had previously noted an “association between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of heart failure and stroke,” the AHA said in a press release.

Study author Laura Stevens said:

“The challenge here is there are so many potential risk factors, and testing each one using traditional methods would be extremely time consuming, and possibly infeasible.”

The findings, presented at AHA’s Scientific Sessions in 2017, don’t prove that increased coffee consumption reduces heart disease risk, but it points to a clear overlap. Plus, it’s not like coffee hasn’t been linked to a myriad of health benefits before. In fact, the healthy components of coffee are one of this coffee snob’s favorite subjects to write about.

Other Potential Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Moderate coffee consumption has been linked to a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is important because those with Type 2 diabetes have the same risk of heart attack and dying from heart disease as people who already have had heart attacks. [3]

Coffee has also been shown to block the kind of brain-based inflammation that has been implicated in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

Harvard Medical School said in August 2017 that “coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation.” What makes polyphenols so special? Look at the powerful effects of these compounds.

Polyphenols:

  • Fight cancer cells and inhibit the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors;
  • Protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation;
  • Fight free radicals and reduce the appearance of aging;
  • Promote brain health and protect against dementia;
  • Support normal blood sugar levels;
  • Promote normal blood pressure. [4]

So if you’re debating having another cup of coffee, fill up, kick back, and enjoy better health.

Sources:

[1] Philly Voice

[2] Inc.

[3] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

[4] Mercola

Study Shows Why It Is So Important to Maintain a Steady Weight

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to gain a few pounds – or how difficult it can be to lose it! Five pounds might seem like little more than a nuisance, but a recent study indicates that packing on just a few pounds can increase your chances of developing heart failure. [1]

A little weight gain can lead to a lot of health problems because packing on pounds can alter the structure of the heart and its ability to pump blood.

It sounds like doom and gloom, but the solution is simple: Drop the weight.

By “simple” I don’t mean it’s easy to do, because if that was the case, people would do it more often. But the solution is simple in that a few extra pounds doesn’t have to cut your life short, and you don’t have to go under the knife or take a bunch of risky pharmaceuticals to fix the problem.

Dr. Ian Neeland, the lead researcher behind the study, said:

“People who gain weight, even as little as 5%, are more likely to have thickening of the left side of their heart, which is a well-established indicator of heart failure.”

Read: 11 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

According to Neeland, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, these individuals “were also more likely to have decreases in their heart’s pumping ability.” But those who lose the weight, he said, improve their heart’s pumping ability and decrease the thickness of the organ’s muscle, and that likely lowers their risk for heart failure.

Belly fat is especially dangerous, as it can accumulate around the organs and produce hormones that can damage the heart and cause inflammation, Neeland explained. The extra weight itself puts a strain on the heart, forcing it to pump harder. All of that extra work can lead to thickening of the heart muscle, and “Thick hearts can’t compensate for the change and can ultimately fail,” he said.

Losing weight may reverse some of the damage to your heart, but it’s (obviously) best to keep the weight off in the first place.

Thank Goodness the Heart is “Dynamic”

For the study, researchers analyzed health data from 92,837 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, and 25,303 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Women reported their weight at age 18, while the men recalled their weight at age 21. [2]

At the beginning of the study, more than 1,200 men and women, average age 44, who didn’t have heart disease or any conditions that put them at risk for heart disease when the research began were given MRI scans of their heart. This was repeated 7 years later. [1]

Those who increased their weight by as little as 5% were found to be more likely to have thickening and enlargement of the left ventricle, which is the lower chamber of the heart. This is considered a precursor to heart failure. [2]

Participants who gained 5-22 pounds by the age of 55 had an increased risk for heart disease, hypertension, obesity-related cancer, and premature death. The more weight a person gained, the higher their risk.

For every 11 pounds gained:

  • There was a 30% increase in the risk for Type 2 diabetes
  • A 14% increase in the risk for high blood pressure
  • A 6% increase in the risk for obesity-related cancers
  • A 5% increase in the risk for dying early

What’s more, every 11-pound weight gain reduced the likelihood a participant would score well on a healthy aging assessment of physical and cognitive health by 17%.

Additionally, those individuals were more likely to have small decreases in their heart’s pumping ability.

The findings remained steadfast even after Neeland and his colleagues adjusted for other factors that can affect the heart, including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and alcohol use.

But participants who lost the weight were more likely to see a decrease in the thickness of their heart muscle, so all was not lost by the extra pounds.

It didn’t appear to make a difference how much a person weighed at the start of the study, but Neeland said that even if you’re normal weight, slight weight gain can damage your heart over time.

Yo-yo dieting can be just as unhealthy as being overweight. So, if you lose weight, make every effort to keep it off.

Dr. Byron Lee, a professor of medicine and director of the electrophysiology laboratories and clinics at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study, said:

“Gaining weight is bad for you, period.

In this study, we find out another reason why gaining even a few pounds over time has negative effects on the heart. Patients need to realize that keeping fit is better than any medication a doctor can give them for their long-term health.” [1]

Sources:

[1] Health Day

[2] Today


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Study: Moderate Drinking Linked with Fewer Heart Problems

An ice cold beer can be refreshing, and a glass of wine can be relaxing, but is alcohol safe for your heart? Alcohol consumption in moderation has a reputation for being heart-healthy, and a new study of nearly 2 million people seems to confirm that, but only to a certain degree.

For the study, published in the BMJresearchers analyzed the link between alcohol consumption and 12 different heart problems, including heart attack, heart failure, and chest pain linked with heart disease, within a large group of U.K. adults. None of the participants had cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study, and all were 30 years of age or older. The researchers zeroed in on the first heart problem that each participant developed. [1], [2]

They also looked at other information in the records, including how much alcohol the subjects reported drinking. Based on their drinking habits, each participant was placed in one of five groups: nondrinkers, former drinkers, occasional drinkers, moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers.

Moderate alcohol intake is considered up to 1 drink a day for women, and up to 2 drinks a day for men. [3]

One drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol and is defined as:

  • 12 fl. oz. of regular beer (5% alcohol)
  • 4-5 fl. oz. of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl. oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
  • 1 fl. oz. of 100-proof distilled spirits (50% alcohol)
Source: CNN

The Findings

According to the study, there were no heart conditions for which the nondrinkers had the lowest risk. In other words, they found that drinking was not necessarily bad for the heart. [2]

Compared with those who never drank, moderate drinkers were actually less likely to be diagnosed with chest pain, heart failure, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and several other conditions. No statistically significant differences were found between the groups for other conditions.

The heavy drinkers, on the other hand, were found to be more likely to be diagnosed with conditions like heart failure, cardiac arrest, peripheral artery disease, and stroke compared with moderate drinkers, which supports earlier findings that heavy drinking is not good for heart health.

Yet the heavy drinkers were less likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack than moderate drinkers. The researchers wrote that this doesn’t mean that heavy drinkers are not at risk for having a heart attack. It simply means a heart attack is less likely to be the first heart problem heavy drinkers have.

As for former drinkers, the researchers found that they were more likely than current drinkers to be diagnosed with certain heart conditions, including chest pain, heart attack, cardiac arrest, and aortic aneurysm. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t quit drinking. The finding suggests that some people quit in part because they are developing health problems from drinking.

Additionally, alcohol does not appear to protect against four less common heart problems: certain types of milder strokes caused by brief periods of blocked blood flow to the brain, and cases of bleeding in the brain. [1]

Overall, the study suggests that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk for several heart conditions.

But if you don’t drink, or you drink rarely, the researchers advise against becoming a moderate drinker to protect your heart. It’s much safer to quit smoking, eat right, and get enough exercise.

The science behind the health effects of drinking have always been murky. Past studies showed that having two alcoholic drinks a day increased the risk for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, by 17%. This condition can lead to stroke and heart failure. And while moderate wine consumption has been linked with a lower risk for breast cancer, recent research suggests that the risk increases as alcohol intake increases.

So if you don’t drink, don’t start for the sake of your health. And if you drink a lot, you should consider cutting back for your health’s sake.

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] Live Science

[3] Atlanta Journal-Constitution

CNN


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Study: Treating Insomnia Could Reduce Heart Attack and Stroke

A study suggests that treating insomnia can subsequently reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Surprising? Here is what the researchers found.[1]

Qiao He, a researcher at China Medical University, says in a news release:

“Sleep is important for biological recovery and takes around a third of our lifetime, but in modern society more and more people complain of insomnia. For example, it is reported that approximately one-third of the general population in Germany has suffered from insomnia symptoms.

Researchers have found associations between insomnia and poor health outcomes. But the links between insomnia and heart disease or stroke has [sic] been inconsistent.” [1]

For the study, researchers analyzed 15 cohort studies of 160,867 people who were followed for an average of 3 to nearly 20 years to see whether there was a link between insomnia and incidence of or death from cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease was defined in the research as:

  • Heart attack
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • A combination of events

Insomnia was defined as trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and non-restorative sleep. These conditions were respectively associated with a 27%, an 11%, and an 18% higher risk of cardiovascular and stroke events. [1]

Read: Can’t Sleep? Here Are 5 Tips for Beating Insomnia

He says:

“The underlying mechanisms for these links are not completely understood. Previous studies have shown that insomnia may change metabolism and endocrine function, increase sympathetic activation, raise blood pressure, and elevate levels of proinflammatory and inflammatory cytokines — all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke.” [1]

The study also found that women with insomnia were slightly more at risk than men for developing cardiovascular disease and stroke, but the difference was not statistically significant.

He explains that due to a lack of meta-analysis and the lack of statistically significant differences, the team couldn’t conclude that women with insomnia symptoms are in more danger of heart disease and stroke than men. But, she says:

“However, we do know that women are more prone to insomnia because of differences in genetics, sex hormones, stress, and reaction to stress. It may therefore be prudent to pay more attention to women’s sleep health.” [2]

Read: 8 Foods to Naturally Increase Melatonin for Better Sleep

According to the study, sleep helps repair and heal the heart and blood vessels, and gives the cardiovascular system a chance to rest. This in turn allows other organs to be restored.

She adds:

“Previous studies have shown that insomnia may change metabolism and endocrine function, increase sympathetic activation, raise blood pressure, and elevate levels of pro-inflammatory and inflammatory cytokines – all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke.” [2]

Past studies have indeed shown that not enough sleep – as well as too much of it – can damage your heart, possibly because it raises the calcium in your coronary arteries, leading to arterial stiffness.

A September 2015 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people with insomnia have a greater risk of both fatal heart attack and stroke.

In a report from November of 2016, researchers at the not-for-profit research organization RAND Europe wrote that lack of sleep results in higher mortality risk and costs the U.S. economy $411 billion a year. [3]

Many people shrug off sleep problems and consider it a normal consequence of modern life, but getting good sleep is essential for good health.

Sources:

[1] UPI

[2] The Sun

[3] USA Today


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