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Archive for April, 2011

Reduce Heart Attack and Stroke: Be Part of the 2020 Goal

April 26, 2011

A recent HealthDay News article reports that US health officials and the American Heart Association (AHA) have embarked on a national effort aimed at helping to reduce deaths from heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease through prevention.

“The goal is to shift the population to a healthier lifestyle,” the article cites Dr. Ralph L. Sacco, president of the AHA and chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It’s a much more prevention-oriented goal than we have had in the past.”

The program for these heart healthy goals is called Healthy People 2020 and is an effort to improve the nation’s health in the next decade. It calls for raising awareness, increasing testing, and increasing preventive measures, in order to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans by 20%.

As part of the 2020 goal, the US Department of Health and Human Services has identified specific cardiovascular disease prevention measures for people to follow, called Life’s Simple 7. These measures include:

  • More exercise (150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week).
  • Lowering cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams per deciliter.
  • Eating more fish, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains while cutting back on sodium and fats.
  • Keeping your blood pressure below 120/80.
  • Keeping your body mass index below 25.
  • Reducing blood sugar.
  • Smoking cessation.

It is the strategy of US Health Officials and the AHA to market these healthy behaviors and even work to change public policy. Examples of changing public policy would be to design communities to promote walking, provide better access to fresh fruits and vegetables nationally, and reduce sodium in manufactured foods.

According to Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chairman of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, it is the public policy that could be the essential element in the success of the endeavor just as it has worked with the smoking bans across the country.

Tell us what you think. Will you make an effort to change your lifestyle? Would you welcome public policy changes?

Study Shows We Are Happiest in Our Eighties

April 8, 2011

Are you happy right now? If not, just give it a couple decades.

According to a survey of 341,000 people published by the American National Academy of Sciences, our enjoyment of life and sense of well-being deteriorates through adulthood, hitting rock bottom in our early 40s. But then, around age 45, happiness rebounds. Our cheerfulness and optimism increases throughout adulthood until it peaks around age 85.

Lewis Wolport, author of the new book, You’re Looking Very Well, told The Daily Telegraph that research defies traditional wisdom that says our best years are in our teens and twenties. Instead, he says, during these times, people are only “averagely happy.”

By the time most people enter their thirties, they’re getting bogged down with the struggles of a career and family. This struggle continues until their lives start to balance out toward their late 40s.  By the time most people reach old age, they have fewer responsibilities and more wisdom to enjoy the things that really matter to them.

If you’re nearing age 40, just hang on. You may almost be over the hill, but the view on the other side is much better than you think.

Photo courtesy of Eric Chan.

Depression Drugs Linked With Artery Blockages

April 6, 2011

A recent study of more than 500 twins who served in the Vietnam War revealed a link between antidepressants and artery blockage in middle-age men. The study, presented by Amit J. Shah, MD, at the American College of Cardiology meeting, found that those taking the depression medications had about 5% more fatty plaque-buildup (atherosclerosis) in the inner linings of the carotid arteries.

The medication appears to “age” the artery, increasing the buildup on the inside lining. As we age, the lining of the artery naturally gets thicker, but those on the antidepressants had an acceleration of this thickening process. In fact, the process seemed to age the arteries four years faster.

This is a tricky issue for doctors to work through. On one hand, any drug that speeds arterial blockage should only be prescribed with extreme caution. On the other hand, depression medication is a lifesaver for many, since depression itself is a risk factor for vascular diseases.

While it is impossible to determine cause and effect through this study or generalize the findings to women and other age groups, the results are likely impact treatment decisions, particularly if an individual considering anti-depressant medication has a history of cardiovascular disease or if the individual is taking antidepressants but not responding.

Life Line Screening performs simple, non-invasive carotid artery/stroke disease screenings across the country. Find a screening near you.


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