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Archive for August, 2011

Studies Used Ultrasound to Determine Stroke Risk

August 23, 2011

strokeWebMD Health News reports the results of a recent 2-yr study that used two types of ultrasound testing to assess the plaque in the carotid arteries of 435 people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis. The purpose of the study was to better identify the persons who were in need of surgery or stenting versus medication. Having the ability to positively identify who is most at risk for stroke is a current dilemma within the medical community.

The carotid arteries are the arteries located in the neck that carry blood to the brain. These arteries can become narrowed as plaque buildup occurs. This narrowing is referred to as asymptomatic carotid stenosis, or ACS. “Asymptomatic” means that the patient does not display symptoms, and they may, in fact, never display symptoms. As you can imagine though, if stroke does happen, it is a devastating occurrence.

Summary of Study

The two types of ultrasound testing that were used in the study were: (1) A standard ultrasound to assess the quality and composition of the plaque in the carotid arteries, and (2) a Doppler ultrasound to look for the presence of tiny blood clots called microemboli. Microemboli is what can break off from the arteries, travel to the brain and cause stroke.

Of the 435 people with ACS in this study, 10 people had a stroke and 20 had mini-strokes called transient ischemic attacks. Additional study data produced the following findings:

  • People with fatty plaque in their carotid artery were more than 6 times more likely to have a stroke than those people without this type of plaque.
  • Plaques that are rich in fat are considered more dangerous.
  • People with both fatty plaque and signs of microemboli were more than 10 times more likely to have a stroke.
  • Risk of future stroke is 8% per year for people who test positive on both screening tests, regardless of additional stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and vascular disease.
  • Future risk of stroke is lower than 1% per year for those with negative results on both imaging tests, regardless of additional stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and vascular disease.

The researchers on this study believe that if additional studies like this produce the same results, it could change the way ACS is evaluated and treated in the future.

You can read the full article at: http://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20110817/ultrasound-predicts-stroke-due-to-narrowed-neck-arteries

carotid artery stroke screeningLife Line Screening uses Doppler ultrasound testing, which allows us to effectively measure the movement of blood through the arteries, which can help detect the dangerous artery narrowing caused by plaque buildup. The results of our stroke screenings  can help your doctor determine if immediate surgery, additional testing, medication or other is warranted.

We are pleased to learn that such studies are being done to better identify who exactly is more at risk for stroke. Meanwhile, stroke remains the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in America.




Women, Depression and Stroke

August 18, 2011

Depression and Stroke

An August 12 USA Today article reports that women with a “history of depression” have a higher risk of stroke. This is according to findings from a recent study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Some of the interesting details from this study are that women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft, run a 39% higher risk for stroke than non-depressed women and a 10% higher risk than depressed women who are not using antidepressants.

Yet, women should not stop taking their antidepressant medications, according to the study’s lead author Kathryn Rexrode, who said, “Although we found women who took antidepressants were at higher risk, I don’t have anything to indicate it’s because of the medications.”

The reason for the mention of antidepressants is, as lead researcher An Pan points out, that a woman who is prescribed antidepressants is typically experiencing a deeper depression, and it is the depression that is the significant link to stroke risks, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity

In fact, as previously indicated, depressed women who do not take antidepressants still have a 29% higher risk of stroke than non-depressed women. 

Summary of the Study

The study followed only women, and it is noted that findings for men in the same type of study might be different. The article also points out the fact that women are twice more likely than men to have a depressive disorder.

Meanwhile the summary of this study is:

  • Researchers followed 80,574 women ages 54 to 79 from 2000 to 2006
  • At the beginning of the study 22% of women reported ever having depression (which can be compared to the national incidence of 20% in women)
  • During the study, 1,033 stroke cases were reported

Also mentioned is the fact that stroke is the third leading cause of death, and it is actually an issue that affects more women than men, according to the National Stroke Association. But, Pan says women can reduce risk by:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Starting an exercise regimen
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Working with your doctor to control diabetes and blood pressure

He also says, that if you are feeling depressed, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not treatment is needed.

The entire USA Today article can be read at:
http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/womenshealth/story/2011/08/Depressed-women-have-higher-risk-of-stroke/49931142/1?csp=ylf

Other Resources:

HealthDay Article: “In Women, Diabetes Plus Depression a Deadly Combo” at:
http://www.lifelinescreening.com/health-updates/healthy-you/diabetes/diabetes-plus-depression-deadly-combo.aspx

HealthDay Article: “Ninety Percent of Stroke Risk Due to 10 Risk Factors” at:
http://www.lifelinescreening.com/health-updates/health-news/ninety-percent-stroke-risk-due-to-ten-risk-factors.aspx

YouTube video about stroke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ODJGyFwl2k




Study Links Red and Processed Meats to Diabetes

August 15, 2011

Hot dogs increase diabetes riskThis study may put the kibosh on the next Alpha Gamma Delta “Hot Dogs for Diabetes” Contest and may make you rethink your next cookout menu:

A recent USA Today article reports that eating a 2-oz serving of processed meat (e.g. hot dogs, bologna, bacon) and/or a 4-oz serving of red meat a day increases your risk of Type II Diabetes by 50% and 20% respectively. This is according to a Harvard School of Public Health study published online at The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

While the link between processed meats and Type II diabetes may not be new information, the link between unprocessed red meats is, as the study’s senior author, professor Frank Hu, is quoted in the article as stating:

“Many previous studies have shown the link between processed meats and diabetes, but this is one of the first (large studies) to show that unprocessed red meat is a significant risk factor.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association says that these epidemiological studies really can’t identify cause and effect.

While the study does clearly indicate that the failure of such a diet may be the daily consumption of red meat and/or processed meats, it does get the attention of many of us who are trying to be proactive about our health and looking for ways to prevent diabetes.

One of the takeaways of the study and the article, which may be well known but surely worth repeating, is that processed foods contain a lot of sodium and nitrates, which can contribute to diabetes. Another takeaway, which may be considered newer information, is that a person who eats too much red meat is getting an excess of heme iron in their body, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

Last but not least, the final takeaway is the fact that the study has indicated a large population of people with similar diets have an increased risk of diabetes, and it really is a good suggestion to limit the consumption of processed and red meats and incorporate more nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy (like yogurt) in their place to aid in the prevention of diabetes.

This is true no matter what age you are because there is no argument against the fact that diabetes continues to spin out of control.

Additional Resources:

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study can be found at:
http://www.ajcn.org/content/early/2011/08/10/ajcn.111.018978.abstract?sid=613f523d-b3ba-411c-b7fb-c93966dfaaff

The USA Today article can be found at:http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2011/08/Red-processed-meat-linked-to-higher-risk-of-type-2-diabetes/49910492/1

Photo courtesy of BlueisCoool on Flickr.com




Cardiovascular Disease is the Leading Cause of Death Globally

August 8, 2011

Did you know that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death globally? According to information from the World Health Organization it is.

In fact, the World Health Organization reports that an estimated 17.1 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2004, with 7.2 million of the deaths being due to coronary heart disease and 5.7 million due to stroke. These numbers represent 29% of deaths globally. And by 2030, they estimate that deaths due to cardivascular disease will reach 23.6 million, with the majority of these deaths being largely the result of coronary heart disease and stroke.

If you are getting confused over all the disease names, here is some explanation:

Coronary heart disease and stroke-causing cerebrovascular disease are both part of a group of cardiovascular diseases, or disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Following is the list of cardiovascular diseases straight from the World Health Organization’s fact sheet:

  • coronary heart disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle
  • cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain
  • peripheral arterial disease – disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs 
  • deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs
  • rheumatic heart disease – damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria
  • congenital heart disease – malformations of heart structure existing at birth

Bottom line, these disorders can put you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and more often than not, the root cause is a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels.

prevent heart disease

A healthy diet goes a long way in preventing heart disease.

You know what else? You can help prevent heart disease and stroke risk factors by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Not smoking

In fact, the World Health Organization states that, “Behavioural risk factors are responsible for about 80% of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease” and many times there are no symptoms. Read the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on cardiovascular disease at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/index.html

Prevention and Control Programs are Needed

The World Health Organization recognizes that there is a need for programs aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease. Until then, Life Line Screening continues to screen in the US and the UK for many of the diseases on the cardiovascular disease list, including:

  • Cholesterol screening (not in all states)
  • Carotid artery screening
  • Peripheral arterial disease screening
  • High blood pressure screening (not in all states)
  • Elevated C-reactive protein screening
  • High glucose screening

These screenings can help determine your risk before a heart disease or stroke occurs. Sign up for a screening today at http://www.lifelinescreening.com/




2010 Academic Paper Shows Current AAA Screening Recommendations Are Woefully Inadequate

August 1, 2011

Life Line Screening Chief Medical Officer, Andrew Manganaro, MD, is the co-author of a 2010 academic paper, Development of a Novel Scoring Tool for the Identification of Large ≥5 cm Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. This paper finds current screening recommendations are woefully inadequate. The distressing findings: Only 35% of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) found are among males ages 65-75, while 50% are outside of that patient group.

Lead authors of this paper are independent doctors and scientists from the prestigious Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NY. The paper uses data from Life Line Screening, which was collected from 3.1 million people who had an AAA ultrasound screening between 2003 and 2008.

The results of the data studied determined that “smoking had a profound influence on the risk of AAA, which increased with number of cigarettes smoked and years of smoking, and decreased following smoking cessation.”

Other findings include:

• Exercise reduces risk of AAA
• Maintaining a normal weight reduces risk of AAA
• Black and Hispanics are less likely to have AAA

Based on findings, the study provides a better screening strategy, or a better scoring tool, to identify those individuals who are at risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm from a broader population. And, it proves to be another reason to be proactive about your own health.

Read the paper at PubMed.gov: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20881774

Find out more about abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Have you had your screening?




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