Roundup: U.S. Cardiovascular-Related Deaths Hit New High in First Year of Pandemic; CDC Study Eyes Effectiveness of Updated COVID Booster; and More News
4 min. read
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: January 27, 2023
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: January 27, 2023
Cardiovascular Disease Deaths Saw Sharp Rise During First Year of Pandemic, Reaching New High
More people in the U.S. died from cardiovascular-related causes in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, than in any year since 2003, according to data released this week as part of the American Heart Association (AHA) 2023 Statistical Update.
Cardiovascular disease-related deaths jumped from 874,613 in 2019 to 928,741 in 2020, marking the largest single-year increase since 2015 -- and surpassing the previous high of 910,000 in 2003., according to the 2023 update to AHA's heart disease and stroke statistics, which was published in Circulation.
There were "especially high mortality rates for Asian, Black and Hispanic people," states the AHA in a statement. COVID vaccines did not start to become widely available until early 2021.
Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, stroke, heart failure and hypertension, or high blood pressure. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. and globally. In 2020, COVID-19 also appeared among the leading causes of death in the U.S.
The reversal was not surprising when considering the impact COVID-19 had on people of all ages, "especially before vaccines were available to slow the spread," said AHA writing committee chair, Connie W. Tsao, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a statement.
"People from communities of color were among those more highly impacted, especially early on, often due to a disproportionate burden of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and obesity," said AHA President Michelle A. Albert, M.D., in the AHA news release.
In North America, heart disease death rates have been falling in recent decades, from 28 percent of all deaths in 1990 to 19 percent in 2019. Stroke deaths fell from 7 percent of all deaths in 1990 to 6 percent in 2019.
"As the U.S. prepares to celebrate the 60th annual Heart Month in February, it's critical that we recognize and redouble the lifesaving progress we've made in nearly a century of researching, advocating and educating, while continuing to identify and understand those barriers that still put certain people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease," Dr. Albert stated.
CDC: Updated Booster is Effective Against COVID Subvariants in Lowering Risk of Symptomatic Disease
The COVID-19 subvariant -- named XBB.1.5 -- is a highly transmissible descendant of the omicron variant that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections nationwide. A new study just released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that the updated booster shots, which became widely available in the fall, protect individuals from symptomatic illness from the current subvariant.
The new booster shots are known as "bivalent" -- which means they were configured to protect against both the original COVID strain and the BA.5 omicron subvariant that caused most infections over last summer. The latest data finds that the updated booster protects people from getting sick with XBB.1.5 about as well as it did against BA.5.
The CDC based its findings on data collected from Dec. 1 to Jan. 13. The researchers found that the updated boosters reduced the risk of symptomatic infection by about half for most adults, and by more than one-third for those age 65 and older. Symptomatic infection was defined as having one or more of the common symptoms of covid-19, such as cough, fever or fatigue.
States the CDC: "As new (COVID-19) variants emerge, continued vaccine effectiveness monitoring is important. All persons should stay up to date with recommend COVID-19 vaccines, including receiving a bivalent booster dose when eligible."
The CDC: Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic BA.5-related infection was 52 percent among persons aged 18–49 years, 43 percent among persons aged 50–64, and 37 percent among those aged 65 years or older. Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic XBB/XBB.1.5-related infection was 49 percent among persons aged 18–49, 40 percent among persons aged 50–64 years, and 43 percent among those aged 65 years and older, the CDC states.
Breaking Up 30 Minutes of Prolonged Sitting with a 5-Minute Stroll Improves Cardiometabolic Risks
Countless studies have shown that sitting for too long at your home workstation or at the office can be bad for your health. New research by Columbia University exercise physiologists has found that just five minutes of walking every half hour during periods of prolonged sitting can offset some of the most harmful effects of inactivity -- including cardiometabolic disorders which raises a person’s risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of these five-minute strolling breaks even apply to people who exercise regularly by following the minimum U.S. fitness guidelines.
Unlike previous studies that tested one or two activity options, the new study reviewed five different exercise “snacks”: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes; five minutes of walking every 30; five minutes of walking every 60; and no walking.
The optimal amount of movement was five minutes of walking every 30 minutes. “This was the only amount that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure,” states a news release on the study. “In addition, this walking regimen had a dramatic effect on how the participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58 percent compared with sitting all day.”
The study, led by Keith Diaz, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. It was published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine,” said Dr. Diaz, a statement. “While that may sound impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking spread through the work day can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”
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