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Roundup: Hypertension in Your 30s Linked to Poor Brain Health Later; Health Risks of ‘Added Sugar’ Rising; and Concerning Update on STIs

Research: High Blood Pressure in Your 30s Linked to Poor Brain Health Later in Life

High blood pressure is a very common condition which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. In a new study, researchers say high blood pressure in your 30s puts you at risk later in life for deteriorating brain health.

Researchers from UC Davis Health compared magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of people in their 70s, who had high blood pressure between the ages of 30 to 40, with older adults who had normal blood pressure at middle age. Their results, published in JAMA Network Open, indicated that adults with high blood pressure “had significantly lower regional brain volumes and worse white matter integrity” – two factors that are associated with dementia.

“High blood pressure is an incredibly common and treatable risk factor associated with dementia,” said first author Kristen M. George, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis, in a statement. “This study indicates hypertension status in early adulthood is important for brain health decades later.”

The researchers focused on data from 427 participants from the Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences study and the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans. “This provided them with health data from 1964 to 1985 for a diverse cohort of older Asian, Black, Latino and white adults,” said UC Davis.

MRI scans of the participants taken between 2017 and 2022 revealed “late-life neuroimaging biomarkers of neurodegeneration and white matter integrity.”

How common is high blood pressure, or hypertension? About 50 percent of men have high blood pressure, compared to 44 percent of women. The rate of hypertension is about 56 percent in Black adults, 48 percent in white adults, 46 percent in Asian adults and 39 percent in Hispanic adults, states UC Davis researchers.

New Analysis: Too Much Daily Consumption of ‘Added Sugar’ Linked to 45 Health Problems

The health risks of consuming what is commonly known as “added sugar” keeps mounting with every new study. Earlier this year, researchers found that diets with too much added sugar raise the risks of cardiovascular disease, an elevated BMI (body mass index) and a greater waist circumference.

In a new study, a large review of 8,601 previous studies found that too much added sugar is linked to significantly higher risks of 45 health issues, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancer, asthma, tooth decay, depression and early death. “Evidence of the association between dietary sugar consumption and cancer remains limited but warrants further research,” the study states.

The findings were published in the journal The BMJ.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that added sugars include sugars that are added during the processing of foods (such as sucrose or dextrose), foods packaged as sweeteners (such as table sugar), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. They do not include naturally occurring sugars that are found in milk, whole fruits, and whole vegetables. 

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 recommend that adults keep their intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories. For example, in a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars (about 12 teaspoons).

The new study’s conclusion: “High dietary sugar consumption is generally more harmful than beneficial for health, especially in cardiometabolic disease. Reducing the consumption of free sugars or added sugars to below 25 grams per day (approximately 6 teaspoons per day) and limiting the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages to less than one serving per week (approximately 200-355 milliliters per week) are recommended to reduce the adverse effect of sugars on health.”

CDC: Sexually Transmitted Infections Increased in 2021, Nearing Pre-Pandemic Highs

Cases of the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) -- chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis -- all increased in 2021 for a total of more than 2.5 million reported cases -- nearing the pre-pandemic high of 2.55 million, according to a newly released update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC report found that overall in a single year (2020-2021) gonorrhea rates increased more than 4 percent, while syphilis rates surged by “an alarming” 32 percent for combined stages of the infection. Cases of congenital syphilis resulted in 220 stillbirths and infant deaths,” the CDC states.

Chlamydia rates increased nearly 4 percent, but – unlike gonorrhea and syphilis – did not return to pre-pandemic levels. “This raises concerns that screening continued to be impacted by COVID-19 related disruptions the second year of the pandemic, because the infection is often asymptomatic,” the CDC said.

STIs are common in all U.S. regions and across all groups, but some communities are especially vulnerable. “The 2021 data show STIs continue to disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men and younger people,” the CDC states. “Additionally, a disproportionate number of cases were diagnosed among Black/African American and American Indian/Alaska Native people.”

As part of a multi-part solution to combating STIs, the CDC urges making STI testing and treatments more accessible and continuing to advance scientific research and exploring new interventions, such as vaccines or post-exposure strategies.

States Leandro Mena, M.D., director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention: “The U.S. STI epidemic shows no signs of slowing. The reasons for the ongoing increases are multifaceted – and so are the solutions. For the first time in decades, we’re seeing promising new STI interventions on the horizon, but these alone will not solve this epidemic. It will take many of us working together to effectively use new and existing tools, to increase access to quality sexual healthcare services for more people, and to encourage ongoing innovation and prioritization of STI prevention and treatment in this country.”

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