Heart and heat


Roundup: Cardiovascular-Related Deaths Linked to Extreme Heat; ACS Updates Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines; and More News

NIH: Cardiovascular-related Deaths from Extreme Heat Projected to Surge in Coming Decades

Cardiovascular-related deaths stemming primarily from extreme heat are projected to surge between 2036 and 2065 in the U.S., according to a new study supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The findings, published in Circulation, “predict that adults ages 65 and older and Black adults will likely be disproportionately affected,” the NIH states in a news release.

Currently, extreme heat represents less than 1 percent of cardiovascular-related deaths. The researchers’ modeling analysis predicted the increase based on projected rise in summer temperatures s that feel like 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher. This heat index, or “feels like temperature, “ factors in in humidity.

Older adults and Black adults will be most vulnerable because many have underlying medical conditions or face socioeconomic barriers that can influence their health – such as not having air conditioning or living in locations that can absorb and trap heat, states the NIH.

“The health burdens from extreme heat will continue to grow within the next several decades,” said Sameed A. Khatana, M.D., M.P.H., a study author, cardiologist, and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in an NIH statement. “Due to the unequal impact of extreme heat on different populations, this is also a matter of health equity and could exacerbate health disparities that already exist.”

In their modeling analyses that accounted for environmental and population changes, the researchers looked to 2036–2065 and estimated that each summer from 2036 to 2065, about 71 to 80 days will feel 90 degrees or hotter. They then predicted the number of annual heat-related cardiovascular deaths will increase 2.6 times for the general population — from 1,651 to 4,320. “This estimate is based on greenhouse gas emissions, which trap the sun’s heat, being kept to a minimum. If emissions rise significantly, deaths could more than triple, to 5,491,” the NIH states.

For older adults and Black adults, the projections were much higher. Among those ages 65 and older, deaths could almost triple, increasing from 1,340 to 3,842, if greenhouse gas emissions remain steady — or to 4,894 if they don’t. Among Black adults, deaths could more than triple, rising from 325 to 1,512 or 2,063.

American Cancer Society Updates Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines to Include More Ex-Smokers

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that it has updated its lung cancer screening guideline “to help reduce the number of people dying from the disease due to smoking history.”

The new guideline recommends yearly screenings for lung cancer for people aged 50 to 80 years old who smoke or formerly smoked and have a 20-year history of heavy smoking (average of one pack of cigarettes per day). The guideline, last updated in 2013, is published in the ACS flagship journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The recommended annual screening test for lung cancer is a low-dose computed tomography scan (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT).  (If you are a smoker or ex-smoker, consult with your physician about LCDT scans.) Lung cancer is often diagnosed in later stages after it has spread. However, early detection of lung cancer through a low-dose CT scan, can reduce mortality for those who are or have been smokers.

The screening guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend low-dose CT scans for those who have a 20-year history of heavy smoking and smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and are between 50 and 80 years old. The ACS updated guidelines to mostly echo the USPSTF recommendations, which were updated two years ago. The ACS guidelines differ by calling for smokers who quit anytime to get the yearly scans, removing the 15-year threshold. ACS also extended the age range, which was formerly 55 to 74.

“This updated guideline continues a trend of expanding eligibility for lung cancer screening in a way that will result in many more deaths prevented by expanding the eligibility criteria for screening to detect lung cancer early,” said Robert Smith, M.D., senior vice president, early cancer detection science at the American Cancer Society, and lead author of the lung cancer screening guideline report. “Recent studies have shown extending the screening age for persons who smoke and formerly smoked, eliminating the ‘years since quitting’ requirement and lowering the pack per year recommendation could make a real difference in saving lives.”

Learn more: Lung cancer screenings from Baptist Health.

Researchers: Lesser-Known Plant-Based ‘Portfolio’ Diet Lowers Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke

Variations of plant-based diets are usually the most highly recommended for maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding chronic conditions including heart disease. Now, a  lesser-known plant-based diet, called the portfolio diet, is found to lower the risk for heart disease and stroke, new research shows.

The goal of the portfolio diet is to lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol, a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It contains a select "portfolio" of plant-based proteins such as soy and other legumes; foods with viscous fiber such as oats, barley, berries, apples and citrus fruit; nuts and seeds.

Previous research has shown the portfolio diet can lower LDL cholesterol “as much as an early-generation statin,” states the American Heart Association in a news release on the new study. But little was known of how following this diet over a long period of time would affect cardiovascular disease risk. The new study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found that participants with the highest portfolio diet score had a 14 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, compared to those with the lowest score. The study participants were followed over a 30-year period.

"Through this research, we found that the portfolio diet score was consistently associated with a lower risk of both heart disease and stroke, highlighting an opportunity for people to lower their heart disease risk through consuming more of these foods recommended in the diet," the study's lead author, Dr. Andrea Glenn, said. Glenn is a registered dietitian and postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the University of Toronto.

Researchers based their findings on diet data of 166,270 women and 43,970 men enrolled in long-term health studies who did not have cardiovascular disease when they enrolled in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. They answered food questionnaires every four years.

Researchers used the portfolio diet score to rank the participants' consumption of plant proteins, nuts and seeds, viscous fiber, phytosterols (natural compounds found in plants that can help lower cholesterol levels), and plant sources of monounsaturated fatty acids.

In its news release, the AHA said the portfolio diet may not be as well-known as the DASH and Mediterranean diets. But there are key similarities. “They all emphasize eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, plant protein, nuts and plant oils,” states the AHA. However, the portfolio diet  discourages animal proteins more than other dietary patterns.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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