Research

Roundup: Failing Eyesight Condition Linked to Serious Heart Issues; Benefits of Exercising in the Morning; and FDA Warns Consumers About Some Dietary Supplements

Age-Related Failing Eyesight Could Signal Serious Types of Cardiovascular Disease, Researchers Find

A specific form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the U.S,, could signal that the patient also has serious cardiovascular conditions, such as heart failure and carotid artery disease, according to new research from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York.

The research, published in BMJ Open Ophthalmology, is considered the first to specify which types of high-risk cardiovascular and carotid artery disease are associated with the eye disorder. The findings could prompt increased screening to save vision, diagnose undetected heart disease, and prevent life-threatening cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and certain types of strokes.

“This study is the first strong link between the leading cause of blindness, AMD, and heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide,” explains lead author R. Theodore Smith, MD, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in a news release.

AMD, which is common, is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in people over 65. It is usually diagnosed following damage to the central area of the retina called the macula. the macula is the part of your eye that processes what’s directly in front of you (or central vision), and it’s vital for overall vision. Blurred vision is a key symptom of AMD.

Furthermore, adds Dr. Smith, researchers now have “strong evidence” of what causes this association. “The blood supply to the eye is directly diminished by these diseases, either by heart damage that diminishes blood supply throughout the body, or from a blocked carotid artery that directly impedes blood flow to the eye.”

One type of early AMD, known as subretinal drusenoid deposits (SDDs), require high-definition, retinal imaging to detect. These deposits contain a form of cholesterol that is found beneath the light-sensitive retina cells, where the damage occurs and vision is lost. There is no known treatment for SDDs.  The team of Mount Sinai researchers initially found that patients with cardiovascular disease or stroke were more likely to have SDDs. That research was published in the July issue of Retina

In the new study, which expands on their previous work, the researchers concluded that AMD patients with severe cardiovascular diseases and stroke were nine times more likely to have SDDs, compared to patients without these severe heart conditions.

“This work demonstrates the fact that ophthalmologists may be the first physicians to detect systemic disease, especially in asymptomatic patients,” said co-investigator Richard B. Rosen, M.D., chief of the Retina Service for the Mount Sinai Health System, in a statement.


Exercising in the Morning Can Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke More Than Being Active Later in the Day, Says New Study

Regular exercise has many health benefits including lowering the risk of many chronic diseases. But is there a specific time of day when physical activity is most beneficial? New research has linked morning exercising with the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke.

So says a study of more than 85,000 individuals published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The findings were consistent regardless of the total amount of daily activity.

“It is well established that exercise is good for heart health, and our study now indicates that morning activity seems to be most beneficial,” said the study’s author Gali Albalak, of Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, in a statement. “The findings were particularly pronounced in women, and applied to both early birds and night owls.”

The study utilized the UK Biobank database and included 86,657 adults, aged 42 to 78 years, who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. The average age was 62 years and 58 percent were women. Participants wore an activity tracker on their wrist for seven consecutive days. Participants were followed for incident cardiovascular disease, “which was defined as the first hospital admission or death related to coronary artery disease or stroke.”

Researchers followed up for six to eight years. They found that 2,911 participants developed coronary artery disease and 796 had a stroke. Being most active between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. was associated with the lowest risks of both heart disease and stroke.

In a second review of data, the researchers divided participants into four groups based on the peak time of physical activity: 1) midday; 2) early morning 3) late morning; and 4) evening. After adjusting for age and sex, participants who were most active in the early morning or late morning had 11percent and 16 percent lower risks of incident coronary artery disease, respectively, compared to those with a peak time in the mid-day or later time-frames. In addition, those who were most active in the late morning had a 17 percent decreased risk of incident stroke.

 

FDA Warns Public Not to Use Dietary Supplement Claiming to Treat Heart Disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters to seven companies for “illegally selling dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent cardiovascular disease or related conditions, such as atherosclerosis, stroke or heart failure.”

The FDA states it “is urging consumers not to use these or similar products because they have not been evaluated by the FDA to be safe or effective for their intended use and may be harmful.”

The FDA urges consumers to talk to their doctor before deciding to use any dietary supplement or drug. Some supplements might interact with medicines or other supplements. “Healthcare providers will work with patients to determine which treatment is the best option for their condition,” the FDA said.

The warning letters and the names of the companies can be found at this link.

“Given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., it’s important that the FDA protect the public from products and companies that make unlawful claims to treat it,” stated Cara Welch, Ph.D., director of the Office of Dietary Supplement Programs in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a statement. “Dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent cardiovascular disease and related conditions could potentially harm consumers who use these products instead of seeking safe and effective FDA-approved treatments from qualified healthcare providers.”

The FDA states it has requested immediate responses from the companies “stating how they will address the issues described in the warning letters or provide their reasoning and supporting information as to why they think the products are not in violation of the law.”

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