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Roundup: Higher Cardiovascular Risk Linked to Poorer Cognition; Gut Bacteria in Toddlers can Predict Future Weight Issues; and More News

Study: Higher Heart Disease Risk Linked to Poorer Cognitive Function

There’s growing evidence indicating that controlling heart-health risk factors may also help protect brain health and cognitive function. The latest study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that the higher a person's 10-year cardiovascular risk score, the worse they scored on tests for cognitive function.

A risk calculator – known formally as the Framingham risk score--  is commonly used to predict cardiovascular disease within the next ten years. The score is calculated using the following factors: age, sex, race, total cholesterol, "good" HDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure (the top number), whether a person takes blood pressure-lowering medication, and whether they have diabetes or smoke.

"We know that cardiovascular disease shares a lot of risk factors with cognitive decline or dementia," said study co-author Jingkai Wei, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health in Columbia, in a statement. “The results suggest every 5 percent increment in the cardiovascular disease risk score may be related to poorer cognitive functioning.”

Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, stroke, heart failure and high blood pressure. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Previous studies have shown an association between higher cardiovascular risk scores and poorer cognitive function in people with preexisting health conditions. “The new study examined the link between cardiovascular risk scores and cognitive function in a larger sample of the general population and differences among racial and ethnic subgroups,” states the American Heart Association in a news release..

Researchers based their findings on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2014 for 2,254 adults, ages 60 and older, who had not previously been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. The 10-year Framingham risk scores for participants was configured using self-reported data from questionnaires and blood tests for cholesterol, glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels. Multiple blood pressure readings also were taken and averaged. The risk scores were then classified as low, medium or high.

Gut Bacteria of Toddlers Can Predict If They Will Be Overweight at 5 or Older

The make-up and volume of gut bacteria in toddlers at the age of 3.5 years can pre-determine body mass index (BMI) at age 5, whether or not they are born prematurely, according to new research being presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland this month.

So-called healthy bacteria in the "gut microbiome" produce help keep unhealthy bacteria in check. Numerous studies in recent years have found that the health of the gut microbiome plays a role beyond our digestive system and may affect conditions including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

The findings of the new study identified differences in the bacteria that make up the gut microbiome in adults living with obesity, suggesting "that changes in the gut microbiota that predispose to adult obesity begin in early childhood," according to a news release by researchers from Inserm, Universite Paris Cite and Sorbonne Paris Nord -- in France.

Investigators focused on how the gut microbiota of children at 3.5 years from two French nationwide birth cohorts was associated with their BMI at 5-year-old -- and changes in their BMI between 2 and 5 years old. They adjusted for "confounding factors including child age and sex, gestational age, delivery mode, ever breastfed, maternal preconception BMI, and country of birth," a news release states.

“The reason these gut bacteria affect weight is because they regulate how much fat we absorb,” explains lead study author, Mr. Gaël Toubonm, in a statement. “Children with a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes (gut bacteria directly linked to obesity) will absorb more calories and be more likely to gain weight.”

The analysis also found that six specific types of gut bacteria were highly predictive of BMI z-score at 5 years old.

Vigorous Exercise Does Not Increase Health Risks for Those with This Heart Condition

Vigorous exercise does not appear to increase the risk of death or life-threatening arrhythmia for people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), finds a study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), is a rare, inherited disorder that causes the heart muscle to become thick and enlarged. It has been associated with sudden cardiac death in young athletes and other young people.

The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, found that people with the disease who exercise vigorously are no more likely to die or experience severe cardiac events than those who exercised moderately or not at all.

The is the most extensive study to explore the relationship between HCM and exercise. It was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH. The study also questions restricting exercise that are often recommended for anyone who has the disease.

“Based on these data, we’re learning that we don’t need to universally restrict HCM patients from participating in vigorous exercise, something that’s so important to all of us,” said Rachel Lampert, M.D., a professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, one of the principal study authors, and a practicing cardiologist who is an expert in arrhythmias in HCM, in a statement.

“Individuals with this condition should talk to a healthcare provider with expertise in HCM about getting back on the field, back in the pool, and back on the court, if that’s what they want to do,” Lampert added. “Getting an expert evaluation is key to determining degree of risk for all HCM patients, and critical before going back to play.”

HCM can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood because the thickened ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) become too stiff. This can cause some people to experience shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and, more seriously, a life-threatening irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia.

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