Roundup: Rates of Diabetes, Hypertension and Obesity Rising in Young Adults; Extra 500 Steps Daily Can Lower Heart Disease Risk; and More News
5 min. read
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: March 10, 2023
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: March 10, 2023
Heart Disease Risk Factors Rising in U.S. Adults, Ages 20 to 44, New Study Finds
Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and obesity, major risk factors for heart disease, are rising among adults ages 20 to 44 – and that could result in “major public health implications as the U.S. population ages,” states a new study.
The prevalence of diabetes in this group increased from 3 percent to 4 percent, and obesity jumped from 33 percent to 41 percent. Rates of hypertension rose from 9 percent to 12 percent. For the study, , researchers reviewed data from 2009 to 2020 on about 13,000 people.
“These data show a high and rising burden of most cardiovascular risk factors in young U.S. adults, especially for Black, Hispanic, and Mexican American individuals,” states the study’s authors. The researchers “observed a rise in hypertension and significant increases in diabetes and obesity rates among young adults, with no significant improvement in control of blood pressure or blood sugar,” states a news release from the Harvard Medical School, co-author of the study.
In contrast, rates of high cholesterol decreased from 41 percent in 2009-2010 to 36 percent in 2017-2020, states the study's co-authors. That improvement may reflect “government regulation of the use of trans fatty acids and other partially hydrogenated oils in packaged convenience foods and fast-food restaurants,” states the Harvard Medical School.
Last year, the American Heart Associate reported that U.S. deaths from heart disease spiked in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after a steady decline from 2010 to 2019, “reversing a public health success.”
The new study’s authors state that a “concerning possibility behind these trends is that they may reflect changes in the burden of cardiovascular risk factors” with a shift toward younger adults.
“Onset of cardiovascular risk factors early in life is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and events, resulting in substantial loss of disability-adjusted life-years and years of life,” the study states. “Therefore, a rise in the burden of cardiovascular risk factors among young adults could have major public health implications as the U.S. population ages.”
Older Adults May Lower Their Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke With 500 Additional Steps Daily
For adults over the age of 70, just 500 additional steps taken daily, which is about a quarter mile, was associated with a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease, stroke or heart failure, according to preliminary research presented this month at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2023.
Researchers reviewed health data for 452 participants who used an accelerometer device worn at the hip to measure their daily steps. The average age was 78 -- 59 percent were women; and 20 percent of participants self-identified as Black adults (70 percent of whom were women). These participants were part of a larger study group of 15,792 adults originally recruited for the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.
The devices were worn for three or more days, for ten or more hours. The average step count was about 3,500 steps per day. Over the 3.5-year follow-up period, 7.5 percent of the participants experienced a cardiovascular disease event, such as coronary heart disease, stroke or heart failure.
“We were surprised to find that every additional quarter of a mile, or 500 steps, of walking had such a strong benefit to heart health,” said Erin E. Dooley, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and lead researcher of the study, in a statement. “While we do not want to diminish the importance of higher intensity physical activity, encouraging small increases in the number of daily steps also has significant cardiovascular benefits. If you are an older adult over the age of 70, start with trying to get 500 more steps per day.”
According to the American Heart Association, the following were highlights of the study:
- Compared to adults who took less than 2,000 steps per day, adults who took about 4,500 steps per day had a 77 percent lower observed risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event.
- Nearly 12 percent of older adults with less than 2,000 steps per day had a cardiovascular event, compared to 3.5 percent of the participants who walked about 4,500 steps per day.
- Every additional 500 steps taken per day was incrementally associated with a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers cautioned that more studies are needed to determine “if meeting a higher daily count of steps prevents or delays cardiovascular disease, or if lower step counts may be an indicator of underlying disease.”
Vitamin D Supplements May Lower Risk of Dementia, Say Researchers from Canada and U.K.
Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Canada ad and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom focused on the potential link between vitamin D supplementation and dementia in more than 12,300 participants from the U.S. National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center. They found that people who reported taking vitamin D supplements may have a lower risk of dementia.
Participants in the study had an average age of 71 and were dementia-free when they signed up for the study. Of the group, 37 percent (4,637) took vitamin D supplements. Overall, “Vitamin D exposure was associated with 40 percent lower dementia incidence versus no exposure,” the study concludes.
The role of vitamin D “showed promise in all groups,” states a news release from the University of Calgary. However, researchers found the associations with lower rates of dementia development were more substantial in women, compared to male participants. Results were also greater in people with normal cognition, compared to those who reported signs of mild cognitive impairment.
The study states that previous clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation and cognition have resulted in “conflicting findings, with some reporting that vitamin D improved cognitive function while others reported no effect.” This study accounted “for demographic, clinical, behavioral, and genetic variables,” researchers stated..
“We know that vitamin D has some effects in the brain that could have implications for reducing dementia; however, so far, research has yielded conflicting results. Our findings give key insights into groups who might be specifically targeted in future studies of vitamin D supplementation,” says Zahinoor Ismail, M.D., professor at the Cumming School of Medicine and the University of Exeter, and principal investigator, in a statement.
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