Obesity and heart disease


Roundup: Obesity Increasingly Linked to Heart Disease Deaths; ‘Devastating Impact’ Globally of Hypertension; and More News

Obesity-Related Heart Disease Deaths in U.S. have Tripled, Says New Study

The number of U.S. adults who died of heart disease with obesity as a contributing factor surged three-fold from 1999 to 2020, according to research published this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Researchers reviewed death certificates in a database maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were 281,135 deaths from heart disease linked to obesity in that time period. That death rate tripled from 2.2 deaths per 100,000 people to 6.6 deaths per 100,000, the AHA said.

Obesity is a public health crisis and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, affecting about 42 percent of the U.S. population, an increase by almost 10 percent from the preceding decade, states the AHA. The surge in obesity-related deaths is in sharp contrast to a decline (nearly 18 percent) in heart disease deaths overall from 1999 to 2020.

“The number of people with obesity is rising in every country across the world," said lead study author and cardiologist Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, M.D., a clinical lecturer at the William Harvey Research Institute in London. "Our study is the first to demonstrate that this increasing burden of obesity is translating into rising heart disease deaths. This rising trend of obesity is affecting some populations more than others, particularly Black women.”

The study found that obesity-related cardiovascular disease deaths were higher among Black individuals, compared with any other racial group -- at about 6.7 per 100,000 population; followed by American Indian adults or Alaska Native adults at 3.8 per 100,000.

Black women had the highest rates of obesity-related heart disease deaths than all others in the study.

World Health Organization Details ‘Devastating Impact” of High Blood Pressure Globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its first-ever report on what it calls the "devastating global impact of high blood pressure (hypertension)” -- and that about 4 out of every 5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated.

If more countries can improve medical coverage, 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050, the organization said. 

Globally, hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults and can result in higher risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems. Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know they have it, according to the American Heart Association.

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it.” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., WHO Director-General in a statement.

According to the WHO report, the number of people living with hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher) or taking medication for the condition, doubled between 1990 and 2019, from 650 million to 1.3 billion, the WHO states. Nearly half of people with hypertension globally are currently unaware of their condition.

States the WHO: "Older age and genetics can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, but modifiable risk factors such as eating high-salt diet, not being physically active and drinking too much alcohol can also increase the risk of hypertension."

Lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure include  eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active. Some people may need medication to control hypertension effectively and prevent related complications.

“Most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines and other interventions, such as sodium reduction,” said Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor and the WHO global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases and injuries.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends consumption of less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. On average, U.S. adults consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium daily.

One Quarter of People Reverse Benefits of Healthy Diets With Unhealthy Snacks

A quarter of people followed as part of a new study are reversing the benefits of healthy diets by eating unhealthy snacks regularly, researchers in the U.K. have found. Unhealthy snacks can lead to higher risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic issues.

The study’s findings are published in the European Journal of Nutrition by researchers from the School of Life Course & Population Sciences at King’s College London. They analyzed data on the snacking habits of 854 people from a separate, larger study.

Overall, half of the participants who ate healthy meals did not following healthy snacking habits. This disparity can affect blood sugar and fat levels, and addressing this could be a simple diet strategy to improve health.

“Considering 95 percent of us snack, and that nearly a quarter of our calories come from snacks, swapping unhealthy snacks - such as cookies, crisps and cakes --  to healthy snacks -- like fruit and nuts -- is a really simple way to improve your health,” said lead study author Sarah Berry, a  researcher at King’s College London in nutritional sciences.

A quarter (26 percent) of the participants reported eating healthy main meals and poor-quality snacks -- such as highly processed food and sugary treats, were associated with poorer health markers and left people feeling hungry. Unhealthy snacks were linked to a higher BMI, higher visceral fat mass and higher postprandial – the period after eating a meal – triglycerides concentrations, all of which are associated with metabolic disease, the researchers stated.

The study found that 24 percent of daily energy intake from snacks such as cereal bars, pastries and fruit. The average daily snack intake in people who snacked – 95 percent study participants – was 2.28 snacks a day, with 47 percent of people eating two snacks a day and 29 percent of people eating more than two.

The researchers emphasize that snacking is not unhealthy - as long as the snacks are healthy. “People who ate high-quality snacks like nuts and fresh fruits frequently were more likely to have a healthy weight, compared to those who don’t snack at all or those who snack on unhealthy foods, states a news release from King’s College London on the findings.

Analysis also showed that good quality snacks can result in better metabolic health and decreased hunger.

The most popular snacks consumed were cookies, fruit, nuts and seeds, cheese and butter, cakes and pies and granola or cereal bars.

The greatest contribution to calorie intake were cakes and pies (14 percent), breakfast cereals (13 percent), ice cream and frozen dairy desserts (12 percent), donuts and pastries (12 percent), candy (11 percent), cookies and brownies (11 percent), nuts and seeds (11 percent).

The Study also found that the timing of the snacking can also be crucial. Snacking after 9 p.m. was associated with poorer blood markers compared to all other snacking times. Snackers at this time tended to eat energy-dense foods which were high in fat and sugar.

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