Roundup: How Physical Fitness Lowers Risk of Stroke and AFib; ‘Produce Prescriptions’ Improve Chronic Conditions; and More News
4 min. read
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: September 1, 2023
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: September 1, 2023
Physical Fitness Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Rhythm Disorder (AFib) and Stroke in New Study
If anyone needs additional motivation for starting or maintaining an exercise routine, a new study provides just that with findings linking physical fitness to a lower likelihood of stroke and developing atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common heart rhythm disorder. The research was presented this month at the European Society of Cardiology Congress.
Researchers focused on 15,450 individuals without atrial fibrillation who were referred for a treadmill test between 2003 and 2012. The average age was 55, and 59 percent were men. Fitness was assessed using the Bruce protocol, where participants are asked to walk faster and at a steeper grade in successive three-minute stages.
Study participants were followed to determine new-onset AFib, stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and death. The researchers focused on the associations between fitness and atrial fibrillation, stroke and major cardiovascular events, or MACE, a composite of stroke, myocardial infarction and death. They also adjusted for factors that could influence results, including age, sex, cholesterol level, kidney function, prior stroke, hypertension and medications, states a news release on the study.
During a median of 137 months, 515 participants (3.3 percent) developed AFib. Each level of tines was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of AFib, 12 percent lower risk of stroke and 14 percent lower risk of MACE.
“The probability of remaining free from atrial fibrillation over a five-year period was 97.1 percent, 98.4 percent and 98.4 percent in the low, medium and high fitness groups, respectively,” states the news release.
States study author Shih-Hsien Sung, M.D., of the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taipei, Taiwan: “This was a large study with an objective measurement of fitness and more than 11 years of follow up. The findings indicate that keeping fit may help prevent atrial fibrillation and stroke.”
AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. More than 12 million people are projected to have AFib by 2030, according to the American Heart Association.
'Produce Prescription' Programs Improve Chronic Conditions of Participants, Study Finds
When healthcare providers "prescribed produce" -- or a prescription for fruits and vegetables -- the health of participants with diabetes, hypertension and obesity improved, according to a new study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
"Produce prescriptions" represent a growing trend across the U.S. to provide food as medicine and potentially prevent or improve serious chronic health conditions.
The new study is believed to be the largest analysis to date of produce prescription programs. They let patients with diet-related illnesses get apples, broccoli, berries, cucumbers and other kinds of fruits and vegetables for free. In communities where the programs were studied, participants selected the produce of their choice at grocery stores or farmers markets using electronic cards or vouchers.
"Most Americans, regardless of their income, don’t follow a healthy diet," states a news release on the study from UMass Chan Medical School in Massachusetts. "However, research shows that lower-income Americans tend to eat food that’s slightly worse for their health than those who can afford to spend more."
Researchers focused on 3,881 people from low-income neighborhoods who received food vouchers through nine programs in a dozen states, including Florida. All participants either had, or were at risk for, poor cardiometabolic health and were recruited from clinics serving low-income neighborhoods.
"The improvements we saw in clinical outcomes could have a meaningful impact on overall health," researchers stated.
The study concludes: "In this large, multisite evaluation, produce prescriptions were associated with significant improvements in fruit and vegetable intake, food security, and health status for adults and children, and clinically relevant improvements in glycated hemoglobin (levels of blood sugar), blood pressure, and BMI (body mass index) for adults with poor cardiometabolic health."
CDC Recommends 2023-2024 Seasonal Flu Vaccine As Soon As They’re Available
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all people aged 6 months and older receive a seasonal flu vaccine when it becomes available, unless they can’t because of medical health reasons.
“Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for persons who are at increased risk for severe illness and complications from influenza and for influenza-related outpatient, emergency department, or hospital visits,” states the CDC.
These persons include the:
- All children aged 6 through 59 months.
- All persons aged 50 and older.
- Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (excluding isolated hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus).
- Persons who are immunocompromised due to any cause (including but not limited to immunosuppression caused by medications or HIV infection).
- Persons who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season.
Pregnant and postpartum persons have been observed to be at higher risk for severe illness and complications from influenza, particularly during the second and third trimesters, the CDC said. Influenza vaccination during pregnancy is associated with reduced risk for respiratory illness and influenza among pregnant and postpartum persons – and among infants during the first months of life.
The CDC states that vaccination should ideally be offered during September or October. However, vaccination should continue after October and throughout the influenza season as long as influenza viruses are circulating and unexpired vaccine is available.
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