Roundup: Heart Disease Hits Overweight/Obese People at Earlier Age; Too Much Salt Consumed by People With High Blood Pressure

People who are overweight or obese will likely develop cardiovascular disease at an earlier age, compared to people of normal weight, according to research findings presented this week at an American Heart Association meeting in Portland, Oregon.

For example, researchers found that heart disease begins nearly two years earlier in overweight middle-aged women, compared with normal-weight women, and four years earlier for those who are obese.

Obese middle-aged men suffer heart disease three years earlier than normal-weight men, the study found. But, overweight men are likely to develop heart disease at about the same rate and live as long as normal-weight men.

These research findings suggest that some may benefit from an “obesity paradox” — when people with excess weight live longer than those of normal weight. But those extra years of life could be filled with chronic illness and a reduced quality of life caused by heart disease, said lead researcher Dr. Sadiya Khan, a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Individuals in the overweight category really live about the same amount of time,” Khan said. “It was really the difference about how long they lived with cardiovascular disease because they developed the disease earlier in life.”

In the study, researchers reviewed data of participants from 10 different research projects, amounting to a group of almost 73,000 middle-aged people with an average age of 55. All participants were healthy and free of cardiovascular disease when they enrolled in the study.

The participants’ average body mass index, or BMI (a measure of body fat based on weight and height) was 27.4 for men and 27.1 for women. A BMI above 25 is considered overweight, and above 30 obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On average, American adults have gained 15 to 17 pounds over the past two decades, according data released last year by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers found that the average weight of men in the United States rose from 181 pounds to 196 pounds between 1988-1994 and 2011-2014. Their average height remained the same at about 5 feet, 9 inches. The weight of the average woman rose from 152 pounds to 169 pounds, while her height remained steady at just under 5 feet, 4 inches, the CDC reported.

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Too Much Salt Consumed by People With High Blood Pressure

U.S. dietary guidelines call for people with high blood pressure to consumer no more than 1,500 milligrams daily of sodium, according to the recommendations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2005.

However, daily sodium intake significantly increased in Americans with high blood pressure from 1999-2012, according to a study presented this week at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session. Each teaspoon of salt provides 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

One in three individuals has high blood pressure, which has been linked to diets high in sodium.

The study found people with high blood pressure consumed an average of 2,900 milligrams of sodium per day in 1999 and 3,350 milligrams per day in 2012, for an overall average daily sodium intake of 3,100 milligrams during the 14-year study period. That’s more than twice the 1,500 milligram daily maximum recommended for hypertensive individuals.

The study concludes that the increase is driven primarily by rising sodium intake among Hispanics and African-Americans, groups that historically showed lower sodium intake levels compared to Caucasians. Nonetheless, sodium consumption by these two groups aligned with that of non-Hispanic whites by the end of the study period, researchers aid. Groups that consume the lowest sodium amounts included those with more advanced forms of heart disease such as a history of heart attack or stroke.

“We all tell our patients to limit sodium in their diet, and we try to educate them about sodium content in food products, but it is clear that we are not having enough of an effect on people’s diets,” said Elena Dolmatova, M.D., a resident at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the study’s lead author. “We need to find a way to address this so that the message actually gets to people. People shouldn’t wait until they have a heart attack before taking action to limit sodium.”

While U.S. dietary guidelines urge a daily maximum of 1,500 milligrams of sodium for people with high blood pressure or a high risk of developing it, the daily maximum recommended for most other people is 2,300 milligrams (the amount in one teaspoon of table salt) for most other people.

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Researchers ‘Reverse’ Type 2 Diabetes in Some Study Participants

A group of Canadian scientists are believed to be the first team of researchers to “reverse” type 2 diabetes in a group of patients through strictly supervised dietary changes, exercise and medications.

The team from McMaster University in Canada recruited diabetic patients who had been symptomatic for up to three years. They were provided a personalized exercise regimen, a diet reducing their calorie intake by 500 to 750 per day and continued use of glucose-controlling drugs to closely manage blood sugar levels.

After four months, 40 percent (11 of 27) of patients who stuck to the changes were able to stop taking their medications and stay in complete or partial remission from diabetes, according to investigator Natalia McInnes.

The study’s results – published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism – contradicts the prevailing notion that type 2 diabetes is a mostly irreversible and progressive disease — with a healthy diet, exercise and medications only able to manage the condition.

The Canadian study was relatively small at just 83 total participants. They were all randomly allocated into three study groups. Two groups were assigned to the intensive regimen, with regular visits to a nurse to monitor adherence and progress for either eight or 16 weeks. The third control group received standard blood glucose management and lifestyle advice.

“The idea of reversing the disease is very appealing to individuals with diabetes. It motivates them to make significant lifestyle changes and to achieve normal glucose levels with the help of medications,” said McInnes.

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