Roundup: Risks of ‘White Coat Hypertension’; Belly Fat’s Link to Prostate Cancer; and Latest on Sleep Health

‘White Coat Hypertension’ May Double Risk of Death From Heart Disease

If your blood pressure surges above a normal level at the doctor’s office because of anxiety, then you may suffer from a condition known as “white coat hypertension” or “white coat syndrome” — which may affect up to 30 percent of Americans.

A new study found patients with this condition who do not take medication for high blood pressure are twice as likely to die of heart disease than those without white coat hypertension, according to a new study published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine finds.

Doctors are not sure what causes white coat hypertension, which may have different triggers, While some may experience increases in blood pressure only at the doctor’s offices, others may have fluctuating blood pressure due to an underlying condition.

About 1 in 5 American adults may have white coat hypertension, other studies have indicated.

As part of the new study, Penn Medicine researchers examined 27 studies that included data on more than 64,000 patients in the United States, Europe and Asia. Compared with people with normal blood pressure readings both at home and at the doctor’s office, patients with white coat hypertension were at elevated risk for cardiovascular events and death.

Patients with untreated white coat hypertension had a 36 percent increased risk of heart disease, 33 percent increased risk of death due to any cause and 109 percent increased risk of death from heart disease, the analysis found.

The results were “most robust” in studies where participants were 55 or older, on average, and studies that included patients with previous heart disease, said Jordana Cohen, M.D., co-author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

More research is needed on white coat hypertension, the researchers said. For now, “we encourage lifestyle modifications (including improved diet, exercise, weight loss, reduction in alcohol use, and smoking cessation) in all patients found to have white coat hypertension,” the researchers concluded.

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Belly, Thigh Fat Linked to Higher Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

The results of a new study involving researchers from the U.S. and Iceland found that “belly fat” and fat found just beneath the skin in the thights put men at a higher risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

Belly fat refers to abdominal fat that surrounds the organs. was associated with a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer, the study found. Men with a higher body mass index (BMI) and higher waist circumference were also linked to an increased risk of both advanced and fatal prostate cancer.

The study, published in the journal CANCER, was done by researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, along with the National Institute on Ageing, Bethesda, Maryland, the University of Iceland, the Icelandic Cancer Society, and the Icelandic Cancer Registry. Researchers studied 1,832 Icelandic men and assessed their risk of being diagnosed with or dying from prostate cancer. Out of this group, 172 men developed the cancer, 31 of whom died from the disease. Researchers followed the men for up to 13 years.

The teams of researchers even found that men with a leaner BMI — but had visceral fat — were also at a higher risk of both advanced and fatal prostate cancer. They concluded that more research is needed to determine why fat distribution affect the risk of disease.

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. men. Prostate cancers usually grow slowly and most men diagnosed with the disease are older than 65 years and do not die from the cancer. However, finding and treating prostate cancer before symptoms occur may not improve your health or help you live longer.

It’s important for men over the age of 40 to talk with their doctors about screening options for prostate cancer.

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Sleeping With Light or TV Turned On at Night Linked to Weight Gain in Women

Sleeping with a television or light on in the same room may be a risk factor for gaining weight or developing obesity, according to a new study by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The research, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, is considered the first to find an association between any exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping and weight gain in women. The results suggest that turning off lights at bedtime could reduce women’s chances of becoming obese, the NIH stated.

Researchers reviewed data on 43,722 U.S. women, ages 35 to 74. They had no history of cancer or heart disease. They were not shift workers who work odd hours. They also were not daytime sleepers or pregnant at the time of the study.

Initially, researchers took measurements of the participants’ height, weight and body mass index (BMI). They took those measurements again during a follow-up five years later. The women informed researchers whether they slept with no lights, with a small night-light, with a light shining into the bedroom from outside the room, or with a light or television left on inside the room.

The results: women who nodded off with a light or TV on were 17 percent more likely to have gained 11 pounds or more over five years. They also had a 22 percent greater chance of becoming overweight, and a 33 percent higher risk of becoming obese. In comparison, those with just a night-light did not put on weight, and the link between weight gain and a light shining in from outside was minimal.

“Humans are genetically adapted to a natural environment consisting of sunlight during the day and darkness at night,” says study co-author Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., a researcher with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH. Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group”Exposure to artificial light at night may alter hormones and other biological processes in ways that raise the risk of health conditions like obesity.”

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Improving Sleep Health: Don’t Rely on Melatonin, Over-the-Counter Meds

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