Tag Archives: cardiovascular disease


12927129-sad-coupleThough discussions of erectile dysfunction (ED) are becoming more mainstream, many men and women don’t have a good understanding of the condition.

Here are 4 important facts about ED:

1.  ED is often caused by diseases or conditions associated with aging.  Or it may be caused by side effects of medications used to treat the conditions.  It can also be caused by prostate surgery, stress, depression and problems associated with relationships.

2.  ED may be caused by tissues’ loss of elasticity and by the slowing down of nerve communication.

3.  Cardiovascular disease often leads to ED because clogged arteries affect blood vessels throughout the body, not just vessels of the heart.  In 30% of the men who consult their doctors regarding ED, the ED is the first clue that they have cardiovascular disease.

4.  The Massachusetts Male Aging Study suggests that there may be a natural ebb and flow of ED.  For some men, ED may occur, last for a considerable amount of time and then partly or fully disappear without any treatment.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, August 3, 2013




144970287Southern fried comfort food, gateway to stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers are narrowing in on the reason why US residents in the southeast have a significantly higher probability of stroke than persons in the rest of the contiguous 48 states.  In fact, those states–Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee–are grimly referred to as the Stroke Belt rather than the Sun Belt.

Over a four-year-period, Suzanne Judd, PhD, of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and her colleagues examined dietary data on 20,480 people age 45 and older in the Lower 48.  Judd presented the results of the study at a recent International Stroke Conference:

Persons who ate the most Southern-style food—averaging 6 meals per week– were 41% more likely to suffer a stroke over a 5-year period than those who ate the least—averaging 1 such meal per month.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking and physical activity, those who were in the top quartile for consuming the Southern diet had a 30% greater risk of stroke.

Researchers divided the self-reported diets of study participants into 5 eating styles:

Southern–Fried chicken and vegetables, processed or salty meats such as lunchmeat and jerky, red meat, eggs, sweet drinks such as sugared ice tea, whole milk.

Convenience—Mexican and Chinese food, pizza, pasta.

Plant-based—Fruits, vegetables, juice, cereal, whole-grain bread and fish, poultry and yogurt.

Sweets—Chocolate, desserts, sweet breakfast foods, breads plus added fats.

Alcohol—Beer wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, salad dressings, nuts and seeds, coffee.

Only the Southern and Plant-based dietary patterns were associated with definite patterns of stroke risk; those in the Plant-based group experienced the least number of strokes.

In conclusion, Judd observed that the Southern diet combines 3 factors known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease:

Foods high in saturated fats contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Salty foods contribute to high blood pressure.

Sugary drinks increase the risk of diabetes—just ask Paula Dean.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, May 2013   Paper read at International Stroke Conference, May 2013



In 1999 the American Heart Association (AHA) published a set of guidelines for heart disease prevention in women and revised them in 2011.  What follows are the newer guidelines are based on clinical trials that examined the protective efficacy of lifestyle measures and drugs:

1.  Control your weight.  If your weight is gradually creeping up, cut calories and develop good exercise habits.  Losing and then sustaining weight loss may require more than the recommended 30 minutes of exercise most days.

2.  Consider low-dose aspirin.  In persons under 65, aspirin is more effective at reducing heart attacks in men and more effective at reducing strokes in women.  Women over 65 with other coronary risk factors, should consider low-dose aspirin therapy only if you have or are at high risk for cardiovascular disease—and only if you’ve consulted with your health care providers for potential side effects.

3.  Consider statin drugs if lifestyle changed don’t improve your cholesterol numbers enough.

4.  If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, one drink per day.  Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer and other cancers, so consider those risks along with the benefits of alcohol.  The National Cancer Institute considers any amount of alcohol too much for women.

5.  Ignore previous advice to take hormones to prevent heart attacks.  In 2002 the Women’s Health Initiative found that such hormone therapy actually increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer in older women, average age 63.

6.  Treat depression and reduce stress.  It’s not normal to feel unhappy most of the time.  Seek professional help.   Getting regular exercise is also helpful.

If a demanding job or life causes stress, you must find ways to reduce the stress.

7.  Know your family history.  A history of premature cardiovascular disease in your immediate family substantially raises your risks.  Though you can’t change family history, you can address your other risk factors and treat them aggressively.

You may want to assess your 10-year risk of having a heart attack based on your age, gender, cholesterol levels and blood pressure at the government’s National Cholesterol Education Program at  http://www.tinyurl.com/risktool

SOURCE:  University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, Special Winter Issue, 2012    American Heart Association




In 1999 the American Heart Association (AHA) published a set of guidelines for heart disease prevention in women and revised them in 2011.  What follows are the newer guidelines are based on clinical trials that examined the protective efficacy of lifestyle measures and drugs:

1.  Quit smoking; avoid second-hand smoke.   The worst thing you can do to your heart and your other organs, and those of persons around you is to smoke.  Smoking causes about two-thirds of heart attacks among young and middle-aged women, and if you smoke while taking birth control pills, your risk is even higher.

No level of smoking is safe. The bad news:  The risk of heart attack rises with every cigarette smoked daily.

The good news:  Your risk of heart attack is reduced the minute you quit smoking.

2.  Know your blood pressure; keep it under control.  A blood pressure (hypertension) test may well be the cheapest, simplest and most valuable medical test of all.  More black women have hypertension than white women and tend to develop it about 10 years sooner than white women.

Early awareness of prehypertension coupled with attention to exercise, diet, weight control and drugs, if needed, can help you keep it from developing into full-blown hypertension.

3.  Know your blood cholesterol levels; keep them in a healthy range.  Optimal LDL (“bad”) levels are less than 100 mg/dL, and acceptable levels are less than 130.

Optimal levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol for women should be at least 50, compared to 40 for men.

Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200.

Diet and exercise can improve your levels.

4.  Have your blood sugar level checked; control it if it’s high.  Women with diabetes or with prediabetes are at greater risk for heart attack and stroke than are men with those conditions.  You can control your blood sugar through diet, weight loss, exercise and, if needed, medication.

5.  Eat a heart-healthy diet.  Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, (dried) beans, whole grains and low-calorie dairy products.  Eat oily fish two or three times a week for their omega-3 fats.  Keep portions of lean meats, such as skinless poultry breast and well-trimmed cuts of other meats, small.

Avoid trans fats and saturated fats, but eat moderate amounts of unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado and vegetable oils.

Eat sparingly of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, such as white potatoes, bread and pasta.

6.  Cut back on sodium to reduce risk of hypertension and stroke.  For people over 50, for all blacks and those with hypertension, diabetes or kidney disease, the recommendation is a daily limit of just 1,500 milligrams.

Others should aim for less than 2,300 milligrams.

All this translates into your having to cut way back on processed foods, restaurant meals and fast foods.

7.  Stay active.  For heart benefits, walk briskly or do some other aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.  Current recommendations are for a total of 150 minutes per week.

You may want to assess your 10-year risk of having a heart attack based on your age, gender, cholesterol levels and blood pressure at the government’s National Cholesterol Education Program at  http://www.tinyurl.com/risktool

SOURCE:  University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, Special Winter Issue, 2012    American Heart Association

Coming up:  7 More Heart-healthy Tips for Women 


NO PHOTO AVAILABLE   I found zero photos of a woman having a heart attack vs. endless photos of men having heart attacks.  That says a lot about why women don’t realize our danger from heart attack.

In total, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 7% more US women than men.

It claims the lives of more than 20 times as many women as does breast cancer in a year (420,000 vs. 39,500).

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it kills one in every three women, more than women’s combined deaths from all cancers, chronic respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s and accidents.

Though far fewer women than men have heart attacks, nearly as many women as men die from them.

A couple of decades ago, women had a higher death rate than men during heart surgery because surgeons were using the same larger surgery instruments on women’s smaller hearts that they used on men’s larger hearts.  That rather obvious oversight has been corrected in most cases, but not in all.

Still, today women are twice as likely to die during or soon after surgery, largely because we delay getting medical help because we don’t know that the indicators of our having a heart attack differ from a man’s indicators of a heart attack.

Though chest pain is the most common symptom for both men and women, more women, especially in middle age, don’t have this symptom.

Instead, our first symptom is unusual fatigue, acute anxiety, shortness of breath, pounding heartbeat, nausea, and/or pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, back or ear.

Another contributing factor is that we have our first heart attacks at an age considerably older than men having a first attack and are therefore generally more susceptible to death than we would have been had we had the attack at an earlier age.

NB:  A significant number of US women under 54 years of age have heart attacks; Rosie O’Donnell had one last August at age 50.   While the incidence of death in men under 54 has been dropping, the incidence of death among women under 54 is rising, probably because more younger women are obese and have diabetes and also because of the existing gender gap in recognizing and treating heart disease.

It’s of critical importance that women learn how to protect our cardiovascular health and consult with our health care providers (educating them, if necessary) about our risk factors and appropriate strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease.

You may want to assess your 10-year risk of having a heart attack based on your age, gender, cholesterol levels and blood pressure at the government’s National Cholesterol Education Program at  http://www.tinyurl.com/risktool

SOURCE:  University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, Special Winter Issue, 2012

Coming up:  7 Heart-healthy Tips for Women  But wait–there’s more!

Followed by:  7 More Heart-healthy Tips for Women 


DSC_1141Brown Rice

1. Switching from white to brown rice could reduce diabetes risk.   Asian populations may be at higher risk of type 2 diabetes because of a more sedentary lifestyle and because of the traditional diets high in white rice.

Harvard researchers report that those who consume the most white rice were 27% more likely to develop diabetes than those eating the least, the association being greatest in Asian People (55%).

Scientists pooled results from four prior studies totaling 352, 384 participants with follow-up periods ranging from 44-22 years.  The more white rice all people ate, the greater their diabetes risk, with each additional daily serving linked to 11% greater risk of developing the disease.

It appears that Western populations might consider opting for unprocessed brown rice that retains its whole-grain nutrients.

Study published in British Medical Journal

My Take on the study:  This is all true, but in a few days, I’ll be publishing a recent study that affirms a disturbing amount of arsenic in rice and in some other basic foods.


2.  Fiber might also be good for your heart.    Dietary fiber may help prevent against heart disease, particularly for women.  Swedish researchers studied 8,139 men and 12, 535 women ages 44-73 over a period of 13.5 years.  Participants had no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Women who consumed the most fiber (primarily from fruits, vegetables and bread) had a 25% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease than those who consumed the least.

The association was less pronounced in men, though high fiber intake was connected to lower incidence of stroke in men.

Researchers aren’t sure about how the fiber is protective or why its protection seems gender specific and say both issues merit further research.

Study published in PLOS One 


3.  Amount of belly fat associated with death from sudden heart problems 

Excess belly fat, as measured by waist-to-hip ratio, is associated with a 40% greater risk of dying from sudden heart problems (death within one hour of symptom onset), according to a study presented by Selcuk Adabag to the Heart Rhythm Society.

Adabag and his team of researchers at the University of Minnesota looked at 15,156 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, ages spanning 45-64 years.  Over 12.6 years, 301 cases of sudden cardiac death occurred.

Those in the top 20% of the ratio had waist-to-hip measures of 0.97 or higher for women and 1.01 for men, indicating that the waist and hips were about the same size.

The lowest 20% had ratios of less than 0.82 for women and less than 0.92 for men.

Researchers suggested that belly fat is especially dangerous because of its effect on inflammation, which can lead to fibrosis in the heart muscle.

“The significance of this study is that it shows that abdominal obesity is an independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death, even after accounting for factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease,” Dr Adabag said.

You can calculate your own ratio by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

Study presented to the Heart Rhythm Society

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, August 2012        Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)


Healthy diets include two kinds of fiber:  soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber (barley, oats) is helpful in relieving constipation.

Insoluble fiber may be useful in protecting against colorectal cancer and diverticulitis.  It can exist along with soluble fiber, but is found in highest concentrations in the peels, skins and husks of fruits and vegetables and in whole grains.

A new study by Swedish researchers examined dietary habits and prevalence of cardiovascular disease in more than 20,000 adults. With follow-up of over 13.5 years, the study analyzed heart disease and 13 nutritional variables based on food intake questionnaires from 8,139 men and 12,535 women, ages 44-73.  Participants had no prior history of cardiovascular disease.

Scientists found that women who consumed the most fiber were at almost 25% lower risk for heart disease than those women consuming less fiber in their diets.

The association was weaker among men, though a correlation was found linking higher fiber intake to lower incidence of stroke.

Though researchers don’t fully understand the process that makes fiber protective, they believe that the pronounced gender difference in their results merits further research.

from Tufts University Health & Nutrition Update,   May 4, 2012  Study published in PLOS One   and other sources