Tag Archives: obesity

An Update on New Research – Straight from the Source!

IMG_8348rt5x7bwThere is always plenty of research being conducted on heart disease prevention, but this week I decided to go straight to the source. This week I will be blogging directly from the Cardiometabolic Health Congress in Boston – a collection of presentations on recent concepts and new research in the treatment of conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The goal? To prevent heart disease and stroke.

Here are some highlights from the first day:

High Cholesterol: The big news in cholesterol treatment is the development of a new class of potent drugs, PCS-K9 inhibitors, (Which I previously reported on here) which are different from statins – they lower cholesterol potently, but must be given by injection. For now, they are reserved for patients with seriously elevated levels while taking statins – or those intolerant of statins.

While statins are very effective in patients with a history of heart disease, many patients who take them have never had cardiovascular disease – they were prescribed purely for prevention. Many people given statins are actually at low long term risk – and the statin may not impact their risk further. Recent research shows that we can refine which patients benefit by using a test to look for early evidence of plaque buildup in the arteries. This test, called a coronary calcium scan (or heart scan) is cheap and quick, and can clarify which patients really will benefit from a statin.  Here is a recent article from the New York TImes with more details.

Obesity: Anyone who has tried to lose weight know the frustration of seeing the weight return over time. We often attribute this to poor will power, but research now shows that certain hormones are activated that actually “stimulate” the body to gain weight – like a weight “thermostat” that tries to return to a prior setting. New research is trying to interrupt this cycle and allow weight to stay off.

Research also shows that there are different “types” of obesity – many people consider themselves overweight, but are otherwise very healthy – normal blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol. In others, their weight leads to chronic issues and eventual complications. So always think of your weight in the context of your overall health.

Finally, when we decide to eat something, we assume we are doing so in response to feeling “hungry”. But research show that we often eat in response to other cues – sights and smells, emotional states, and availability of food. (A great example of “mindless” eating is chomping on popcorn while we are engrossed with a movie) So if you struggle with willpower, try to limit these non-hunger “cues” – remove unhealthy food from the house, and try to steer clear of temptations as you go about your day.

Tomorrow, we will hear about new research into high blood pressure and diabetes. (As always – these are general concepts – only your doctor can address your specific health issues).

Nutrition Counts

BW ARA labcoatAnyone who is interested in heart and circulatory health, whether or not you have a direct diagnosis or medical reason to pay particular attention, will benefit from learning about nutrition.  March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to learn more – from an appointment with a registered dietician to review your own specific nutrition goals, or from browsing articles/ resources. Here are some options to check out –

A healthy diet and good nutrition play an integral role in heart and circulatory wellness.  The American College of Cardiology’s CardioSmart website Eat Better has a lot of information on eating habits, family eating, reading labels, goals for diet (see managing hypertension).  The American Heart Association Nutrition Center covers topics such as sodium’s impact on cardiovascular health and how we eat it (The Salty Six:  Bread & rolls, Cold Cuts/meats, Pizza, Poultry, Soup, Sandwiches).  Who thought Bread & Rolls and not Pizza were #1 for the most sodium we eat?

Being heart healthy includes maintaining a healthy weight; not always straightforward because of how work, life, & daily schedules interact with our available food which often comes high calorie, in large portions.  Counting calories plays a role in considering weight and fitness.  Dr. Sherry Pagato, a psychologist, writes about weight in her article, Do I Really Need to Count Calories to Lose Weight? She relates tracking calories to tracking spending (money) and gives a great example of the anxiety that can make both a challenge (here it is a conversation with a friend having financial difficulty).   Attention to detail pays off for both finances and nutrition.

Counting vegetables to be sure you are eating the recommended servings will payoff with heart and circulatory health.  Fruits and Vegetables, Are You Getting Enough? gives great examples for knowing portions, and ways to supplement the diet with more fruits/veggies.  Examples include building a meal around a vegetable as main focus (rather than meat), adding berries to salads, even adding leafy greens to smoothies.  Bottom line, counting servings of fruits & veg gives an objective assessment of your diet, much like tracking pedometer steps/activity.

Choose real food, try to eat local, keep it simple; track what you eat, and learn as much as you can about recommendations for healthy eating.  Take your own dietary inventory for Nutrition Month; do you eat ice cream? Butter? Sweets?  How many vegetables?  Are you eating out?  Are you at your goal weight?  What healthy additions can you make?

The impact of what we eat – from cholesterol and trans fats, to sugar – on heart health is significant. Cholesterol, trans fats, and sugar contribute to atherosclerosis/hardening of the arteries as well as lead to obesity which further compromises heart and circulatory wellness.

We can choose to eat for heart and circulatory health.  For those in central Ohio, check out the McConnell Heart Health Center’s Nutrition Month seminar 10 Ways to Improve Your Diet Now on March 18th.