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Vegetarian diet may lower your blood pressure
A cup of edamame contains 676 mg of potassium, which may help lower your blood pressure.
February 24th, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Vegetarian diet may lower your blood pressure

Nearly a third of American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Often called the "silent killer" because it provides few warning signs, hypertension increases a patient's risk for heart attack and stroke.

New research suggests eating a vegetarian diet could help combat this deadly disease.

A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mm HG. Previous studies have shown that each increase of 20/10 mm Hg in that number doubles the patient's risk of cardiovascular disease. But lowering that top number just 5 mm HG can reduce your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by about 7%. And eating more fruits and vegetables may be a good way to do that, according to the new study, published Monday in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine. FULL POST


February 3rd, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Sugar not only makes you fat, it may make you sick

In recent years, sugar - more so than fat - has been receiving the bulk of the blame for our deteriorating health.

Most of us know we consume more sugar than we should.  Let's be honest, it's hard not to.

The (new) bad news is that sugar does more damage to our bodies than we originally thought.  It was once considered to be just another marker for an unhealthy diet and obesity.  Now sugar is considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as many other chronic diseases, according a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Shingles may increase stroke, heart attack risk
January 2nd, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Shingles may increase stroke, heart attack risk

Having shingles, especially when you are younger, may increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack later in life, according to a new study published this week in the online issue of Neurology.

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's the same virus that causes chickenpox. Also called herpes zoster, shingles appears as a painful rash, which in some cases can lead to further infection if left untreated. Doctors say the virus remains dormant in the nerve roots of people who have had chickenpox; anyone who has the virus as a child may develop an outbreak of shingles later on.

In this study, British researchers looked at more than 105,000 people who had had shingles and more than 213,000 people who had not. They found people aged 18 to 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a stroke, warning stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack), or heart attack later in life.
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Quit-smoking drugs safe for your heart
December 10th, 2013
11:03 AM ET

Quit-smoking drugs safe for your heart

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death world-wide. About half of all long-term smokers will die because of their addiction. But the good news is that nearly 70% of current smokers want to quit, says the CDC.

And using an effective treatment to help kick the habit can almost double or triple one's chance of success. Replacement therapies like the nicotine patch or gum, or medications like the antidepressant buproprion (sold as Wellbutrin or Zyban) and varenicline (commonly known as Chantix), can help reduce one's cravings to smoke and deal with withdrawal symptoms.

Headlines in recent years have questioned the cardiovascular risks of these drugs. But new research says that these drugs carry little risk of heart attack or stroke. FULL POST


December 3rd, 2013
03:04 PM ET

Study: There's no such thing as healthy obesity

You've probably heard someone say, "I'm fat but fit." Several recent studies have suggested this statement could be true. But a new review of existing studies published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine may put a stop to the rumor.

"Healthy obesity" is just a myth, the study authors say.

Some background

Scientists know that overweight people can be what they call "metabolically healthy." This means that despite having a high body mass index, or BMI, someone can have a small waistline, normal blood pressure and low cholesterol levels, and show little to no risk for developing diabetes. The opposite is also true; thin people can be metabolically unhealthy, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fat that accumulates only around their middle, which is a known risk for heart disease.

This kind of paradox highlights "the complexity of the relationship between weight and mortality," the authors of this new meta-analysis write. A lot of factors impact a person's cardiovascular health, including how much they exercise and when they put on the weight.
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Testosterone treatment could be dangerous to the heart
A new study links testosterone therapy to an increased risk of heart problems.
November 5th, 2013
04:27 PM ET

Testosterone treatment could be dangerous to the heart

It’s become the hot new treatment for older men. “T,” or testosterone replacement therapy, has been touted as the new way to turn back a man’s body clock and improve his sexual performance.  

But there may be trouble in paradise, according to new research.  In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists have found that men taking testosterone therapy had a 29% greater risk of death, heart attack and stroke  than those who were not on the hormone replacement.

The study included 8,709 men with low testosterone levels, who underwent coronary angiography, a procedure used to open narrow or blocked coronary arteries, in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system between 2005 and 2011. Some were found not to have blockages.

Researchers found the number of patients experiencing heart problems such as attacks and strokes three years after their angiographies, was 19.9% for those who were not on testosterone and 25.7% for those who were.  Even when scientists accounted for other factors in the patients’ health, the increase of heart events in those on testosterone therapy was significant, according to the study.

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5 studies you may have missed
LeBron James is one of the athletes with the most unhealthy food and beverage endorsements, a new study found.
October 11th, 2013
12:58 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published recently that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Athlete endorsements may be detrimental to kids' health
Journal: Pediatrics

Could sports superstars be encouraging bad eating habits in children? A new study takes a hard look at the products that professional athletes endorse, and the news isn't good.

"Seventy-nine percent of the 62 food products in athlete-endorsed advertisements were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and 93.4% of the 46 advertised beverages had 100% of calories from added sugar," study authors wrote.

The awards for most endorsements for energy-dense, nutrient-poor products goes to football player Peyton Manning and basketball player LeBron James. Bleacher Report has more on this study.

Scientists have brain breakthrough in mice
Journal: Science Translational Medicine

Researchers have discovered the first chemical compound that stops brain tissue from dying in a neurodegenerative disease, TIME.com reports.

This drug could be instrumental in fighting brain conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, scientists say. But so far, the research has only been done in mice; further investigation is necessary to see if it would work in humans.
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Vitamin B may lower stroke risk
September 19th, 2013
02:33 PM ET

Vitamin B may lower stroke risk

New evidence suggests taking vitamin B supplements may help reduce the risk of stroke.

A study, published this week in the online issue of Neurology, analyzed 14 randomized clinical trials of vitamin B that included a total of 54,913 participants. All of the studies compared the supplement use with a placebo or a very low-dose B vitamin. The patients were then followed for a minimum of six months.

The purpose of this meta-analysis was to see if vitamin B lowered homocysteine levels in the blood, which are associated with atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation and possibly Alzheimer's disease.

"Previous studies have conflicting findings regarding the use of vitamin B supplements and stroke or heart attack," said study author Dr. Xu Yuming, with Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou, China. "Some studies have even suggested that the supplements may increase the risk of these events."
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CDC: 200,000 people die needlessly every year
September 3rd, 2013
05:33 PM ET

CDC: 200,000 people die needlessly every year

Every year, nearly 800,000 people die from cardiovascular disease. That's 30% of all deaths under the age of 75, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And nearly a quarter of those deaths could be prevented, the study authors found.

That's 200,000 lives that could be saved every year, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.  Particularly striking is the fact that 56% of those deaths occurred among people under the age of 65.

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths that happen when they don't have to happen," said Frieden.

FULL POST


Choir singers’ hearts beat as one
July 8th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Choir singers’ hearts beat as one

Singing together can be an emotional experience.  As churchgoers, choir singers or sports fans raise their voices as one, they feel connected.

Turns out, that connection may have a physiological foundation. A small study suggests people who sing together have synchronized heartbeats.

Singers often inhale and exhale at similar times. When your heartbeat is connected to your breathing pattern, it’s called respiratory sinus arrhythmia, or RSA. RSA can have a soothing effect on the cardiovascular system. For instance, past studies have shown guided breathing – like what’s done in yoga – can be beneficial for high blood pressure problems.

“If this is correct, singing would probably have the same effect,” said Bjorn Vickhoff, a professional singer/songwriter-turned-neuroscientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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