2012 March 15 Thursday
Retinopathy Marker For Cognitive Decline

A disease of the blood vessels of the retina in the eye turns to be an indicator for risk of cognitive decline.

Women 65 or older who have even mild retinopathy, a disease of blood vessels in the retina, are more likely to have cognitive decline and related vascular changes in the brain, according to a multi-institutional study led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The findings suggest that a relatively simple eye screening could serve as a marker for cognitive changes related to vascular disease, allowing for early diagnosis and treatment, potentially reducing the progression of cognitive impairment to dementia.

One thing noteworthy here: the vascular system is incredibly important. If I had to choose just a few rejuvenation therapies out of a much larger set then one I'd be tempted to go for is a complete rejuvenation of the vasculature. Aging blood vessels do not deliver enough nutrients. They also rupture, causing dead of neurons in the brain. The damaging effects are manifold.

High blood pressure and insulin-resistant diabetes are both major risk factors for retinopathy.

As retinopathy usually is caused by Type II diabetes or hypertension, a diagnosis could indicate early stages of these diseases, before they are clinically detectable. Early diagnosis could allow for lifestyle or drug interventions when they might be most effective.

“Lots of people who are pre-diabetic or pre-hypertensive develop retinopathy,” said the lead author of the study, Mary Haan, DrPH, MPH, UCSF professor of epidemiology and biostatistics. “Early intervention might reduce the progression to full onset diabetes or hypertension.”

We even more need the ability to reverse diabetes and high blood pressure. Rejuvenation of the blood vessels would likely lower blood pressure. Bring on the stem cell therapies and drugs that would gradually kill off old vascular cells and youthful cells take their place.

By Randall Parker    2012 March 15 10:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2011 November 13 Sunday
Teeth Cleaning Cuts Heart, Stroke Risks?

Inflammation from chronic bacterial infections is a suspected risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Therefore it is of interest that more frequent teeth cleaning might cut heart disease and stroke risk.

Professional tooth scaling was associated with fewer heart attacks and strokes in a study (Abstract 17704) from Taiwan presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2011.

Among more than 100,000 people, those who had their teeth scraped and cleaned (tooth scaling) by a dentist or dental hygienist had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack and 13 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who had never had a dental cleaning. The participants were followed for an average of seven years.

Scientists considered tooth scaling frequent if it occurred at least twice or more in two years; occasional tooth scaling was once or less in two years.

The study included more than 51,000 adults who had received at least one full or partial tooth scaling and a similar number of people matched with gender and health conditions who had no tooth scaling. None of the participants had a history of heart attack or stroke at the beginning of the study.

Getting your teeth cleaned regularly is a good idea anyway since it cuts the risk of loss of teeth and avoids the development of an interest in TV commercials about dentures.

A separate study found a big difference in heart and stroke risk based on the number of remaining teeth.

In a separate study (abstract 10576), researchers found that the value of markers for gum disease predict heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke in different ways and to different degrees.

Anders Holmlund, D.D.S., Ph.D. Centre for Research and Development of the County Council of Gävleborg, Sweden, and senior consultant; Specialized Dentistry, studied 7,999 participants with periodontal disease and found people with:

  • Fewer than 21 teeth had a 69 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the most teeth.
  • A higher number of deepened periodontal pockets (infection of the gum around the base of the tooth) had a 53 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the fewest pockets.
  • The least amount of teeth had a 2.5 increased risk of congestive heart failure compared to those with the most teeth.
  • The highest incidence of gum bleeding had a 2.1 increased risk of stroke compared to those with the lowest incidence.

Haven't gotten your teeth cleaned lately? Time to make an appointment. Also, get out that floss and use it.

By Randall Parker    2011 November 13 08:19 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2011 April 10 Sunday
Atherosclerotic Plaque Forms In Short Period

Plaques that cause strokes and heart attacks form in just several years.

In a new study performed in humans, researchers from Karolinska Institutet have determined the age of atherosclerotic plaques by taking advantage of Carbon-14 (14C) residues in the atmosphere, prevailing after the extensive atomic bomb tests in the 50ties and 60ties. The findings, published in the scientific online journal PLoS ONE, suggest that in most people plaque formation occurs during a relatively short and late time period in life of 3-5 years.

This raises an obvious question: Why isn't plaque accumulation a long term process? What changes in the cardiovascular system that allows or causes a sudden acceleration in plaque formation? Do stem cells become too old to do repairs? Or do other cells suddenly change their behavior in ways that encourage plaque formation?

"We suspected that the plaque would be substantially younger than the patients, who were on average were 68 years old at surgery, but we were surprised when we found that the average age of these plaques was less than 10 years", says Associate Professor Johan Björkegren, who lead the study at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.

They found plaque age to be inversely correlated with plasma insulin. That makes sense. High insulin is associated with insulin-resistant diabetes which is, in turn, associated with many diseases including cardiovascular diseases. Eat a diet and get enough exercise to avoid insulin-resistant diabetes and reduce your risk of plaque formation, strokes, and heart attacks.

You can read the full article here.

An observed relationship between shorter chromosome telomere length (telomere caps shrink with age and are a biomarker for aging) and atherosclerosis suggests cellular aging somehow accelerates plaque formation. You can read one research paper that looked at telomere length and plaque formation for an interesting discussion of hypotheses on this topic. Possibly infusion of youthful endothelial cells into the walls of the vascular system will some day stop and possibly even reverse plaque formation. Here's another reason to wish for rapid development of cell therapies.

By Randall Parker    2011 April 10 03:07 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2011 February 23 Wednesday
High Triglycerides Associated With High Stroke Risks

If you are eating a white flour and sugar diet beware what risk you could be running with your brain.

After adjusting for age, hypertension, smoking, alcohol consumption, atrial fibrillation, lipid-lowering therapy, and — in women — hormone replacement therapy and menopausal status, the researchers found that women with a nonfasting triglyceride level above 445 mg/dL (5 mmol/L) had a 4-fold increased risk for stroke compared with women with a nonfasting triglyceride level below 90 mg/dL (1 mmol/L). The corresponding risk in men was a 2.3-fold increased risk.

Results like this one underscore in my mind the value of tracking your body's biochemical state at fairly frequent intervals. A friend recently described to me how his triglycerides skyrocketed when he happened to eat a lot of sweets, pies, and pastries. Then it plummeted in weeks after he shifted to a healthier diet. Well, getting notified whenever you send your blood lipids into a danger zone would help people change their diets sooner and would help people stick with healthy eating habits.

If you want to try changing your diet in various ways to see how much you can lower your triglycerides then direct-to-consumer (DTC) medical testing could reduce the time and money spent on getting the testing done. But wait, even faster results are possible with home triglycerides and cholesterol test kits. I want one.

By Randall Parker    2011 February 23 09:56 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2010 October 19 Tuesday
Low Testosterone Increases Heart Death Risk?

Too little T is a risk as we age?

Low testosterone levels seem to be linked to a heightened risk of premature death from heart disease and all causes, suggests research published online in Heart.

The finding refutes received wisdom that the hormone is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

I'm not so sure about the refutation of received wisdom. Toxins depend on dose. Likely there's an ideal range of testosterone and outside of that range either above or below one is at increased risk of death. The trick is to know what is the ideal range. That's hard to figure out without double blind prospective studies. Also, likely: the ideal range varies by person. But customizing testosterone replacement based on genes and metabolic tests still lies many years into the future.

Since one in four men had low T I would be very curious how a control group of similar age men without heart disease would compare.

The researchers base their findings on 930 men, all of whom had coronary artery heart disease, and had been referred to a specialist heart centre between 2000 and 2002. Their heart health was then tracked for around 7 years.

On referral, low testosterone was relatively common. One in four of the men was classified as having low testosterone, using measurements of either bioavailable testosterone (bio-T) - available for tissues to use - of under 2.6 mmol/l or total testosterone (TT) of under 8.1 mmol/l.

They are defining low as clinical testosterone deficiency. Well, how common is that in older men?

These measures indicate clinically defined testosterone deficiency, referred to as hypogonadism, as opposed to a tailing off in levels of the hormone as a result of ageing.

During the monitoring period almost twice as many men with low testosterone died as did those with normal levels. One in five (41) of those with low testosterone died, compared with one in eight (12%) of those with normal levels.

The argument against hormone replacement is that some of the decline in testosterone with age might lower risk of diseases by basically turning down the RPM on an old engine. The male body pays a price from being ramped up by testosterone. Look at risks discovered with hormone replacement therapies for women as a cautionary tale. It is hard to second guess nature to produce a long term gain in our health.

Update: Hormone replacement therapy for women might increase the risk of several cancers by boosting blood vessel formation (angiogenesis). If that is the correct mechanism for boosted cancer risk it illustrates the problem with turning up metabolism in old age. Just like in cars old parts can not be pushed to higher levels of performance without risk of damage. The body slows down with age probably in part to prevent cells and organs from malfunctioning in deadly ways. Cures for cancer would enable us to turn up our metabolisms in old age.

By Randall Parker    2010 October 19 11:19 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2010 May 27 Thursday
Toothbrushing Good For The Heart

Brush away some of your risks of heart disease.

Individuals who have poor oral hygiene have an increased risk of heart disease compared to those who brush their teeth twice a day, finds research published today on BMJ.com.

In the last twenty years there has been increased interest in links between heart problems and gum disease. While it has been established that inflammation in the body (including mouth and gums) plays an important role in the build up of clogged arteries, this is the first study to investigate whether the number of times individuals brush their teeth has any bearing on the risk of developing heart disease, says the research.

Toothbrushing isn't just about cavities and breath smell.

Once the data were adjusted for established cardio risk factors such as social class, obesity, smoking and family history of heart disease, the researchers found that participants who reported less frequent toothbrushing had a 70% extra risk of heart disease compared to individuals who brushed their teeth twice a day, although the overall risk remained quite low. Particpants who had poor oral hygiene also tested positive for inflammatory markers such as the C-reactive protein and fibrinogen.

Chronic bacterial infection can cause chronic inflammation which sets in motion processes that lead to clogged arteries, heart attacks, and stroke.

Flossing will probably help even more than brushing. Regular teeth cleaning appointments will help too.

By Randall Parker    2010 May 27 09:49 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2010 May 26 Wednesday
Capillaries Eject Trash In Brain

Capillaries have the ability to coat clots and plaque with a membrane and then expel the trash in order to clear blockages.

CHICAGO --- Spitting can be a good thing when it comes to blood vessels.

Scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered capillaries have a unique method of expelling debris, such as blood clots, cholesterol or calcium plaque, that blocks the flow of essential nutrients to brain cells. The capillaries spit out the blockage by growing a membrane that envelopes the obstruction and then shoves it out of the blood vessel.

Note that the shoving out of the trash is in the direction of space between the brain cells. The capillaries place the fast restoration of blood flow over getting rid of debris. That makes sense in order ot protect starving cells from death. But it sets up the brain to accumulate extra-cellular junk over the long term.

Very importantly this capability declines with age. Add this to the list of essential functions that go wrong as we age.

Scientists also found this critical process is 30 to 50 percent slower in an aging brain and likely results in the death of more capillaries.

We need cell therapies that can deliver youthful progenitor cells that can create new capillary wall material.

This work was done using microdots and live mice.

"So what happens to the blood vessels that that aren't cleared out?" asked Grutzendler and colleagues. "Do they die, or does some other mechanism take over?"

To find out, they created micro-clots, tagged them with a red fluorescent substance and infused them into the carotid arteries of mice. Using a multiphoton microscope, the team examined the brains of live mice at various time intervals as clots traveled into the capillaries. Surprisingly, they discovered that the blood vessel cells next to the blockage grew a membrane that completely enveloped the debris. Then the original wall of the blood vessel opened up and spit the debris into the brain tissue, rendering it harmless. The envelope covering the clot became the new vessel wall. This resulted in complete restoration of blood flow and salvaging of the tiny vessel and surrounding brain cells.

This is not the ideal way for the body to solve the trash clump problem. We need gene therapy or nanobot enhancements that will break down accumulated debris.

The research was made possibe by advances in techniques to image small blood vessels.

The researchers used a newly developed imaging technique that can view the smallest blood vessels, known as microvessels, in the brains of living mice. They found that two to seven days after a blockage in brain microvessels, the cells lining the blood vessel wall engulf the remaining portion of the blockage, encapsulate it, seal it off from the interior of the blood vessel and finally expel the blocking material outside of the vessel. As a result of this process, blood flow is restored to the affected area. (See graphic below.)

Lack of ability to rapidly more clumps of junk out of capillaries led to tissue oxygen shortages and cellular death. So we really need cell therapies that will restore the ability of capillary cells to cover up and move junk out of the capillaries.

The researchers also found that the ability to move the blockage out of the blood vessel diminished with age. Young mice (age 4 months) were able to clear blockages more quickly and thoroughly than older mice (age 22 months). The incomplete removal of blockages in the brains of older mice led to a prolonged shortage of oxygen to the surrounding nerve cells and damaged the connections between nerve cells in the vicinity of the obstructed blood vessels.

Vascular system rejuvenation is at the top of my list for wanted rejuvenation therapies. Declining insulin sensitivity including declining dilation response to insulin are among the damaging changes that our blood vessels undergo as we age. We need to replace the old vascular cells with newer and younger cells that can feed our tissues well fed and free of trash.

By Randall Parker    2010 May 26 11:43 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2010 May 18 Tuesday
Hormone Could Cut Heart Disease Risk?

Pregnenolone sulphate reduces production of inflammatory cytokines.

A natural defence mechanism against heart disease could be switched on by steroids sold as health supplements, according to researchers at the University of Leeds.

The University of Leeds biologists have identified a previously-unknown ion channel in human blood vessels that can limit the production of inflammatory cytokines – proteins that drive the early stages of heart disease.

They found that this protective effect can be triggered by pregnenolone sulphate - a molecule that is part of a family of 'fountain-of-youth' steroids. These steroids are so-called because of their apparent ability to improve energy, vision and memory.

Importantly, collaborative studies with surgeons at Leeds General infirmary have shown that this defence mechanism can be switched on in diseased blood vessels as well as in healthy vessels.

Surely this hormone causes side effects if taken for a long time. Surely a substantial fraction (likely well over half) of the population should not take it as a disease preventative. But for some number of people (if we could only identify who they are) this drug might lower overall risk of disease and death.

I expect a combination of genetic testing and blood testing will become sensitive enough to predict very high risk for heart disease and other diseases. Once a small fraction of the population can be identified as having a special very high risk of a disease then it will become easier to decide that the side effects of a hormone therapy or other drug therapy really are worth it.

The problem with a lot of disease preventing drugs (e.g. statins) that people take for many years is that inevitably a substantial fraction of the people taking such preventative drugs were never going to get whatever disease was meant to avoid. We need far greater predictive power in medical tests so that we can know when treatments will deliver a net benefit for each person.

By Randall Parker    2010 May 18 10:59 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2010 March 17 Wednesday
Loneliness Raises Blood Pressure?

Trying to live a long time but single and rarely socialize? Loneliness appears to raise blood pressure of those at least 50 years old.

Chronic feelings of loneliness take a toll on blood pressure over time, causing a marked increase after four years, according to a new study at the University of Chicago.

A new study shows, for the first time, a direct relation between loneliness and larger increases in blood pressure four years later—a link that is independent of age and other factors that could cause blood pressure to rise, including body-mass index, smoking, alcohol use and demographic differences such as race and income.

The researchers also looked at the possibility that depression and stress might account for the increase but found that those factors did not fully explain the increase in blood pressure among lonely people 50 years and older.

"Loneliness behaved as though it is a unique health-risk factor in its own right," wrote researcher Louise Hawkley in an article, "Loneliness Predicts Increased Blood Pressure," published in the current issue of the journal Psychology and Aging.

Dogs would probably help. I've always found they have anti-stress effects. But if you need to talk out your thoughts then human company remains unmatched.

Since it is not clear to me when rejuvenation therapies will really kick in if you want to live until that day you've got to go for every advantage you can find. That includes managing your emotions and keeping down stress. Friends and lovers can help do that.

By Randall Parker    2010 March 17 08:38 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2010 January 27 Wednesday
Some Antioxidants Reduce Vasodilators

In sufficient doses antioxidants can squelch needed signaling chemicals in the body with harmful effect.

Antioxidants increasingly have been praised for their benefits against disease and aging, but recent studies at Kansas State University show that they also can cause harm.

Researchers in K-State's Cardiorespiratory Exercise Laboratory have been studying how to improve oxygen delivery to the skeletal muscle during physical activity by using antioxidants, which are nutrients in foods that can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to the body. Their findings show that sometimes antioxidants can impair muscle function.

"Antioxidant is one of those buzz words right now," said Steven Copp, a doctoral student in anatomy and physiology from Manhattan and a researcher in the lab. "Walking around grocery stores you see things advertised that are loaded with antioxidants. I think what a lot of people don't realize is that the antioxidant and pro-oxidant balance is really delicate. One of the things we've seen in our research is that you can't just give a larger dose of antioxidants and presume that there will be some sort of beneficial effect. In fact, you can actually make a problem worse."

Unfortunately the press release doesn't get specific about which antioxidants caused this effect.

Antioxidant therapies that reduce levels of vasodilators will reduce oxygen delivery to muscle.

"We're now learning that if antioxidant therapy takes away hydrogen peroxide – or other naturally occurring vasodilators, which are compounds that help open blood vessels – you impair the body's ability to deliver oxygen to the muscle so that it doesn't work properly," Poole said.

The body produces free radicals to serve signaling functions. Unfortunately these same free radicals damage us. Our bodies were obviously not designed to last forever. Our bodies use toxins to get metabolic tasks done. We grow old and die as a result. Or at least we will until scientists develop therapies that'll enable us to repair our bodies as fast as damage accumulates.

By Randall Parker    2010 January 27 12:49 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2009 September 30 Wednesday
Heart Risk Factors Rising In Europe And United States?

Progress is not inevitable.

“Over the next few years it's likely that this observed decline in the proportion of people with low cardiovascular risks will translate into increased cardiovascular disease,” said Professor De Backer, a former chair of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Joint Prevention Committee. “This paper should act as a wake-up call in Europe as well as the US, since overall European risk factors are not so different. While obesity may be higher in the US, Europe has been less successful in reducing smoking and cutting blood pressure.”

Indeed, the EuroAspire survey(2), which reviewed risk factors in patients with established coronary heart disease from 22 European countries, found that only 6 % of men and 4 % women were achieving lifestyle, risk factor and therapeutic targets for prevention.

“Health surveillance is essential for the development of good health policy. We need to know exactly what are the problems we are facing to determine the best ways of counteracting them,” said Professor De Backer.

The people in some European countries have porked out beyond US levels of porkiness. A whole lot of porking going on. Oink, oink. Plus, Europe has a lot more nicotine fiends. Gotta say I like California's legal hostility to cigarette smokers in workplaces.

Of course, if you are skinny non-smoker who gets a lot of exercise and eats a lot of fruits and vegetables your odds look a whole lot better. Drugs might even boost your odds of longer life even higher.

By Randall Parker    2009 September 30 10:59 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2009 September 24 Thursday
Statin Cuts Heart Risk With High CRP

People with high sensitivity C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker) benefit from a cholesterol-lowering statin even if their cholesterol is low.

DALLAS, Sept. 22, 2009 — Statin therapy may be as effective in reducing heart attack, stroke, the need for artery-opening procedures, or heart-related death in people with normal or even low cholesterol but elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) as in patients with high cholesterol, according to research reported in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Note the reference to high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP)

Doctors would need to treat approximately 20 patients with high hsCRP (a sign of inflammation) and normal cholesterol levels with a statin for five years to avoid one incident of the primary end points of heart attack, stroke, percutaneous coronary intervention (a catheter-based procedure to reopen blocked arteries), or one cardiovascular-related death, researchers said.

The number needed to treat (NNT) value — 20 patients in this case — is a commonly used metric that helps doctors evaluate therapies.

The benefit is greater than that seen with statins taken to lower high cholesterol.

“Those NNT values are comparable or even superior to NNT values we already consider acceptable to prevent cardiovascular disease with statins in people with high cholesterol levels, where the 5-year NNT values range from 44 to 63,” said Paul M. Ridker, M.D., lead author of the study and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.
The lower the NNT the better, because it means fewer patients would need to be treated to reap a benefit, he said.

So short of taking Lipitor or Crestor can you bring down your CRP and cut your heart disease, stroke, and other heart risks? Sure. Plant sterols, soy protein, foods high in viscous fiber and a few other dietary changes will lower cholesterol and CRP. You want to go for an inflammation-lowering diet. Generally speaking, dietary factors known to lower cholesterol also lower CRP. In your diet make like an ape man.

By Randall Parker    2009 September 24 12:12 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2009 September 09 Wednesday
Big Differences Between European Countries In Heart Risks

The big smoker countries in Europe have much higher rates of heat disease death under age 65.

While heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Europe, mortality rates are falling in most (but not all) countries, according to new findings released by the EuroHeart mapping project.(1) However, this detailed research, part of a three-year programme to analyse cardiovascular health and prevention policies in 16 European countries, also reveals huge inequalities among countries both in the rate of cardiovascular mortality and in national prevention programmes.

  • Highest rates of mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) in men under 65 were found in Hungary (105 per 100,000 population), Estonia (104), Slovakia (74), Greece (50), Finland (48) and UK (44).
  • Highest rates for women under 65 were found in Hungary (28), Estonia (20), Slovakia (19), UK (11), Greece (10) and Belgium (9).
  • Lowest rates for men under 65 were found in France (17), Netherlands (22), Italy (25) and Norway (27).
  • Lowest rates for women under 65 were found in Iceland (3), France (3), Slovenia (5) and Italy (5).

This pattern was also reflected (though not exactly mirrored) in risk factor prevalence, where, for example, Greece (46%), Estonia (42%), Slovakia (41%), Germany (37%) and Hungary (37%) had the highest rates of cigarette smoking.

Hungary and Estonia have a lot of unhealthy people. The Greeks need to stop smoking themselves to death.

The Finns have made big improvements in lowering coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality. Whereas Greece is losing ground. My guess: part of this is due to fewer Greeks eating the Mediterranean diet.

There are also noticeable differences in trends in CHD mortality; in Finland mortality rates from CHD declined by 76% from 1972 to 2005; in the same period in Greece, mortality rates for CHD increased by 11%. In nine of the 16 EuroHeart countries, the trends in CHD death rates in women show that they have declined less than in men.

Europe is clearly lagging the United States in turning away from the demon weed. Kentucky has the highest incidence of smoking at 28.3% in 2007 with Utah's Mormons living a pure life at only 11.7% but the US Virgin Islands at 8.7% even beat Utah. Good for those Virgin Islanders. The Virgin Islands, center of heart-healthy living. Who knew?

In 2007, the median prevalence of adult current smoking in the 50 states and DC was 19.8%. Among states, current smoking prevalence was highest in Kentucky (28.3%), West Virginia (27.0%), and Oklahoma (25.8%); and lowest in Utah (11.7%), California (14.3%), and Connecticut (15.5%). Smoking prevalence was 8.7% in USVI, 12.2% in PR, and 31.1% in Guam. Median smoking prevalence among the 50 states and DC was 21.3% (range: 15.5%-28.8%) for men and 18.4% (range: 8.0%-27.8%) for women. Men had a significantly higher prevalence of smoking than women in 30 states, DC, and all three territories.

National smoking numbers for the United States show a higher rate for ages 18-24 than for the adult population overall. So then has the decline in smoking bottomed out?

  • An estimated, 20.8% of all adults (45.3 million people) smoke cigarettes in the United States.4
  • Cigarette smoking estimates by age are as follows: 18–24 years (23.9%), 25–44 years (23.5%), 45–64 years (21.8%), and 65 years or older (10.2%).4
  • Cigarette smoking is more common among men (23.9%) than women (18.0%).4
  • Prevalence of cigarette smoking is highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (32.4%), followed by African Americans (23.0%), whites (21.9%), , Hispanics (15.2%), and Asians [excluding Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders] (10.4%).4
  • Cigarette smoking estimates are highest for adults with a General Education Development (GED) diploma (46.0%) or 9–11 years of education (35.4%), and lowest for adults with an undergraduate college degree (9.6%) or a graduate college degree (6.6%).4
  • Cigarette smoking is more common among adults who live below the poverty level (30.6%) than among those living at or above the poverty level (20.4%).4

Smokers need another drug that gives them as much nerve calming but without the cardiovascular damage.

By Randall Parker    2009 September 09 08:20 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2009 April 03 Friday
Heart Muscle Cells Divide And Create Replacements

The heart creates new cells even after it reaches adult size. Work in Sweden carefully quantifies the rate at which new cells get generated.

In a finding that may open new approaches to treating heart disease, Swedish scientists have succeeded in measuring a highly controversial property of the human heart: the rate at which its muscle cells are renewed during a person’s lifetime.

So much for the conventional wisdom.

The finding upturns what has long been conventional wisdom: that the heart cannot produce new muscle cells and so people die with the same heart they were born with.

The problem is that the replacement rate declines with age. Then when pieces break they do not get replaced and we decay.

About 1 percent of the heart muscle cells are replaced every year at age 25, and that rate gradually falls to less than half a percent per year by age 75, concluded a team of researchers led by Dr. Jonas Frisen of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

What we need: youthful cell therapies that will bump the cell replacement rate back up to 1% per year. Likely we will need an even faster replacement rate to make up for lost time. We need these therapies in other organs and other parts of the body as well. Certainly we need replacement cells for other muscle types.

Update: This report is reason for optimism. Since we have an existing mechanism whereby damaged heart muscle cells get replaced the development of cell therapies to replace muscle cells becomes easier. The existing mechanism for repair can be rejuvenated and enhanced with better replacement cells. Also, the very gradual rate of replacement means if we can just restore the repair process it might be able to gradually regain lost ground by slowly but steadily producing more cells to fit into niches where they are needed.

By Randall Parker    2009 April 03 12:19 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2009 March 18 Wednesday
Low Vitamin D Correlates With Poor Metabolic Profile In Youth

Not saying which direction the cause and effect runs. But adolescents who have less vitamin D in their blood are more likely to have higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar, and metabolic syndrome.

In the study, researchers analyzed 3,577 adolescents, 12 to 19 years old (51 percent boys), who participated in the nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted from 2001–2004.

After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, socioeconomic status and physical activity, researchers found the adolescents with the lowest levels of vitamin D were:
• 2.36 times more likely to have high blood pressure;
• 2.54 times more likely to have high blood sugar; and
• 3.99 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors including elevated waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol and high fasting glucose levels. The presence of three or more of the factors increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What's needed here is a double blind study to find out if vitamin D supplements would prevent the development of these bad indicators. If you have darker skin you are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency since the skin synthesizes vitamin D in response to sunlight.

In whites, the average level of vitamin D was 28.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL); in blacks, 15.5 ng/mL; and in Mexican Americans, 21.5 ng/mL.

One in seven American adolescents are vitamin D deficient and more than half of black teens are deficient.

The study employs a new definition of vitamin D deficiency recommended by a group of scientists attending the 13th Workshop Consensus for Vitamin D Nutritional Guidelines in 2007. These experts collectively proposed that the minimum acceptable serum vitamin D level be raised from 11 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) to at least 20 ng/mL.

Using the newer criteria, the study finds more than half of African-American teens are vitamin D deficient. Girls had more than twice the risk of deficiency compared with boys. And overweight teens had nearly double the risk of their normal-weight counterparts.

By Randall Parker    2009 March 18 08:47 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2009 January 29 Thursday
Statin Side Effects Surveyed

The cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins (e.g. Crestor, Lipitor) deliver real benefits but create side effects in some.

A paper co-authored by Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and director of UC San Diego's Statin Study group cites nearly 900 studies on the adverse effects of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins), a class of drugs widely used to treat high cholesterol.

The result is a review paper, currently published in the on-line edition of American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, that provides the most complete picture to date of reported side effects of statins, showing the state of evidence for each. The paper also helps explain why certain individuals have an increased risk for such adverse effects.

"Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs' adverse side effects," said Golomb. "But cognitive problems and peripheral neuropathy, or pain or numbness in the extremities like fingers and toes, are also widely reported." A spectrum of other problems, ranging from blood glucose elevations to tendon problems, can also occur as side effects from statins.

Statins lower Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10) which is needed for mitochondrial energy metabolism. This is probably the cause of many statin side effects.

Mitochondria produce most of the oxygen free radicals in the body, harmful compounds that "antioxidants" seek to protect against. When mitochondrial function is impaired, the body produces less energy and more "free radicals" are produced. Coenzyme Q10 ("Q10") is a compound central to the process of making energy within mitochondria and quenching free radicals. However, statins lower Q10 levels because they work by blocking the pathway involved in cholesterol production – the same pathway by which Q10 is produced. Statins also reduce the blood cholesterol that transports Q10 and other fat-soluble antioxidants.

"The loss of Q10 leads to loss of cell energy and increased free radicals which, in turn, can further damage mitochondrial DNA," said Golomb, who explained that loss of Q10 may lead to a greater likelihood of symptoms arising from statins in patients with existing mitochondrial damage – since these people especially rely on ample Q10 to help bypass this damage. Because statins may cause more mitochondrial problems over time – and as these energy powerhouses tend to weaken with age—new adverse effects can also develop the longer a patient takes statin drugs.

"The risk of adverse effects goes up as age goes up, and this helps explain why," said Golomb. "This also helps explain why statins' benefits have not been found to exceed their risks in those over 70 or 75 years old, even those with heart disease." High blood pressure and diabetes are linked to higher rates of mitochondrial problems, so these conditions are also clearly linked to a higher risk of statin complications, according to Golomb and co-author Marcella A. Evans, of UC San Diego and UC Irvine Schools of Medicine.

Obviously statins have their limits and drawbacks. We need better alternatives. A synthetic substitute for HDL cholesterol might present a better alternative.

"We have designed and built a cholesterol sponge. The synthetic HDL features the basics of what a great cholesterol drug should be," said Chad A. Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, professor of medicine and professor of materials science and engineering. Mirkin and Shad Thaxton, M.D., assistant professor of urology in Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, led the study.

"Drugs that lower the bad cholesterol, LDL, are available, and you can lower LDL through your diet, but it is difficult to raise the good cholesterol, HDL," said Mirkin. "I've taken niacin to try and raise my HDL, but the side effects are bad so I stopped. We are hopeful that our synthetic HDL will one day help fill this gap in useful therapeutics."

In creating synthetic HDL the researchers started with a gold nanoparticle as the core. They then layered on a lipid that attaches to the gold surface, then another lipid and last a protein, called APOA1, the main protein component of naturally occurring HDL. The final high-density lipoprotein nanoparticles are each about 18 nanometers in diameter, a size similar to natural HDL.

My advice: switch to the Mediterranean diet. If that doesn't get your cholesterol down far enough then make like an ape man.

By Randall Parker    2009 January 29 11:18 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2008 December 26 Friday
More Sleep Reduces Coronary Artery Calcification

Some people want to know which vitamin pills to take to slow aging. But I see far bigger benefits from focusing on the basics first. Here's an example of a basic good health practice with big benefits. Get enough sleep to reduce calcification of your arteries.

One extra hour of sleep per night appears to decrease the risk of coronary artery calcification, an early step down the path to cardiovascular disease, a research team based at the University of Chicago Medical Center reports in the Dec. 24/31 issue of JAMA. The benefit of one hour of additional sleep was comparable to the gains from lowering systolic blood pressure by 17 mm Hg.

About 12 percent of those in the study, healthy volunteers in their 40s, first developed coronary artery calcification over five years of follow-up. Calcified arteries, however, were found in 27 percent of those who slept less than five hours a night. That dropped to 11 percent for those who slept five to seven hours and fell to six percent for those who slept more than seven hours a night.

The benefits of sleep appeared to be greater for women. They did not vary according to race.

"The consistency and the magnitude of the difference came as a surprise," said study director Diane Lauderdale, PhD, associate professor of health studies at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Sleep might benefit by lowering blood pressure or maybe stressed-out people just have less time for sleep.

The authors suggest three possible ways that shorter sleep could connect to calcification. First, there may be some factor not yet identified that can both reduce sleep duration and increase calcification. Second, although blood pressure measured during examinations did not seem to explain the association, blood pressure generally declines during sleep, so the 24-hour average blood pressure of those who sleep less may be higher, and that could lead to calcification. Finally, stress or a stress hormone like cortisol, which has been tied to decreased sleep and increased calcification, may play a role. Cortisol data were not available for all study participants.

You can't miss out on sleep without it costing you in a variety of ways. Reduced sleep for a single night increases harmful inflammatory response in the body.

Philadelphia, PA, September 2, 2008 – Loss of sleep, even for a few short hours during the night, can prompt one's immune system to turn against healthy tissue and organs. A new article in the September 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, by the UCLA Cousins Center research team, reports that losing sleep for even part of one night can trigger the key cellular pathway that produces tissue-damaging inflammation. The findings suggest a good night's sleep can ease the risk of both heart disease and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

UCLA Cousins Center researchers reported similar results in 2006 as well.

Sleeps helps you learn complicated tasks too.

By Randall Parker    2008 December 26 03:31 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2008 December 10 Wednesday
Multigenerational Households Boost Heart Risk In Japanese Women

Living with your in-laws is bad for your heart health.

During the monitoring period, which ended in 2004, 671 people were newly diagnosed with coronary artery disease, 339 died of coronary heart disease, and 6255 died from other causes.

After taking account of factors likely to influence the results, women who lived with a partner, children, and their parents, or their spouse's parents, were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease than women who just lived with a partner.

But they were no more likely to die of their disease than their peers who lived with just a partner, suggesting that while living arrangements may boost the risk of diagnosis, it does not affect prognosis, say the authors.

The stress of dealing with so many other people probably boosts stress hormones and inflammation.

But the stress of fulfilling multiple roles as daughter/daughter in law, mother and partner probably has a deleterious effect on heart health, they suggest.

Over the long term, this is likely to boost levels of stress hormones and inflammatory proteins, which in turn may strengthen the effects of other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, or diabetes, they conclude.

Anyone surprised by this result?

I say live wtih a great dog or two. Pet them every day too. That'll reduce stress. Dogs are better than in-laws. What's needed: a study with blood tests to compare people living with dogs to people living with in-laws. I can tell you in advance what the study will show. But we need the research in order to give daughters-in-law and sons-in-law the intellectual ammunition (or plain courage) they need to get out of stressful situations.

By Randall Parker    2008 December 10 10:30 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2008 September 22 Monday
Drug Prevents Vascular Plaques In Pigs

When it isn't the mice getting all the hot new drug treatments before humans do it is the pigs that get the latest that science has to offer. A drug blocks formation of atherosclerotic plaques.

PHILADELPHIA – Using the drug darapladib, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and colleagues have inhibited a cholesterol-and immune system-associated protein, thereby reducing the development of heart-disease plaques that may cause death, heart attacks, and strokes in a pig model of atherosclerosis and diabetes. The study appeared online this week in Nature Medicine.

Though to be fair the drug was recently tested in human trials in Europe. So the message here is that European humans and American pigs rank above American humans in getting the new drugs. We can't eat the Europeans but we can certainly get even with the pigs by eating ham. Though the ham will probably cause clogged arteries. No wonder the pigs are hogging this drug for themselves. They obviously want us to die and leave them alone.

This drug blocks an enzyme which is involved with LDL cholesterol.

A molecule called lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2) is connected with LDLs circulating in the blood. Elevated levels of Lp-PLA2 in the blood predict an increased risk of heart disease events and are related to the development of the necrotic core of plaques. Darapladib specifically inhibits Lp-PLA2.

“The results are exciting,” says Wilensky. “First, darapladib reduced the overall amount and size of plaques that block the coronary arteries of animals in the study. More importantly, it reduced the number and size of the type of advanced plaques that cause heart attacks and strokes. “

Artery clogging looks set to become preventable years before we can cure cancer.

By Randall Parker    2008 September 22 11:46 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
Aging Vascular System Increases Weight Gain?

Endothelial cells in blood vessels prevent stem cells from becoming fat cells.

INDIANAPOLIS — The cells lining blood vessels are known to be important for maintaining health, but researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine believe these cells may perform an unsuspected task – controlling the development of fat cells. Their findings are reported in the September issue of the journal Stem Cells.

The researchers found that precursor or stem cells have a markedly reduced tendency to develop into fat cells when placed in direct contact with healthy endothelial cells, which are the cells that line blood vessels.

"The key to this discovery was our recent observation that these cells, also known as adipose stromal cells, in fat tissue are in very close contact with endothelial cells in small blood vessels and capillaries," said Keith L. March, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the study and director of the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine (ICVBM).

Maybe (this is just a hypothesis) aging blood vessel endothelial cells cease to tell stem cells to not become fat cells. Then more fat cells get made and we become fatter.

"What we don't know yet is how the formation of fat cells influences the blood vessel lining cells. Our current hypothesis is that endothelial dysfunction promotes fat cell development, accompanied by new blood vessel growth. We hope to soon be able to interrupt this cycle," said Dr. Clauss.

So maybe stem cell therapies that we already need to reverse vascular aging will also reduce the amount of obesity in older people? The body is an elaborate machine with very complex interconnections between all its parts. When some parts start to fail their decay can cause many different side effects aside from the most obvious. So an aging vascular system could not just increase the risk of stroke and heart attack and not just lower athletic performance. It could cause many other less obvious and harmful changes.

By Randall Parker    2008 September 22 11:01 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2008 July 23 Wednesday
Old Hearts Helped By Exercise

Your heart's ability to burn more glucose can be built up by exercise even in your 60s and early 70s.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but endurance exercise seems to make it younger. According to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, older people who did endurance exercise training for about a year ended up with metabolically much younger hearts. The researchers also showed that by one metabolic measure, women benefited more than men from the training.

"We know that the heart deteriorates as people get older, and that's largely because they don't stay as active as they used to," says first author Pablo F. Soto, M.D., instructor in medicine in the Cardiovascular Division. "Past research has suggested that exercise can reverse some effects of aging, and we wanted to see what effect it would have specifically on the heart."

The researchers measured heart metabolism in sedentary older people both at rest and during administration of dobutamine, a drug that makes the heart race as if a person were exercising vigorously. At the start of the study, they found that in response to the increased energy demands produced by dobutamine, the hearts of the study subjects didn't increase their uptake of energy in the form of glucose (blood sugar).

But after endurance exercise training — which involved walking, running or cycling exercises three to five days a week for about an hour per session — the participants' hearts doubled their glucose uptake during high-energy demand, just as younger hearts do.

You might find exercise annoying. But it is good for your heart.

The participants were six men and six women, ages 60 to 75, who were not obese but who had been living an inactive lifestyle. They were put on an eleven-month program of endurance exercise under the careful guidance of a trainer.

For the first three months, they were required to exercise to about 65 percent of their maximum capacity. After that, the program was stepped up so participants reached about 75 percent of maximum. Soto says the volunteers enjoyed the experience and told him they felt in the best shape they had been in years.

I'm still hoping for exercise in a pill. The pill should make your body change in all the beneficial ways that exercise causes physical changes.

By Randall Parker    2008 July 23 10:40 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2008 April 09 Wednesday
Eggs Raise Heart Failure Risks

But if you do not have diabetes the risk from eggs only shows up if you eat 7+ eggs per week.

Middle-aged men who ate seven or more eggs a week had a higher risk of earlier death, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

Men with diabetes who ate any eggs at all raised their risk of death during a 20-year period studied, according to the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

People with diabetes are already under greater oxidative stress. A diabetic is already in a metabolic danger zone. I expect that some other subsets of populations who have less healthy metabolisms for other reasons (e.g. smokers) are also at greater risk from eating eggs.

Here is the research paper.

My advice: The calorie budget you consume when eating eggs would be better spent by eating nuts (e.g. pistachios for heart health) and beans. Also, some montmorency tart cherries might lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammation markers.

By Randall Parker    2008 April 09 09:33 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2008 February 26 Tuesday
Cats Cut Heart Attack Risk?

Fluffy warms your heart and keeps it beating.

Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third, researchers told delegates of the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in New Orleans last week. The finding provoked a mixed reaction from heart experts and veterinarians.

The finding was the main result of a 10 year study of more than 4,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Institute in Minneapolis. Executive director of the Institute, Dr Adnan Qureshi, who is also senior author of the study, was reported by US News & World Report to have said:

The study didn't include enough dog owners to prove a benefit from dogs. My suspicion is that dogs reduce heart attack risk as well - especially dogs whose owners let the dogs become personal trainers. A big Australian Shepherd Red Merle named Oakley did more to make me exercise than any hobby or person ever did.

This study probably tells us that a lot of people feel a fair amount of stress. If cats cut our heart risks they probably do this my making us feel more relaxed. Well, if that is the case a lot of people are killing themselves with worry. What to do about it? Try living below your means. Then a job loss or unexpected expenses will cause less stress.

By Randall Parker    2008 February 26 08:47 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2008 January 31 Thursday
Heart Disease Patients Do Not Improve Their Diets

Looking death in the face is not a big enough motivator to get people to adopt good diets.

WORCESTER, Mass.—More than 13 million Americans have survived a heart attack or have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD), the number one cause of death in the United States. In addition to medications, lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise, are known to reduce the risk for subsequent cardiac events. Despite this evidence, a high proportion of heart attack survivors do not follow their doctor’s advice to adhere to a healthy diet, according to researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS).

Humanity evolved in calorie-limited conditions and hence we crave sugar and fat. The threat of death is not strong enough to overcome deeply wired instincts.

Not enough fruits, vegetables, fiber. Not as good as several prominent weight loss diets.

Of a maximum 80 points—which indicates the healthiest diet—the average AHEI score was 30.8, with individual scores ranging between 5.1 and 69.8. The mean AHEI score was poorer than scores reported for samples of healthy individuals from the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study. In a previous study by Ma and colleagues, the AHEI of several popular weight loss plans was calculated; the highest scoring diet was the Ornish Diet (AHEI = 64.6) and lowest scoring diet was the Atkins diet (AHEI= 42.3). The fact that one year after a coronary event patients with known CHD still have lower AHEI scores than these popular diets may be indicative of the complex issues of effecting and sustaining behavioral change and the confusion patients may face in navigating through dietary recommendations. When examining AHEI components, only 12.4 percent of the participants met the optimal daily consumption of vegetables and 7.8 percent for fruit. Only 8 percent of the patients met the cereal fiber recommendation, and 5.2 percent of the participants limited their trans-fat intake to 0.5 percent of total calories or less. In addition, nearly 11 percent of calories were from saturated fat (less than 7 percent is recommended), while total fiber was only 16.8 grams per day (25 grams or more per day is recommended).

Well, diet research is all very interesting and I like to read and write about it. But we really need either gene therapy that will fix our damaged hearts or gene therapy that will reprogram our taste buds.

Update: The AHEI referred to above is the Alternative Healthy Eating Index developed at Harvard as a more accurate measure of diets that lower heart disease risks.

Using data from 38,615 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 67,271 women in the Nurses' Health Study, Willett; Marjorie McCullough of the American Cancer Society; and HSPH and HMS colleagues tested whether two alternative measures of diet quality worked better to predict disease risk. The Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) weighs quality of food choices (for example, ratio of white to red meat), while the Recommended Food Score (RFS) tallies healthy foods eaten. They examined the relationship between these measures and the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and non-traumatic death over 12 years in women and eight years in men.

The researchers found that men in the highest, healthiest quintile of AHEI scores had a 20 percent lower risk for these events compared with men in the lowest quintile. For women, risk was reduced 11 percent. The RFS was associated with a small reduction of risk in men but not in women. These risk reductions primarily reflected the association of dietary scores with cardiovascular disease; neither score predicted cancer risk.

You can read more about AHEI. It has nothing surprising. Eat less refined foods, more vegetables, white meat over red meat, and other advice that is already fairly widely disseminated.

By Randall Parker    2008 January 31 09:12 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2008 January 20 Sunday
Exercise Or Calorie Restriction Improves Heart Health

If you are overweight then regardless of whether you exercise or cut calories to lose weight you will gain the benefit of a more flexible and functional heart.

Jan. 10, 2008 -- Overweight people who lose a moderate amount of weight get an immediate benefit in the form of better heart health, according to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And the heart improvements happen whether that weight is shed by eating less or exercising more.

"If individuals want to do something that's good for their heart, then my message to them is lose weight by the method they find most tolerable," says the study's senior author Sándor J. Kovács, Ph.D, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Biophysics Laboratory and professor of medicine. "They're virtually guaranteed that it will have a salutary effect on their cardiovascular system."

Studying a group of healthy, overweight but not obese, middle-aged men and women, the researchers found that a yearlong regimen of either calorie restriction or exercise increase had positive effects on heart function. Their analysis revealed that heart function was restored to a more youthful state so that during the heart's filling phase (called diastole) it took less time for participants' hearts to relax and fill with blood. The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Physiology and are now available online.

Your tissues are accumulating collagen fibers that are making your tissues more fibrotic and stiff. Do you react like I do when reading descriptions of aging and think "what a waste" and "how disgusting" and "we need to find out how to fix that" and the like?

"As we get older, our tissues become more fibrotic as collagen fibers accumulate," says study co-author John O. Holloszy, M.D., professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science. "So the arteries and heart muscle stiffen, and the heart doesn't relax as well after contracting. Similar studies that we've conducted with members of the Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition Society (CRONies) show they have heart function resembling much younger people." CRONies voluntarily consume about 25 percent fewer calories than the average American while still maintaining good nutrition.

We shouldn't have stiff heart muscles. I realize that there is an election campaign going on in America about all sorts of issues. But isn't the fact that our heart muscles are getting stiffer more important than all those issues? You are falling apart. We don't have the technology to reverse it. Development of such technology is possible. Shouldn't we think that is more important than personality politics?

Gaining the ability to relax a heart more quickly is a good thing.

By the end of the yearlong study, both the calorie restriction and exercise groups of volunteers lost 12 percent of their weight and 12 percent of their body mass index (BMI), a measurement considered to be a fairly reliable indicator of the amount of body fat. In both groups, participants' hearts responded to this weight loss by gaining the ability to relax more quickly, recovering some of the elasticity characteristic of younger heart tissue. Those in the calorie restriction group achieved slightly more reduction of heart stiffness.

Sounds like the calorie restriction group got the bigger benefit.

The detailed analysis showed that in both groups, the left ventricle gained an increased capacity to expand to accommodate blood entering during diastole. In the calorie restriction group, the global stiffness of the left ventricle decreased, suggesting that the muscle and connective tissue of the heart more readily sprang back after the contraction phase. This group also experienced a decrease in the internal pressure gradient, indicating that their left ventricles had better suction ability.

So eat less. Eat better too.

By Randall Parker    2008 January 20 10:19 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2007 September 04 Tuesday
New Scan Technique Detects Heart Muscle Fat Buildup

Yet another instrumentation advance enables yet another advance in understanding of the aging process.

DALLAS — Sept. 4, 2007 — A simple imaging technique developed by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers has revealed fat buildup in the hearts of pre-diabetic people long before symptoms of heart disease or diabetes appear.

This discovery fits a larger trend: in the future you'll be told sooner when parts of your body start breaking down. In fact, sensors will become so powerful that you'll be able to get daily measures (if you can stand to watch) of the many many small steps of your gradual decay into old age. This sort of advance will shift public perceptions about aging and cause younger people to see their bodies as gradually accumulating lots of small bits of old age. This will make people a lot more conscious of the aging process and reduce the feeling of invulnerability that younger people feel when looking at older people. I'm expecting this development and others like it to build support among younger people for a faster rate of research into techniques to slow, stop, and reverse the aging process.

Yet another impressive advance in scanning technology.

The technique detects fat accumulation in cells of the beating heart in a way no other clinical method can, the researchers said, and may provide a way to screen patients for early signs of heart disease in diabetes.

“Hearts beat; people breathe; and magnetic resonance imaging is very sensitive to motion, so we had to find a way to electronically ‘freeze’ the image of the heart,” said Dr. Lidia Szczepaniak, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study appearing in the Sept. 4 issue of Circulation.

“We wanted a noninvasive method to study the beating human heart,” Dr. Szczepaniak said.

Dr. Szczepaniak and her colleagues developed a technique that captures the signal from a beating heart as a person lies in an ordinary magnet used for MRI scanning.

The ability to detect the early stage development of insulin resistant (type 2) diabetes will serve the useful purpose of telling people to change their diets and lose weight. This capability should be more powerful than telling people they have high cholesterol and lipids in their blood since the report of fat build-up in heart muscle cells seems scarier. This MRI scan technique measures the early stage malfunction of a heart. Will you want to know about that?

By Randall Parker    2007 September 04 11:19 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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