Monday, February 14, 2011

Research: Diet and exercise for your heart

Every day, your beating heart thumps away 100,000 times, circulating anywhere from 2,500-5,000 gallons of blood throughout your beautiful body.

What better day than Valentine's Day to give your heart a little bit of extra attention? Off you go to the latest in heart health research:

  • Do you down a diet soda every day? Stop.

  • Think you're OK if you're male and obese, but healthy in every other way? You're not.

  • Skipping daily exercise? You lose(r).

  • Not getting enough fiber from grains in your diet? Tsk, tsk.

  • Think cardio's the only thing good for your heart? Weakling.

  • Think high-caffeine energy drinks are fine for your kids? You may be wrong.

  • Steelers fan? Oh, boy.
Love hurts. But your heart shouldn't have to. :-)

In educational interest, article(s) may be quoted from extensively.

Independent Online:

A study of more than 2,500 people found those who had diet drinks every day were 61 percent more likely to get vascular problems than those who did not have any carbonated drinks.

Researcher Hannah Gardener said: “If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes.”

Alan Mozes, Bloomberg Businessweek:

Obese men face a dramatically higher risk of dying from a heart attack, regardless of whether or not they have other known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a new study reveals.

The finding stems from an analysis involving roughly 6,000 middle-aged men, and it suggests that there is something about carrying around excess weight that contributes to heart disease independent of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and arterial disease.

Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. However, they do not break it down by number of days, but many have suggested that five days per week, at 30 minutes each of the five days, is advantageous for most people.

I believe that exercising every single day is much better. The reason is something that heart specialists call preconditioning of the heart. I have published extensively on this subject. In simplified terms, this refers to how well the heart is protected in the event of a heart attack.

One could argue that a heart attack is less likely in someone who exercises regularly, but we know that such heart attacks can and do occur. What we are looking for is to minimize the damage to heart tissue that is caused by a heart attack.

Research is ongoing into the many ways that exercise prevents heart damage. We believe that it has to do partly with how exercise helps increase the levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps improve the integrity of the blood vessels and reduces inflammation and formation of clots.

We also know that exercise, vigorous enough to put a demand on the heart, can encourage new blood vessels to form as a kind of detour around a blocked vessel. These new vessels -- called collateral vessels -- allow blood to reach the areas of the heart downstream from most of the blockage.

Angela Haupt and Katherine Hobson, U.S. News & World Report:

Analyzing data from nearly 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71, researchers found that those who consumed the most fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause during the nine years they were studied. Men were 24 to 56 percent and women 34 to 59 percent less likely to die of heart and infectious or respiratory diseases, according to findings from the National Institutes of Health's AARP Diet and Health Study, published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Why fiber reduces the risk of early death is unclear. Perhaps it's because fiber lowers levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, improves blood glucose levels, reduces inflammation, and binds to potential cancer-causing agents, helping to flush them out of the body, says lead author Yikyung Park, a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute.

What is clear, however, is that participants only benefited when fiber came from grains, like oatmeal, cornmeal, and brown rice. Fiber from fruits, vegetables, and beans had no impact on death risk. "Whole grains are rich sources of fiber, but also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals that may provide health benefits," Park says. And grains have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties—another reason researchers say grain fiber is beneficial.

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times:

Strength training often takes a back seat to cardiovascular training, but it can benefit the heart in ways that its more popular cousin can't.

During cardio exercise, the heart loads up with blood and pumps it out to the rest of the body: As a result, Potteiger said, "the heart gets better and more efficient at pumping."

But during resistance training, muscles generate more force than they do during endurance exercises, and the heart is no exception, Potteiger said. During a strength workout, the heart's muscle tissue contracts forcefully to push the blood out. Like all muscles, stress causes small tears in the muscle fibers. When the body repairs those tears, muscles grow. The result is a stronger heart, not just one that's more efficient at pumping.

Another big advantage of working out with weights is improving glucose metabolism, which can reduce the risk of diabetes. Strength training boosts the number of proteins that take glucose out of the blood and transport it into the skeletal muscle, giving the muscles more energy and lowering overall blood-glucose levels.

"If you have uncontrolled glucose levels," Potteiger said, "that can lead to kidney damage, damage to the circulatory system and loss of eyesight."


Take note, Steelers and Packers fans: a new study suggests that watching your home team lose the Super Bowl could be stressful enough to trigger a heart attack.

The new research shows that cardiac deaths can jump by 15 per cent in the hometown of the losing team in the days after the big game. But when the home team wins, heart-related deaths fall.

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