Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Cut MI Risk, Heart Failure

A new Swedish study looking at the benefit of a combination of several healthy lifestyle behaviors has found that most myocardial infarctions (MIs) in women could be prevented by consuming a healthy diet, being physically active, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight [1].

Dr Agneta Akesson (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden) and colleagues report their findings in the October 22, 2007 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. They say there is little prior information on the benefit achieved with a combination of several healthy lifestyle behaviors. The results indicate that the combined benefit of diet, lifestyle, and healthy body weight "may prevent more than three of four cases of MI," they note.

"Our study shows the great effect you get from each of these and by combining them," Akesson told heartwire. "It's quite a simple health message, and you can do them by yourself."
In healthiest women, 92% decreased risk of MI

The Swedish researchers say coronary heart disease (CHD) risk-factor characterization and prevention in women need improvement, and despite the proven benefits of pharmacologic therapies, "diet and lifestyle largely influence morbidity and mortality in CHD."

One of the novel things the Swedish group did was to assess behavioral dietary patterns among the 24,444 postmenopausal women they studied, who were participating in the population-based prospective Swedish Mammography Cohort and who were free of diagnosed cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus at baseline (September 15, 1997).

They identified four major dietary patterns: healthy (vegetables, fruits, and legumes); Western/Swedish (red meat, poultry, rice, pasta, eggs, fried potatoes); alcohol; and sweets (sweet baked goods, candy, chocolate). Those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol (5 g or more a day; equivalent to a glass of wine every other day) were categorized as low risk. No upper limit for alcohol consumption was defined, because few women consumed high amounts of alcohol (less than 0.3% reported drinking more than 45 g/day). Those in the lowest-risk quintile for diet had an almost fourfold higher weekly consumption of vegetables and fruits, a threefold higher consumption of legumes, and a 70% higher consumption of fish compared with the highest-risk quintile.

During a mean of 6.2 years of follow-up, there were 308 incident cases of primary MI, of which 51 were fatal.

The researchers defined a low-risk dietary behavior based on high scores for the healthy dietary pattern (low-risk quintiles 3-5) and, when combined with moderate alcohol intake, this group had a significant 57% reduction in primary MI.

The researchers also defined three low-risk lifestyle factors: nonsmoking, waist/hip ratios less than the 75th percentile (<0.85), and being physically active.

The 5% of the study population who ate healthily, drank alcohol in moderation, and maintained these three low-risk lifestyle behaviors had a 92% decreased risk of MI compared with women without any low-risk diet and lifestyle factors.

Healthy Diet And Lifestyle Behaviors Associated With Decreased Risk Of Heart Attack In Women

Women who eat a healthy diet, drink moderate amounts of alcohol, are physically active, maintain a healthy weight and do not smoke have a significantly reduced risk of heart attack, according to a new report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"Coronary heart disease is the most important cause of death and disability in women," the authors write as background information in the article. "Despite a lower incidence in women, coronary heart disease--related mortality and the percentage of sudden deaths from coronary heart disease without previous symptoms is higher and the trend of decline in incidence is slower than in men."

Agneta Akesson, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and colleagues identified dietary patterns in 24,444 postmenopausal women by analyzing food frequency questionnaires, on which the women supplied information about how often they ate 96 common foods.

"We derived four major dietary patterns: 'healthy' (vegetables, fruits and legumes), 'Western/Swedish' (red meat, processed meat, poultry, rice, pasta, eggs, fried potatoes and fish), 'alcohol' (wine, liquor, beer and some snacks) and 'sweets' (sweet baked goods, candy, chocolate, jam and ice cream)," the authors write. Participants also answered questions about education, family history, health status, use of medications, body measurements and physical activity. When they enrolled in the study in 1997, none of the women had heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Over an average of 6.2 years of follow-up, 308 women had a new myocardial infarction (heart attack); 51 of these cases were fatal. Two diet types--"healthy" and "alcohol"--were associated with a reduced risk for heart attack.

"The low-risk diet (high scores for the healthy dietary pattern) characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish and legumes, in combination with moderate alcohol consumption (5 grams of alcohol per day or less), along with the three low-risk lifestyle behaviors [not smoking, having a waist-hip ratio of less than the 75th percentile and being physically active], was associated with 92 percent decreased risk compared with findings in women without any low-risk diet and lifestyle factors," the authors write. "This combination of healthy behaviors, present in 5 percent, may prevent 77 percent of myocardial infarctions in the study population."

Several components of fruits, vegetables and whole grains--including fiber, antioxidant vitamins and minerals--have been associated with a reduced risk for coronary heart disease, the researchers note. In addition, previous studies have found beneficial effects of small amounts of alcohol in preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which could help prevent heart attacks.

"Our study findings indicate that healthy dietary behaviors are present in the population," the authors conclude. "These dietary behaviors together with a healthy lifestyle and body weight may prevent most myocardial infarction events."

Reference: Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(19):2122-2127.

This study was supported by research grants from the Center for Health Care Sciences, Karolinska Institutet; the Swedish Research Council/Medicine and Longitudinal Studies; and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.

Healthy lifestyle counters female infertility: study

Women who exercise regularly, take vitamins regularly and eat fewer saturated fats, more full-fat dairy products and less meat have fewer ovulation problems, new research finds.

Failure to ovulate regularly accounts for 18 to 30 per cent of all cases of infertility, according to the study. Infertility affects one in six couples.
The eight-year period of study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, tracked 17,544 married women trying to become pregnant who participated in a large-scale study at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The participants were awarded a dietary score based on their diet, gleaned from questionnaires the women filled out, according to the study published in the Nov. 1 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Women were graded on whether they ate more monounsaturated fats or trans fats, vegetable protein or meat protein, high fat dairy products or low fat dairy products, and multivitamins.

Other lifestyle information was also factored in, such as regularity of exercise and Body Mass Index or BMI — a calculation based on a person's weight to height ratio.
Those women who ate the lowest fat diets with more plant than animal protein, consumed full-fat dairy products, took iron supplements and ate low-glycemic carbohydrates had the lowest risk of an ovulatory disorder.

"A combination of five or more low-risk lifestyle factors, including diet, weight control and physical activity, was associated with a 69 per cent lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility," reads the study.

"What we found was that, as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken," said Jorge Chavarro, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard, in a release.

"In fact, we found a six-fold difference in ovulatory infertility risk between women following five or more low-risk dietary and lifestyle habits and those following none."

Women who had a BMI of between 25 and 29.9, meaning they were overweight, had a higher rate of infertility that those at a healthy weight, and obese women with a BMI of over 30 had more than a two-fold risk.

The scientists believe that a healthy diet as well as supplementation of vitamins regulates the body's level of micronutrients and maintains its insulin sensitivity — how well the body responds to sugars in the bloodstream.

Steps to A Healthy Lifestyle

It's never to late to resolve to lead a healthful lifestyle! Whether you're making a new year's resolution or simply a promise to yourself, here are some tips to make achieving your resolutions a little bit easier.
  • Make concrete resolutions for items that you can control, such as losing 15 pounds or taking a break three times each day for relaxation and to reduce stress.
  • Don't be afraid to make resolutions that take a long time to accomplish such as reducing your cholesterol level.
  • Break larger resolutions into small, easy-to-achieve steps. If you want to lose 30 pounds, break it down into smaller steps such as losing six pounds a month for five months.
  • Surround yourself with people who will give you positive feedback on your progress to achieving your resolution.
  • When making your list of resolutions, start with those that are easy to accomplish and then move to more difficult resolutions.
  • Develop a written plan outlining the steps to accomplish your resolutions.
  • Don't worry if you do not accomplish a resolution in the time you set. Just re-evaluate and continue to work toward accomplishing it on a new time line.

Make a resolution to take an American Red Cross course! Whether it's getting in shape with our swimming and fitness programs or being prepared with first aid, CPR and AED, Red Cross has a program that's right for you. Did you know that we offer HIV/AIDS education and caregiving programs as well? Contact your local American Red Cross for more information.

Benefits of Soy

Eating lots of soy-based food may protect older women against breast cancer, based on the findings of a study of 144 healthy post-menopausal Chinese Singaporeans.

The study, cited on the health web portal, WebMD, was conducted by Ms Anna H Wu and her colleagues from the University of Southern California.

Soybeans are rich in isoflavones, which are believed to provide a host of health benefits including lowering estrogen production.

High estrogen levels are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

The Asian Food Information Centre’s website says that researchers have known for many years that people in Asia who regularly consume soy foods have a lower occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.

The fat in soybeans is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, both of which are known to be beneficial to health.

Soybeans are also a good source of iron, fibre and high-quality protein.

Ms Patsy Soh, a dietician with the Changi General Hospital, said that consuming soy protein in place of animal protein helps to reduce intake of saturated fat for people with high blood cholesterol levels.

The Health Promotion Board’s website recommends eating at least 25 grams of soy protein every day to help lower cholesterol levels.

Choose whole soy foods such as tofu, tempeh or soy milk, or look for foods that have added soy protein.

Tofu is one of the most versatile of soy-based foods. It is very high in protein and absorbs the flavours of the foods it is cooked with.

According to Ms Soh, eating tofu is good because it prevents one from eating too much meat, which tends to be higher in fat content.

“Tofu also makes the dish tastier and contains only half the calories that are present in meat,” she said.

Simple Ways to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

You hear a lot about living a healthy lifestyle, but what does that mean? In general, a healthy person doesn't smoke, is at a healthy weight, eats healthy and exercises. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

The trick to healthy living is making small changes...taking more steps, adding fruit to your cereal, having an extra glass of water...these are just a few ways you can start living healthy without drastic changes.


One of the biggest problems in America today is lack of activity. We know it's good for us but avoid it like the plague either because we're used to being sedentary or afraid that exercise has to be vigorous to be worth our time. The truth is, movement is movement and the more you do, the healthier you'll be. Even moderate activities like chores, gardening and walking can make a difference.

Just adding a little movement to your life can:
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
  • Improve joint stability
  • Increase and improve range of movement
  • Help maintain flexibility as you age
  • Maintain bone mass
  • Prevent osteoporosis and fractures
  • Improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Enhance self esteem
  • Improve memory in elderly people
  • Reduce stress

So, even if you opt for small changes and a more modest weight loss, you can see the benefits are still pretty good. One study has found that just a 10% weight reduction helped obese patients reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and increase longevity.