Protect heart health to ward off other major diseases, study says
By Ella Pickover
February 27, 2023
People with healthy hearts could spend up to a decade longer free of cancer, dementia and other major health conditions compared to those who do not look after their hearts, according to a new study of UK adults.
Adults who have a “high level of cardiovascular health” can expect to live a greater portion of their lives free from four major conditions – cancer, dementia, diabetes and heart disease, the research suggests.
Experts, led by academics from Tulane University in New Orleans in the US, examined information on 135,199 adults with an average age of 55 who are taking part in the UK Biobank study.
Their heart health was measured using a number of factors including their diet, physical activity levels, smoking status, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, their blood pressure, the amount of sleep they have and their body mass index (BMI) score.
A high CVH (cardiovascular health) level is strongly associated with longer life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronic diseases in both men and women
— Study authorsBased on these factors, people involved in the study were split into three groups – those with low, moderate or high cardiovascular health.
Researchers found that 50-year-old men with the best cardiovascular health were likely to live 6.9 years longer free from the four major diseases compared to those with a low score.
Those with a moderate score – which made up the largest proportion of men involved in the study – were found to live four years longer disease-free, compared with those who had a low cardiovascular health score.
Women the same age with a high score can expect to live almost a decade (9.4 years) longer free from cancer, dementia, heart disease or diabetes, compared to those with a low score.
Those with a moderate score could expect to have 6.3 additional years free of disease compared to those with the poorest heart health, according to the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
This study shows the vital importance of optimising cardiovascular health in our forties and fifties, especially amongst those who are socially disadvantaged.
— Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation“In conclusion, this cohort study indicates that a high CVH (cardiovascular health) level is strongly associated with longer life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronicdiseases in both men and women,” the authors wrote.
“These findings support the improvement in population health by promoting high CVH levels, which may also narrow health disparities associated with socioeconomic status.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study shows how crucial good cardiovascular health in middle age is in determining our healthy life expectancy in later life.
“We know that health inequality during early and middle life is a big driver of a shorter healthy life, and this study shows that this is largely because of its impact on cardiovascular health.
“This study shows the vital importance of optimising cardiovascular health in our forties and fifties, especially amongst those who are socially disadvantaged.”
Our research shows that the additional risk of cardiovascular disease can be minimised if traditional risk factors like BMI and blood pressure are well-controlled
— Dr Maddalena Ardissino, lead author of the studyIt comes as a separate study led by Imperial College London found that a number of reproductive factors in women could contribute to their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute, University of Cambridge and Yale School of Public Health analysed genetic data linked to women’s age at first birth, their number of live births, their age at their first period, and their age at menopause.
The researchers were able to show a link between the genes that predict reproductive factors and the risk of a number of heart diseases.
Their findings, which have been published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, include:
– Earlier “genetically-predicted” age at first birth was linked to a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke – but this could partly be explained by high body mass index, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
– Higher genetically-predicted number of live births increased risk for an abnormal heart rate, heart failure and stroke.
– Those with genes that signposted that they started their periods at a younger age were more likely to suffer coronary artery disease and heart failure – though this could largely be explained by higher BMI scores.
– Genetically predicted age at menopause was not linked to an increased risk of the heart problems studied.
Dr Maddalena Ardissino, lead author of the study, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: “Women are often mischaracterized as being at low risk for cardiovascular disease, leading to delays in diagnosis.
“Even when they are diagnosed, they tend to receive less targeted treatment than men.
“This study shows a clear link between reproductive factors and cardiovascular disease.
“This doesn’t mean that women should worry if they’ve had their period at a young age, or if they had an early first birth – our research shows that the additional risk of cardiovascular disease can be minimized if traditional risk factors like BMI and blood pressure are well-controlled.
“These findings highlight the need for doctors to monitor these risk factors closely in women and intervene where needed.”
Scientists reveal how to spot first signs of dementia nine years before diagnosis
By Arthur C. Brooks
February 23, 2023
It could be possible to spot signs of dementia up to nine years before diagnosis, a new study has found.
The findings, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, mean that future at-risk patients could be screened to help identify those who might benefit from early interventions to reduce their risk of developing dementia-related diseases.
They could also help select those suitable for clinical trials for new treatments.
“When we looked back at patients’ histories, it became clear that they were showing some cognitive impairment several years before their symptoms became obvious enough to prompt a diagnosis,” study author Nol Swaddiwudhipong, a junior doctor at the University of Cambridge, said.
“The impairments were often subtle, but across a number of aspects of cognition. This is a step towards us being able to screen people who are at greatest risk - for example, people over 50 or those who have high blood pressure or do not do enough exercise - and intervene at an earlier stage to help them reduce their risk.”
For the study, researchers analysed data from the UK Biobank database and pinpointed problem solving and number recall as two of the early signs patients could develop dementia.
Senior author Dr Tim Rittman, also from the University of Cambridge, said: “People should not be unduly worried if, for example, they are not good at recalling numbers.
“Even some healthy individuals will naturally score better or worse than their peers. But we would encourage anyone who has any concerns or notices that their memory or recall is getting worse to speak to their GP.”
People from the UK Biobank data who went on to develop Alzheimer’s scored more poorly compared with healthy individuals when it came to problem solving tasks, reaction times, remembering lists of numbers, prospective memory (our ability to remember to do something later on) and pair matching.
This was also the case for people who developed a rarer form of dementia known as frontotemporal dementia, the researchers found.
Not remembering numbers could be an early sign of dementia (Getty Images/iStockphoto)According to the study, people who went on to develop Alzheimer’s were more likely than healthy adults to have had a fall in the previous 12 months.
David Thomas, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is increasingly clear that the best chance to affect the course of the diseases which cause dementia lies in intervening at their earliest stages.
“Health services don’t routinely offer the tests needed to detect changes in brain function that happen before symptoms are noticeable, like those alluded to in this study.
“In fact, the NHS is currently unable to guarantee early and accurate diagnosis for people living with dementia - more than a third of people over 65 living with dementia go undiagnosed.
He added: “It’s now more important than ever that NHS services reflect our growing understanding of the importance of detection and early diagnosis.
“We must ensure that people with dementia don’t fall through the cracks at a time when treatment or risk-reduction interventions are most likely to be effective.”
Additional reporting by PA
Leave a Reply.