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Blog posts of '2012' 'December'

The Role Diet Plays in Heart Health

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The Role Diet Plays in Heart HealthIf you’re currently taking medications for cardiovascular health and think that’s all you need to do to turn your health around, a new study reports that a healthier diet may also help prevent further heart health incidents. While it’s important to follow the advice of your physician and continue taking your heart health medications as directed, the study shows that it’s also important to revamp the current lifestyle that got you into the predicament in the first place. A healthier diet plays a big role in that change.

Heart-Friendly Diet Reduces Cardiovascular Risk

The study, published in the journal, Circulation, followed 32,000 people from 40 countries over the course of five years. The participants had an average age of 66.5 years old and all of them were currently enrolled in other clinical trials because of prior history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Eating habits were tracked with a food frequency questionnaire consisting of 20 food items. Over the course of the study, about 5,000 cardiovascular events occurred. However, it was found that participants who stuck to a heart-healthy diet had a lower risk of succumbing to cardiovascular events.

Eat More Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, and Nuts

Based on research results, people who consumed more fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and fish fared better in reducing their cardiovascular risks than those who relied on medications alone. American participants who adhered to current U.S. daily guidelines of four servings of fruit; five servings of vegetables; one serving of nuts or soy protein; and three or more servings of whole grains were among those at lower risk. The source of protein seemed to matter, too, as fish was more preferable to meat, poultry, or eggs. Older adults stuck to these guidelines more closely as they appeared to be more concerned with their health after the occurrence of previous cardio health events.

Make Your Lifestyle Work for You

Whether you have poor heart health or not, it’s always a good idea to adopt healthier habits, including eating a better diet, exercising regularly, and managing a healthy weight. If you haven’t already done so, switch up your diet to include more balanced servings of nutritious foods so that you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

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Bad Air Is Also Bad for the Brain

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Bad Air Is Also Bad for the BrainMost people living in or near heavily polluted areas often worry about the consequences of poor air quality on their lungs. What they may not realize is that bad air can also affect brainpower. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Retirement Study, older adults living in areas of high air pollution may experience decreased cognitive function and brain health. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering that in recent years, air pollution has also been linked to cardiovascular and other circulatory health challenges.

Study Results Consistent Across the Board

In a sample size of 14,793 white, African American, and Hispanic men and women aged 50 and older, people living in areas with high amounts of fine particulate matter (particles that are small enough to deposit in the lungs and the brain) scored lower on cognitive tests designed to assess word recall, knowledge, language, and orientation. Results remained consistent regardless of factors such as age, ethnicity, and existing cardiovascular or respiratory health conditions. The researchers found that as the amount of particulate matter exposure increased, scores on cognitive function tests decreased accordingly. A 10-point increase in particulate matter, for example, was associated with a 0.36 point drop in cognitive function score, which was roughly equal to aging the brain by three years.

Older Adults at Greater Risk from Bad Air

Although an exact cause was not given as to how air pollution directly affected brain health, Jennifer Ailshire, Ph.D., stated that “…older adults are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of exposure to unhealthy air.” Dr. Ailshire conducted the study and is a National Institute on Aging postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Biodemography and Population Health and the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California. While there’s not much you can do to control outdoor air pollution, short of moving to a less polluted area, you can still be mindful of your respiratory—and cognitive health—by monitoring the local Air Quality Index. You can also clear the inside of your home of dust mites, mould, and pet dander since particulate matter can also accumulate indoors.

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