Oct
01
2006

Lowering Cholesterol Aggressively Saves Lives

A 5-year multinational prospective study (“Treating to New Targets or TNT Study” involving top cardiologists from around the world has found significant benefits in using higher doses of statins. They investigated the effects of increasing the statin concentration (a cholesterol lowering medication) and have now come to new insights how to approach the metabolic syndrome, which is the metabolic derangement associated with obesity. Of 10,001 patients aged 35–75 years with clinically proven heart disease 5,584 patients had metabolic syndrome at the same time. Half of them were put on 10 milligrams of Atorvastatin (brand name: Lipitor, made by Pfizer Inc.), the other half on 80 milligrams per day. They were followed for 5 years and many questions were asked, blood tests done and statistics kept. Of particular concern was whether survival rates and numbers of heart attacks or strokes would be different for the various groups. The major focus of interest was on people who were over weight or obese.

As the image above shows, percentages of complications (heart attacks and strokes) were used as clear end points of cardiovascular complications to measure the response to the statin. The results showed that two subgroups of obese patients, those who have at the same time diabetes and those who don’t, were both benefitting from the higher dose of Lipitor in an equal manner (about a 30% relative reduction of risk).

The amazing result was that dosage of the statin mattered very much. In the past it was thought that taking a pill for high cholesterol was all that mattered. However, now we know that physicians need to watch the blood level response of the bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and titrate the abnormal levels down to a normal level by using adequate dosing. The authors came to the conclusion that metabolic syndrome patients with heart disease, and particularly those where diabetes was present at the same time, would need more intensive statin therapy (higher dosage) than patients who were only having cardiovascular disease. The new goal post for lowering the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) of 1.8 mmol/L (70 mg/dL) was recommended.

5-Year Study Shows Further Reduction of Major Cardiovascular Complications In Patients
(Expressed as %) With Metabolic Syndrome Using Higher Doses of Atorvastatin(P. Deedwania et al. Lancet 368, No. 9539: 919-928, Sept. 9, 2006)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This study showed that there was a 44% increase in absolute risk for an adverse outcome in coronary heart disease patients who also have metabolic syndrome than those without metabolic syndrome. This justifies a very aggressive treatment with Lipitor down to the new target blood values indicated above that your doctor needs to monitor. In high risk patients for heart attacks and strokes where more than 3 cardiovascular risk factors are present the patient’s outlook (longer survival) can be improved by several years. This was shown with treatment using the higher dose of Lipitor when blood levels and cardiovascular complications were compared between 5 years of treatment and the treatment results after the first year of the study.

More information on:

1. Treatment of a heart attack: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/treatment-heart-attack/

2. Metabolic syndrome and obesity: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

Reference: The Lancet 2006; 368:919-928 (09 September 2006)

Last edited November 1, 2014

May
01
2005

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

“Everything in moderation” and “A little bit cannot harm” are the deceptively soothing terms that can lull consumers into the belief, that fast foods cannot be so bad after all. A study, called the” Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults” however gives us the facts, that paint a more realistic picture: the “little bit” actually has fairly serious consequences!
In this U.S. study a wide cross section of young adults were followed in four U.S centers: Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland Calif. 3031 people in the age of 18 to 30 years were recruited in 1985 and followed until 2001.

Lifestyle habits, such as smoking, watching TV and intake of other foods were recorded, and insulin resistance was measured. In addition there were detailed studies of weight, height, waist size and other body measurements. Some interesting facts emerged: women ate fast foods less frequently than men. Fast food intake was associated with lower education, more TV watching, lower physical activity, high intake of trans fats and alcohol intake. In short: fast foods and other unhealthy lifestyle choices were correlated.

Dr. Mark Pereira, PhD of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, who is one of the authors of the study, points out that it is extremely difficult to eat in a healthy way in a fast foods restaurant. The menus still include foods high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and nutrients. Dr. Arne Astrup from the RVA University in Copenhagen found the same issues: besides the fact that serving sizes have increased two to five fold over the past fifty years, the energy density is twice as high in fast foods as compared to food in healthy diets. Dr. Astrup also points out in his publication, that humans have only a weak innate ability to recognize foods with high energy density and then down-regulate the amount eaten to meet and not exceed energy requirements.

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

If a person ate more than 2 fast food meals per week, which would be a modest increase of the control group that ate less than 1 fast food meal per week, the 2 meals per week group was about 5 kg heavier after 15 years, as opposed to 11 kg in the control group. The insulin resistance increased by an alarming 230 %. This finding is of significance, as insulin resistance (=metabolic syndrome) promotes the occurrence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially breast and colorectal cancers. The data are showing that even a modest increase has a unique effect in increasing the risks for these disease patterns, and the message is, that health care costs will only come down, if the root cause of disease is attacked at the societal and lifestyle level.

More information about the metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance): http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

Reference: The Medical Post, March 8, 2005, page 20

Last edited October 28, 2014

Oct
01
2004

What Went Wrong With VIOXX

Merck &. Co., Inc. announced on Sept. 30, 2004 that VIOXX® (rofecoxib), an arthritis and acute pain medication, would be withdrawn voluntarily worldwide. VIOXX was FDA approved as a new anti-inflammatory drug for osteoarthritis in 1999. Later it was also cleared for rheumatoid arthritis. As a Cox-2 inhibitor it was different from aspirin and the conventional anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxen, Motrin or Voltaren.

In a study called VIGOR , which is detailed more under this link, VIOXX was compared to Naproxen in terms of gastrointestinal side-effects. It was found that the risks of bleeding ulcers, perforation and bowel obstruction were 50% reduced (frequency of cases with naproxen 1.22% versus VIOXX with a frequency of 0.52%). Surprisingly, in this study of 4000 patients over 1 year the cardiovascular risks such as heart attacks, strokes, blood clots for VIOXX was 1.8%, 3-fold higher than Naproxen, which had only 0.6% such complications. In addition it was noted that high blood pressure was more common in rheumatoid patients. The FDA made Merck add a warning on the drug label regarding these added risks, but this went more or less unnoticed by the public.

It has been known for some time that aspirin (ASA) has polyp preventative action on the colon and thus reduces the risk of colon cancer. A specific study, called APPROVe (Adenomatous Polyp Prevention on VIOXX) trial, was designed to show that VIOXX could do the same as aspirin, but with less toxic side effects. In 2000 Merck started enrolling patients into this 3 year long trial.

What Went Wrong With VIOXX

What Went Wrong With VIOXX

After 18 months into the trial cardiovascular side-effects started to show up that were statistically significant when compared to controls. This is what prompted the recent press release that VIOXX would be taken off the market altogether.

More info on treatment of osteoarthritis: http://nethealthbook.com/arthritis/osteoarthritis/treatment-osteoarthritis/

Comments: One of the potential problems with receptor specific medications is that they can be so specific that the metabolism in the human body is changed. What’s good for the gut may not be good for the circulation, blood pressure and the heart. Merck did the right thing to withraw the medication altogether. It is not known at this time whether other similar medications such as Celebrex, which has a different molecular configuration, will stand up in the future to post-marketing testing.

Addendum on Nov. 6, 2012: In 2005 Bextra was also taken off the market by the FDA, but Celebrex was allowed to stay, but required to label their product with warnings about potentially serious side-effects.

Last edited October 27, 2014

Aug
01
2004

Birth Control Pill Increases Strokes And Heart Attacks

At the recent 86th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in New Orleans/Louisiana a Canadian delegation presented data from a meta-analysis of 14 trials regarding side effects of the birth control pill (BCP) when taken on a prolonged basis. The researchers were interested to know the risk of heart attacks or strokes that would be associated with the prolonged use of the low dose estrogen BCP. All of the studies between 1980 and October of 2002 were examined and 14 independent studies qualified for the meta-analysis. The strength of such a meta-analysis lies in the pooling of data and the fact that the data is derived from a much larger patient population, which generally makes the results more reliable. Dr. J. Baillargeon from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Sherbrooke, Quebec/Canada, stated that they found a 1.85-fold risk for developing heart attacks with longterm use of the BCP and at the same time there was a risk of 2.54-fold of hemorrhagic strokes with longterm use of the low-dose BCP.

I have depicted these findings below in graph form where the risk is readily seen when compared to women who did not use any birth control pills. In discussions following this presentation the authors explained that with short-term use of the BCP using the modern low dose formulations heart attacks and strokes would likely not be noticeable.

Birth Control Pill Increases Strokes And Heart Attacks

Birth Control Pill Increases Strokes And Heart Attacks

But women should know that long-term use does have this risk. These decisions of whether to take the BCP and for how long needs to be discussed with the treating physician also in the view that other risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes or the metabolic syndrome would be added risks where heart attacks and strokes can occur more frequently. In these conditions the BCP likely should be avoided.

Risk of Developing Heart Attack or Stroke after Longterm Use of The Birth Control Pill
 Birth Control Pill Increases Strokes And Heart Attacks1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Ricardo Azziz, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, California, stated that these findings from this meta-analysis would be very important because it was based on such a large data base and was measuring the effect of the BCP over a long period of time. He stressed that the benefits of any medication must always be weighed against the risks by the treating physician. In diabetic patients on the BCP, for instance, the benefits likely outweigh the risks as the metabolism is stabilized through an improved insulin sensitivity, improved managability of the diabetes and avoidance of the high risk pregnancies in diabetics.

More info on:

Heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Strokes: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/stroke-and-brain-aneurysm/

Reference: The Medical Post, Vol.40, July 20, 2004, page 20

Comments on Nov. 6, 2012: What was not discussed by these experts is the fact that the BCP contains a mix of two artificial hormones (estrogen and progesterone equivalents) that the body’s estrogen and progesterone hormone receptors cannot recognize. Bio-identical estrogen and progesterone creams on the other hand would be recognized by these receptors, but nobody has researched their use for BCP purposes, only for post-menopausal hormone replacement.

Last edited Oct. 26, 2014

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Mar
01
2004

Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness

Up to now age-related blindness or “age-related macular degeneration” (AMD) as it is medically called, has been a mystery. The retina is the light-sensitive area of the eye similar to the film in a camera. The “macula” is that part of the retina that has the highest visual acuity. Several studies have been conducted lately regarding age-related blindness that shed more light on this important health hazard of old age, studies that one day might even lead to a cure or powerful preventative measures to avoid it from ever developing.

One such study is the one by Dr. Johanna M. Seddon and co-workers published in the Feb. 11, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Almost 1000 patients with various degrees of age-related degrees of blindness from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) were classified by the degree of their macular degeneration. I have produced the bar graphs below based on these studies.

Four groups were defined, namely those with no AMD who served as controls, those with mild AMD, those with moderate AMD and those with severe AMD who were legally blind. They suspected that an inflammatory marker in the blood stream of these patients, called C-reactive protein (CRP), might be present in the more severe cases of blindness when compared to the control group who did not have any inflammatory changes in the macula. As can be seen by the bar graph above this is exactly what the test results indicated. They also found that smokers (blue bars) tended to have slightly worse blood tests in terms of CRP (more inflammatory substances circulating in the system) within the same severity category of the age-related eye changes.

CRP (mg/L) Levels in Various Degrees of Severity of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness

Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness

When the investigators studied the risk for the highest percentile of the CRP tests within various subgroups to show AMD they found several differences as is shown in the next table. First there was a low probability to develop AMD in a person with a normal looking macula and that risk was set at 1.0 as comparison. In contrast a person with a normal looking macula who smokes has a 1.5-fold risk of developing AMD later. Patients with a moderate degree of AMD have about a 2-fold risk of getting a severe degree of AMD later (smoking or not). It seems that once the inflammatory cycle has started, the process of causing a moderate degree of AMD is so strong that the effect of smoking will not add that much in comparison.

This is the first study of this kind that has established that CRP can be used as a screening for the risk to develop AMD. CRP has already been established as a test for monitoring progress in rheumatoid arthritis or to monitor for the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.

Another study by Dr. Johanna M. Seddon and co-workers was published recently in the Archives of Ophthalmology. 261 people aged 60 years and older with established AMD were followed for 4.6 years and checked for deterioration. 101 patients had deterioration of their AMD.

Risk of Developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in Highest CRP Percentile
 Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness1

The authors analyzed the patients’ diet habits and found that increased fat intake was a high risk factor for deteriorating AMD. Both vegetable and animal fat had a 2-to 3-fold increased risk for deterioration of the AMD to a more severe stage (legal blindness). Fish, omega-3 fatty acid and nuts had a protective effect, but only when omega-6 fatty acid (linoleic acid) intake was low in the same group. The studies showed that the risk of age-related blindness was reduced by 40% when patients ate nuts at least once per week. The authors concluded that a “fat conscious diet” would be good for “maintaining good eye health” and at the same time be beneficial for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

The authors will do further studies to investigate potential ways of helping patients with AMD and to understand the mechanisms of the disease process better.

References: 1. JAMA 2004;291:704-710  2. Arch Ophthalmol – 01-DEC-2003; 121(12): 1728-37

Last edited December 8, 2012

Jul
01
2003

High Blood Pressure On The Increase In The US

High blood pressure on the rise

Dr. Hajjar, of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and Dr. Kotchen, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have compared a large group of people in the US in the years 1999-2000 with prior studies in 1988-1991and 1991-1994 where peoples’ blood pressures were measured.

The latest study involved more than 5000 people, the prior studies more than 9000 people each. Almost 29% of the population has a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher in the latest study.

Compared to the 1988-1991study this is a significant increase of 3.7%. More than half of this was explained on the basis that the population’s weight (measured by body mass index calculation) had increased. The sub groups who had the largest increase in blood pressure were as follows:

1. diabetics with high blood pressure. In this high risk group only about 25% had a blood pressure readings of less than 130/85, which is the target value.

2. Mexican Americans had a significantly poorer awareness and control of their elevated blood pressures than the non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.

3. Women as a group were poorer in blood pressure controlling than men.

4. People above the age of 60 had a much higher rate of uncontrolled blood pressure as well.

The study concluded that by concentrating campaigns and efforts on these four target groups significant gains could be made in terms of control of blood pressure, reduction of strokes, heart attacks and kidney damage.

Here are some links regarding high blood pressure, prevention of strokes and heart attacks to various chapters of my nethealthbook.com:

High blood pressure link

Heart attack link

Stroke link

Last edited October 26, 2014

Jan
01
2003

Framingham Study…Obesity And Smoking Lead To Loss Of Life

The Netherlands Epidemiology and Demography Compression of Morbidity Research Group has published an important medical research paper in the Jan. 7, 2003 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine (Ann Intern Med 2003;138:24-32).

The lead researcher, Dr. Anna Peeters, explained that the group has revisited the Framingham Heart Study 40 years later and analyzed survival statistics of the group of men and women who enrolled in this longterm study between 1948 and 1951. The population at the beginning of the study was aged between 30 and 49. The snap shot, after 40 years had elapsed, is the subject of this analysis. In order to make it easier to understand, I have tabulated the data as seen below.

This study shows that life style choices do matter: being overweight shortens your life by 3 years on average, being obese shortens it by 6 to 7 years.

Add the risk of smoking, and you end up shortening your life by 7 years in the case of being overweight (4 years more than without smoking) or more than 13 years, if you are obese.

Framingham Study...Obesity And Smoking Lead To Loss Of Life

Framingham Study…Obesity And Smoking Lead To Loss Of Life

This study was based on 3,457 participants who 40 years ago had a life expectancy of 85 years, if they were in the normal weight category and did not smoke.

The death rates were much higher than the researchers expected. The researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam stated as a conclusion: ” just think about two things: Don’t get fat and don’t smoke”.

Years of life lost 40 years after Framingham Heart Study Was Started:
Non-smokers: Smokers:
  Male Female   Male Female
overweight *: 3.1 3.3 overweight*: 6.7 7.2
obese** : 5.8 7.1 obese ** : 13.7 13.3
* overweight:BMI25 to 29.9 ** obese:BMI = 30 and higher

Here are some links to my Internet based Healthbook regarding risks for heart attacks and strokes:

Heart disease: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/cardiovasculardisease_heartdisease.php

Strokes: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/cardiovasculardisease_strokeandcerebralaneurysm.php

Two things will lead to a normal weight (as you likely have heard before):

Proper nutrition…

http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/nutrition.php

…and proper exercise (fitness):

http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/fitness.php

Last edited December 10, 2012

 

Oct
18
2002

Work Stress Is A Killer…More Than 2-Fold Over A Period Of 25 Years

In mid October 2002 the British Medical Journal(BMJ 2002;325:p.857-860) published a paper by Dr. Mika Kivimäki from the University of Helsinki where 812 healthy factory workers were followed for about 25 years. The issue was whether stress from work would have negative consequences, which could be measured in terms of cardiovascular disease. Various risk groups were defined from low stress to high stress.

Low stress jobs were classified as people who often had more training, more responsibilities, better salaries, physically less strenuous jobs with more job security. High stress jobs involved the opposite(high demand/low job control/low salary/no job security). Depending on which subgroups of high versus low risks were compared, the investigators found a 2.2 to 2.4-fold increase of strokes and heart attacks due to cardiovascular disease.The team measured other cardiovascular risk factors. They found a significant increase of cholesterol in the high stress job group after 5 years. After 10 years there was a marked weight gain in the stressed group with obesity becoming much more frequent. The authors noted that this likely led to a change of metabolism in the sense of hyperinsulinism, which is known to cause high cholesterol levels and leads to hardening of the arteries with heart attacks and strokes.

Work Stress Is A Killer...More Than 2-Fold Over A Period Of 25 Years

Work Stress Is A Killer…More Than 2-Fold Over A Period Of 25 Years

Visit these useful related links to chapters of my free Internet based Nethealthbook:
Hyperinsulinism or syndrome of insulin resistance:
http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/hormonalproblems_diabetesmellitus.php

Heart disease:
http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/cardiovasculardisease_heartdisease.php

Stroke:
http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/stroke-and-brain-aneurysm/hemorrhagic-stroke/

Last edited October 25, 2014