KRON 4 | Eat These to Lower Your Stroke Risk

Strokes are afflicting more young Americans — it’s no longer a disease of the elderly and is the leading cause of death worldwide. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and high blood pressure leads as the cause. Here’s how one particular change in your diet can reduce your risk.

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Strokes in Young People

The risk of stroke increases with age, but actor Luke Perry was only 52 when he had a massive stroke and died. When you’re younger (middle-aged) and have a stroke, it is especially dangerous. 

Immediately after a stroke, your brain swells (a.k.a. cerebral edema, brain edema, or elevated intracranial pressure). Swelling is your body’s response to many types of injury. 

Brain Compression

As you grow older, your brain shrinks which is a cause of memory problems and cognitive decline as you age. But when you’re younger and your brain swells after a stroke, there’s no room within your snug-fitting skull for expansion.

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A younger brain fits snugly within the skull and there’s little room for swelling.

As a result, your swelled brain presses up against the inside of your skull. A younger person will experience more intense pressure which can peak three to five days after a stroke. 

The pressure constricts blood flow to your brain and deprives it of oxygen while at the same time, it also blocks fluids from leaving your brain, so the brain swelling alone, can cause death.

NOTE: Sometimes the skull will have to be cut open and removed to relieve the pressure (decompressive craniectomy). A scope may also be used to drain cerebrospinal fluid or blood.

Strongest Risk Factors for Stroke

One in 3 U.S. adults has at least one of the following conditions or habits:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Diabetes

Nitrates and Blood Pressure

Eating foods high in compounds called nitrates is a natural way to treat hypertension and reduce risk of a vascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack. Nitrates are vasodilators that widen (dilate) your blood vessels, and they protect against endothelial dysfunction.

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The juice from beet roots increased blood flow to the brain and lowered blood pressure.

Previous studies showed that drinking beet root juice dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow to the regions of the brain involved in executive functioning. In this study, 70+ year-olds ate a high-nitrate breakfast with 16 oz. of beet juice for four days.

Also, studies have shown that beet roots or beet root juice can reduce your blood pressure by up to 4-10 points over a period of a few hours. Beetroot juice lowered blood pressure 1 hour after drinking it with a peak drop in blood pressure occurring after 3 to 4 hours.

Healthy heartNOTE: If you’re a heart patient, you’re familiar with nitroglycerin and never leave home without it. Nitroglycerin or “nitro” is a heart medicine for angina* and belongs to a group of medicines called nitrates. As a vasodilator, it dilates the blood vessels and increases the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart.

*Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Pain can also occur in the jaw, neck, throat, shoulders, arms, or back.

Green Leafy Vegetables — The Powerful Protector   

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KRON 4 | You Could Have Heart Failure and Not Know It

A Simple Way to Suspect Heart Failure

Do you get short of breath when you bend forward, such as to tie your shoelaces or put on a sock? If so, here’s what this symptom could mean and why you shouldn’t ignore it.

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What this Symptom Could Mean

If you bend forward and get short of breath, do NOT ignore this symptom! This symptom was recently coined as “bendopnea” (pronounced bend-op-nee-ah). This symptom could be a sign of heart failure.

A study of 102 heart failure patients showed bendopnea was present in 28% of their subjects (29 out of 102 subjects). When bending over, the average time it took for these symptoms to appear was eight seconds. Some patients thought their bendopnea was due to being out of shape or overweight, but were more likely to have other symptoms of advanced disease.

Try this test:  Sit down and bend forward at the waist. Are you short of breath within 30 seconds? If you have “bendopnea”, you have:

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What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure, often referred to as congestive heart failure or (CHF), is a serious condition, but people often mistakenly think that it means that the heart has stopped beating.

Heart failure occurs when one or more chambers of the heart “fail” to keep up with the volume of blood flowing through them. The heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to maintain blood flow to other organs in your body. The reoxygenated blood from your lungs starts building up inside your lungs when your heart can’t keep up with ejecting it to other organs in need.

The buildup of blood causes fluid (mainly water) to leak from the small blood vessels (capillaries). That is, the arms, lungs, legs, feet, ankles, and other organs become “congested” with blood and fluid which explains how “congestive heart failure” got its name.

First Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure   

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KRON 4 | Lifestyle Linked to Dementia, Cancer and More

Lifestyle diseases characterize diseases that occur primarily as a result of a person’s daily habits. Some of the main contributing factors include bad food habits, physical inactivity, stress, and an aging biological clock — all of which contribute to visceral (intra-abdominal) fat.

When it comes to your health, where you store your fat makes a difference. Are you shaped like an apple or more like a pear? KRON 4 Morning News Weekend anchor, Marty Gonzalez, and I talk about the difference between the fat that has settled on your hips and thighs versus what you’re carrying upfront.

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All Fat is Not Equal

Fat accumulated in the lower body, such as the hips, thighs, and buttocks (the “pear shape”) is subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat lies under your skin and above your muscles — it’s the “pinchable stuff”. Subcutaneous fat is measured by pinching your skin in a several different locations.

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Your “love handles” are pinchable subcutaneous fat.

Visceral fat, a.k.a. intra-abdominal, belly, or deep fat, (the “pear shape”) lies out of reach and is tucked deep within your abdominal cavity where it pads the spaces between and around your VISCERA — your internal organs like your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs. Related image

It’s also stored in the “omentum” — an apron-like flap of tissue that sits underneath the abdominal muscles and blankets the intestines. As the omentum fills with fat, it gets harder and thicker.

Lifestyle Diseases Linked to Visceral Fat

Research shows that people with “apple-shaped” bodies face more health risks than those with “pear-shaped” bodies. You need some visceral fat to cushion your organs, but too much of it has been correlated with the following health conditions:

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  • Kaiser Permanente of Northern California studied of 6,500 members for an average of 36 years, from they were in their 40’s to 70’s. The study concluded subjects with higher visceral fat had a higher risk of dementia than those with less visceral fat. Possible speculation of the trial is that substances such as leptin, a hormone released by the belly fat, may have some adverse effects on the brain. Leptin plays a role in appetite regulation but also in learning and memory.
  • Researchers are not clear why visceral fat plays a larger role in insulin resistance — which raises risk for diabetes — than other fat.

Why Visceral Fat is a Health Risk

Visceral fat is most dangerous because it is biologically active — that is, it acts like an organ producing hormones and other substances that have harmful effects.

Cholesterol plaque in artery (atherosclerosis) illustrationExcess visceral fat is near the portal vein which carries blood from your intestines to your liver. Substances (e.g., free fatty acids) released by visceral fat enter the portal vein and travel to your liver where they can affect the production of fats in the blood. Visceral fat is directly linked to:

  • Higher total cholesterol
  • Higher LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Lower HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes

How Much Belly Fat is Too Much   

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KRON 4 | Heart Attack Predictor: A Third Blood Pressure You Need to Know

Ever wonder what your blood pressure numbers mean? Here’s an explanation using a water faucet and pipe to demonstrate. And now there’s a THIRD pressure that’s important to your overall health and is worth monitoring as well.

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What’s Your Pulse Pressure?

Pulse pressure is the numeric difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

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Predictor of Heart Attacks and Cardiovascular Disease

A resting pulse pressure in sitting position in healthy adults is about 30-40 mm Hg. For adults over age 60, especially men, a pulse pressure higher than 60 can be a useful predictor of heart attacks or other cardiovascular disease.

  • A greater pulse pressure indicates that your vessels are stiffer and more damaged.
  • If the aorta becomes rigid, such as from atherosclerosis, a.k.a., “hardening of the arteries”, your pulse pressure would be very high.
  • Per a meta-analysis of several studies of 8,000 elderly subjects, the combined results found that a 10-point increase in pulse pressure increased the risk of major cardiovascular complications and mortality by nearly 20%.

NOTE: A low pulse pressure (i.e., 25 mm Hg or less) may mean aortic valve stenosis or congestive heart failure where a low volume of blood is ejected per beat.

Causes of Arterial Stiffness 

The most important cause of an elevated pulse pressure is arterial stiffening, in particular, stiffness of the aorta (the largest artery in the body). Arteries stiffen with age, just like tissues in your skin, lungs, heart, tendons, and joints, due to:

  • Degeneration of elastin fibers
  • Stiffer collagen
  • Fatty deposits damaging the arterial walls and resulting in them being less elastic (atherosclerosis)

Results of Arterial Stiffness 

  • Your heart enlarges. When arteries stiffen and lose their elasticity, your heart must contract more forcefully with each heart beat in order for your blood to circulate adequately. The extra work that your heart must perform can lead to physical changes in the musculature of your heart (e.g., size and shape), specifically the lower chambers (the ventricles). It’s just like how your biceps get bigger that occurs when you exercise them harder.
  • You’re prone to irregular heart beats (cardiac arrhythmias). If the remodeling also affects the upper chambers (the atria), it can disrupt the electrical pathways that generate the signals telling your heart when to contract.
  • You’re at a higher risk of a heart attack and stroke. The cause of most cardiovascular events and cerebrovascular accidents is the growth and eventual rupture of arterial plaques.

Which Is the Better Pulse Pressure?

160/120 mm Hg OR 110/70 mm Hg? (The pulse pressure in each pair = 40 mm Hg.)

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Answer: 110/70
Higher systolic and diastolic pairs imply higher risk of heart attacks and heart disease

Can Atherosclerosis (Coronary Artery Disease) Be Reversed?   

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KRON 4 | Payoffs from Losing Just Five Pounds

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If you resolved to lose weight at the beginning of the year, but haven’t reached your goal, here’s some good news. You really don’t have to lose that much weight to reap huge health benefits.

How Losing Just Five Pounds Boosts Your Health

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Lower Blood Pressure

  • The American Heart Association says if you are overweight, losing as little as five pounds may help lower blood pressure.
  • Lowering blood pressure reduces risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney failure.
  • The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says for every 20 pounds you lose, you can drop systolic pressure 5-20 points. That is, drop a pound, drop a point.

Improve Urinary Incontinence (UI)

Simbolo toilette, bagno uomo e donnaLosing weight reduces risk factors for many medical conditions, especially heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Now, there’s a new benefit that can be added to the long list of health benefits: reduced urinary incontinence (involuntary urination). About 25 million Americans have urinary incontinence and about 25% are men. About half of U.S. women over age 65 leak.

Causes and Cures for UI

  • Gravity, aging tissue, and hormonal changes all contribute to urinary incontinence.
  • Increased pressure on the bladder during pregnancy and as well a weakened or stretched pelvic floor from childbirth can cause incontinence.
  • Losing five pounds can reduce the stress on the pelvic floor and reduce incontinence significantly.
  • A UCSF study of over 338 women (average age of 53), those who lost an average of just three pounds reported 28% fewer urinary incontinence episodes. Those that lost 17 pounds had 47% fewer episodes. These outcomes improved quality of life measures. The study strongly suggests weight loss decreases incontinence episodes, and a reduction of intra-abdominal pressure (due to central obesity, i.e., belly fat) on the bladder and pelvic floor is possibly why.

Weight loss is an effective, nonsurgical, and noninvasive treatment and should be considered a first line therapy for incontinence. Incontinence drugs have side effects (e.g., dry mouth, dry skin, dry eyes, constipation, upset stomach), and it has been reported that 50% of women discontinue drug treatment within one year because of the side effects.

Improve and Prevent Arthritis Symptoms

  • Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
  • When you carry extra pounds it puts huge pressure on your joints and puts you at risk of osteoarthritis (degenerative “wear and tear arthritis”).
  • In knee osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. As the cartilage wears away, the protective space between the bones decreases. The deterioration of the “shock absorber” can result in bone rubbing on bone, pain, stiffness, loss of movement in the affected joint, and painful bone spurs.
  • Wake Forest University conducted an 18-month diet and exercise study on sedentary, overweight, older adults with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. They concluded that for each pound of weight lost, each knee bears four pounds less pressure per step.

Amount of Knee Pressure When Walking

Senior woman power walking on a Gulf Coast beach.

  • If you lose five pounds, you reduce 20 pounds of pressure bearing down on each knee which can lessen pain.
  • When walking one mile (assuming 2,000 strides per mile), a five-pound loss in weight would be a reduction of more than 40,000 pounds of accumulated pressure on each knee.
  • Walking on an incline, walking up/down stairs, squatting, and jogging significantly reduce pressure on each knee even more.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Aim for losing a little weight versus a lot. It’s less daunting and the scientific evidence is clear. You’ll receive the health payoffs long before you drop large amounts of weight.

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