HealthLine Health News

Healthline News RSS Feed Healthline News RSS Feed

  • How Actor Gina Torres Helped Her Parents Manage High Cholesterol
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Actor Gina Torres shares how she helped her parents manage their health after they were diagnosed with high cholesterol and how she maintains a healthy level herself. Photography by Andy Freedman Primetime TV star Gina Torres shares her parents’ issues with heart health. Torres is spreading awareness about “bad” cholesterol. Experts share how knowing your cholesterol levels can keep your heart healthy. Actor Gina Torres learned how to be a health advocate at a young age. Both her parents were diagnosed with high LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol that increases the risk for coronary artery disease. “It was…years of good Cuban food taking its toll, as well as maybe not being the best advocates for themselves medically,” Torres told Healthline. Because her parents spoke Spanish and were not fluent in English, she acted as their translator during doctor visits. “That was a time when there weren’t that many things available like medicine to manage LDL, but more than anything, it was [helping my parents] change their lifestyle,” said Torres. Heart health is a concern for Hispanic Americans Studies show that Hispanic adults are more likely to experience major risk factors for cardiovascular disease than non-Hispanic white adults, such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and emerging cardiovascular disease risk factors like hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, psychological stress, and occupational exposures. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the optimal total cholesterol level is about 150 mg/dL, while optimal LDL cholesterol is at or below 100 mg/dL. People who maintain this level have lower rates of heart disease and stroke. However, the AHA reports that almost 50% of Mexican men and women older than 20 years have a total cholesterol level greater than 200 mg/dL, and almost 40% have a “bad” LDL cholesterol level greater than 130 mg/dL, putting them at an increased risk of developing heart disease. “What’s tricky about ‘bad’ cholesterol is that, unlike a cold or fever, there aren’t any obvious symptoms of high LDL cholesterol. Someone could have high cholesterol and not know it,” Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, Board Chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told Healthline. High LDL can increase plaque buildup in the arteries. When there is too much plaque, it can narrow or completely block an artery, which blocks the supply of blood to parts of the heart and potentially causes a heart attack. Similarly, a blocked artery leading to the brain can cause a stroke, she explained. “Unfortunately, many people don’t find out they have high cholesterol until they’ve already had a heart attack or stroke,” said Iroku-Malize. “That’s why it’s crucial to have cholesterol levels checked by your family physician, who can help you improve your cholesterol levels to avert these life threatening events.”  Spreading heart health awareness for Hispanic Americans In addition to witnessing her parents navigate their heart health, Torres also lost family members to heart attacks. “Also knowing that the Hispanic community [has] heart issues as a complication of high cholesterol…[made] me aware of what the complications of an elevated LDL-C number could mean,” she said. These factors inspired her to prioritize her own health by consistently exercising and eating well. “One might say that culturally, our diet is challenging at best,” said Torres. “It’s made with a lot of meat, oils, fat, salt — all the things that make life worth living. However, years and years and years of that, if there is no balance, can lead to potentially fatal high levels of LDL-C.” She notes that even with proper diet and exercise, some people are predisposed to high cholesterol. “So, for that it’s important to go to your doctor, get checked, know your levels so that you can get in the middle of it and take preventive measures,” she said. To spread this message, Torres teamed up with the American Academy of Family Physicians and Amgen to launch a Public Service Announcement (PSA). The PSA calls on Hispanic men and women to know their “bad” cholesterol levels so they can take more control of their health. The PSA offers people a free kit to test their LDL levels at home. “I have always said, and I stand by, wanting to use my platform to help my community, to help not only bring them forth from a creative standpoint but also in all ways…and help shed a light and educate in ways and themes that they may not have access to,” she said. “This PSA was the perfect way to do that because knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better you are capable of being your best advocate.” Ways to treat high cholesterol Seeing a doctor to help evaluate your cholesterol levels is the best place to start. “After checking levels with a simple blood test, we can talk patients through next steps, such as how often they should get levels checked and what the numbers mean,” said Iroku-Malize. Your doctor can help determine if high LDL cholesterol runs in your family. “Some forms of very high cholesterol run in families, so if one individual has high cholesterol, it may be beneficial to have his or her family members screened as well,” Dr. Wesley Milks, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline. While statin medications are the most widely used and effective medications to treat high cholesterol, he said non-statin medications, such as ezetimibe, bempedoic acid, and PCSK9 inhibitors, including evolocumab, alirocumab, and inclisiran, may also be effective in select situations. “The decision whether to treat with medications should be made with respect not only to the level of cholesterol elevation but also with regard to an individual’s risk of heart disease, as well as personal priorities and preferences,” Milks said. Aside from medication, there are several ways people can improve bad cholesterol levels, such as quitting smoking and aiming for 30 minutes of physical activity five to six times a week. “Studies have shown that the benefits occur even if the physical activity is broken up into 10 minutes at a time at different parts of a day or all 150 minutes on a weekend,” Iroku-Malize said. A healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and fiber, as well as minimizing saturated and trans fats while focusing on unsaturated fats found in fish, vegetables, grains, and tree nuts, can also help. “Of course, we take into consideration the cultural diet of our patients to make sure it is something that can be incorporated into their lifestyle and maintained long term,” said Iroku-Malize.

  • Most People on Popular GLP-1 Drugs Don't Use Them Long Enough to See Weight-Loss Effects
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    SeventyFour/Getty Images A new study finds most people may not stay on GLP-1 drugs long enough to see their effects. Research from Blue Cross Blue Shield finds 58% of people taking liraglutide or semaglutide stopped using the drugs within 3 months. The reason people stop using the drugs may vary. In some cases, people may be impatient. Other people may develop serious and uncomfortable side effects that lead them to stop using the drugs. Over half of people prescribed weight-loss drugs like Saxenda and Wegovy over the past decade stopped taking the medications too early to see any meaningful changes to their health, according to a recent study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The insurer analyzed the pharmacy and medical claims of 170,000 people between July 2014 and December 2023 and found that 58% didn’t complete a prescribed 12-week course of liraglutide (Saxenda) or semaglutide (Wegovy). Nearly one in three people stopped taking the drugs within a month, which is before the recommended dosage is able to achieve the targeted strength. People need to be on the drugs for at least 3 months to reach the recommended dosages for weight loss. As a result, those who ceased the medication early didn’t get any of the intended benefits of the drug. “This study underscores how much more we have to learn about these medications,” said Kim Keck, BCBSA’s president and CEO, in a press release. “The science behind these drugs is moving faster than our ability to truly understand which patients will benefit, how to sustain their success and how to pay for them. If we don’t get it right, we will drive up costs for everyone with little to show for it.” How do GLP-1 drugs work?   Wegovy and Saxenda, along with Ozempic, are part of a family commonly called GLP-1 drugs, or glucagon-like peptide1 receptor agonists. Ozempic is meant to be prescribed to adults with type 2 diabetes to help lower risks of heart disease and manage blood sugar levels, but it is also prescribed off-label — where a drug that’s approved for certain conditions is prescribed for another purpose — for weight loss or weight management. Because they help reproduce or enhance the effects of a naturally occurring gut hormone that assists in the control of blood sugar levels, they can also reduce appetite by working on brain hunger centers. Wegovy is recommended with exercise and a low calorie diet for long-term weight loss in: adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (obesity) adults with a BMI of 27 or higher (which is considered overweight) and a health condition that’s related to weight children 12 years and older whose BMI is in the 95th percentile or higher (which is considered obesity) What are the side effects of GLP-1 drugs? All GLP-1 drugs have been found to be linked to serious gastrointestinal side effects, some of which can require hospitalization. David Cutler, MD, board-certified family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, who was not involved in the BCBSA study, told Healthline that these side effects can be enough for some people to rethink an extended dose of the drugs. “The most common side effects of GLP-1 agonists include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. These symptoms can be severe enough to lead some patients to discontinue the medication,” Cutler said. “Though rare, there is a potential risk of pancreatitis, which can be a serious condition leading some patients to stop the medication as a precaution. When combined with other diabetes medications, especially insulin or sulfonylureas, GLP-1 agonists can increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).” Mir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, who also was not involved in the study, told Healthline that there are not typically side effects for cessation of the medications early. “There are a small percentage of patients that stop it because of side effects, the main one being nausea and vomiting. But as they continue the medication, they typically adapt to the side effects. But stopping the medication doesn’t usually cause any terrible side effects,” Ali said. “Their hunger increases, so they can actually start eating more again and gain some weight.” Why do most people stop GLP-1 drugs early? Ali explained that impatience can be a significant factor for some people taking these drugs. “We try to educate the patients ahead of time and tell them that you need to commit for at least three to six months to see the best results. Because the way these medications work, we have to start at the lowest dose and work our way up. And sometimes people get discouraged; they’re not seeing much results at the initial doses, so they just quit,” Ali said. “Perhaps they’re spending a lot of out-of-pocket money for it, and then they’ve been on it for a few weeks and they haven’t lost any weight, then they get discouraged. And some patients stop just because maybe the insurance stopped covering it, or doesn’t cover it, they can’t afford it.” Ali added that a lack of education about these medications can certainly assist that level of impatience or frustration, especially with some of the cost issues. “How these medications work, maybe there are some unrealistic expectations, so we try to give the patient a realistic expectation of how these medications work and the timeframe it would take to, depending on where they’re starting, to achieve their goals,” Ali said. Aside from costs and general expectation management, Cutler noted that the level of commitment and then the need to inject the drugs into the skin once a week can create problematic schedules or timing for some people. “Most GLP-1 agonists are administered via injection, which some patients may find inconvenient or uncomfortable, leading to discontinuation,” Cutler said. “The need for regular administration and possible dietary modifications may interfere with some patients’ lifestyles and preferences” Takeaway A study from a major American insurance company found that over a nearly 10-year period, more than half of 170,000 people prescribed Saxenda or Wegovy stopped taking the medications early. Both drugs belong to a family of medications known as GLP-1 drugs, or glucagon-like peptide1 receptor agonists, most famously associated with an increasing use for weight loss. The drugs have some significant early side effects that can be frustrating for some patients, but stopping the dosage regimen before the drugs can reach their recommended dosage means their benefits will not be felt.

  • 8 Lifestyle Factors May Slow Aging, Reduce Risk of Death
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    New research finds that Life’s Essential 8 behaviors may add years to your life by slowing biological aging and reducing your risk of heart disease. Lucy Lambriex/Getty Images A new study says heart-healthy habits may reduce the risk of heart disease and death. Life’s Essential 8 behaviors were also linked with having a younger biological age. These lifestyle choices may alter DNA methylation, a factor in cellular aging. Taking slow, manageable steps is the best way to start making lifestyle changes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites statistics showing that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the nation among women, men, and most racial and ethnic groups. In fact, the agency states that heart disease accounted for about 20% of all deaths in the year 2021. One of several risk factors for heart disease is age. However, a May 29, 2024, study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that heart-healthy behaviors and risk factor management can reduce people’s risk for heart disease and death from any cause, including heart disease and stroke, regardless of age. Further, these lifestyle habits — which the American Heart Association refers to as “Life’s Essential 8” — were associated with people having a younger biological age, meaning that their cells were healthier than might be expected for their chronological age. Studying the effects of DNA methylation on aging The study’s goal was to learn whether a process called “DNA methylation,” which is known to regulate gene expression, could influence cell aging and people’s risk of dying. The research team examined data for 5,682 adults, over half of whom were women (56%), and with an average age of 56. These people were interviewed in addition to physical exams and laboratory tests being run. They were also assessed using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 tool. Life’s Essential 8 includes four behaviors: nightly hours of sleep whether people smoke how much physical activity they get how well they eat It also includes four clinical measurements: body mass index (BMI) blood sugar cholesterol blood pressure Based on all of these factors, people were assigned a score on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being the best possible score. The researchers didn’t stop here, however. They also used four other tools to estimate biological age based on DNA methylation and a fifth tool to gauge people’s genetic tendency toward rapid biological aging. Study participants were followed for the next 11-14 years to see if they developed cardiovascular disease or died. How heart-healthy behaviors were linked to reduced cell aging After the investigators analyzed the data, they found that the higher people scored on Life’s Essential 8, the lower their risk was for developing cardiovascular disease. Each 13-point increase in their score yielded a reduction in developing cardiovascular disease (35%), dying from cardiovascular disease (36%), and dying from any cause (29%) Also, those who were genetically more at risk for faster biological aging were more greatly impacted by their Life’s Essential 8 score. The study authors believe this might potentially be due to DNA methylation. They estimated that about 20% of the link between Life’s Essential 8 and cardiovascular disease outcomes was caused by how these factors affect DNA methylation. On the other hand, in people with greater genetic risk, this figure was nearly doubled. Why heart-healthy behaviors may help reverse cell aging Khashayar Hematpour, MD, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at UTHealth Houston, explained that a major reason for aging is that over time, our DNA, which he describes as the “core genetic material,” goes through changes by binding to other molecules. “This study suggests that the heart-healthy behaviors can potentially reverse the DNA methylation and therefore reverse the aging process,” he said. Kubanych Takyrbashev, MD, Health & Wellness Advisor at NAO, further explained that methylation is a type of epigenetic modification that involves the addition of methyl groups to DNA molecules. “These alterations in DNA methylation can influence gene expression, ultimately impacting cellular aging processes,” he said. Takyrbashev pointed to exercise as one example of a factor that can induce positive changes in DNA methylation patterns, thereby slowing aging. “By promoting favorable alterations in gene expression, exercise supports cellular health and longevity,” he stated. Eating a balanced diet is also crucial, he said, “Certain nutrients, such as polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, found in such a diet have been proven to modulate gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms.” How people can adopt more of Life’s Essential 8 behaviors Michael O. McKinney, MD, a primary physician at Healthy Outlook in Jacksonville, Florida, said that taking small, manageable steps toward your goal is key. “For example, try to walk, cycle, or swim at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week,” he advised. “To achieve this goal, it is advisable to break the time into 30-minute sessions and do it five times a week.” You can also try incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine, for example, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking on your lunch break. When it comes to diet, McKinney said whole foods — such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like those found in nuts and avocados — should make up a major part of it. “Furthermore, it may support heart health if we cut back on processed foods, sugary drinks as well as excessive amounts of red meat,” he stated. Another important measure, according to McKinney is to quit smoking. “Get medication through smoking cessation programs or counseling services with nicotine replacement therapies being used as a means,” he suggested. “Healthcare providers and communities may provide substantial help toward quitting smoking successfully.” McKinney said it’s also essential to incorporate stress management into your daily routine. Activities like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help relieve anxiety. “Stress levels can also be reduced by spending several minutes every day practicing mindfulness, which improves overall well-being,” he said. Finally, McKinney stressed the importance of seeing your doctor regularly to check your total cholesterol, HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, aka the “good cholesterol), and blood glucose. “By slowly assimilating these habits into their daily life, people can greatly improve their cardiovascular health and perhaps reverse parts of cellular aging,” he concluded. Takeaway Scientists found that heart-healthy behaviors — Life’s Essential 8 — were linked with reduced cellular aging. Also, people were less likely to develop heart disease or die from it or any other cause. These lifestyle factors may support cellular health by preventing methylation, which can influence gene expression. Experts say the best way to adopt Life’s Essential 8 behaviors is by taking small, manageable steps toward your goals. Making these habits a regular part of your daily life may help improve your heart health and slow biological aging.

  • Statins are Effective Even for People Over Age 75, What to Know
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Statins have been known to help people stay heart healthy. Drs Producoes/Getty Images A new study finds even people over age 75 can get heart benefits from statins. Previously most clinical trials evaluating statins have not included people in this age group. Many major heart organizations, including the American Heart Association, recently suggested that doctors conduct personalized risk assessments with older patients to determine if statins should be used. Statins appear to be effective at preventing cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, and death in older adults, a new study has found. Clinical guidance recommends using statins to lower lipid profiles and prevent heart disease, however, most clinical trials evaluating statins have not included people 75 and older. As a result, it’s been unclear if statins should be used in this older population, a question that is particularly important as more people are living past 75. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently states there’s insufficient evidence to assess the risks and benefits of statins in people 76 and older. Many major heart organizations, including the American Heart Association, recently suggested that doctors conduct personalized risk assessments with older patients to determine if statins should be used. The report, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine Monday, demonstrates that statins may help safely and effectively lower the risk of heart disease and death in adults 76 and up.  “These findings will potentially reduce the hesitancy of many physicians to start statin therapy in patients over 75 and may even lead to a change in how our statin guidelines address these older patients,” Cheng-Han Chen, MD, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, told Healthline.  Statin use linked to heart benefits for adults far into their senior years To better understand statin use in older adults, the researchers evaluated the health records of adults over 60 who had not previously been diagnosed with heart disease but met indications to start taking statins.  The participants were split into three groups: People between the ages of 60 and 74, 75 to 84, and 85 and older. The research team identified the individuals who started statins along with those who did not take statins.  They also tracked who experienced a major cardiac event, such as a stroke, heart failure, or myocardial infarction, who died, and who experienced an adverse event like liver dysfunction or myopathies.  All age groups benefited from taking statins. Even in the oldest group, age 85 and older, statin use was linked to a lower incidence of heart disease and all-cause mortality.  Additionally, statins did not appear to increase the risk of adverse events in older adults.   The findings “suggested there is still cardiovascular benefits in patients older than 75 years of age,” Joyce Oen-Hsiao, MD, a Yale Medicine cardiologist and associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Yale School of Medicine, said. New data sheds light on benefits of statin for seniors According to the researchers, the findings indicate that older adults may greatly benefit from taking statins.  Prior evidence suggests statins improve lipid profiles, lower inflammation, and fight oxidative stress.  As a result, the medication may prevent the development of atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of plaque in the arteries, and heart disease.  “By stabilizing these plaques, they reduce the chance that the plaques can cause a heart attack or stroke,” explains Chen. Most statin clinical trials haven’t included patients over the age of 75, which has led to uncertainty about if and when to use statins in this age group. “We could infer that there would be a cardiovascular benefit, but there was no actual data,” says Oen-Hsiao. As a result, some doctors discontinue statins in older adults, according to Oen-Hsiao.  Because of our aging population, it’s important to understand if the beneficial effects of statins extend to the elderly, Chen said.  “These results certainly support starting statins in patients over 75 who are at elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” he said.  More research is needed to better understand the effects of statins in older adults and confirm the results. “To have randomized controlled trials to show the continued benefit of statins in the older population is important,” Oen-Hsiao said. “I am not surprised at this data, and look forward to further research to confirm the results,”  The bottom line: Statins appear to be effective at preventing cardiovascular disease and death in older adults, according to new research. Most clinical trials evaluating statins have not included people 75 and older, and it’s been unclear if statins should be used in this age group. The findings suggest the medication can safely and effectively prevent heart disease in older adults.

  • Getting an Epidural During Labor Drops the Risk of Severe Complications by 35%
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    A new study finds getting an epidural can lead to a lower risk of certain complications. Yoss Sabalet/Getty Images Getting an epidural during labor is associated with a reduction in severe maternal morbidity (SMM) after giving birth. While an epidural can be an effective pain management technique during labor, it can also help relax muscles and lessen strain on the body. Experts agree it’s important to support and educate all women, when it comes to making decisions about pain management options during labor. Getting an epidural during labor is linked with a decrease in severe maternal morbidity in the first few weeks after delivery. These severe complications can include heart attack, heart failure, sepsis, and hysterectomy. The findings were published in The BMJ this month. Researchers looked at Scottish National Health Service data for 567,216 mothers in labor between 2007 and 2019 who gave birth naturally or through unplanned cesarean sections. What is severe maternal morbidity? Severe maternal morbidity describes unexpected adverse labor and delivery outcomes which can lead to short and long-term health issues. Kecia Gaither, MD, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Director of Perinatal Services/Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx, provided a list of risk factors:  Postpartum hemorrhage  Infection/sepsis  Preeclampsia/eclampsia  Heart attack Enlargement of the heart and weakening of the heart muscle How an epidural lowers the risk of severe complications The study results found 22% of women had an epidural in labor. Additionally, severe maternal morbidity occurred in 4.3 per 1,000 births. The study authors found that getting an epidural was associated with a 35% decreased risk reduction in severe complications.  Experts say epidurals aren’t just about relieving pain, they can help lower the danger of high-risk pregnancies. “Based on my experience and the study mentioned, I do believe that an epidural, when suitable, is a safe and beneficial option for pain relief during labor,” said Matthew Casavant, MD, the founding physician of South Lake Obstetrics & Gynecology. “Epidurals not only help manage pain effectively but can also reduce severe maternal morbidity (SMM) by lowering the physical strain on the mother, which is crucial for high-risk pregnancies.” “The benefits of pain management extend beyond comfort—they can directly impact maternal and neonatal outcomes,” Cassavant stated. “For example, I’ve observed that mothers who have had epidurals often experience reduced instances of high blood pressure spikes and less physical stress, which can decrease the likelihood of complications like pre-eclampsia.” Tina Hendrick, MD, board-certified OBGYN at Pediatrix Medical Group points out that epidurals affect the muscles themselves. “Epidurals have quite a few benefits, including pain relief, relaxing muscles in the pelvis to allow a baby to descend, and affording rest to mothers during labor. I personally have had epidurals with both of my children and had great experiences,” Hendrick stated. Although the study shows the benefits of an epidural – particularly for patients with severe maternal morbidity – not everyone is a candidate for the procedure. “As an underlying general tenet, neuraxial anesthesia – referring to epidurals – have been touted as a safe procedure for carefully selected patients. Patients, for example, who have an underlying bleeding diathesis are generally not candidates for the procedure,” Gaither explained. Talking with a physician about an epidural Experts agree ensuring equitable access to epidural analgesia is essential.  Casavant added: “We must support all women, regardless of background, in making informed decisions about pain management options during labor. This involves comprehensive education and discussion throughout prenatal care, tailored to each patient’s unique medical history and needs.” Patients should be provided with all the information regarding a procedure in order to make an educated decision.  “When I am counseling a patient on epidurals, I am sure to include how it can benefit care when underlying comorbid conditions are present,” said Hendrick. “I also point out risk factors or why a patient would not be a candidate for an epidural. However, it is ultimately the patient’s decision and I support her regardless of the choice.” Takeaway A new study showed having an epidural is linked with a decrease in severe maternal morbidity (SMM) after giving birth. Although an epidural can assist with pain management during labor, it’s vital to ensure you are a candidate. Health professionals agree it’s essential to inform all women regarding the importance of making safe and healthy decisions about labor pain management.

  • How IndyCar Racer Conor Daly Manages Type 1 Diabetes Behind the Wheel
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    “I don’t see any reason to ever put a limit on yourself,” says Conor Daly about competing in sports while living with type 1 diabetes. Khris Hale/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Indy 500 race car driver Conor Daly shares his journey of living with type 1 diabetes. Daly has been living and racing with type 1 diabetes for more than 15 years. He is sharing his story to inspire others to take control of their diabetes and reach for their goals. At 14 years old, American racing driver Conor Daly was rushed to the hospital, where he learned that the weight loss and extreme thirst he was experiencing were symptoms of type 1 diabetes. “It was very new to my family. We had no family history of it, and I personally, as a young kid, had no idea what type 1 diabetes was,” Daly told Healthline. “I thought, ‘I’m going to get out of this hospital and go on with my day,’ and it turns out there was slightly more work than just that, so my parents were learning. I was learning.” While he adjusted to his diagnosis, he didn’t let it stop him from racing. A few days after he was released from the hospital, he raced. “I was lucky because in my town of Indianapolis, racing and motorsport in general is massive, and my dad was a race car driver, so folks knew our family, and no one was going to say, ‘Hey, you need to stop what you’re doing,’” Daly said. Racing forward with type 1 diabetes Managing type 1 diabetes has come a long way since Daly was first diagnosed more than 15 years ago. For years, he had to prick his fingers throughout the day to measure his blood sugar reading. “When we first got into the CGM era, the constant glucose monitoring and the ability to use a Dexcom was pretty outstanding,” he said. He now uses the Dexcom G7, which he calls a “life assist.” “In racing, there’s a ton of data that we look into. We have sensors on every piece of the car; we can process so much data, and all that data helps us go faster,” Daly said. The Dexcom G7 does the same for his everyday life. “If I’m going to get more data to look at to be a better athlete or better human, to live more efficiently, I’m going to use it cause I’m a competitive person,” he said. While advancements in insulins, CGMs, and automated insulin delivery (AID) all help people better manager their condition, Dr. Kathleen Wyne, an endocrinologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said the patient still has to do the work of managing their devices. How Daly manages type 1 diabetes during races Daly says preparation is key, especially as he prepares for races. “I try to keep the same meal every day at the track, usually have some protein and pasta for some carbs, but nothing that gets too out of the ordinary because consistency for me certainly is key,” he said. “I’m not going to be like, I think I need some different food all the sudden on race day because it’s not as predictable as what you already know.” His team is at the ready with necessities near his car during practices and races. “I’ve got a Gatorade there, whatever it is with sugar that’s necessary, and then when I get in the car, I have a bottle that has something with glucose in it and some sort of sugar that I can use if necessary,” Daly said. Adrenaline that is produced while he’s driving 240 miles per hour may also affect his body. “When the mind or body are significantly stressed, it generates stress hormones that make the body resistant to insulin and typically blood sugars rise, Dr. Andrew Welch, an endocrinologist at UC Health, told Healthline. Having constant monitoring of his blood sugar levels from his team and family members while racing allows Daly to focus on driving. The extra work for him comes before he jumps into the car. “I have to make sure that my sugars are going the right direction and that the glucose levels are exactly what I’m wanting — going up rather than down — before I’m getting into the race car,” Daly said. “That part is slightly annoying of course, but it’s never caused an issue in my whole career to where I do have to worry about it. I’m so aggressive with how I prepare and how I keep myself strictly in line and ready to go.” He added that being diligent in preparation is about more than himself. By racing healthy, he believes he is leading by example for other aspiring drivers with type 1 diabetes. “You want to hold yourself up to a higher standard to make sure that everyone sees we can compete just the same as anyone else who is not living with diabetes,” Daly said. A driving force for diabetes awareness Type 1 diabetes used to be seen as a life-limiting disease. “This includes limited ability to participate in specific activities such as sports and limited lifespan due to potential complications of type 1 diabetes,” Welch said. With advances in the management of the disease, this is no longer true, and almost any activity is safe to pursue with appropriate medical supervision, he said. “People with type 1 diabetes are not fragile or outwardly different. You could know an individual with type 1 diabetes for years without realizing it,” he said. Wyne tells her patients who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes that they are still a normal person who just happens to require insulin. “It should not limit your life goals and activities. I encourage people with type 1 diabetes to pursue any activities or profession that they are interested in and that we will support them in any way we can,” she told Healthline. Daly is the perfect example of this and hopes to lead by example. “Sometimes I hear from kids that they think they can’t do something, and I tell them that’s wrong,” he said. “I have not stopped doing anything in my life diabetes-related. For us, it was something we had to adjust to, and I was working on it.” His condition hasn’t stopped him from jumping out of airplanes, completing a back flip on a dirt bike, and racing in every Formula One car and multiple NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar Series. In 2017, he participated in American Ninja Warrior and Amazing Race. “Not everyone has the same situation of what they have access to, but if you are taking care of yourself…you can do anything you want,” said Daly. “I don’t see any reason to ever put a limit on yourself.”

  • Nestlé Launches Frozen Food Line for People Using GLP-1 Drugs
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    As GLP-1 drugs become more popular, Nestlé has launched a new line of frozen food items targeting people on these medications. Image Provided by Nestlé Nestlé is launching a new frozen food brand, targeted towards people taking GLP-1 medications. Experts said that processed food cannot replace natural, whole foods. This food line can act as a supplement but should not be the only food source. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is important alongside consuming these products. GLP-1 drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy have exploded in popularity with more and more people turning to these medications to help manage weight loss and diabetes. To target this new group of consumers, Nestlé has created a new frozen-food brand, Vital Pursuit that will launch in the fall of 2024. The food line will contain essential nutrients, with products such as sandwich melts, pizzas and frozen bowls with whole grains or pasta.  “I appreciate that Nestlé is providing a food line that is convenient and has – as they claim – ‘high protein and fiber,’ and various vitamins and minerals that people on weight loss medications may not be getting enough of through their diets,” said Stephanie Schiff, a registered dietician at Huntington Hospital.   However, experts say that it is important that people on these medications do not see these items as their main source of food.   “There is no competition when you compare a diet of processed food products to a plant-focused diet which centers on food that is as close to its natural state as possible,” Schiff explained. “Research shows that a diet high in processed foods can put us at risk for various health conditions, depending on the level of processing.” How GLP-1 drugs can lead to nutritional deficiencies Nutritional deficiency is an issue with people who are on GLP-1 medications.    “People who are on GLP-1 drugs become less hungry,” Schiff stated. “They experience a feeling of fullness more quickly when they eat.  Their appetites decrease and they eat less. They’re not likely to get a sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber or protein their bodies need if they’re eating less food. But a frozen food line is not necessarily the solution.” When you eat less, you’re less likely to get the fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals your body needs.    “You tend to eat less protein, which is important for growth and repair in the body,” said Schiff. “As you lose weight, you lose muscle mass, and having enough protein is key in maintaining that muscle.” Also, people on these drugs tend to eat fewer vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts.  “These plant sources provide antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” Schiff explained. “Fiber can help stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol.  It helps keep your digestive tract healthy.   It feeds the good bacteria in your gut to reduce inflammation in your body. It can improve your mental health by being part of the synthesis of our feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.” Jamie Leskowitz, MS, a registered dietician with Columbia’s Metabolic and Weight Control Center, noted: “Any time individuals consume less than they typically consume, it is possible they may be lacking key nutrients.  Thus, it is imperative to ensure adequate nutrient consumption while consuming fewer calories.  Focusing on a well-balanced and nutrient-dense eating plan is key.” To optimize health while reducing total calorie intake, it is important to consume adequate macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).   “Protein is especially important while losing weight to preserve lean muscle mass and increase satiety; carbohydrates are a major energy source and provide fiber, which is helpful for heart health, blood sugar, and bowel regularity; and fat enhances absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and is needed for brain function,” Leskowitz stated.   While vitamins (A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins) and minerals (e.g. calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, etc) are required in smaller amounts, they are essential for keeping our bodies healthy and functional, Leskowitz explained. You can review your diet with a healthcare professional to ensure you are meeting your needs, which vary depending on age, weight, medical history, and activity levels. What experts think of the new line from Nestlé While these drugs can help kickstart your health and weight loss journey, it’s crucial to remain consistent with eating well-balanced meals, exercising regularly and other healthy lifestyle habits. “While the Vital Pursuit line may provide some convenient foods with some health benefits, I would hope that people on these medications choose to make high-quality whole foods the main part of their diets and use products like Nestlé’s Vital Pursuit at times when getting a meal is difficult,” said Schiff. “These are processed products, which tend not to be as healthy as foods that are close to their natural state. Even though vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are added to their food, their absorption within our bodies is often less efficient compared to that from whole foods.”  Schiff continued: “I think that there is a time and place for products like Nestlé’s Vital Pursuit frozen food line.  But whether in conjunction with our new GLP-1 medications, or any weight loss medications, I think a healthy, sustainable, minimally processed diet is one we should be aiming for. Processed meals can be considered as an occasional backup.” More information is needed to determine how healthy this new food line actually is. “At this point, I don’t believe Nestlé has released the details on nutrient levels or ingredients in their products, so I can’t speak to whether amounts of various nutrients are sufficient, or if the ingredients are healthful,” Schiff added. Takeaway Nestlé has created a new frozen food line, aimed at people taking GLP-1 medications. According to experts, processed food should not replace natural, whole foods.  Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is important regardless of what GLP-1 drugs or products, like Nestlé’s food line, you’re consuming.

  • GLP-1 Drug Semaglutide May Decrease Kidney Disease Risk
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    A study has found semaglutide sold under brand names Ozempic and Wegovy may lower kidney disease risk. Iuliia Burmistrova/Getty Images Popular GLP-1 drug semaglutide may help protect kidney function. A new study looked at the drug, sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, and its impact on kidney health. Researchers found the medication can help protect kidney function in people who have excess weight or heart disease. New research has found that semaglutide, a popular medication used to treat diabetes and obesity, may help protect kidney function in people who have excess weight and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The findings, which were presented at the 61st ERA Congress Friday, suggest that receiving a weekly injection of semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, may help prevent complications like chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease that often occur alongside obesity. Health experts say the results are encouraging as they indicate that semaglutide may be an effective therapeutic option for treating comorbidities, and ultimately, improving people’s quality of life.  “This study adds to the body of literature supporting the beneficial effects of semaglutide in people with overweight and obesity without diabetes, which is so necessary as we continue to navigate the complex landscape of insurance coverage of these medications in people who do not have diabetes,” Shiara Ortiz-Pujols, MD, MPH, an obesity medicine physician at Staten Island University Hospital, told Healthline.  Kidney function was better in people who took semaglutide To better understand the effects of semaglutide on heart disease, the researchers evaluated the health data of a previous randomized trial that included 17,604 individuals with overweight or obesity and heart disease over the course of 3.5 years. The researchers tracked who experienced a kidney event such as a significant decline in kidney functioning, starting chronic kidney replacement therapy, onset of persistent macroalbuminuria, or death.  The team found that, compared to the placebo, 22% fewer people experienced kidney-related events in the group of 8,803 people who received a once-weekly injection of semagutide (2.4 mg). In addition, semaglutide appeared to help the kidneys filter blood.  Those who took the medication experienced lesser declines in their glomerular filtration rates, a marker that indicates how well the kidneys are filtering. Those who took semaglutide also experienced significant decreases in urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio, a test that measures albumin in urine, and macroalbuminuria, a condition where the body excretes more than 300 milligrams of protein through urine daily.  The benefits were observed even in those with normal kidney function at baseline.  “They found that, indeed, there was a modest beneficial effect on kidney function even in people without kidney disease, and a larger beneficial effect in slowing rate of kidney function loss in people with kidney disease,” explains Shuchi Anand, MD, MS, an associate professor of medicine (nephrology) at Stanford Medicine. How does semaglutide protect kidney function?  Ortiz-Pujols isn’t surprised to see semaglutide had a positive effect on kidney function. “I suspected that these findings would be true based on what I have seen in my patients, and now there are studies to support it,” she said.  According to Anand, reducing the workload of the kidneys may help prolong people’s lifespan.  “By reducing weight, even modest amounts—people in the semaglutide arm lost about 9% of their body weight over two years in this study—we are reducing the filtering load on the kidneys. ” she said. In addition, it’s possible that improving glucose metabolism benefits the kidneys, Anand added. The drug may also lower inflammation in the body, added Ortiz-Pujols. More research is needed to better understand semaglutide’s direct and indirect effects on kidney function.  Furthermore, there may, for example, be side effects that are important to consider before utilizing semaglutide for the added kidney benefit.  “Answers to these questions may help guide obesity treatment, but may also inform future areas of research as we learn more about the beneficial effects of GLP-1 receptor agonists such as semaglutide,” Ortiz-Pujols said. How semaglutide can be used for kidney health  People with excess weight face a higher risk of diabetes and hypertension, which are two factors known to worsen kidney function. These results show that semaglutide may minimize these risk factors, thereby preventing kidney disease in people living with overweight or obesity. “The results suggest that we may have tools to actually prevent kidney disease, rather than only slow loss of kidney function once a person develops kidney disease,” Anand said. According to Anand, it’s not easy to convince people without kidney dysfunction or diabetes to take a life-long medication. “What’s nice with this class of medicines is that kidney protection is an added bonus: There is already evidence that they benefit in terms of weight loss and cardiovascular health, so physicians would have more than one reason to consider them,” Anand said.  The bottom line: New research has found that semaglutide, a popular medication used to treat diabetes and obesity, may help protect kidney function in people, who have excess weight and cardiovascular disease. Health experts say the results indicate that semaglutide may be an effective therapeutic option for treating comorbidities, and ultimately, improving people’s quality of life.

  • Stroke Risk is Increasing Mainly in Younger People, Here's Why
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    A new CDC study finds people under 65 are increasingly at risk for having a stroke. Westend61/Getty Images Strokes are increasing among young adults, according to a new report from the CDC. Adults between the ages of 45-64 saw a 15% increase in the prevalence of stroke. Individuals with less than a high school education also experienced a significant increase in stroke prevalence. The number of strokes occurring in younger people is on the rise, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC report finds that for people under age 65 the risk of stroke has been growing over the last decade. This is in contrast with older Americans. While Americans 65 and older still have the highest prevalence of stroke overall, the year-over-year incidence of stroke has remained flat. For younger adults, the overall risk remains relatively low, but that risk has grown in recent years. The increasing prevalence of stroke has been paralleled by increases in both obesity and high blood pressure in the same age groups. These conditions are both linked to an increased risk of stroke. “This report is concerning because in the younger population, the stroke rates are going up. And they’ve also noted that the rates of obesity and hypertension have been increasing in younger folks. That’s a bad sign,” Gregory W. Albers, MD, Director of the Stanford Stroke Center at Stanford Medical Center, told Healthline. Albers wasn’t affiliated with the report. Prevalence among people of certain racial and ethnic groups, geographic regions, and lower education status are also stark reminders of disparities in stroke prevention and education that continue to persist. Stroke increasing among younger adults Comparing self-reported health data from 2011-2013 and 2020-2022, researchers at the CDC found that the prevalence of stroke grew by nearly 8%. However, that growth was not dispersed evenly among all age, sex, and socioeconomic groups. Young adults in particular, saw outsized increases in stroke. Among those aged 18-44 years old there was a 14.6% increase in stroke prevalence; for adults in the 45-64 category, it increased by 15.7%.  Age is a major risk factor for stroke, and the average age of a stroke is when an individual is in their 70s, which makes the CDC’s latest report that younger adults are experiencing strokes all the more disconcerting. Overall prevalence of stroke among young adults in both age categories (0.9% for the 18-44 group and 3.8% for the 45-64) is still lower than that of those 65 and older (7.7%). However, the stroke rate among older Americans has leveled off, whereas it is continuing to grow for younger adults, particularly those in midlife. The national prevalence of self-reported stroke is 2.9%. While there is no clear single culprit for the rise in the number of strokes among the young adult demographic, compounding risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure are likely playing a role. Between 1999-2000 and 2017-2018, the number of people with high blood pressure rose by more than 6% among adults aged 45-64, according to the new CDC report. “When you look at every epidemiological study across the board, every continent on this planet, every demographic, the thing that jumps out as a stroke risk factor more than any other factor is high blood pressure,” said Matthew S. Schrag, MD, PhD, a Vascular Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He wasn’t affiliated with the report. Who is most at risk for having a stroke? The report also noted some key findings based on race and ethnicity, geography, and education level. Stroke is most prevalent among American Indian/Alaska Native (5.3%), followed by Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (4.4%) and Black adults (4.3%). Whereas it is lowest among Asian adults (1.5%). Over the surveillance period, stroke prevalence increased among Black (7.8%), White (7.2%), and Hispanic (16.1%) adults. Adults with less than a high school education saw the single largest increase in stroke prevalence of any other groups: 18.2% “Folks who are more educated tend to be more aware of the importance of hypertension control, even though it doesn’t cause symptoms. It’s not unusual to see that more educated populations have better access to care, better insurance, better coverage, and can afford their medication. So, it’s not a surprise to me,” said Albers. Ten states, predominantly in the south, also saw increased stroke prevalence. This region of the south has become known as “the stroke belt” — a cluster of states with higher stroke mortality and the rest of the United States. “This prevalence data still seems to point at a very significant increase in what we call ‘the stroke belt.’ There is an asymmetry in this country of the distribution of strokes geographically,” said Schrag. Stroke prevention Omoye Imoisili, MD, a Researcher in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the CDC, and author of the report, told Healthline there are myriad health and lifestyle changes that can help you prevent stroke: “Decrease your stroke risk by taking control of your health. Prevention steps and strategies include healthy habits you can do on your own, and also with support of a healthcare team. These include choosing healthy food and drinks, keeping a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and controlling blood pressure,” she said. The bottom line The prevalence of stroke has increased for young adults (18-44) and mid-life (45-64), but not older adults (65 and older) over the past decade. A rise in risk factors among adults under 65, including obesity and hypertension, are likely part of the problem. You can mitigate your stroke risk through actionable lifestyle changes including controlling high blood pressure, exercising, and stopping smoking.

  • 'Forever' Chemicals and Other Endocrine-Disruptors May Increase Child Obesity Risk
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    A new study looks at the effects of chemicals like PFAS, BPA and phthalates during pregnancy. Fly View Productions/Getty Images A large European study of mothers and their offspring finds children can be impacted by endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The study found that women with higher exposure to these chemicals while pregnant had children who were more likely to develop obesity. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and PFAS are widespread in consumer products Prenatal exposure to various endocrine-disrupting chemicals —  including metals, plastics, and pesticides — have been linked to a cluster of health problems in childhood, including obesity, according to a large multi-national European study. The first-of-its-kind study, published in JAMA Network Open May 23, looked at the effects of 45 different endocrine- disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on children who were exposed to them in utero. EDCs can be naturally occurring or human-made chemicals that interfere with hormones in the body, and are associated with a wide array of health issues, including obesity. “When the mothers were exposed to higher levels of mixtures of endocrine disrupting chemicals, specifically metals (mainly mercury), perfluoroalkylated and polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS), organochlorine pesticides, and flame retardants (or PBDEs), their children had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome at age 6-11 years,” Martine Vrijheid, PhD, a Professor at IS Global in Barcelona, Spain, and senior author of the research, told Healthline. PFAS have also been called “forever chemicals” because they take a long time to break down. Pediatric metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of interconnected conditions including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and glucose intolerance. While there are many factors driving the childhood obesity epidemic, the role of EDCs in this complex equation cannot be disputed. “You have all this data, not just in this study but other studies as well, that show that endocrine disruptors promote everything that we’re trying to prevent or treat in child and adolescent obesity,” said Stephanie E. Green, MD, MS, a Pediatric Endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine who wasn’t affiliated with the research. Data from more than 1,100 mothers and their children Vrijheid and a large team of researchers used longitudinal health data from the Human Early Life Exposome (HELIX Project), an ongoing collaboration of health studies in Europe. The study looked at a total of 1,134 mother and child duos from six European countries including Spain, France, Greece, Lithuania, Norway and the United Kingdom. Pregnant women were recruited for the study between 2003-2009. Researchers took biological samples from the women including urinary metabolites and blood biomarkers to check for the presence of 45 different EDCs. Unlike in previous research on the subject, the team didn’t target single  EDCs, but instead looked at the effects of mixtures of the chemicals, which are more representative of real-world exposure. Once the women had a child, the team continued to follow up with them until 2016, when the children were between the ages of 6 and 11.  Doctors assessed the children using a composite metabolic syndrome risk measurement system including waist circumference, blood pressure, urine and blood metabolites, insulin levels, and cholesterol. Children of mothers with higher levels of exposure to some, but not all, of the EDCs had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome during childhood.   “The associations we saw were related to exposure to mixtures of chemicals, rather than one single chemical. This highlights the importance of studying the health effects of everyday mixtures of chemicals, rather than looking at them one-by-one,” said Vrijheid. Which chemicals were associated with obesity? Endocrine-disrupting chemicals exist in the natural world. However, more commonly, they are found in a wide variety of commercially used products today. Some varieties that researchers investigated include: Parabens – chemicals commonly used as preservatives that are found in food, cosmetics, and drugs Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – so-called “forever chemicals” commonly found in plastics, food packaging, and cookware Bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical primarily used in plastics used for water bottles and metal food cans Phthalates – chemicals used in plastic to make it more durable Pesticides – insect-killing chemicals used in agriculture Flame Retardants (PBDEs) – chemicals added to products to prevent them from burning Mercury – a heavy metal and known neurotoxin. Researchers found that PFAS, pesticides, and flame retardants were associated with the highest risk of metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, chemical classes, including phthalates, bisphenols, and parabens, did not demonstrate an increased risk. Of all the EDCs, metals, predominantly mercury, had the largest association with metabolic syndrome. Associations also varied by sex: female children showed stronger associations to certain EDCs than male children. “Associations were stronger in girls for mixtures of PFASs, while boys appeared to be more susceptible to exposure to parabens. Since endocrine disruptors interfere with sex steroid hormones, sex differences can be expected,” said Vrijheid. How to stop exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals Both Green and Vrijheid told Healthline that the most important step to limiting exposure to EDCs is regulation of the use of the chemicals themselves. Many of them are simply so pervasive in consumer products today that even pledging to not eat fast food or to stop using plastic likely isn’t enough.  These are chemicals that are in our water, our homes, even the air itself. “What has to happen is governmental interventions that clean the water supply that prevent companies from using these chemicals in their packaging, clothing, shampoos, makeup, and all of that,” said Green. “The first responsibility lies with regulators – exposure to toxic chemicals should be prevented, especially in vulnerable periods such as pregnancy and childhood…The results of studies such as ours are important to influence and improve both policy and practical guidance,” said Vrijheid. The bottom line Children of women exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in pregnancy are more likely to develop pediatric metabolic syndrome and obesity. Researchers used longitudinal data from more than 1,000 moms and their children from six different European countries. EDCs include a wide array of chemicals, both natural and human-made, including PFAS, mercury, phthalates, and pesticides. Experts say more regulation is needed to eliminate these chemicals from consumer products.

  • These 10 States Have the Highest Rates of Obesity in the U.S.
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    New research reveals which U.S. states have the highest and lowest obesity rates. halbergman/Getty Images A new report shows which ten states have the highest obesity rates in the U.S. Many of these states also ranked low for public health and overall healthcare. Other factors that influence obesity rates include poverty, culture, and education. The internet can provide people with many resources to aid in weight loss. People are considered to be overweight if their weight exceeds what is deemed to be normal for a person of their height. More specifically, a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2 defines the condition of being overweight, while those who have a BMI of 30 or greater are classified as having obesity. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that as of 2017-2018, 42.4% of adults in the U.S. are living with obesity. Further, 9.2% met the criterion for severe obesity — having a BMI of greater than 40. Now, as a part of their Best States 2024 rankings, the U.S. News & World Report has broken down which states currently have the highest obesity ratings. Top 10 states with the highest obesity rates U.S. News & World Report explained that they examined obesity rates in all 50 states by looking at self-reported survey data from the Behavioral Risk Surveillance System. This system involves the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the various state health departments working together to compile data. The news outlet further explained that obesity rates fall into the public health subcategory of their analysis of the best states for healthcare as well as their best states overall rankings. The state with the highest ranking for obesity rate was West Virginia, coming in at 41.3%. Following West Virginia, in order, were: Oklahoma (40.3%) Louisiana (40.0%) Mississippi (39.7%) Tennessee (39.1%) Ohio (38.0%) Alabama (37.9%) Indiana (37.9%) Delaware (37.8%) Kentucky (37.8%) U.S. News & World Report further noted that many of the states that had high rates of obesity also didn’t rank well when it came to public health and overall healthcare. Starting with the lowest-ranked state and going up, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Ohio, and Kentucky were all in the bottom ten when it came to public health. Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, and Indiana ranked among the ten worst with respect to overall healthcare. The states that had the lowest obesity rates were Colorado, followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Montana. Why obesity rates are higher in some states Dr. Kubanych Takyrbashev, Health & Wellness Advisor at NAO, said, “Obesity rates can vary significantly from state to state, and several factors contribute to these differences.” One major factor is socioeconomic status, he said. “States with higher poverty rates often have higher obesity rates because individuals living in poverty have limited access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.” Cultural and environmental factors can also play a role. “States with a culture of sedentary lifestyles or where unhealthy food options are more prevalent may see higher obesity rates,” he explained. Finally, Takyrbashev pointed to the influence of healthcare and education on obesity rates. “[I]ndividuals in states with better healthcare access and education may have more resources to address and prevent obesity,” he said. How people with limited options can get help treating obesity Mary J. Charlot, RN, MSN, FNP-C, who is a family nurse practitioner and founder of NP’s Hired Health & Weight Loss as well as an expert contributor to Drugwatch, said there are several ways to get help with obesity right from the comfort of your own home. “With the internet, we literally have access to so much information with just the click of our finger,” she said. “Use the internet to gain education, seek out online coaching and nutritional programs, and online fitness videos, and utilize telehealth options to connect with obesity treatment specialists.” Takyrbashev noted that online support groups can also provide valuable information and encouragement. Also, don’t rule out getting help right where you live. “Community programs and initiatives, even if limited, can offer support groups or educational workshops,” he said. Finally, you can utilize self-directed approaches, said Takyrbashev. These include trusted online resources for meal planning and exercise routines, which he says can be effective for many. Takeaway The U.S. News & World Report has released its Best States 2024 lists, which includes rankings for obesity rates. West Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Indiana, Delaware, and Kentucky were the top 10 states with the highest obesity rates. Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Montana had the lowest obesity rates on the other end of the spectrum. Many of the states with the highest obesity rates also ranked low in public health and overall healthcare. Experts say these factors, as well as socioeconomic status, education, and culture, can contribute to differences between states. However, the internet can provide people with education, support groups, and access to telemedicine providers to help them with their weight loss goals.

  • Mediterranean Diet: Nutrients in These Foods May Help Slow Brain Aging
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Specific nutrients in foods commonly associated with the Mediterranean diet can help slow brain aging. J. Anthony/Stocksy United New research has found that nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet may slow cognitive decline.  A nutrient profile of fatty acids, anti-oxidants, carotenoids, vitamin E, and choline was found to promote healthy brain aging.  Experts say these nutrients can protect against cellular damage, neutralize free radicals, and promote attention and memory.  Foods like fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens are important for brain health.  A new study has found that specific nutrients similar to those found in the Mediterranean diet may play a crucial role in slowing down brain aging. Using blood biomarker analysis, brain imaging, and cognitive assessments, the study published in Nature Publishing Group Aging concluded that a diet rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, carotenoids, vitamin E, and choline could promote healthy brain aging and cognitive function. Participants with slower brain aging had a distinct nutrient profile — a combination of fatty acids (vaccenic, gondoic, alpha linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, eicosadienoic, and lignoceric acids); antioxidants and carotenoids including cis-lutein, trans-lutein, and zeaxanthin; two forms of vitamin E and choline.  The findings suggest that a Mediterranean diet may help slow cognitive decline.  Mediterranean diet and brain aging: What’s the link?  Nichola Ludlam-Raine, dietitian and author of How Not to Eat Ultra-Processed, who was not involved in the study, says the findings of this study are much what she’d expect. “The positive effect the Mediterranean diet has on brain health is increasingly recognized,” she explains. “It’s supported by a growing body of evidence linking its nutrient profile to cognitive function and neuro-protection.” Amy Reichelt, nutritional neuroscientist and chief innovation officer at PurMinds NeuroPharma, who was not involved in the study, agrees. “The fatty acids identified are all naturally occurring fatty acids that are found in plants, dairy, and oily fish. These fatty acids are essential for the maintenance of neurons, also known as brain cells,” she explains.  Meanwhile, Reichelt says antioxidants, including carotenoids, are important for neutralizing free radicals. They protect the brain from oxidative stress, which can damage brain cells and accelerate aging.  “Preventing oxidative stressor build-ups can maintain neuron function,” Reichelt explains.  Then there’s vitamin E and choline. “Vitamin E is another important antioxidant that helps to protect cellular functions and has been linked to being protective against dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease,” says Reichelt.  As for choline (found in foods like egg yolks), Reichelt says it’s the building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is important for sustained attention and memory. Summarizing how this nutrient profile slows brain aging, Ludlam-Raine explains, “These nutrients collectively contribute to reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, two major factors in brain aging. They support cell membrane integrity, improve blood flow to the brain, and enhance neuroplasticity, all of which are crucial for maintaining cognitive function as we age.” Additional health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet Beyond brain health, Ludlam-Raine says the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to our health in several ways.  “It enhances cardiovascular health as omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of heart disease. It supports the immune function thanks to antioxidants like vitamins C and E,” she says. “And it also reduces inflammation, which is beneficial for managing conditions like arthritis and metabolic syndrome.” What are the best foods that contain nutrients to boost brain health? Ludlam-Raine says fatty fish are a good item to add to your shopping basket.  “Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and we should aim to have at least one portion of oily fish a week,” she says.  Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli are also great selections. They provide carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.  Nuts and seeds are another item to stock up on. Ludlam-Raine says almonds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds offer vitamin E and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). To get more choline in your diet, try including eggs and liver. Filling your plate with colorful vegetables and fruits is also a good idea. Ludlam-Raine recommends peppers, tomatoes, and oranges, which are high in antioxidants and vitamin C as well. How to incorporate more brain-health foods into your diet  You don’t have to completely overhaul your diet to prioritize your brain health. You can start by taking small steps in the right direction.  Ludlam-Raine suggests picking one or two days a week to include salmon, sardines, or mackerel in your meals.  You can also increase your intake of leafy greens by adding spinach or kale to smoothies, salads, and side dishes.  When snacking, Ludlam-Raine recommends keeping almonds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds handy. You can eat them alone or add them to yogurt, cereal, or porridge for a more substantial meal.  Breakfast is a great time to increase your choline intake. You can do so by having eggs.  Finally, Ludlam-Raine advises adding plenty of color to your plate with an array of fresh fruits and vegetables.  “Aim for a variety of colorful produce to ensure a good mix of antioxidants and carotenoids,” she suggests.  Eating whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible is key.  “Try to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day and 30 different plant-based foods a week. Eat the rainbow to obtain all the nutrients you need,” Ludlam-Raine advises.  Takeaway  Foods associated with the Mediterranean diet appear to have a positive effect on brain health. Research suggests the diet’s nutrient profile of fatty acids and antioxidants can slow cognitive decline. Brain-healthy foods to incorporate into your diet include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.

  • Ultra-Processed Foods May Increase Cognitive Decline, Stroke Risk
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Hot dogs are among the ultra-processed foods that expert say should be limited in a person’s diet. Anastasia Dobrusina/Getty Images New research suggests a possible connection between ultra-processed foods, stroke, and cognitive decline. Ultra-processed foods include chips and many frozen meals. Experts say that the next step is further research to explain this connection more deeply and determine which foods create the most risk.  New research published in the journal Neurology is reporting an association between regularly eating ultra-processed foods and the risk of cognitive decline as well as stroke. The study was based on data across two cohorts, 14,175 in a cognitive decline group and 20,243 in a stroke group. All of the study participants were 45 years old or older. Dr. Gary Small, the chair of psychiatry at Hackensack Meridian Health and a former longtime faculty member at the University of California Los Angeles, said that the research isn’t surprising from a brain health perspective. “We know that certain kinds of foods, particularly processed foods, and especially ultra processed foods are not good for your heart. But they’re also not good for your brain,” Small, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Healthline. Once researchers had determined the role other factors such as age and blood pressure had to play, they reported that a 10% bump in the quantity of ultra-processed foods reported by participants could be associated with a 16% higher risk of cognitive impairment. When it came to stroke, those who ate more ultra-processed foods had an 8% higher risk of stroke. That risk decreased by 9% for those who ingested more unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Some examples of minimally processed foods include fruits and beans. In studies like these, foods are separated into four groups, using a system called NOVA. Dr. W. Taylor Kimberly, one of the researchers involved, said these findings have important implications for further research. “While a healthy diet is important in maintaining brain health among older adults, the most important dietary choices for your brain remain unclear,” Kimberly said in a statement. “We found that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher risk of both stroke and cognitive impairment, and the association between ultra-processed foods and stroke was greater among Black participants.” The increase in risk of stroke for Black participants was 15%. Ultra-processed foods and cognitive decline, stroke The study used multiple memory assessments and some participants were part of an in-home interview. Those who self-reported having dementia as well as participants who had dementia or depression symptoms or had experience with head injuries were excluded. Over the course of the 11 years of study follow-up, there were 1,108 strokes reported and 768 cases of cognitive impairment. In assessing the food consumption of participants, the researchers used a food questionnaire. A score was also calculated that connected the food habits of participants with a number of stroke and neurological function-focused diets. These included the Mediterranean diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Mediterranean-DASH intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. Dr. Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California who wasn’t involved in the study, said he hopes this research can lead to a better understanding of how a diet heavy in ultra-processed foods can impact those with different forms of dementia. “I would like this group of researchers to team up with a cognitive behavioral neurologist or a neurologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with memory loss to take out a group of the stroke and cognitive impairment patients to determine if eating ultra-processed foods is linked to an increase in vascular dementia or multi-infarct dementia,” Segil told Healthline. More research needed on unhealthy diets and brain health The researchers themselves, including Kimberly, point to the need for further studies in order to connect the dots.  “Our findings show that the degree of food processing plays an important role in overall brain health,” Kimberly said. “More research is needed to confirm these results and to better understand which food or processing components contribute most to these effects.” Small agrees with the researchers that studying the possible link between dietary choices, stroke, and cognitive impairment can prove difficult, especially when it comes to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. “If you follow people to autopsy and you look at their brains, more often than not, it’s not just Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. “They have these mini-strokes in their brain. They may have evidence of head trauma. So, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong with the brain, the positive side with stroke disease there’s a lot you can do to mitigate against it.” The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states that those risk mitigators can include portions of your diet — such as the amount of salt you take in — but can also involve regular exercise and medication options.Small says that there’s good news in connection to this study that people can implement while they await results of future studies.“Look, if you live a brain-healthy lifestyle, it’s going to help your heart, it is going to help many aspects of your health,” he said. “I’m not going to wait 20 years to see the definitive study because there’s so much evidence that suggests it’s good for your health, it’s good for your mood. I can just go on and on how important it is for quality of life. You’re going to feel better now about yourself. And live better longer.”

  • Zyn Nicotine Pouches Gaining Popularity as TikTok's Latest Weight Loss Trend 'O-Zyn-Pic'
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Nicotine pouches are gaining popularity on social media as a cheap alternative to weight loss drugs, but medical experts warn the trend can pose significant health risks. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images Nicotine pouches are being used as an alternative to weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic. Nicotine is a known appetite suppressant but has many health risks. Risks of oral nicotine products include gastro discomfort, tooth decay, and certain types of cancer. Experts say you can naturally suppress your appetite with lifestyle tweaks . Instagram and TikTok users are promoting the use of Zyn brand nicotine pouches as an appetite suppressant in a trend that has been called “O-Zyn-pic” — a low cost alternative to GLP-1 medications like Ozempic and Wegovy. Content creators are claiming the $5 doses of flavored nicotine have helped them lose up to 30lbs. However, while nicotine may help reduce appetite, health experts are raising concerns about this disturbing trend and the health dangers associated with nicotine. Health risks of Zyn nicotine pouches Zyn pouches are placed between your lip and gums, and the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream.  “Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, which can lead to psychological and physiological dependence, as well as withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use,” points out Amy Reichelt, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer at PurMinds Neuropharma.  With GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic being very expensive and prescription medications that are only suitable for a subset of individuals, Reichelt isn’t surprised people are turning to nicotine products that are readily available to the general public to aid with weight loss. As an appetite suppressant, it can be very effective.  “Nicotine can affect appetite in a range of ways, including altering activity in reward processing brain circuits through stimulating the release of neurotransmitters, and also through influencing the activity of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin,” Reichelt explains.  Still, she believes the health risks aren’t worth it. In the short term, she says nicotine pouches can cause a number of side effects, especially at higher doses, such as: nausea headache dizziness throat irritation gastrointestinal discomfort In the long term, the risks can be more serious. “Nicotine can have acute cardiovascular effects, including increasing heart rate and blood pressure, which may pose risks for individuals with underlying cardiovascular conditions,” she explains.  Nicotine use is also associated with an increased risk of stroke and various types of cancer. A study of 44 nicotine pouch products and two nicotine-free pouches published in 2022 found that 26 of the samples contained cancer-causing chemicals known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines.  Nicotine pouches may harm your dental health, too “Oral nicotine products mainly contain nicotine, flavorings, pH buffer, filling agents, as well as a trace of toxic tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), metal, and formaldehyde,” Reichelt surmises. “As nicotine pouches are held in the mouth against the gum, there is research investigating whether these pouches cause periodontal disease and damage to the gums that can lead to tooth loss or decay.”  A 2023 study found that when applied to the same area of the mouth repeatedly, Nicotine can lead to periodontitis, the main cause of tooth loss. How to reduce your appetite without drugs  Still, Dr. Danielle Kelvas, MD, primary care physician at The HCG Institute, says, if you’re on a mission to lose weight, appetite suppression can be a useful tool.  “It helps reduce overall calorie intake by making it easier for you to eat less without feeling deprived or constantly hungry. This can be particularly beneficial in the initial stages of a weight-loss plan when adjusting to a lower calorie intake can be challenging,” she points out.  But she stresses that it’s better to suppress your appetite without resorting to drugs.  Kelvas recommends drinking plenty of water.  “Staying well-hydrated can help reduce hunger, as sometimes thirst is confused with hunger,” she explains.  It’s a good idea to increase your fiber intake too.  “High-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can keep you feeling fuller for longer periods,” Kelvas explains.  “Protein-rich foods can have a similar effect, helping to enhance satiety and reduce overall food intake,” she adds.  How you eat matters, too. Kelvas recommends mindful eating to reduce your appetite. “Paying close attention to what and how much you’re eating can help you recognize fullness cues better and prevent overeating,” she explains.  It might surprise you to learn that regular exercise is also a great way to regulate your appetite.  “Physical activity can help regulate appetite hormones and reduce the feeling of hunger,” Kelvas notes.  Foods that can help reduce your appetite  If you’re wondering what specific foods you should eat, Kelvas has plenty she recommends.  “Oats are packed with soluble fiber, which slows digestion and keeps you feeling fuller longer, while apples are high in fiber and water, keeping you full and hydrated,” she says.  You can also eat protein-rich eggs and foods that are high in healthy fats, like avocados and nuts.  Remember to include water-rich vegetables, too. “Cucumbers, zucchinis, and bell peppers have a high water and fiber content, which can help to fill you up,” Kelvas explains.  Controlling your appetite can lead to weight loss, but it’s important to remember that we eat for lots of reasons, not just because we’re hungry. Some reasons include stress, boredom, emotional comfort, and social gatherings.  Therefore, Kelvas says, while controlling hunger through appetite suppression can help, it’s also crucial for you to address and manage these other factors.  She surmises that “Developing a healthy relationship with food, recognizing emotional eating triggers, and finding non-food methods to cope with emotions or stress are equally important for long-term weight management.”  Takeaway  It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that nicotine pouches aren’t a healthy way to suppress your appetite and lose weight. Eating plenty of protein, fiber, and water-rich foods, as well as exercising regularly, are all healthy, natural ways to help regulate your appetite.

  • Ozempic, Wegovy Users More Likely to Develop 'Stomach Paralysis'
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    A trio of new studies suggest that people who use GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy may be more likely to develop ‘stomach paralysis’ (gastroparesis). SeventyFour/Getty Images New research presented this week highlights a link between drugs like Ozempic and a condition known as gastroparesis, so-called stomach paralysis. The studies found that patients who take GLP-1 drugs were more likely to develop the condition. Despite the name, experts contacted by Healthline reiterated that gastroparesis is an expected and reversible effect of GLP-1 drugs. Are you more likely to develop gastroparesis, so-called stomach paralysis, if you’re taking an obesity or diabetes medication like Wegovy or Ozempic? A trio of studies presented at Digestive Disease Week 2024 examined real-world patient data to better understand the prevalence of certain gastrointestinal side effects, including gastroparesis, among patients taking popular weight loss and diabetes medications. These include glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1), a class of drugs that includes semaglutide (Ozempic and Wegovy), and twincretin drugs like tirzepatide (Mounjaro and Zepbound), which utilize both GLP-1 and GIP, a separate receptor agonist. The gastrointestinal side effects of these drugs are well known; they include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, there are also less common events associated with them. These include gastroparesis, ileus, and acute pancreatitis. Many of the rare events have only begun to get more attention because of real-world data coming out about them from patients and prescribers. For example, the FDA only added a warning about iIeus for Ozempic and Wegovy in October 2023. With so many Americans taking GLP-1 and twincretin drugs — a recent survey found that number to be as high as 13% (about one in eight adults) — data about their side effects is mounting rapidly. Researchers have consistently found that gastroparesis is more prevalent among people who take GLP-1s than those who don’t. However, the significance of that finding is still up for debate among experts contacted by Healthline. New studies investigate association between gastroparesis and GLP-1 drugs Researchers independently took up investigating the association between GLP-1s and GI side effects, especially gastroparesis, in three separate studies presented this week. The presentations have not been published in medical journals. The first study, led by researchers at the University of Kansas, utilized records from TriNetX, a global electronic medical records database. It includes records from millions of patients across large healthcare organizations. Researchers used a tranche of data from patients who had been prescribed a GLP-1 for diabetes or obesity between 2021-2022. Those patients were then compared with a control group of similar individuals, also with diabetes or obesity, but who were not treated with a GLP-1. In total, close to 300,000 patients were included. Researchers found that people taking GLP-1 drugs were 66% more likely to be diagnosed with gastroparesis than those who were not. Among patients taking the drugs, 0.53% were diagnosed with gastroparesis — about 750 out of nearly 150,000 patients. “Patients need to be informed about these side effects before treatment is started. There is a lot of excitement and demand for these medications, but side effects are critical points for discussion,” Prateek Sharma, MD, a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medical Oncology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and lead investigator of the study, told Healthline. The  second study, this time from investigators at University Hospitals in Cleveland, also used the TriNetX database to examine the prevalence of gastroparesis in patients with type 2 diabetes who had been prescribed either a GLP-1 or a twincretin drug. Researchers included 336,655 individuals for this cohort and then matched them one-to-one with a separate cohort that did not take a GLP-1 or twincretin medication. They then looked at various time intervals between three months and two years since patients started their medication to track the progression of gastroparesis. At three months, the incidence of gastroparesis was similar between the two groups. From six months onward, the GLP-1 group was more likely to experience gastroparesis than the control group. At eighteen months, the GLP-1 group was 25% more likely to develop the condition than those who didn’t take the drugs. But, like the first study, the overall incidence of gastroparesis remained low: between 0.16-0.77% of cases over the two-year period. A third study used records from the Mayo Clinic health system to look at patient records of about 80,000 people who had been prescribed a GLP-1. Within this group, researchers were interested in a small subset of patients, only 839 of them, who had shown and subsequently received a gastric emptying scintigraphy (GES) test. GES tests are considered the “gold standard” for testing gastric emptying. About one-third of this group, or 241 people, still had food in their stomachs four hours after eating, meeting the diagnosis criteria for gastroparesis. Within that group, 127 had preexisting GI symptoms, and 38 had prior documentation of delayed gastric emptying. Experts weigh in on new research Healthline spoke with two obesity experts who were not affiliated with the research to discuss the findings and ask them whether they were concerned about the potential risk of gastroparesis in patients taking GLP-1 drugs. While they praised the research for helping to create a real-world snapshot of how the drugs are affecting patients, they said that there is a lot of misunderstanding about gastroparesis and its risk to patients. “Even though there was an increased risk, the percentages were still fairly low. A lot of them were under 1%. Even though it was increased compared to no medication, there was still a very low risk. I think that’s something people need to remember,” said Dr. Beverly Tchang, MD, an endocrinologist, Spokesperson for the Obesity Society, and Assistant Professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Dan Azagury, MD, section chief of Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery and medical director for the Bariatric and Metabolic Interdisciplinary clinic at Stanford Medicine, told Healthline that while the data confirm the GI side effects, he is concerned about the narrative around gastroparesis. “I think people don’t know what it is, so it’s scary. For us, gastroparesis is not worrisome. It’s a slowdown of the emptying of the stomach. This is a reversible condition. You take the drug, your stomach slows down. You stop the drug and things reverse back to normal,” he told Healthline. Gastroparesis is, in fact, one of the mechanisms through which GLP-1s and similar drugs work. “Gastroparesis is a fancy scientific term to indicate that the gut slows down in response to these medications. It’s an expected effect, and to some extent, it actually helps people feel fuller and experience more weight loss,” said Tchang. “It’s not paralysis,” said Azagury. “We need to better define this term in a way that is less scary for patients because it’s not that your stomach is going to be paralyzed,” he said. The bottom line A trio of new studies show that patients taking GLP-1 drugs are more likely to experience a condition known as gastroparesis. Gastroparesis, sometimes called stomach paralysis, refers to delayed or slowed emptying of stomach contents after eating. Experts say that despite its name, gastroparesis doesn’t actually cause paralysis and is a reversible and expected part of taking a GLP-1 drug.

  • FDA Approves Biosimilars for Macular Degeneration Treatment
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    The FDA has approved biosimilars for macular degeneration treatment. recep-bg/Getty Images The FDA approved two biosimilars for Eylea (aflibercept), a drug used to treat age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions. Biosimilars Yesafili and Opuviz work the same way, and have similar safety and efficacy, as Eylea. The biosimilars’ manufacturers have not yet revealed the launch date and list prices for the drugs. The Food and Drug Administration approved two interchangeable biosimilars to Eylea (aflibercept), a brand name drug used to treat age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions. Biosimilars are generic copies of name-brand biologic drugs and get their name from their similarity in structure and function to their counterparts. Biosimilars Yesafili (aflibercept-jbvf, from Biocon Biologics) and Opuviz (aflibercept-yszy, from Biogen and Samsung Bioepis) work the same way as Eylea — by inhibiting a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor. This prevents abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye. This can help preserve vision by slowing down or reducing damage to the retina. Yesafili and Opuviz, which are injected into the eye, are now approved to treat the following conditions: neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration macular edema following retinal vein occlusion diabetic macular edema diabetic retinopathy The approval of these biosimilars “is very reassuring,  since we are always looking to find more treatment options for age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye diseases,” said Asadolah Movahedan, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the George Washington University School of Medicine. Macular degeneration treatment is safe and effective The FDA approval was based on a review of scientific evidence showing that both drugs are “highly similar” to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ Eylea, and that they have “no clinically meaningful differences from Eylea,” the agency wrote May 20 in a press release. This analysis included comparing multiple lots of the drugs with Eylea across a range of product quality characteristics, the agency said. Clinical studies also showed that there are no clinically meaningful differences in efficacy or safety between the two biosimilars and Eylea. According to the FDA, the most common side effects of Yesafili and Opuviz are consistent with those observed with Eylea, and include: conjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding) eye pain cataract vitreous detachment vitreous floaters increased pressure inside the eye Both biosimilar drugs carry the following warnings and precautions: Hypersensitivity to the drug Inflammation in parts of the eye that can lead to retinal detachments. inflammation of arteries in the retina Increase in pressure in side the eye Blood clots “I am interested to see what the rate of real-world intraocular inflammation is after these meds become available,” Movahedan told Healthline. The FDA continues to monitor the safety of approved drugs after they enter the market. Will new biosimilars mean cheaper macular degeneration treatment? As with generic drugs, biosimilars can sometimes offer a more affordable — but similarly safe and effective — alternative to an existing medication.  “Biosimilars are typically less expensive than the original biologic, making treatment more affordable for a broader range of patients,” said James Kelly, MD, an ophthalmologist and refractive surgeon specialist in New York City. “Insurance companies may also offer better coverage, reducing out-of-pocket expenses for patients.” Lower costs can help patients stick to their treatment regimen, he told Healthline, “leading to better management of the disease and potentially better outcomes.” In addition, “more affordable options can help bridge the gap between different socioeconomic groups, ensuring that all patients receive the care they need,” he said. Drugmakers, though, have not yet released the list prices for these medications. Healthline reached out to Biocon Biologics and Biogen, but the companies declined to comment on pricing at this time. So there is not a guarantee of a significantly lower price for the biosimilars. “Despite all promises [of affordability], biosimilars are still very expensive and there may not be a huge difference in terms of patient out-of-pocket costs, even if the [biosimilar] is $1000 instead of $1800,” said Movahedan. “Particularly when there are off-label medications which have a reasonably good list price.” So there’s a long way to go before these medications are really affordable, he said. However, “more biosimilars will be available in the near future, and hopefully this will lower the price, so that more patients can benefit from these drugs,” he added. Even if prices of this class of drugs don’t come down right away, Kelly thinks “the introduction of biosimilars creates competition, which … could ultimately lead to to improvements in drug formulations and delivery methods.”  Also, “[having] multiple suppliers reduces the risk of drug shortages,” he said, “ensuring a more consistent supply of the medication for patients in need.” When will these drugs be available in the U.S.? It is not clear when these drugs will hit the market in the United States. Yesafili is already approved as a biosimilar in Europe and the United Kingdom, and is approved in Canada and is expected to launch there by July 2025, Biocon Biologics said in a press release. The company has not announced a U.S. launch date of Yesafili, but a spokesperson said, “We remain committed to bringing the product to the market at the earliest to meet the needs of our customers and patients.” In an email, a Biogen spokesperson told Healthline that “at this time we are unable to disclose the potential launch timeline for Opuviz in the U.S., and will share more information when appropriate.” Takeaway The FDA approved two interchangeable biosimilars for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ eye drug Eylea — Yesafili and Opuviz. The biosimilars work the same way as Eylea, by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor, which prevents abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye, and helps preserve vision. Clinical trials also showed the drugs have similar safety and efficacy as Eylea. These drugs are approved to treat neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration, macular edema following retinal vein occlusion, diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy.

  • Hims & Hers Selling GLP-1 Weight Loss Drugs Like Wegovy for 85% Less: What to Know
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    Telehealth company Hims & Hers announced they will begin selling off-brand GLP-1 drugs similar to Ozempic and Wegovy at a significantly lower price. FreshSplash/Getty Images Hims & Hers is now selling compounded semaglutide for weight loss. They are offering prices that are significantly lower than Wegovy and Ozempic. This could be a boon for consumers since it fills a gap in supply. However, people should be aware that compounded semaglutide is not FDA-approved. Compounded medications undergo less extensive testing than brand-name drugs. On May 20, 2024, Hims & Hers announced that it will now be selling a compounded version of Novo Nordisk’s popular diabetes and weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy. Their compounded version of the GLP-1 drug semaglutide will be prescribed by a physician through their own telehealth platform. With low prices starting at $79 per month for its oral medication kits and $199 per month for injections, these weight-loss medications are significantly less expensive than the brand-name drugs. Ozempic has a list price of $935.77, while Wegovy is available at $1,349.02 per package. Wegovy, which is the only brand of semaglutide that is currently approved for obesity treatment, has experienced soaring demand. According to The Wall Street Journal, sales more than doubled during the first quarter of this year. As a result, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reports continuing shortages of Wegovy injections, including the 0.25 mg/0.5 mL, 0.5 mg/0.5 mL, and 1 mg/0.5 mL formulations. In an interview with CNBC, Andrew Dudum, CEO of Hims & Hers, stated that the company has partnered with one of the largest manufacturers of generics in the U.S. in order to ensure that they would not fall prey to supply issues. “We have a certain degree of exclusivity with that facility that will guarantee our consumers consistent volume and supply,” he told the news outlet. According to Dr. Michael O. McKinney, a weight-loss physician at Healthy Outlook in Jacksonville, Florida, the availability of affordable compounded semaglutide through Hims & Hers could be a boon for consumers. “By adopting this low-priced alternative, the company may open up a market where even more people can afford Ozempic and Wegovy, used in weight loss therapy,” he remarked. How compounded semaglutide compares with Wegovy and Ozempic Compounding is a process in which ingredients are combined, mixed, or altered in order to create a medication. “Unlike commercially manufactured semaglutide products such as Ozempic and Wegovy, compounded semaglutide is made in a compounding pharmacy by a licensed pharmacist,” said McKenny. “This allows adjustments to be made regarding dosage, form, or ingredients used depending on the individual requirements of the patient,” he added. One common reason for compounding medications is when a person is allergic to an inactive ingredient in a commercially available medication. The medication can be custom-formulated to contain the active ingredient without any undesirable additives. In the case of a medication shortage such as with Wegovy, compounding is also a way to increase the available supply of a needed drug. One other important distinction between compounded medications and those made by large manufacturers is the fact that compounded medications like semaglutide are not approved by the FDA. “The FDA approval process applies to mass-produced medications and involves rigorous testing to ensure safety, efficacy, and quality,” said McKinney. Compounded drugs do not go through this long approval process. Learn more about how to get GLP-1 medications like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Zepbound from vetted and trusted online sources here: How to Get Wegovy for Weight Loss In Person and Online How to Get a Wegovy Prescription Online How to Get Ozempic: Everything You Need to Know Where to Buy Ozempic Online How to Get Mounjaro (Tirzepatide) Where to Buy Mounjaro (Tirzepatide) Online How to Get Zepbound: What We Know So Far Where to Buy Zepbound Online Are compounded drugs safe to use? Dr. Kubanych Takyrbashev, Health & Wellness Advisor at NAO, said there are some concerns when using compounded drugs. One problem is a lack of recourse if you experience an adverse reaction or an issue with quality. Normally, you would be able to report any such problems to the FDA, which could then take action to fix them. With compounded medications, you don’t have this same regulatory mechanism to assist you. “They might have to rely on the compounding pharmacy’s customer service or healthcare provider to address any issues,” said Takyrbashev. Another potential issue is inconsistent potency and bioavailability, he said. “Unlike FDA-approved drugs that must meet strict standards for how they are absorbed and utilized by the body, compounded medications can vary significantly,” Takyrbashev said. “This can mean that one batch of compounded semaglutide might be absorbed differently or have a different potency than another, leading to unpredictable therapeutic outcomes.” Finally, he addressed safety concerns. “FDA-approved drugs are tested extensively in clinical trials to identify potential side effects and adverse reactions,” he stated, adding that compounded medications do not go through this same level of testing. There could be a greater risk for unknown side effects or interactions, said Takyrbashev. “Additionally, the sterility and cleanliness of the compounding process are critical, and any lapses could introduce harmful contaminants,” he said. Takeaway Growing demand for Wegovy and other GLP-1 drugs in the treatment of obesity has created ongoing shortages. Telehealth provider Hims & Hers has stepped in to fill the gap by providing compounded semaglutide for a price much lower than the brand-name drugs. However, compounded medications do not go through the same approval process with the FDA. Consumers need to be aware that they cannot ask the FDA to intervene if they experience quality problems or adverse reactions. Also, compounded medications do not undergo the same level of testing as brand-name drugs, so they may not have the same potency or bioavailability. Finally, there are potential safety concerns. Since the same degree of testing is not used, there is a risk of unknown interactions or side effects. It’s also possible that problems with sterility and cleanliness in the facility where the compounding is occurring may exist.

  • Fish Oil Supplements May Raise Your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke If You’re Healthy
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    New research finds that fish oil supplements may increase heart disease and stroke risks in healthy people. Pranithan Chorruangsak/Getty Images A study has found that fish oil supplements are linked to increased first-time CVD risk. However, they were beneficial to those who already have CVD. It appears that the risks of fish oil supplements outweigh the benefits in healthy people. Experts advise against using fish oil supplements if you are currently healthy. Eating a heart-healthy diet containing omega-3 sources like fatty fish may be best. Fish oil derived from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout is often recommended for its anti-inflammatory effects, especially in people with cardiovascular disease (CVD), high blood pressure, abnormal lipids, and rheumatoid arthritis. Fatty fish are a great source of two omega-3 fatty acids that the human body needs but cannot make for itself: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). However, while it might seem like a good idea for healthy people to also supplement with fish oil to help prevent disease, the results of a large, long-term study published on May 21, 2024, in the journal BMJ Medicine, indicate that this may not be the case. The researchers found that using fish oil on a regular basis might actually increase the risk for healthy people to go on and develop first-time heart disease and stroke. Regular use did, however, help slow the progression of existing CVD. It also helped reduce their risk of death. Fish oil use linked to increased CVD risk in healthy people The researchers included 415,737 people from the UK Biobank study. Over half (55%) of the participants were women, and their ages ranged from 40 to 69. The information collected about the individuals included their use of fish oil supplements and their dietary intake of oily and non-oily fish. People’s health was tracked until either their death or the end of the study in March 2021. About a third of people said they used fish oil supplements on a regular basis, with the majority of them being older, white, and female. Among those who had no known CVD at the start of the study, regular usage of fish oil supplements was linked with a 13% increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation and a 5% greater risk of having a stroke. However, those regular users of fish oil who had CVD at the beginning of the study saw a 15% lower risk of going from atrial fibrillation to a heart attack and a 9% lower risk of progressing from heart failure to death. Why fish oil might affect healthy people differently Dr. Michael O. McKinney, primary physician at Healthy Outlook in Jacksonville, Florida, explained that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements have been widely studied and found to have both anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering effects. “In individuals with established CVD, these properties can stabilize atherosclerotic plaques, lower levels of serum triglycerides, and improve endothelial function, thereby reducing cardiovascular adverse events,” he said. McKinney noted, however, that the situation is not quite so straightforward when people are in good health. “Their potential merits at high doses of omega-3s could enhance the risk of bleeding by their anticoagulant effects outweighing benefits in individuals lacking significant cardiovascular disease risks,” he stated. Taking fish oil supplements when you are healthy could also result in fatty acid imbalances, perhaps inadvertently increasing a person’s risk for heart disease, according to McKinney. Dr. Sarah Bonza, a board certified family physician and founder of Bonza Health in Columbus, Ohio, said another factor to consider is that some research has suggested that fish oil might increase healthy people’s risk for atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance linked with greater stroke risk. “However, for people with preexisting poor cardiovascular health, omega-3s indeed have anti-inflammatory and plaque-stabilizing effects,” she added, “which help in slowing the progression of cardiovascular disease and in reducing the chances of death from heart-related events. “So, these advantages may be more than the hazards in patients with weakened cardiovascular systems,” said Bonza. What experts recommend regarding fish oil supplements “If you are healthy and you seek to use fish oil capsules for preventing heart disease, it might be better to think over your decision,” said Bonza. She further stated that the American Heart Association does not advocate taking omega-3 supplements if you are at low risk for CVD because the effects are “far more enhanced” in those with the disease. Instead, Bonza suggests eating a heart-healthy diet with plenty of natural omega-3 sources, such as fish. In her opinion, this will be more beneficial to your health. “On the other hand, personal health condition factors differ, so it is important to talk to a healthcare provider first before choosing to modify supplement consumption​,” she added. “Talk to your doctor first to be safe.” Supplements that may offer similar benefits to fish oil Bonza said she would recommend supplementing with flaxseed oil or chia seeds instead of fish oil due to their high alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) content. This is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, she explained. She suggests augmenting your diet with this type of fatty acid because it might have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit your cardiovascular health, but it is not associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation. “Also, the diet that contains omega-3s in the form of nuts, soy products, and fortified food will provide the same benefits without high-dose supplements,” she added. McKinney additionally suggests supplementing with other heart-supporting supplements, such as Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and fiber supplements, such as psyllium husk. “In addition, everyone has to consult their healthcare providers so that individual patients adjust their choices of supplementation corresponding to their health problems and peculiarities,” he concluded. Takeaway A new study has found that fish oil supplementation was associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke in healthy people. However, people with existing CVD experienced protective effects against further progression of their disease. This was an observational study. It does not prove causation. Experts say the difference in how fish oil affects people’s risk might be due to the fact that in healthy people, the risks associated with fish oil supplementation — such as bleeding, fatty acid imbalance, or atrial fibrillation — might outweigh any potential benefits. For healthy people, it may be best to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods like fatty fish. Flaxseed oil, chia seeds, foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, and psyllium husk may be safer supplements for cardiovascular health.

  • Radio-Frequency Ablation Helped 82% of Patients With AFib, Study Finds
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    FG Trade/Getty Images Radiofrequency-based ablation for atrial fibrillation appears more effective than previously shown in clinical trials. Using real-world data, a new study found that the procedure eliminated atrial arrhythmias in more than 80% of participants at a one-year followup. Radiofrequency-based ablation works by applying bursts of energy to tissue in the heart via a catheter. The subsequent formation of scar tissue disrupts the abnormal electrical signaling that causes AFib. A procedure to treat atrial fibrillation may be even more effective than previously demonstrated due to improved technology and modern interventions. Radiofrequency-based ablation (RF ablation) is the most common form of ablation used to treat atrial fibrillation. The process works by using a catheter to deliver bursts of radiofrequency energy to areas of the heart and creating scar tissue to block abnormal electrical pathways. The process has proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials, but new data from real-world medical centers indicates even better performance. In a study published this week in the journal Heart Rhythm, researchers found that RF ablation resulted in over 80% of patients being free from any form of atrial arrhythmias at a one year follow-up period. Nearly 90% of patients also stopped taking anti-arrhythmic drugs as well. “These results are certainly better than what we have seen in previous years, and they reflect the significant improvements that the atrial fibrillation ablation procedure has benefited from,” said Miguel A. Leal, MD, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, and Chair of the American Heart Association’s Electrophysiology & Arrhythmias Committee. Leal wasn’t affiliated with the research. Rod Passman, MD, a Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Arrhythmia Research at Northwestern University who wasn’t affiliated with the research, told Healthline seeing real-world data for procedures like this is valuable in fast-moving health fields: “These are helpful studies because often these technologies are assessed in clinical trials. To see the real world efficacy through a large number of operators is very useful.” About 82% of participants free of AFib by the end of the study The study, led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, utilized data from 42 high-volume institutions, and nearly seventy-nine experienced operators who performed the procedure. In total, 2,470 patients who underwent RF ablation between 2018-2022 were included in the study. The average age of the patients was 65 years old; 44% of the cohort was female. At a one year follow-up, 82% of patients were free from atrial arrhythmias, and nearly 90% had stopped taking anti-arrhythmic medications. Both endpoints showed improvement over the numbers previously seen in clinical trial data. “It’s an important reinforcement of the idea that radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation is effective, safe, and really has improved patient outcomes,” said Zachary T. Yoneda, MD, an invasive electrophysiologist who works in the Vanderbilt Atrial Fibrillation Precision Medicine Clinic, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Yoneda wasn’t affiliated with the research. The procedure had a complication rate of 1.9%, about one in 50 procedures, which the authors state is low and comparable to other data sets. Despite the apparent success of the procedure, there is still work to do to improve efficacy and safety, Passman told Healthline. “While the results are favorable, there’s still room for improvement. We still have success rates of only 80% or so. We still have complication rates of around 2%. So this means that we’re not done,” he said. New breakthroughs in AFib treatment The RF ablation procedure has been studied in clinical trials, but the field has advanced in many ways since then. The culmination of those advancements, which are both technological and procedural, have yielded better performance from the procedure than initially observed, according to the study. Advancements in the field include things like contact force sensing catheters, zero or reduced fluoroscopy (radiation associated with catheter procedures), and pulsed field ablation. “The field continues to evolve, with the relatively recent adoption of different energy sources (with a potential for even greater efficacy and safety), as well as the experimental evaluation of other techniques that target neurological inputs to the heart in the effort to suppress atrial fibrillation,” said Leal. At the end of 2023, the American Heart Association also updated its guidelines for the treatment of AFib, which includes greater detail about when patients should seek out catheter ablation procedures. What is radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation? RF ablation is the most common form of ablation procedures for atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia. It occurs when the atria, the two upper chambers of the heart, contract irregularly and rapidly, resulting in them going out of sync with the other chambers of the heart.  Abnormal electrical impulses, which signal the heart to beat, cause the irregular heartbeats in the atria. Ablation works by acting on the heart to remove the “faulty wiring” that causes abnormal electrical signals to pass through the atria.  There are several different strategies used for AFib ablation including: RF Ablation – Uses radiofrequency energy from a catheter to ablate (burn) areas of the heart to create scar tissue that interrupts abnormal electrical signaling. Balloon Cryoablation – Balloon cryoablation uses extreme cold temperatures to ablate heart tissue and disrupt electrical pathways. Pulsed Field Ablation – A non-thermal ablation technique that destroys cells directly through exposure to electrical fields. The bottom line Radiofrequency-based ablation may be more effective for atrial fibrillation than previously shown in clinical trials. New real-world data indicates that more than 80% of patients who received the procedure were free from any form of atrial arrhythmia at a one-year followup. Nearly 90% of patients had stopped taking anti-arrhythmic medication. Experts say that advancements both technologically and procedurally in the field of catheter ablation have made it even more safe and effective.

  • Should You Measure Exercise in Steps Or Minutes?
    on May 29, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    A new study looks at how exercise is measured. Tom Werner / Getty Images Step counts and minutes are both useful ways to measure physical activity, a new study suggests. A greater number of steps per day or minutes of exercise per week are both associated with lower health risks, researchers found. Move more, sit less is still a good overall goal, regardless of how you track the movement. Aiming for 7,000 or 10,000 steps a day is an easy way to increase your physical activity, which can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions. But the current U.S. physical activity guidelines recommend that people measure their physical activity in minutes, rather than steps — specifically, at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.  So, is it really better to count the minutes you spend exercising instead of counting your steps?  A new study suggests no.  Step- and time-based targets were both associated with lower risks of death from any cause and from cardiovascular disease events in older women, researchers found.  This suggests that finding what works for you may be the best way to meet your health goals. “For some, especially for younger individuals, exercise may involve activities like tennis, soccer, walking or jogging, all of which can be easily tracked with steps. However, for others, it may consist of bike rides or swimming, where monitoring the duration of exercise is simpler,” study author Rikuta Hamaya, MD, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a news release. “That’s why it’s important for physical activity guidelines to offer multiple ways to reach goals,” she said. “Movement looks different for everyone, and nearly all forms of movement are beneficial to our health.” The results were published May 20 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Exercise duration vs. steps For the study, researchers examined data from nearly 15,000 healthy women 62 years or older who participated in the Women’s Health Study. Between 2011 and 2015, participants were asked to wear a research-grade activity monitor for 7 days in a row, removing it only for sleeping, showering or bathing, or swimming. Women also completed annual questionnaires which asked about their health, including cardiovascular disease events such as heart attack and stroke. Deaths of participants were reported by family members or the postal service. Researchers followed participants through the end of 2022. Participants’ median physical activity time was 62 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per week, and they accumulated a median step count of 5,183 steps per day. In other words, half of the participants engaged in at least this amount of activity or daily steps. As expected, higher levels of physical activity, measured by time or step count, were associated with a lower risk of death from any cause or cardiovascular disease events. The most active women — in the top quarter — had a 30% to 40% lower risk of these compared to the least active quarter of women. In addition, at 9 years of follow-up, participants in the top three-quarters of physical activity time and step counts lived 2.22 and 2.36 months longer than women in the lowest quarter, respectively. This survival advantage remained even when researchers took into account participants’ body mass index (BMI). The results for both analyses were similar for step counts and minutes. The study adds to our understanding of different ways to track physical activity, but researchers point out that they only assessed participants’ physical activity at one time. In addition, this is an observational study, so it cannot prove cause and effect. Researchers hope to carry out a randomized controlled trial later on to better understand the link between health and tracking exercise by minutes or step counts. The best way to track your workouts While step counts won’t work for every activity, you can use it for things like walking, hiking and running, not just during your workouts, but also throughout your day. But that doesn’t mean step counts is the best way to track those types of activities. Karly Mendez, a human performance specialist with Memorial Hermann, said choosing whether to use step counts or minutes is a matter of personal preference because higher levels of both have been linked to better health. Sometimes, though, tracking steps can help people keep exercising, said James Rodgers, an expert coach and competitive runner for 20 years. “Certain individuals respond well to setting a specific metric goal and keeping track of their progress, which helps them stay motivated in reaching a certain number,” he told Healthline. “As their fitness improves, they may aim to gradually increase the step goal.” However, “expecting beginners to meet a step count goal might be too much pressure,” he said. “Instead, it might be easier for beginners to quantify their activity time,” such as walking for 30 minutes every day after lunch. Step count also doesn’t take into account the terrain you are walking or running on, Rodgers pointed out. For example, doing 8,000 steps on a hilly or mountainous trail requires more effort than doing the same number of steps on a flat, paved road. ”While counting steps on an undulating trail could be excellent training for you, mirroring the number of steps you do on flat terrain may be too much,” he said, “and you risk overtraining.” So if you are moving over different types of terrain, tracking your minutes, rather than steps, may be a better option. Also, “you will likely progress more steadily [by tracking time],” said Rodgers. Personalizing your workouts There are also other ways to measure your physical activity, such as tracking both duration and intensity.  This approach is more personalized because an “intense” workout for one person may be a “moderate” workout for another. Aiming for what’s intense for you will help you progress over time. Mendez suggests “training 80% of your weekly volume [time] in zone 2 and 20% of your weekly volume in zone 4/5. This can be done with any activity you love.” Zone 2 workouts are easy enough that you can talk the entire time, whereas “zone 4/5 workouts consist of getting your heart rate high, holding it high, and letting it come back down to rest,” she told Healthline. You can also measure intensity by tracking your heart rate, said Rodgers. “Training in a variety of heart rate zones for certain durations can help to ensure your performance does not plateau.” Heart rate monitoring will also account for the terrain, because if you are walking or running up a steep hill, your heart will likely beat faster to compensate for the increased effort. Rodgers cautions that while step counts or other workout metrics can be good motivational tools, it’s important to not become too focused on them. ”Maintaining a balanced approach to your training is crucial,” he said. “Incorporate other aspects of exercise that may not involve steps, such as strength work, for optimal benefits.” It’s also okay to switch things up, said Mendez, tracking steps one day and duration on other days. The key, though, is to do something active every day — aka move more, sit less. “Do what you truly enjoy doing, and find a schedule and workout that works for you,” she said. “This is the best way to make sure you stay consistent and coming back.” Takeaway Tracking physical activity using step counts is increasingly popular, especially with the availability of smartphone apps and wearable devices. However, U.S. physical activity guidelines are based on minutes per week, rather than steps. A new study suggests that both step counts and minutes can be useful ways to track certain types of physical activity, such as walking, hiking, and running. Higher levels of either activity measure were associated with a lower risk of death from any cause and cardiovascular disease events among older women. Experts emphasize that it’s important to find what works for you, and not become too focused on tracking. Balance is key, they say, including doing other types of exercise, such as strength work.

Comments are closed.