Health Tips | Cardio risks, Vitamin D, alcohol, salt, and yogurt

November 19, 2010 by David Despain

Slashing stroke and heart disease risk, alcohol energy drinks, getting enough vitamin D in winter,  and calorie restriction are among the topics covered in this week’s Health Tips.

Slashing stroke, heart disease risk with less stress and sleep: Too little sleep and poor sleep can bring high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke [Emory University]; Women with high-stress jobs boost their heart disease risk by 40 percent and heart attacks by 88 percent [American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2010]. And fat that grows around the arteries (perivascular) may be worse than belly fat (visceral) because it may lead to fatty buildup inside arteries, predisposing people (particularly those with diabetes) to higher risk of heart disease [University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center].

Light to moderate drinking is good for heart health, even after coronary artery bypass surgery, cutting risk of heart attacks, strokes and death by 25 percent. But moderate to heavy drinking doubles risk of death in those with left ventricular dysfunction [American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2010 (Abstract)]. (Inhibiting a molecule called Notch,may be behind alcohol’s protective effects [University of Rochester Medical Center].) And mixing alcohol with energy drinks is linked to heavy drinking and alcohol dependence, probably because consumers believe myths that caffeine reduces drunkenness and prevents hangovers, which encourages more drinking [Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research] — companies that make alcoholic energy drinks have now received warning letters [U.S. Food and Drug Administration].

Beware brass plumbing in buildings: Drinking water in new buildings may contain undetected amounts of lead because brass valves found in plumbing systems leak the heavy metal. [Journal of American Water Works Association] Speaking of which, if you get gastroenteritis from drinking water contaminated with E coli, you are at  increased risk of developing high blood pressure, kidney problems and heart disease in later life [University of Western Ontario]. .

Teens eating fewer grams of sodium daily (ideally less than 2,400 mg or a teaspoon of salt a day) reduce their long-term risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and early death; the easiest way for teens to cut sodium is to cut processed foods, especially pizza [American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2010] (Abstract)].

Check your vitamin D level: Vitamin D blood levels in winter drop due to staying indoors (and partly due to genetics), so have your vitamin D level tested (ideal range: 50-80 ng/ml 25-OHD) [Am J Clin Nutr]; low vitamin D doubles risk of stroke in whites, not blacks, but everyone is still safer with daily doses (recommended: 1,000-2,000 international units; people with the severe vitamin D deficits may need higher doses, under physician supervision, due to toxicity) [Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions].

Probiotic yogurt helps improve balance of intestinal flora in chronic liver disease patients, preventing overgrowth of bacteria like E. coli from contributing to the progression of the illness [Nursing Research].

Calorie restriction delays age-related hearing loss in mice and reveals that eating less may slow aging in mammals by boosting production of a sirtuin enzyme, Sirt3, which alters mitochondrial production of free radicals (cause oxidative damage) [Cell].

Got a health tip? Clue us in!