Archive for March, 2010

Obesity Linked To Increased Colon Cancer Deaths

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

A new study suggests they may have poorer long-term survival odds than their thinner counterparts if they do develop the disease.  The findings are reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

The report suggests that excess weight may particularly affect male survivors’ long-term prognosis.  The study of nearly 4,400 U.S. adults treated for colon cancer conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that obese patients were one-quarter to one-third more likely to die over the next eight years than their normal-weight counterparts.

The relationship between obesity and survival appeared stronger among men — possibly, the researchers speculate, because men are more likely than women to have their excess body fat concentrated in the belly.

Abdominal obesity is particularly linked to hormonal effects that, in theory, could contribute to colon cancer development or the cancer’s aggressiveness.

However, whether and how obesity, per se, affects colon cancer survival remains unclear. The current study points to a relationship between obesity and long-term survival, but does not prove that excess body fat directly affects a patient’s prognosis.

The researchers say the findings suggest that people treated for colon cancer should try to maintain a body mass index lower than 30, the cutoff for obesity. Body mass index, or BMI, is a measure of weight in relation to height.

People may think, ‘I already have cancer. What difference does my weight make? notes Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  This study suggests the cancer may behave more aggressively if you’re obese.  Milder obesity, however, was linked to a 24 percent higher risk of death.

Taking Blood Pressure Medication Cuts Dying Risk

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

A study of U.S. Medicaid patients found that the more closely a person adhered to his or her doctor’s recommendations for filling their blood pressure medication prescription, the lower his or her risk of stroke and death. 

Stroke is one of the primary illnesses costing millions of American families according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medical research that impacts individuals.

Taking just one more pill as recommended each week (from a one-a-day regimen) cut stroke risk by 9 percent and death risk by 7 percent, researchers with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. 

The medical experts studied the medical records of about 49,000 Tennessee Medicaid patients for 1994 to 2000 to determine if blood pressure medication refill adherence or frequency of physician visits influenced risk of stroke or death. The researchers also investigated whether the type of blood pressure-lowering drugs a patient took was associated with stroke or risk of dying. 

Patients were taking two different types of blood pressure drug on average, although some were taking as many as six. Sixty percent of the patients filled their prescriptions less than 80 percent of the time, and were classified as non-adherent to their medication. 

During follow-up, which ranged from 3 to 7 years, 619 study participants had a stroke and 2,051 died.

Patients who were non-adherent were a half-percent more likely to die over a five-year period compared to adherent patients. Blood pressure drugs known as thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers all cut death risk by 3 to 4 percent, while thiazide diuretics also cut stroke risk. 

Patients in the study averaged about five doctor office visits a year, although there was a wide range, with some not seeing a doctor at all and others logging nearly 90 visits a year.  Patients who visited the doctor more often were 1 percent less likely to die.

Men Less Likely To Die After Heart Attack

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The study found that fewer women had their blood vessels injected with dye so that blockages are visible on an X-ray.   Cardiologists presenting the research at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta, said women should be treated with all recommended strategies, including invasive ones. 

Some earlier studies have also suggested that women have a higher risk of death after a heart attack than men, but it is unclear why. Biological differences might explain it, researchers said, but there were also substantial differences in the treatment regimens women received. 

The researchers analyzed data on more than 3,500 patients who were treated for heart attacks between January 2006 and December 2007. 

An estimated 785,000 American men and women will have a new coronary attack tgis year according to the non-profit American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The women, who made up almost one-third of the patients, were nine years older than the men on average and had more health problems. 

The study found women received fewer effective treatments for heart attack. Women were almost twice as likely to die during the initial hospital stay and during the following month.

Variable Blood Pressure A New Stroke Risk Factor

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Stroke is one of the three main critical illnesses according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. 

Researchers at the University of Oxford looked at high blood pressure and blood pressure variability in four groups of 2,000 people, each of who had minor strokes called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or “mini-strokes.” These are warning signs of stroke risk. 

They found that people with the greatest variation in systolic blood pressure (the higher of the 120/80 readings) over seven visits to their doctor were six times more likely to have a major stroke. People with the highest blood pressure readings were 15 times more likely to have a stroke. 

Under-diagnosis and under-treatment of hypertension is a major, seemingly intractable problem in all health-care systems.  The new research shows that part of the problem is likely to have been under-recognition of the impact of variability in blood pressure on diagnosis in routine clinical practice in primary care. It shows that doctors have to make diagnoses on the basis of blood pressure measurements that vary substantially from visit to visit. 

The new research shows that increased variability in blood pressure, a high maximum blood pressure and episodic hypertension are associated with high risks of stroke and other vascular events, and emphasize that any comfort taken from the fact blood pressure is sometimes normal is false. 

The findings may also affect the choice of the first drugs prescribed for blood pressure control.

Chocolate May Make Some Strokes Less Likely

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Unfortunately for chocolate fans, the same research found that chocolate does not appear to have a protective benefit for the most common type of stroke.

People who have a stroke have either an ischemic or a hemorrhagic stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked, either partially or completely. This type of stroke accounts for about 80 percent of all strokes. 

In the context of an appropriate intake, eating small amounts of cocoa could be beneficial, the researchers noted.  The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention in San Francisco. 

The benefit attributed to cocoa stems from substances it contains known as flavonoids, which are believed to help protect against certain cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and blood clotting. 

In the study, the researchers reviewed data from 4,369 middle-age French women, none of whom had any evidence of heart disease at the start of the study in 1993. The women’s average body-mass index was 23, a number that’s considered normal weight. 

In the next 12 years, 493 of the women were diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease: 200 had heart attacks and 293 had a stroke. Of the strokes, 189 were ischemic and 91 were hemorrhagic.

After adjusting the data to account for known cardiovascular disease risk factors — such as smoking, physical activity, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and diabetes — the researchers found no statistically significant association in the risk for cardiovascular disease between the highest levels of cocoa consumption and the lowest.

Stroke Incidence Rises Significantly Among Younger Americans

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

A new report presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference noted that the average age of stroke patients in 2005 was nearly three years younger than the average age of stroke patients in 1993-1994.

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, this represents a significant decrease as the percentage of people 20 to 45 having a stroke was up to 7.3 percent in 2005 from 4.5 percent in 1993-1994.  Stroke is one of the three most frequently incurred critical illness.  Cancer and heart disease are the other two impacting millions of Amerucans yearly.

Stroke has traditionally been considered a disease of old age.  Medical experts report that the findings are of great public health significance because of the potential for greater lifetime burden of disability among younger patients.

Researchers examined data from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, which includes about 1.3 million people. They report that the trend is likely occurring throughout the United States because the higher prevalence of risk factors such as obesity and diabetes seen in the young here are also seen throughout the country.

The study recorded the age of people hospitalized for their first-ever stroke from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994, then compared it to calendar years 1999 and 2005.

In 1993-94, the average age of first stroke was 71.3 years old. The average age dropped to 70.9 in 1999 and was down to 68.4 by 2005.

Researchers also found racial differences in stroke incidence. For blacks, the incidence of strokes among those over age 85 dropped significantly by 2005. For whites, the incidence decreased significantly starting at age 65 by 2005.