Mediterranean diet with lean beef may lower risk factors for heart disease

lean beef

Eating red meat may have a bad reputation for being bad for the heart, but new research found that lean beef may have a place in healthy diets, after all.

In a randomized controlled study, researchers found that a Mediterranean diet combined with small portions of lean beef helped lower risk factors for developing heart disease, such as LDL cholesterol.

Jennifer Fleming, assistant teaching professor of nutrition at Penn State, said the study suggests that healthy diets can include a wide variety of foods, such as red meat, and still be heart friendly.

“When you create a healthy diet built on fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods, it leaves room for moderate amounts of other foods like lean beef,” Fleming said. “There are still important nutrients in beef that you can benefit from by eating lean cuts like the loin or round, or 93% lean ground beef.”

David J. Baer, research leader at the United States Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service, and study co-principal investigator, added, “This study highlights the importance of including lean beef in a Mediterranean dietary pattern that can yield heart-healthy benefits.”

According to the researchers, red meat such as beef has been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease in previous studies. But it has remained unclear whether red meat actually causes these effects or if they actually are caused by other diet and lifestyle choices that people engage in alongside red meat consumption.

Additionally, the researchers said many studies have combined both fresh and processed meats together when evaluating red meat consumption and health. Processed red meats have a very different nutrient profile than fresh meat—for example, processed meat products are much higher in sodium—that could explain the red meat research that has been reported.

“The Mediterranean diet is traditionally low in red meat,” Fleming said. “But, knowing that many Americans enjoy red meat, we wanted to examine how combining lean beef with the Mediterranean diet would affect cardiovascular risk markers.”

The study included 59 participants. Every participant consumed each diet for four weeks each, with a one week break between each diet period, and blood samples were drawn at the beginning of the study as well as after each diet period.

Three of the four diet periods contained different amounts of beef to a Mediterranean diet plan, which provided 41% calories from fat, 42% from carbohydrates and 17% from protein. In addition to the control average American diet, one diet provided 0.5 ounces of beef a day, which is the amount recommended in the Mediterranean diet pyramid. A second diet provided 2.5 ounces a day, which represents the amount an average American eats in a day, and the third experimental diet included 5.5 ounces a day, which previous research connected with certain heart health benefits.

All three Mediterranean diet periods included olive oil as the predominant fat source, three to six servings of fruits, and six or more servings of vegetables a day. The beef included in these diet periods was either lean or extra-lean.

Fleming said they were able to use a special technology called nuclear magnetic resonance—or NMR technology—to measure the number and size of lipoprotein particles. She said this study was one of the first randomized controlled trials of the Mediterranean diet to use the technique.

“This is important because there is growing evidence to suggest that LDL particle number is more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than total blood LDL concentrations alone,” Fleming said. “Moreover, we were able to identify changes in apolipoproteins, specifically apoB, which are also associated with increased CVD risk.”

After the data were analyzed, the researchers found that participants all had lower LDL cholesterol following the Mediterranean diet periods compared to the average American diet. But while the total numbers of LDL particles were reduced following all three Mediterranean diet periods, they were only significantly decreased when following those periods that included 0.5 or 2.5 ounces of beef a day compared to the average American diet.

Additionally, non-HDL cholesterol and apoB—a protein involved in lipid metabolism and a marker of CVD risk—were lower following all three Mediterranean diet periods compared to the average American diet.

Fleming said the study—recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—underscores the importance of consuming healthy, well-balanced diets.

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Thiazides may up risk for skin cancer in older adults

Thiazides may up risk for skin cancer in older adults

(HealthDay)—Higher exposure to thiazides is associated with increased rates of incident keratinocyte carcinoma and melanoma among older adults, according to a study published online April 12 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Aaron M. Drucker, M.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues conducted a population-based inception cohort study using linked administrative health data from Ontario for 1998 to 2017. Adults aged 66 years and older with a first prescription for an antihypertensive medication were matched by age and sex to two unexposed adults prescribed a nonantihypertensive medication within 30 days of the index date to examine associations with keratinocyte carcinoma and melanoma. The cohorts included 302,634 adults prescribed an antihypertensive medication and 605,268 unexposed adults.

The researchers found that increasing thiazide exposure was associated with increased rates of incident keratinocyte carcinoma, advanced keratinocyte carcinoma, and melanoma (adjusted hazard ratios [95 percent confidence intervals] per one defined annual dose unit, 1.08 [1.03 to 1.14], 1.07 [0.93 to 1.23], and 1.34 [1.01 to 1.78], respectively). No consistent evidence was found for associations between other antihypertensive classes and keratinocyte carcinoma or melanoma.

“We found consistent dose-dependent increases in skin cancer risk associated with thiazides but not with other antihypertensive classes,” the authors write. “Clinicians may consider alternatives to thiazide diuretics to treat hypertension in patients at high risk for skin cancer.”

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Healthy living helps ward off deadly prostate cancers in men at high risk

Healthy living helps ward off deadly prostate cancers in men at high risk

A nutritious diet, regular exercise and other components of a healthy lifestyle may reduce the odds of lethal prostate cancer in men with a high genetic risk for it, researchers report.

“The excess genetic risk of lethal prostate cancer could be offset by adhering to a healthy lifestyle,” concluded co-lead author Anna Plym. She’s a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Genetics account for about 58% of variability in prostate cancer risk.

Researchers looked at nearly 10,500 men for whom genetic data were available.

They also identified more than 2,100 prostate cancer cases over a median follow-up of 18 years and nearly 240 lethal prostate cancer cases over a median follow-up of 22 years. (Median means half were followed for less time, half for more.)

The study grouped men into four equal groups. Men in the group with the highest genetic-based risk were 5.4 times more likely to develop prostate cancer and 3.5 times more likely to develop lethal prostate cancer than those in the group with the lowest genetic risk.

Among men in the high-risk group, those with the healthiest lifestyles were about half as likely to develop lethal prostate cancer as those with the least healthy habits, the study found.

High-risk men who had a healthy lifestyle at the start of the study had a lifetime lethal prostate cancer incidence of 3%. That compared to 6% for high-risk men with the least healthy lifestyle, and 3% for the study population as a whole.

The findings were presented during the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) virtual annual meeting, held from April 10-15.

“Our findings add to current evidence suggesting that men with a high genetic risk may benefit from a targeted prostate cancer screening program, aiming at detecting a potentially lethal prostate cancer while it is still curable,” Plym said in an AACR news release.

A healthy lifestyle was not associated with a lower risk of getting any type of prostate cancer, and did not affect men with a lower genetic risk for the disease, the research team stressed.

Plym said more study is needed to learn why a healthy lifestyle is associated with a lower chance of lethal prostate cancer in men with a high genetic risk.

One possible explanation: Gene variants that contribute to increased genetic risk also have the strongest links with lifestyle.

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Homelessness associated with increased HIV and HCV risk among people who inject drugs


Homelessness and unstable housing are associated with a substantial increase in HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) acquisition risk among people who inject drugs, according to research led by the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioral Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health today [26 March] found that, among people who inject drugs, recent homelessness and unstable housing were associated with a 55 percent and 65 percent increase in HIV and HCV acquisition risk, respectively.

The study is the first systematic review and meta-analysis (a statistical method used to combine the results of multiple studies) to assess whether homelessness or unstable housing increases HIV or HCV risk among people who inject drugs. The researchers extracted and pooled data from 45 previous studies providing 70 estimates (26 for HIV and 44 for HCV) to work out a more robust measure of the risks.

Globally, there are an estimated 15.6 million people who inject drugs; over one in six are infected with HIV and over half have been infected with HCV. People who inject drugs are at high risk of HIV and HCV infection through the sharing of needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and experience high levels of homelessness and unstable housing.

Globally, an estimated 22 percent of people who inject drugs reported experiencing homelessness or unstable housing in the past year, with this increasing to 42 percent in England (having increased from 28 percent in the last decade), and 50 percent in North America.

A high proportion of people in unstable housing have substance misuse problems, with 30 percent reporting they used heroin in the last month in the UK, highlighting the overlapping risks of drug use and homelessness.

Previous research also suggests that homeless or unstably housed drug users are less likely to access HIV and HCV treatment and use opioid substitution therapy and needle-syringe programs, two important HIV and HCV prevention interventions. They may also be more likely to engage in high-risk injecting and sexual behaviours and more likely to have been recently imprisoned, another factor associated with increased HIV and HCV acquisition risk.

Chiedozie Arum, lead author from the University of Bristol, said: “Our study highlights the overlapping bio-social problems that worsen health inequalities among homeless people who inject drugs. Expanding access to prevention and treatment services and improving housing provision for this population should be prioritized.”

Dr. Jack Stone, Senior Research Associate from the University of Bristol and joint senior author, said: “Our findings suggest housing instability is an important driver of HIV and HCV transmission among people who inject drugs. Further research is now needed to better understand how homelessness or unstable housing increases the risk of HIV and HCV acquisition, and what interventions could have most impact in reducing this risk.”

Peter Vickerman, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling from the University of Bristol and joint senior author, said “This research adds to the growing evidence on the damaging effect of housing instability on health and social outcomes. A comprehensive policy approach that not only provides housing but also addresses many of the interlinked health and social concerns of this population is necessary in order to reduce HIV and HCV risk.”

The study has important implications for policy and public health, including:

  • the need for housing interventions tailored to people who inject drugs that address their competing health and social concerns
  • the need for improved access to HIV and HCV prevention and treatment interventions among those who are homeless or unstably housed
  • the need for these interventions to be integrated within services that provide for the wide ranging health needs of these vulnerable populations
  • the need to reduce stigma towards homelessness and drug use that act as barriers to accessing care.

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Relationship between psoriasis treatments and cardiovascular risk explained


Psoriasis is a chronic disease that causes patients to develop patches of dry, scaly, itchy skin. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that it arises from a person’s immune system inappropriately targeting that person’s own body. It is a deeply unpleasant condition, and patients commonly take medications so that they can live their lives more comfortably.

Professor Min Chen of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Peking Union Medical College has conducted extensive research on psoriasis. “There are many patients with psoriasis who also have cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and coronary heart disease,” she notes. The presence of such cardiovascular diseases is an important consideration when treating patients with psoriasis because, as Prof. Chen explains, “Some of the drugs for psoriasis may increase the risks of these diseases, while some can reduce them.” Now, in a recent review article published in Chinese Medical Journal, Prof. Chen and her colleagues provide a summary of the existing scholarly knowledge concerning the associations between the different treatments for psoriasis and risks of cardiovascular diseases.

The authors explore how various drugs influence the long-term risks of what is known as MACE, an acronym that encompasses myocardial infarction (i.e., heart attack), cerebrovascular accidents (i.e., strokes and similar events), and cardiovascular mortality. They note that some psoriasis treatments such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) inhibitors and methotrexate may actually reduce long-term MACE risk. Conversely, they also note that some interleukin (IL) inhibitors may increase MACE risk. For example, the IL-12/23 inhibitor briakinumab increased MACE risks so much across multiple studies that investigators had to suspend all clinical trials. However, other IL inhibitors such as tildrakizumab and guselkumab do not appear to increase MACE risks. The widely used immunosuppressant cyclosporine A can cause damage to heart muscle tissues. Ultimately, these findings indicate that more research is needed before scientists can rank psoriasis treatments in terms of their effects on long-term MACE risks.

There is currently no consensus among medical scientists on whether systemic treatments for psoriasis can mitigate or worsen arterial plaques, vascular function, and vascular inflammation. There is some evidence that treatments for psoriasis counter inflammation of coronary tissues and can lessen the coronary plaque burdens that contribute to coronary artery disease. Conversely, it has also been found that treatment with TNF-α inhibitors may contribute to an undesirable thickening of the carotid arteries, which are found in the neck and provide blood to the head. Scientists do not yet know whether methotrexate, IL-17 inhibitors, and IL-12/23 inhibitors also have any effect on arterial wall thicknesses.

In addition to the heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases, patients with psoriasis are at an increased risk of developing various risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. These risk factors include obesity, diabetes mellitus, and high blood lipid levels, and the existing literature points to several varied relationships between psoriasis treatment options and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, TNF-α inhibitors may contribute to increased body weight, but IL-17 and IL-12/23 inhibitors may help patients lose weight. Cyclosporine A can increase the risk of diabetes, worsen hypertension, and contribute to unhealthy lipid metabolism profiles.

In conclusion, different psoriasis treatments have different effects on cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors, necessitating a more thorough consideration of each patient’s clinical situation before picking a treatment. For example, TNF-α inhibitors and methotrexate are good therapeutic options for patients with psoriasis who are at high risk of experiencing MACE, and inhibitors of IL-17 and IL-12/23 may be beneficial for patients who have arterial plaques.

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Fatty liver disease: Excessive bruising or bleeding could indicate your risk

NHS Choices: Liver Disease

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Fatty liver disease is when fat builds up in the cells of the liver. There are two main types of fatty liver disease – non-alcoholic and alcohol-related liver disease. As the name would suggest, the former isn’t caused by drinking too much alcohol. There are usually no symptoms of fatty liver disease, but the condition causes perceptible changes in the later stages. Excessive bruising could indicate your risk.

Cirrhosis causes the liver to slow or stop production of proteins needed for blood clotting.

Cirrhosis is the most serious stage of liver disease and typically occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue.

This in turn can lead to liver failure.

When blood doesn’t clot properly, bruising and bleeding can occur spontaneously.

As cirrhosis progresses, symptoms can include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Memory problems and confusion
  • Swelling in the feet or lower legs
  • Bloating
  • Jaundice

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In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, alcohol abuse and alcoholic liver cirrhosis was further investigated. 

The study noted: “Alcohol abuse is associated with both potentiating and antagonizing haemostatic states.

“Liver cirrhosis is an independent causal factor for many bleeding complications.

“A 39-year-old male with no significant past medical history presented with a one-week history of increasing pain in the calf of the right leg associated with bluish-black discoloration on the back of right leg from the upper thigh to the ankle area.”

The study concluded that alcohol abuse is a major risk factor which directly induces antihemostatic changes in the body and indirectly worsens the coagulopathy of liver cirrhosis.

When the liver becomes damaged, it does not produce an adequate number of clotting proteins, so a person may bruise and bleed more easily than usual.

There are a number of conditions which can lead to excess bruising.

For this reason, it is extremely important to be sure to check with your doctor if you notice this symptom.

How is fatty liver disease diagnosed?

According to the NHS, fatty liver disease is often diagnosed after a blood test called a liver function test produces an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out.

But blood tests do not always pick up fatty liver disease.

As the NHS explains, the condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy.

This is a type of scan where sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body.

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Heritable traits that appear in teen years raise risk for adult cannabis use


While some youth experiment with marijuana but don’t go on to long-term use, others develop a problematic pot habit that continues into adulthood. A major new analysis shows that at least a small portion of the risk for developing into an adult marijuana user may be related to inherited behaviors and traits that appear during adolescence.

The journal Addiction published the findings by researchers at Brown University and Emory University.

“Our analysis suggests that some early adolescent behaviors and traits—like depression, neuroticism and acting out—can be indicative for cannabis use later in life,” says Rohan Palmer, senior author of the paper and assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Psychology, where he heads the Behavioral Genetics of Addiction Laboratory.

“Decades of research has shown that behaviors can have a genetic component,” adds Leslie Brick, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in Brown’s Alpert Medical School. “And while there is not one genetically-influenced trait that determines whether you’re going to be a long-term cannabis user, our paper indicates that there are polygenic effects across multiple inherited behaviors and traits that show a propensity for increased risk.”

Brick, a long-time collaborator with Rohan, also holds an adjunct faculty appointment in Emory’s Department of Psychology.

The Transmissible Liability Index is a well-known measure for a constellation of heritable traits that may appear during the developmental years that are associated with the risk of a substance use disorder. For the current paper, the researchers wanted to tease out which of these heritable characteristics might be associated with repeated marijuana use later in life.

“Cannabis use has been less studied than tobacco and alcohol,” Palmer says. “For one thing, it’s harder to get people to answer detailed questionnaires honestly about cannabis, since it’s an illegal substance. And it’s also much more difficult to standardize the amount of cannabis consumed, as compared to cigarettes and liquor.”

Cannabis use, however, is widespread among adolescents and young adults. In 2018, more than 35 percent of high school seniors surveyed reported having used marijuana during the past year and more than 20 percent reported doing so during the past month, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

As cultural norms have shifted, including the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use in many states, teens’ perceptions of the risks of marijuana use have declined.

Those risks, however, are real.

“Adolescence is a major period of brain development,” Brick says. “In fact, our brains don’t stop developing until we are around 25 years old. Research indicates that cannabis has some major impacts on our biology, although its full effects are still not well understood.”

The researchers drew data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health, which includes a nationally representative sample of 20,000 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 in the United States who have been followed into adulthood. Comprehensive data from early adolescence to adulthood was collected on health and health-related behavior, including substance use, personality and genetics.

For the current paper, the researchers identified a large homogenous subgroup of individuals from the Add Health study, about 5,000 individuals of European ancestry, for their final analytic sample. They then leveraged existing genome-wide association studies to examine whether certain heritable behavioral traits noted during adolescence were associated with the Transmissible Liability Index, and whether any of these traits were also associated with risk for later cannabis use.

The results showed that a small portion of the risk for repeated cannabis use into adulthood can be attributed to the genetic effects of neuroticism, risk tolerance and depression that can appear during adolescence.

“While this work marks an important step in identifying genetic factors that can increase the risk for cannabis use, a substantial portion of factors that raise the risk remain unexplained,” Palmer says. “We’ve shown how you can use existing data to assess the utility of a polygenic risk score. More studies are needed to continue to identify unique genetic and other environmental sources for the risk of long-term, problematic use of cannabis.”

“Better understanding of what behaviors and traits may give someone a pre-disposition for long-term cannabis use gives us a better shot of identifying those most at risk so we can home in on effective interventions,” Brick says.

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AstraZeneca vaccine safe, but rare risk of blood clots not ruled out, EU regulator says

The COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is safe and not linked to an increased risk of blood clots, according to an investigation by the European Union’s European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“This is a safe and effective vaccine. Its benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 with the associated risks of death and hospitalization outweigh the possible risks,” Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director, said at a news conference Thursday (March 18). 

However, the EMA investigation uncovered a few “rare and unusual but very serious clotting disorders” that the committee probed more closely, Cooke said. These included conditions such as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which clots form extensively throughout the body, and cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), a rare form of stroke. 

“As of last night, seven cases of this disseminated intravascular coagulation and 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis were reported out of almost 20 million vaccinated people,” Cooke said. “After days of in-depth analysis of lab results, clinical reports, autopsy reports and other information from the clinical trials, we still cannot rule out definitively a link between these cases and the vaccine,” she said. 

Even if there is a link, if every one of these cases was caused by the vaccine, this would translate to a rate of roughly 1.25 per million vaccinated people. 

The committee will launch further investigations of these extremely rare clotting events and will continue to monitor any additional cases that crop up. In the meantime, they concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective enough to warrant its continued use in the general public.

The EMA initially launched its investigation after many European countries — including Germany, France, Italy and Spain — halted their distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing concerns about blood clots and abnormal bleeding among vaccinated people, CNBC reported. In response to these reports from Europe, Indonesia also decided to delay its rollout of the vaccine, and Thailand briefly suspended use of the shots last weekend, The Associated Press reported

More than 17 million people in the U.K. and EU have already received the AstraZeneca shot, according to a March 14 statement from AstraZeneca. “The number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, said in the statement. 

Furthermore, the company has not observed any evidence of increased bleeding among the tens of thousands of people in clinical trials for the vaccine, according to the statement. 

As of March 8, the company had received 22 reports of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the arteries of the lungs), and 15 reports of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins of the body), across the EU and U.K. “This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size,” the company stated. 

The company noted that “available evidence does not confirm that the vaccine is the cause” of these clots. However, the nature of the more unusual clotting disorders, like CVT, drew concern from some doctors. 

For instance, numerous patients showed widespread blood clots, internal bleeding and low platelet counts; platelets are small blood cells involved in clotting. And several people in Germany developed CVT, Science Magazine reported. Germany received seven reports of these rare strokes and found that the events occurred four to 16 days after each patient’s vaccination; three of these patients died. This pattern is what prompted Germany to pause use of the shots, Science reported.

In theory, the clotting and bleeding disorders could stem from an overblown immune reaction to the vaccine, Dr. Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, told Science. Future EMA investigations will likely explore this possibility.  

Other scientists have wondered whether the problem may lie with specific batches of the vaccine, which they posit may have become contaminated or contained a higher dose than usual. In general, AstraZeneca supplies European countries with vaccines produced at several different facilities. But the EMA’s safety committee, Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), has “found no evidence of a quality or a batch issue,” PRAC Chairwoman Sabine Straus said at the news conference.  

Just because the clots and bleeding disorders emerged after vaccination “does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate them,” the World Health Organization noted in a statement released March 17. Blood clots are the third-most-common cardiovascular condition globally, and they occur frequently in the general population, according to the statement. 

For instance, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 U.S. residents develop blood clots in their lungs or deep veins each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). EU residents develop blood clots at similar annual rates, and in clinical studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the rate of clotting episodes did not exceed the expected rate, the EMA reported, according to The Associated Press

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But again, rarer conditions such as DIC and CVT will need to be investigated more closely in vaccinated people.

Echoing the EMA’s conclusions, the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) also found no link between the vaccine and blood clots, according to BBC News

Those who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine can submit reports to the company about any potential side effects or health-related issues they experience. The U.K. publishes summaries of these reports online, and so far, the most commonly reported symptoms include mild to moderate side effects, like headache, fatigue, soreness at the injection site and chills. Scattered reports of thrombosis, or blood clots, can also be seen in these summaries.  

Clearly, not all of these reported conditions could be caused by the vaccine. People have reported post-vaccine conditions such as “sunburn,” “breath odor,” “hiccups,” “arthropod stings” and “genital herpes,” as seen in the summary from early January to late February. One recipient reported getting a face-lift after being vaccinated. In other words, some medical conditions reported post-vaccination may be totally unrelated to the shots. 

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Study links green communities to lower stroke risk

AHA news: study links green communities to lower stroke risk

The greener the neighborhood, the lower the stroke risk, a new study suggests.

Researchers matched images gathered from space to health data from residents to come up with their findings. The work adds to evidence that shows where someone lives affects their health, said study co-author Dr. William Aitken. He is a cardiology fellow at the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida.

“There’s a lot of evidence that our natural environment does influence health, and we wanted to look at it particularly with stroke,” Aitken said.

The study used records from more than 249,000 Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older who lived in Miami-Dade County in 2010 and 2011. The records were matched against satellite measures of their neighborhood’s greenness—”whether that be trees or shrubs or grasses or whatnot,” Aitken said.

Researchers adjusted for factors such as gender, income and race and ethnicity. They also took into account whether residents had health factors—such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol—that would affect their risk of having a stroke.

When compared to people residing in the least-green areas, those living in the most-green had a 20% overall lower risk of a stroke or transient ischemic attack, also known as a TIA or “mini-stroke.”

Specifically, the greenest neighborhoods correlated with 26% lower odds of TIA and 16% lower odds of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. The odds of hemorrhagic stroke weren’t reduced by a statistically notable amount.

But overall, the apparent effect of greenery was noteworthy, Aitken said. He estimated the increased stroke risk of living in the least-green neighborhoods as compared with the most-green may be comparable to what someone would get from developing diabetes.

The study was presented Wednesday at the American Stroke Association’s virtual International Stroke Conference. It’s considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Previous research using the same Medicare data linked green spaces to reduced risk for heart disease and heart attacks.

Aitken said he and his colleagues couldn’t account for how much time people spent outside or how they interacted with the environment. But he said there are several possibilities.

Dr. Elizabeth Jackson agreed.

“It makes sense to most people that if you’ve got walking paths and green spaces, people will tend to take advantage of them,” said Jackson, the Bourge Endowed Professor in Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Jackson, who was not involved in the study, noted that in the urban park near her, “It’s not hard to see lots of different people walking and running,” or doing outside yoga or aerobics classes.

People who don’t have access to such spaces or who face safety or other barriers to getting outside would have fewer opportunities to be physically active, which she called “super important” to their health.

Jackson, who helped write an American Heart Association statement on housing and cardiovascular risk in 2020, said green spaces might also provide a buffer against problems such as stress and air pollution.

Aitken said the study could help leaders and policymakers think about the potential of fighting stroke in large swaths of people at once, instead of just individuals.

It can be tough to convince large numbers of people to get regular exercise, quit smoking and watch their blood sugar and cholesterol, he said. But nudging cities to incorporate more green spaces and providing encouragement for people to spend “a little more time in the environment, maybe that would affect everybody living in that area.”

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High cholesterol: Pain in feet, hands or jaw could indicate signs of the condition

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that the liver produces. It’s vital for the formation of cell membranes, vitamin D, and certain hormones. Cholesterol, therefore, is essential for the body, however having too much of the substance puts a person at high risk of either a heart attack or stroke. Feeling pain in the feet, hands or jaw could indicate your risk.

The warning signs of high cholesterol symptoms include pain in hands and feet.

This occurs due to accumulation of cholesterol which can clog the blood vessels of legs and hands.

This build-up of cholesterol can occur continuously and make the hands and feet painful.

Pain in feet

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a build-up of cholesterol and plaque in the arteries that lead to your extremities, said Cleveland Clinic.

It continued: “PAD can cause discomfort in your legs and feet and limit your walking and activities.

“Severe PAD can progress to loss of limbs.

“Your doctor can check for signs of the disease with a simple test of pulses in your feet.”

Pain in hands

When there is an accumulation of plaque (fatty deposits) it clogs the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis.

These deposits are made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin.

As the cholesterol in the body builds up, it can clog the blood vessels of the hands.

This build-up of cholesterol can occur continuously and make the hands painful.

Jaw pain

Aches and pains in the jaw and neck are fairly common symptoms of angina discomfort arising from poor blood flow to part of the heart muscle, said Harvard Health.

The health site added: “Although angina is commonly felt as pain, pressure, or heaviness in the chest, it can appear in many guises.

“The main nerve that carries pain signals from the heart, the vagus nerve, also communicates with the neck, jaw, and head, as well as the left arm.

“That means alarm signals from the heart can be felt elsewhere.”

The American Heart Association recommends having your cholesterol levels checked every four to six years if you are a healthy adult over the age of 20.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, it’s recommended to have it checked more often.

A person may also need more frequent cholesterol checks if they have a family history of heart attacks or strokes.

As high cholesterol does not cause any major symptoms in the early stages, it is integral for one to make good lifestyle choices by eating a healthy diet, maintaining an exercise routine and regularly monitoring cholesterol levels.

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