Posts Tagged Stroke

Where Does The Salt Come From?

A new study published in the journal Circulation (May 2017) reaffirms earlier findings that the majority of sodium in peoples diets come from foods that are prepared outside of the home.

To conduct the study, the authors recruited 450 participants, aged 18 to 75 years old, from 3 US cities – Birmingham (Alabama), Palo Alto (California), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minnesota). To determine participant’s sodium intake, the authors sought information on sodium volumes from:

  • Sodium added to food at the table
  • Sodium added to food during cooking at home
  • Sodium consumed from home tap water
  • Sodium consumed from what is naturally found in foods
  • Sodium that is added during food preparation outside of participants’ homes
  • Sodium from dietary supplements and antacids (non-prescription)

Results from the study indicated participants’ consumed on average 3501 mg of sodium per day. Of this amount, 70.9% of sodium intake originated from foods that were prepared outside of the home. Considering that health guidelines suggest people should limit consumption to 2300 mg per day (Health Canada) – foods prepared outside of the home can be the primary target in addressing excess sodium consumption.

Sodium reduction can be achieved through a combination of public education, including educating the public on healthy sodium consumption and food label reading, and public health regulations that curb sodium added in commercial preparation of food.
When eating out, or when choosing to eat prepackaged foods, remember to check the sodium content posted in the nutrition information poster (if available in place of purchase) or on the specific food package label.

For more information on nutrition, health, or how naturopathic medicine can help you, please call 613-290-6115.

Graham Beaton is a naturopathic doctor practicing in Ottawa.

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Health Effects of a Trans Fat Ban?

A new study in JAMA Cardiology (published online on April 12, 2017) examined the effects of a ban on trans fats on cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) in residents of New York State. The authors found that restricting foods that contain trans fats resulted in a 6.2% decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes.

What are trans fats?
Trans fatty acids are a type of fat that is produced by hydrogenating oils. This process is designed to increase the shelf life and flavor of prepackaged foods.

Where are trans fats found in our diets?
Trans fatty acids are found in vegetable shortening and deep fried foods, and may be found in certain margarines, crackers, cookies and snack foods.

Other studies showing similar results?
There are several other studies looking into the health impact of eliminating trans fats, including:

  • The American Medical Association concluded that substituting trans fats for healthy fats could prevent 30,000 to 100,000 premature deaths in the US per year
  • In Denmark, a ban of trans fats from foods in 2004 led to a reduction of 14.2 deaths per 100,000 people. This effect was seen in 3 years of implementation of the ban

The evidence continues to mount on the negative health effects of trans fats. Not only have trans fats been shown to increase risk of cardiovascular disease, but it has also repeatedly been shown that cardiovascular events (heart attack and stoke) decrease significantly in regions where trans fats have been removed from foods.

Graham Beaton is a naturopathic doctor practicing in Ottawa.

For more on heart healthy diets or how a healthy diet can benefit you health, please call 613-290-6115 to book an appointment.

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Do Artificially Sweetened Beverages Affect Stroke and Dementia Risk?

According to a new study published in the journal Stroke, consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia.

The authors collected data on the incidence of stroke (2888 participants aged 45 and over) and dementia (1484 participants aged 60 and over) during a 10 year period. As well, participants were given food frequency questionnaires to quantify their intake of artificially sweetened beverages over a 10 year period.

At the end of the 10 year period, the researchers found that the risk of stroke and dementia increased by three times amongst those who consumed one or more artificially sweetened drink daily. Risk of stroke and dementia was also increased in those who consumed a more moderate amount of artificially sweetened drinks per week (0-6 drinks per week), by 2.6 times and 1.7 times respectively.

Evidence continues to mount about the importance of avoiding artificially sweetened drinks (those that contain saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame and sucralose). Choose water instead.

For more information on nutrition, health, or how naturopathic medicine can help you, please call 613-290-6115.

Graham Beaton is a naturopathic doctor practicing in Ottawa.

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Physical Activity vs Prescription Medications – Which is Better for Health?

It is well documented that physical activity has many positive effects on health (reference). In general, people who are physically active have a higher quality of life and are at a reduced risk of developing many chronic diseases (such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illnesses) compared to individuals who are sedentary.

A question that now arises, is does physical activity have a greater effect on health compared to medications? A recent journal article in BMJ (published on October 1st, 2013) looked to address this question.

What did the researchers do?
To determine if physical activity had a greater impact on health compared to taking medications, the researchers pooled the results of 16 separate meta-analyses (four of which were on exercise and 12 on medications), where a meta-analysis is a statistical method of combining the results of similar studies to increase the number of participants who received an intervention. Health was examined by determining mortality rates associated with 4 diseases:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure

What did they find?

  • Coronary heart disease: Physical activity and medications were equally effective in reducing mortality.
  • Diabetes: Physical activity and medications were equally ineffective in reducing mortality.
  • Stroke: Physical activity was more effective than medications for reducing mortality risk.
  • Heart failure: Certain medications (diuretics) were superior to physical activity in reducing occurrences of heart failure.

Are there limitations to this study?
Yes, unfortunately there were a number of limitations to this study, making it difficult to reach a definitive conclusion.

  • There are a limited number of randomized clinical trials (RCT) looking at the effectiveness of exercise/physical activity on mortality. The majority of studies looking at the health effects of physical activity are observational, which are not as strong in predicting cause and effect as an RCT
  • The authors correctly commented that they had relied on information from previously completed meta-analyses, and that several larger RCTs had been completed but were not “pooled” in with their data. It is possible that these new RCTs could have affected the results.
  • It is unclear if the appropriate amount/type of physical activity was chosen in the original studies to reach a conclusion. This is important issue as some studies underestimate the amount of activity required to reach a desired outcome. An example of this would be how much exercise is required to lose weight? If a study has selected 30 minutes as the amount of time one is required to exercise in order to lose weight, it might be insufficient (more time might be required). As well, the study may not account for what an individual is doing for the remainder of the day with regards to being physically active. So, if a person is exercising 30 minutes per day, and he/she is sedentary for the rest of the day, the 30 minutes spent exercising would be insufficient to have an impact on weight loss or on other possible health outcomes.
  • In addition to the above point, while it is known what direct effect a medication has on an outcome (e.g. dose x will result in x% decrease of blood pressure), the same is not always known for exercise (e.g. how much and what type of exercise should be done to achieve a certain outcome, etc).

What is the take home message?
The take home message is that physical activity has equivalent or better outcomes in the treatment of certain health conditions. Specifically, being physically active will reduce the mortality risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Does this mean that if you suffer from certain conditions you should stop using your prescribed medications? Absolutely not. The findings from this article reinforce the fact that physical activity is vital to health, and being physically active can reduce one’s risk of mortality from certain diseases.

If you suffer from a chronic disease, or if you are at risk of developing a chronic disease, can physical activity help you? Yes. But before starting on a new exercise routine, talk to your health care provider about what type of activity is both safe and effective for you.

In practice, I council my patients on increasing their level of physical activity, taking into account their health condition(s), possible medications and level of physical fitness. If you have questions about a chronic health concern, physical activity or how Naturopathic Medicine can help you, please give me a call at 613-290-6115.

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