What Being Angry Does to Your Health

Mental health researchers in California have estimated that one in five Americans has an anger management problem. If so, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis just published in the European Heart Journal, that anger may be killing them by triggering heart attacks.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, analyzed the findings of 9 previous studies that included over 4,500 cases of heart attack, 462 cases of acute coronary syndrome (heart attack or angina), over 8,000 cases of stroke, and over 300 cases of acute heart rhythm problems. What they found was that having an angry outburst greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the hours immediately following the incident.

The critical period seems to be within two hours of an angry outburst. The findings indicate that a person’s risk of heart attack or acute coronary syndrome increases five-fold during that period. During the same two-hour “anger window,” a person’s risk of stroke increased nearly four-fold. Their risk of ventricular arrhythmia (a dangerous heart rhythm disorder) also increased. Risk was highest among those who got angry more often, and among those who had prior heart problems and other existing cardiac risk factors.

The association of anger and heart trouble is not a new idea, because anger has long been associated with increases in heart rate and blood pressure, which have immediate impact on the body’s reaction to stress, and which can have immediate adverse consequences.

The researchers pointed out that their findings say little about the risk to any one person for having heart trouble immediately after any single outburst of anger, but they did indicate a broader pattern that deserves attention. Study leader Elizabeth Mostofsky said, “Although the risk of experiencing an acute [heart] event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger. This is particularly important for people who have higher risk due to other underlying risk factors or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes.”

Explaining that the study’s findings indicates that certain groups of people are more at risk than others, Mostofsky continued, “For example, a person without many risk factors for [heart] disease who has only one episode of anger per month has a very small additional risk, but a person with multiple risk factors or a history of heart attack or stroke, and who is frequently angry, has a much higher absolute excess risk accumulated over time.”

Extrapolating from the data, the researchers estimated that among people with low heart risk who get angry only once a month, angry outbursts could trigger one extra heart attack per 10,000 people. But among those who have higher heart risk and get angry often, angry outbursts could trigger four extra heart attacks per 10,000 people.

This information may become useful in the fight against heart disease by helping doctors to better identify patients who are at increased risk because of their frequent outbursts of anger. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, preventive cardiologist a Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says, “In managing a patient with [heart] disease, it is important to ascertain if the patient is quick to react when it comes to the anger response, as this personality trait may increase the risk of heart attacks and be worth treating. Whether it be a behavioral intervention or medication, as physicians, we need to ask the patient about anger, as they can increase the risk of heart attacks and may need to be a part of how we counsel our patients to take care of themselves.”

5 Simple Food Substitutions to Improve Your Heart Health

By Editorial Staff To Your Health
March, 2013 (Vol. 07, Issue 03)

Heart health is a significant topic these days for two simple reasons: First, increasing evidence suggests that our poor dietary choices – particularly the Standard American Diet (SAD), characterized by heavy intake of processed, fatty, calorie-laden, fiber- and nutrient-deficient foods – puts us at major risk for heart disease; and second, evidence also suggests wise dietary choices can protect the heart from disease, keeping it healthy as we age.

Case in point: A recent study that examined the heart-health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. According to study findings, people at higher-than-normal risk for cardiovascular disease reduced their risk simply by consuming a diet high in whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and fish, and low in dairy, red meat, processed meats and sugary foods.

Specifically, eating the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra olive oil or extra mixed nuts reduced study participants’ risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, or dying of cardiovascular disease, by nearly 30 percent compared to a control group, whose only dietary modifications were based on a general recommendation to reduce dietary fat intake. Results were similar when the two Mediterranean diets were combined and compared to the control diet.

Here are five easy ways to follow the principles of the Mediterranean diet and improve your heart health starting today, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

  1. Think plant-based meals: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans) and nuts / seeds.
  2. Instead of adding salt to your favorite meals, substitute herbs and spices to give your meals punch without the sodium content.
  3. Eat no more than 1-2 servings of red meat per month, and eat at least two servings of poultry and fish (preferably wild, not farmed) a week.
  4. Replace butter with “good” oils (olive, canola, etc.), which are high in monounsaturated fat, helping clear cholesterol from the body.
  5. Limit dairy intake and choose low-fat / fat-free options when it comes to milk, cheese and yogurt. That way, you can enjoy some of the health benefits of dairy (calcium, protein, healthy bacteria) without the high fat / cholesterol.

The key principles of the Mediterranean diet make perfect sense considering what we know about food intake and health, and they’re all great for your heart – and by the way, great for your entire body. To learn more about the Mediterranean diet and how a healthy diet can benefit not only heart health, but also weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle, talk to your doctor.

B Vitamins can protect against heart attack and stroke

According to Dr. Al Sears, MD, B vitamins are your best protection against heart disease and stroke, and are more powerful than any drug. In fact, the pharmaceutical companies are working to develop a drug version of B vitamins so they can be sold as prescription instead of over-the-counter.

B vitamins are found in beef, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, eggs, milk, pork, fruits and vegetables.  The following chart from Dr. Sears shows the body’s use of B vitamins:

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)Circulation, Blood formation, Brain function
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Blood cell formation, antibiodies, Cataract prevention
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)Circulation, Nervous System, Healthy skin
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)Adrenal hormones, antibiodies, neurotransmitters, stamina
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)Brain/ Immune system function, cancer immunity, mild diuretic
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)Cell Growth, Metabolism of carbohydrates/ fats/ proteins
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)Preventing birth defects, Brain function
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)Memory, Brain Function

Dr. Sears states that studies show when Vitamin B9 (Folate)  is high in the body, a man’s risk of heart attack is cut in half, a woman’s risk of heart attack drops by 43%, and a woman’s risk of stroke drops by more than a third.  Furthermore, when Vitamin B6 is high, a man’s chance of heart attack is reduced by over 60%, a woman’s risk of heart attack drops by more than half, and a woman’s risk of stroke drops by more than a third.

High homocysteine levels, due to a low level of B12, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Medications such as antibiotics and birth control pills deplete B vitamins and increase your homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and birth defects.

So, protect your health by eating food high in folate, vitamin B6 and B12 every day.  Dr. Gibson also works with our patients on dietary supplementation, and can help you ensure your are getting what you need every day for optimal health.  Call our office at (479) 587-0227 to schedule your appointment to discuss your nutritional situation with Dr. Gibson.

Body Mass Index: A 2-Minute Primer

What is your Body Mass Index how is it used?

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of several ways to measure the amount of excess fat (adipose tissue) in the body. Healthcare providers use BMI to determine your overall fitness and your risk of developing chronic diseases. You can also monitor your own BMI to track the results of your own diet and exercise plan if you’re trying to manage your weight.

BMI has its critics, and it’s true that there are other techniques, including hydrodensitometry (underwater weighing), skinfold measurements (using calipers) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can provide more accurate determinations of body fat. However, BMI can be still be quite useful in most cases since it allows an effective comparison across large populations and is statistically well-correlated to adiposity. Plus, it’s easier for most people to monitor on an ongoing basis.

How do you calculate your BMI?

Your BMI is essentially the ratio of your weight to your height squared. More specifically, BMI is calculated using the following formula:

BMI = weight / (height)2

Note that the formula above uses the metric system, with weight in kilograms and height in meters. To calculate your BMI based on height in inches and weight in pounds, just multiply the result by 703.

BMI = weight (lbs.) / (height [in.])2 x 703.

What does your BMI mean?

Here are the standard weight categories associated with BMI ranges for adults who are 20 years of age and older:

BMI  Below 18.5         Underweight

BMI 18.5 to 24.9         Normal or Healthy Weight

BMI 25.0 to 29.9         Overweight

BMI 30.0 and Above   Obese

Does having a high BMI always mean carrying extra fat, and vice-versa?

No, it doesn’t. As we mentioned earlier, BMI is generally a useful way to measure body fat. However, there are a few scenarios in which BMI doesn’t accurately capture the true situation. For examples:

  • Athletes and others with a high lean body mass (muscle and bone) may fall into the overweight category despite having very little body fat.
  • Elderly people and those who have lost muscle mass may fall into the underweight category despite having excess body fat.
  • At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men do.
  • At the same BMI, Whites tend to have less body fat than Asians but more than African-Americans.

Experts believe that body composition and weight distribution can also affect your health. However, BMI doesn’t provide any information about these factors. The fact that BMI isn’t perfect is a good reason to look at other measures as well—such as your waist circumference—to get a clearer picture. It’s also a good reason to have your overall health evaluated by a trained healthcare provider who can interpret your BMI and other measurements correctly and put them in proper context.

Health Risks Associated with High BMI

High BMI is associated with a variety of other risk factors related to chronic health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease and some types of cancer. These other risk factors include:

  • High LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)
  • High blood sugar
  • High triglycerides
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

How much BMI do I need to loss to see improvements?

It may seem like you need to increase exercise and/or cut calories a LOT to lose a meaningful amount of weight. However, even a 5% or 10% reduction in body weight can help lower the risk of obesity-related diseases. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new weight management program. This is especially important if you have a known medical condition or if you haven’t been physically active for a while.

If you or someone you care about is interested in weight loss or weight management as a way to improve overall health and wellness, we can help! Just call or visit our office today!

5 Simple Food Substitutions to Improve Your Heart Health

By Editorial Staff To Your Health
March, 2013 (Vol. 07, Issue 03)

Heart health is a significant topic these days for two simple reasons: First, increasing evidence suggests that our poor dietary choices – particularly the Standard American Diet (SAD), characterized by heavy intake of processed, fatty, calorie-laden, fiber- and nutrient-deficient foods – puts us at major risk for heart disease; and second, evidence also suggests wise dietary choices can protect the heart from disease, keeping it healthy as we age.

Case in point: A recent study that examined the heart-health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. According to study findings, people at higher-than-normal risk for cardiovascular disease reduced their risk simply by consuming a diet high in whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and fish, and low in dairy, red meat, processed meats and sugary foods.

Specifically, eating the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra olive oil or extra mixed nuts reduced study participants’ risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, or dying of cardiovascular disease, by nearly 30 percent compared to a control group, whose only dietary modifications were based on a general recommendation to reduce dietary fat intake. Results were similar when the two Mediterranean diets were combined and compared to the control diet.

Here are five easy ways to follow the principles of the Mediterranean diet and improve your heart health starting today, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

  1. Think plant-based meals: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans) and nuts / seeds.
  2. Instead of adding salt to your favorite meals, substitute herbs and spices to give your meals punch without the sodium content.
  3. Eat no more than 1-2 servings of red meat per month, and eat at least two servings of poultry and fish (preferably wild, not farmed) a week.
  4. Replace butter with “good” oils (olive, canola, etc.), which are high in monounsaturated fat, helping clear cholesterol from the body.
  5. Limit dairy intake and choose low-fat/fat-free options when it comes to milk, cheese and yogurt. That way, you can enjoy some of the health benefits of dairy (calcium, protein, healthy bacteria) without the high fat/cholesterol.

The key principles of the Mediterranean diet make perfect sense considering what we know about food intake and health, and they’re all great for your heart – and by the way, great for your entire body. To learn more about the Mediterranean diet and how a healthy diet can benefit not only heart health, but also weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle, talk to your doctor.

More Upside to the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has received a great deal of attention in the popular media over the past couple of years. But for those in the healthcare community, it’s even more exciting that growing evidence of its benefits has also been showing up in well-regarded medical and scientific journals.
Act One: The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health
Much of the excitement about the Mediterranean diet has centered on its ability to promote cardiovascular health. And there’s good reason for this. Researchers from the University of Barcelona recently published the findings of a large-scale 5-year study involving 7,447 people in the New England Journal of Medicine. The aim of their research was not to reduce common risk factors such as participants’ cholesterol, blood pressure or weight, but to count the number of actual heart attacks, strokes and deaths from any cause to evaluate how effective the Mediterranean diet was in reducing these events and increasing longevity.
The subjects of this particular study had been specifically selected to participate because they had significant cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease and being overweight. Over the course of their investigation, the researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet reduced their risk of death from the effects of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, by 30%. They were also 40% less likely to have suffered a stroke in the study’s 4-year follow-up period than those who followed a low-fat diet.
This research made a significant impression on many of those who examined the work. Dr. Steven E. Nissen, from the Cleveland Clinic’s department of cardiovascular medicine noted “Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent. And you can actually enjoy life.”
Act Two: The Mediterranean Diet and Brain Health
Alongside research into the cardiovascular health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, there has also been exciting new research into the brain health benefits. A group of investigators—again in Barcelona—placed 447 cognitively healthy individuals (average age 67 years) in one of three dietary groups:

  • A group of participants that ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (1 liter per week)
  • A group of participants that ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts (30 grams per day)
  • A control diet group of participants that was advised to reduce dietary fat.

Participants in all three groups received baseline cognitive function tests at the beginning of the study, and those remaining in the study after approximately 4 years (about 75% of them) were tested again at the end of this period. The participants who consumed the Mediterranean diet with additional with extra virgin olive oil experienced significantly better cognitive function, while those who ate the mixed nuts experienced significant improvements in memory. At the same time, those participants who followed the low-fat control diet experienced a significant decrease in memory and cognitive function.
Why are olive oil and nuts brain boosters? Scientists have a few theories, but one of the most widely cited has to do with oleic acid. Both olive oil and nuts are rich in oleic acid, a fatty acid that is a key ingredient in myelin, a protective covering that twists around nerves (neurons), including those in the human brain. The myelin sheath is critical for nerve functioning. It insulates nerves and prevents electrical current from leaking out of the axon so that they can communicate effectively with each other. The brain—of course—depends on the foods we eat for nourishment, so it’s not surprising that some foods may positively affect performance while others may hamper it. The antioxidant-rich foods in Mediterranean diets as well as nuts and olive oil provide nourishment to the brain and appear to help protect against overall brain health and cognitive decline.