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Birth Control Pills Might Affect the Heart

7 Nov

Birth control pills have been linked for the first time to plaques that could potentially endanger the heart researchers reported recently. A study of 1,301 women ages 33 to 55 suggests that the likelihood of finding plaques in key arteries increased by 20% to 30% for every 10 years of pill use, Ernst Rietzschel, of Ghent University in Belgium, told an American Heart Association meeting in Belgium.

The study also links the pill to potentially artery-clogging plaque in women who no longer use oral contraception, he says, noting that 81% of women in the study took the pill, on average, for 13 years. Doctors cautioned that the study is small and should be confirmed by more research.

Diesel Fumes Help Clog Arteries

7 Aug

Diesel Fumes Help Clog Arteries Published: 07/26/07 THURSDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) — Scientists say they’ve spotted the biochemical process that makes diesel exhaust so dangerous to human arteries. An interaction between the fine particles found in diesel exhaust and the fatty acids in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol activates genes that then cause inflammation in blood vessels, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) report. This process accelerates atherosclerosis — a buildup of fatty deposits that can eventually lead to complete vessel blockage, according to the study in the July 26 online issue of Genome Biology. The mechanism is one key way that “chemicals in diesel exhaust impact the cardiovascular system,” said Dr. Andre Nel, chief of nanomedicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. “We have done an analysis of genes that respond to those chemicals in synergy with the components of bad cholesterol.” LDL cholesterol is usually described as the bad kind because it is involved in blood vessel damage, in contrast to “good” HDL cholesterol, which works to prevent such damage. In a series of studies, the UCLA scientists combined particulate diesel pollutants with fatty acids found in LDL cholesterol, studying their interactions with free radicals — highly reactive molecules that can damage cells. They exposed cells to this mixture and then extracted genetic material from those cells. Genes that promote cellular inflammation were found to be highly activated in those cells. Inflammation is well known as a contributor to atherosclerosis, Nel said. “The primary implication of our finding is that for people who have cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood cholesterol, simultaneous exposure to diesel air pollution can enhance damage by enhancing inflammation in the cardiovascular system,” Nel said. The UCLA research team now is working to develop a test, such as measurement of a protein produced in response to air pollution, that could be used to assess the safety of people working or living in areas with different levels of pollution, he said. Nel’s work is an important part of ongoing research on the damaging molecular effects of air pollution from diesel and other sources, said Dr. John Balbus, chief of health sciences of Environmental Defense, a watchdog group. “There have been lots of studies of inflammation,” Balbus said. “This one goes down to the genetic level, and finds a pattern of gene expression that is particularly associated with diesel exhaust.” While such laboratory work has been going over for the past five to 10 years, epidemiological studies have also tightened the link between cardiovascular risk and exposure to pollutants, Balbus said. He cited a recent German study that found that living near a major source of pollution, such as a highway, was associated with a higher incidence of atherosclerosis. “That was observational data in real people,” he said. “When you put that together with the laboratory work, you have a very convincing picture.” “This study is more evidence of why we need to become more aggressive in cleaning up existing diesel engines,” said Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Watch, a private organization. Chances that diesel engines will be used as commonly in the United States as in Europe, where they are found in many cars, are slim, because U.S. pollution standards are tougher, O’Donnell said. “The real big problem remains the many thousands of diesel engines in construction equipment, old trucks and buses,” he said. “The biggest bang for the buck would come from cleaning up existing diesel engines.”

Sugary drinks also hardens arteries

27 Jun

┬áSATURDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) — The type of sugar in a sugary drink may impact how healthy — or unhealthy — it is for arteries, a new study suggests.Fructose-sweetened drinks are more likely to provoke the development of fatty artery deposits in overweight adults than glucose-sweetened beverages, researchers say.

Kimber Stanhope, of the University of California at Davis, and colleagues compared the results of drinking fructose-sweetened beverages versus glucose for 10 weeks in overweight and obese adults.

Participants ate a balanced diet with 30 percent fat and 55 percent complex carbohydrates. Thirteen of the participants also consumed glucose-sweetened drinks, while 10 drank fructose-sweetened drinks.

The researchers found that 9 weeks later, 24-hour post-meal triglyceride (blood fat) levels went up after 2 weeks of fructose-sweetened drink but went down in those who consumed glucose-sweetened drinks.

Those who drank fructose-sweetened drinks also had a boost in fasting blood concentrations of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and other measures. Those levels were unaltered in those consuming glucose-sweetened drinks, however.

The findings were scheduled to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, in Chicago.

The bottom line, according to the researchers: “Persons at risk for developing metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease should avoid over-consumption of fructose-containing beverages.”

The ADA notes, however, that consumption of fructose-sweetened beverages has gone up by 135 percent in the United States over the past four decades.

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