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High Resting Heart Rate Increases Death Risk in Healthy People

The Copenhagen Male Study followed the health of 3000 men for 16 years and found that the higher the resting heart rate, the more likely that person is to die (Heart, Apr 17, 2013). Those who had lower resting heart rates and did not exercise still lived longer than those who had higher resting heart rates, even if they exercised. The authors conclude: "This suggests that a high resting heart rate is not a mere marker of poor physical fitness, it is an independent risk factor for premature death."

The authors adjusted results for heart attack risk factors such as smoking, obesity and physical fitness. Compared to a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute, a resting heart rate of
• 71 to 80 beats/min was associated with a 50 percent increased risk of death during the study period,
• 81 to 90 beats/min was associated with a 100 percent increased risk, and
• over 90 beats/min was associated with a 150 percent increased risk.

Every 10 to 20 beats per minute of resting heart rate above 50 increased the risk of death by 16 percent.

A high resting heart rate was also associated with other risk factors: lower physical fitness, higher blood pressure, heavier weight, and higher levels of blood cholesterol. The fitter the man, the lower the resting heart rate.

Other studies on heart rate have shown that:
• Rising resting heart rate with aging increases death rate. People whose resting heart rate increased 12 years later, are far more likely to die from a heart attack (JAMA, 2011 Dec 21; 306(23):2579-87).
• Exercise lowers heart rate and helps to prevent death from a heart attack (Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, Circulation, Dec. 5, 2011;124: 2483-2490). This study showed that maintaining or improving fitness reduces death risk, and stopping exercising is linked to higher death risk.

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Prolonged Sitting Can Shorten Your Life

This month, three studies show that prolonged sitting is associated with increased risk for heart attacks and cancer.
Heart Attacks: The Women's Health Initiative study shows that sitting for 10 hours per day increases a woman's chances of suffering a heart attack by 20 percent when compared to sitting for five hours per day (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, April 19, 2013, published online ahead of print). Those who sat for 10 hours per day and also had no exercise program had a 70 percent increased risk. Being overweight further increased their chances of having a heart attack.
Cancer: The Southern Community Cohort Study showed that, compared to sitting less than 5.5 hours per day, sitting for 12 or more hours per day almost doubled breast cancer risk in white (but not black) women, (Cancer Prevention Research, April 13, 2013).
Survival from Cancer: Being overweight and not exercising increased risk for heart attacks, and disability in breast cancer survivors after treatment (Anticancer Research, April 2013; 33(4):1595-1602).

Why Prolonged Sitting Increases Attack Risk
A high rise in blood sugar after meals markedly increases risk for a heart attack and moving your muscles in any way helps to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high. Every cell in your body is like a balloon full of fluid. A high rise in blood sugar causes sugar to stick to the outer surface of cell membranes. Once stuck there, sugar can never get off and is eventually converted to sorbitol which destroys the cell. This sticking of sugar on cell membranes damages the inner lining of arteries and is part of the process of forming plaques in arteries. You can have damaging high rises in blood sugar even if you are not diabetic.

Contracting Muscles Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Resting muscles remove virtually no sugar from the bloodstream. However, contracting muscles remove sugar from the bloodstream at a rapid rate and don't even need insulin to do this. This effect is maximal during vigorous exercise and continues at a high level for up to an hour after you finish and then tapers off to almost no effect after about 17 hours.

To prevent high rises in blood sugar, you need to keep contracting your muscles. People who sit around all day long can expect to have higher blood sugar levels after they eat. Other factors that raise blood sugar levels include:
• Being overweight. Fat blocks insulin receptors.
• Eating or drinking sugars and refined carbohydrates: all sugared drinks, all foods with added sugars, and foods made from flour such as bakery products and pastas.

• Eating red meat (saturated fat in red meat blocks insulin receptors).

Taking Testosterone Increases Heart Attack Risk

Of 1,882 studies on taking the male hormone, testosterone, researchers identified 27 placebo controlled, dependable-scientific studies on 2,994 mainly older men to show that taking testosterone increased risk for a heart attack by 50 percent. When the authors eliminated all studies paid for by drug companies that stand to profit from selling testosterone, the remaining studies showed that taking testosterone doubled a man's chances of suffering a heart attack (BMC Med, Apr 18, 2013;11(1):108, published online ahead of print).

Why Some Men and Women Take Testosterone
Many younger men take the male hormone, testosterone because it helps them to recover faster from intense sports workouts and therefore become stronger. Many older men take testosterone because aging lowers testosterone levels, which can reduce sexual desire. Replacing testosterone can increase sexual desire in some older men. Many women with low libidos take testosterone because it can markedly increase sexual desire.

Diabetics Should Eat Fruit

Many diabetics believe that they should avoid fruit because it is high in sugar. However, a study published this month shows that when diabetics eat two fruits per day for three months, they:
• lower blood sugar levels,
• decrease the amount of sugar stuck on cells (a measure of cell damage from diabetes),
• raise blood levels of vitamin C and "reduced glutathione", antioxidants that help to protect cells from sugar damage, and
• lower an oxidant, malondialdehyde, that damages cells.
There was no change in waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, or the antioxidants vitamin E or superoxide dismutase (Complement Ther Clin Pract, May 19, 2013;(2):97-100).

Why Diabetics (And Everyone Else) Should Eat Fruit
Diabetics should not take drinks or foods with added sugar, but they should eat whole fruits, even though most fruits are full of sugar. Foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar soon after you eat them can cause sugar to stick to the outer surface of membranes of cells and damage them, leading to all the side effects of diabetes such as heart attacks, strokes, blindness, deafness, loss of feeling, dementia and so forth. Doctors can measure how much sugar is stuck on cells with a test called HBA1C. A balanced diet that includes fruit does not raise HBA1C. Restricting fruit in newly diagnosed diabetics does not lower blood sugar, body weight, or abdominal circumference (Nutrition Journal, March 5, 2013).

• Fruits offer many healthful nutrients, such as fiber, antioxidants, and other chemicals that reduce inflammation and improve artery function (Br J Nutr 2010, 104(Suppl 3):S15-27).
• A high-fruit diet helps to prevent heart attacks (J Nutr 2009, 102:947-948).
• A high fruit diet helps to prevent certain cancers (Gastroenterology, 2011, 141:106-118).
Fruit is less likely to raise blood sugar when it is eaten as part of a meal or along with other foods, which helps to keep the fruit in the stomach for a longer time. Diabetics should not drink fruit juices because liquids pass immediately from the stomach into the intestines to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Recipe of the Week:

Fruity-Nutty Salad

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

April 28th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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