There are seven factors that contribute to a healthy heart, according to the American Heart Association—and avoiding processed food could be the biggest.
People whose diets are made up mainly of processed foods—such as white bread, cake, chicken nuggets, soft drinks and instant soups—are 50 percent more likely to have heart problems.
The risk is greatest in those whose diet is 70 percent processed food, and it falls dramatically once the amount falls to 40 percent or less of total calorie intake.
As a simple measure, every additional 5 percent of processed food consumed had a corresponding damaging effect on the health of the heart and arteries, say researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They reviewed the diets of 13,466 adults that had been tracked between 2011 and 2016.
It's one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy heart, the researchers say. According to the American Heart Association, the other six are healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, avoidance of tobacco products, healthy body weight and adequate physical activity.
Eating too much processed food has an impact on three of the factors—blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, and body weight.
"There are things you can do every day to improve your health just a little bit. Try replacing a hamburger with fish once or twice a week, for instance. Making small changes can add up to better heart health," said researcher Donna Arnett.
(Source: The American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, November 16-18, 2019)
Around one in five children are allergic to sesame. Although they're usually seen as a healthy snack or seasoning, sesame seeds are one of the top 10 allergens for children.
It's often an unsuspected allergy, with other foods being blamed for serious reactions—but when researchers tested 119 allergic children, they discovered that it was the culprit in 17 per cent of cases.
Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reckon that around 1.1 million Americans have a sesame allergy, and only around 30 percent of children ever outgrow it.
The allergy has always been controversial, not helped by worries that the tests were inaccurate—but the researchers reckon the various tests can be reliable.
The researchers gave the children with a food allergy the standard 'oral food challenge' where they eat increasing amounts of sesame to see if there's an allergic reaction. After there was some reaction, the researchers used the allergen-specific antibody test to determine whether sesame was to blame.
It's always been "a challenge" to establish a sesame allergy, said lead researcher Anthony S Fauci, but the antibody test is reliable and accurate.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether to include sesame as an allergen on food labelling.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy heart, all exercise isn't equal. Lifting heavy loads at work seems to be bad for our arteries and heart, while intense sporting activity has a positive effect, at least according to new research.
It all seems to do with the way different types of activity affect our heart rhythm. An abnormal rhythm suggests a problem with the walls of our arteries and this, in turn, can lead to cardiovascular disease.
It's a new way of looking at heart disease, say scientists at Inserm in France, who wanted to assess how different activities affect heart rhythms. Although we've been told that all forms of exercise are good for the heart, the Inserm research team wasn't so sure, and tracked the heart health and activity of 10,000 volunteers for 10 years to find out.
The participants completed regular questionnaires where they logged their activity in sport, in their leisure time, such as gardening, and at work, and the health of their arteries was also checked.
Although general movement at work is good for the heart, lifting heavy loads isn't, they discovered. Intense sporting activity is the best for maintaining a heavy heart.
(Source: Hypertension, 2019; published online, November 4, 2019: https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.13461)