Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
Caffeine, whether consumed in sweet coffee drinks, energy drinks, or sodas, can have serious negative health effects on children and young teens, including high blood pressure and risk of heart disease. More from Today.com:
Even low doses of caffeine — equivalent to what you’d find in a half to a full can of soda or a cup of coffee — had an effect on kids’ blood pressure and heart rates.
And, interestingly, researchers found that the stimulant had more potent heart and blood pressure effects in boys than girls after puberty. The results were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
It’s those kinds of cardiovascular effects that most worry experts, with some going so far as to say that they think caffeinated drinks should be eschewed until children hit their late teens.
“There are lots of things we can’t do because we’re not old enough or mature enough,” said Dr. Kevin Shannon, a professor of pediatric cardiology and director of pediatric arrhythmia at the Mattel Children’s Hospital of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Caffeine should probably be added to that list.”
The new study examined the effects of low doses of caffeine in 52 children aged 8-9 and 49 children aged 15-17. In the younger kids, gender made no difference. But in the older group, the stimulant’s effects were felt more strongly by the boys.
Caffeine slowed heart rates and increased blood pressure in all the children. Though the slowed heart rate might sound counterintuitive, it’s not a new finding, said the study’s lead author Jennifer Temple, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
At low doses the heart slows down to compensate for rising blood pressure, Temple explained. At higher doses, the heart speeds up.
“This study shows that what we would consider to be a low dose of caffeine — what some might not think twice about giving to an 8-year-old — is having an effect on the cardiovascular system,” Temple said. “And right now we don’t have enough data in kids to know what the long term effects of repeated exposure to caffeine would be.”
Image: Frozen coffee drink, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
For women who are at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition in which pregnant women’s blood pressure spikes and their babies need to be delivered immediately, a low dose of aspirin during pregnancy might be a wise preventative measure, according to a new recommendation by a federal government task force. More from The New York Times:
The United States Preventive Services Task Force’s draft recommendation follows a growing scientific consensus that low doses may be beneficial to some high-risk women and their offspring. Low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia by 24 percent in clinical trials, according to a systematic review underpinning the new recommendation, which was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Low-dose aspirin also reduced the risk of premature birth by 14 percent and of intrauterine growth restriction — a condition in which the fetus doesn’t grow as fast as expected — by 20 percent.
“For every four women who would have gotten pre-eclampsia, one case is prevented,” said Dr. Ira M. Bernstein, the chair of department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Vermont. “The ability to prevent a quarter of disease is substantial.”
Pre-eclampsia is a condition usually occurring in the second half of pregnancy and characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, liver disease and blood-clotting abnormalities.
It is a leading complication for expectant mothers and their infants, affecting roughly 4 percent of pregnancies nationwide. The only “cure” is delivery. When a pregnant women develops pre-eclampsia in the second trimester, her infant often must be delivered prematurely to avoid severe maternal complications, like stroke.
The task force recommended that women at high risk for pre-eclampsia take 81 milligrams of low-dose aspirin daily after 12 weeks of gestation. High-risk women include those who have had pre-eclampsia in a prior pregnancy, especially those who have had to deliver preterm; women carrying multiple fetuses; and women who had diabetes or high blood pressure at conception.
But the task force also advised that expectant women with multiple moderate-risk factors “may also benefit from low-dose aspirin.” These risks include obesity, a family history of pre-eclampsia, women older than 35, and African-American women.
Image: Pregnant woman taking pill, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 20th, 2013
A new study of African American men has linked hypertension, or high blood pressure, with whether the men grew up in single parent or dual parent households. More from The New York Times:
Researchers studied 515 black men older than 20 between 2001 and 2008. More than half of the men had high blood pressure and about one-third never lived with both parents.
After adjusting for age, family history of hypertension and other variables, they found that compared with men who never lived with both parents, men who had lived with both parents at any time in their lives had an average systolic blood pressure that was 4.9 millimeters of mercury lower. Among those who had lived with both parents for between one and 12 years, the average was 6.5 millimeters of mercury lower.
The authors acknowledge that living with both parents may be connected to higher socioeconomic status, which could influence blood pressure, and that the study can draw no conclusions about causality.
Still, the lead author, Debbie S. Barrington, a senior research fellow at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, said it is a provocative finding. “The magnitude of the effect is very large,” she said, “even stronger than the effect of certain blood pressure medications.”
Image: Mother and child, via Shutterstock
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