Posts Tagged ‘ cardiovascular health ’

Caffeine Dangerous for Kids, Teens, Study Finds

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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Childhood Trauma May Raise Heart Disease Risk

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Children who suffer traumatic or severely stressful events as kids may bear the mark of their experiences on their blood vessels.  This effect, which is the subject of a new study published in the journal Hypertension, may put those children at higher risk of developing heart disease later in life.  More from Reuters:

[Jennifer] Pollock, part of the research team, co-directs cardio-renal physiology and medicine in the nephrology division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She and her colleagues looked for elevations in blood pressure and other indicators of how well blood vessels constrict or relax, as well as signs of stiffness in blood vessel walls.

“All of this was highly correlated with people who have more of these stresses during childhood than the people who had no stressors in childhood,” she said.

Pollock said that household dysfunction was the most common adverse event, followed by neglect and abuse.

For their study, which was published in the journal Hypertension, Pollock and her colleagues analyzed data on 221 healthy adolescents and young adults recruited for a study of cardiovascular risk factors that started in 1989.

The research team looked at markers of blood vessel health including blood pressure, the heart’s output of blood, characteristics of the pulse and levels of a substance called endothelin-1, a protein that constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure.

They calculated adverse childhood event (ACE) scores based on a questionnaire answered when the participants were about 21 years old. Those who reported one traumatic event were classified as having mild ACE and those with two or more traumatic events were classified as moderate or severe ACE.

The researchers found that participants who had one traumatic event in childhood had plasma endothelin-1 levels that were an average of 18 percent higher than those who had reported no traumatic events, and those who had two or more traumatic childhood events had levels that were 24 percent higher.

Participants with two or more adverse events also had elevated measures of blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness.

The study didn’t follow up to see if those young people ended up having more heart attacks, strokes or other illnesses. And it cannot prove that the early-life traumas were the cause of the cardiovascular differences.

Nonetheless, Pollock said that in the future she’d like to determine if behavioral therapies may change the course of the cardiovascular risk factors in people who have these early life stressors.

Image: Stressed child, via Shutterstock

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Bullying Linked to Inflammation, Other Health Issues

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Being bullied has been found in a new study to raise a protein level in the bloodstream that’s linked to both physical and mental health problems.  More from The New York Times:

Being bullied raises the blood’s level of C-reactive protein, or CRP, a marker of systemic inflammation and a risk factor for cardiovascular and other diseases.

Scientists followed 1,420 boys and girls ages 9 to 21, interviewing bullies, victims and their parents. They assessed CRP levels with periodic blood tests.

After controlling for initial levels of CRP and for many factors that affect it — sex, age, race and various health and socioeconomic issues — the researchers found that CRP levels in victims increased in direct proportion to the number of bullying incidents they experienced.

Bullies, in contrast, had low increases in CRP, even lower than those in children not involved in bullying at all. The finding suggested that a bully’s increased social status might have biological advantages, the scientists said. Their study was published online on Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The only other kind of social adversity where we see this kind of long-term effect is in children who are physically abused or neglected,” said the lead author, William E. Copeland, an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke.

Image: Bullied boy, via Shutterstock

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Kids’ Medical Devices Often Tested Only on Adults

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Medical devices, including artificial heart valves and other cardiac devices, which were recently approved for use by children are often only tested on adults, according to a new study.  Reuters has more:

Almost all of the devices had only been tested on people age 18 and older, researchers found.

“Children are not simply ‘small adults,’ and a device found to be safe and effective in adults may have a very different safety and effectiveness profile when used in a pediatric population,” said Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School research fellow Thomas J. Hwang, one of the study’s authors.

“Without this data, it is difficult for clinicians and parents to make informed treatment decisions that weigh the risks and benefits of a particular treatment,” he told Reuters Health in an email.

The new study examined what kind of testing has been done on medical devices meant for kids since an act of Congress incentivized their development seven years ago.

The researchers considered the 25 medical devices that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in patients age 21 and under between 2008 and 2011. They looked at data from the main clinical trial that was used to get each device approved.

According to those data, 11 of the 25 devices were not tested on any patients age 21 and under. Only four of the devices had been tested on patients under age 18.

Three of the devices included in the study were specifically approved for kids under 18; the rest were approved for 18- to 21-year-olds, who the FDA devices center considers pediatric. However, researchers said devices only approved for older adolescents are likely used “off-label” in younger children, as there typically aren’t any alternatives.

 

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Number of Live Births, Cardiovascular Health Linked in Women

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Mom with Seven KidsWomen who have given birth four or more times are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease according to a new study. Compared to women who’ve had fewer pregnancies, in the study of more than 1,500 women, moms with more children showed increased evidence of plaque in the heart and thickening of arteries. More from American College of Cardiology:

Women who give birth to four or more children are much more likely to have evidence of plaque in their heart or thickening of their arteries – early signs of cardiovascular disease – compared with those having fewer pregnancies, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

While earlier studies have shown an association between several aspects of pregnancy – physiological changes, complications, number of pregnancies – and future heart disease risk, many questions remain about how pregnancy might affect cardiovascular risk. To better understand the potential link, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center set out to determine whether the number of live births is associated with early signs of cardiovascular disease.

“This is not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children,” said Monika Sanghavi, M.D., chief cardiology fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and lead investigator of the study. This is the first study to look at two markers of subclinical atherosclerosis – a gradual narrowing and hardening of the arteries that can eventually block blood flow and lead to stroke and heart attack.

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that the changes associated with pregnancy may provide insight into a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and deserves further attention.”

The study included 1,644 women from the Dallas Heart Study, a multiethnic population-based cohort, who had both self-reported information about the number of live births and relevant imaging study data available. The average age at the time of analysis was 45 years and slightly more than half of the women (55 percent) were African-American. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores were measured using computed tomography imaging and aortic wall thickness (AWT) by magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether or not women had evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis in the heart and artery walls. CAC was positive if it was greater than 10 and AWT was abnormal if it was greater than the 75th percentile for age and gender. These tests were done as part of standard subject participation in the Dallas Heart Study.

Using women who had two or three live births as a reference, women who had given birth to four or more children had an approximately two-fold increased risk of having abnormal CAC or AWT. This association remained even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, education, race and factors known to heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease. Women who had more babies were more likely to be older, Hispanic, have high blood pressure, higher body mass index and lower socioeconomic status.

Curiously, women who had zero or just one live birth were also more likely to show evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis – revealing a U-shaped relationship.

Authors say it is unclear why this might be the case. But Sanghavi and others speculate they may have captured some women in this group who have an underlying condition that prevents them from carrying a first or second pregnancy to term, which may also predispose them to cardiovascular disease or risk factors. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome can have menstrual irregularities and trouble getting pregnant, but they may also have other health changes such as excess body weight, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Pregnancy itself sparks a cascade of changes that can place more strain on a woman’s cardiovascular system. For example, the volume of blood being pumped through the heart increases by 50 percent. In addition, other physiological and metabolic changes occur (e.g., increased insulin resistance and higher cholesterol levels).

“Pregnancy has been called ‘nature’s stress test,’ and for good reason,” Sanghavi said. “It may also help identify women who are at increased risk [for heart disease], even though right now they may not have any risk factors.”…

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Image: Big happy family – a mother and seven children drawing a heart together at home via Shutterstock.

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