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Study: You Should Take Blood Pressure in Both Arms

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Taking blood pressure readings from both arms and using the higher reading would more accurately capture who has high blood pressure – and is at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and death – than relying on readings from a single arm, new research suggests.

While current recommendations call for using the higher arm reading, there was previously no evidence in the scientific literature to support the practice, which isn’t routinely followed, according to the study. The findings appeared this week in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

“If you are only doing one arm, you can’t know which is the higher-reading arm,” said lead study author Christopher Clark, a clinical senior lecturer in primary care at the University of Exeter Medical School in Devon, England. “And if you don’t catch high blood pressure, you can’t treat it. We can now support the adoption of using the higher reading from both arms.”

Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Blood pressure is considered high if the systolic reading – the top number – is 130 mmHg or more, or the diastolic reading – the bottom number – is 80 mmHg or more. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

In a 2019 scientific statement detailing proper blood pressure measurement, the AHA recommended taking readings from both arms during an initial patient visit and using the arm with the higher reading for measurements at subsequent visits. The statement also called for making sure to use the proper cuff size based on the patient’s arm circumference, among other guidance.

In the new study, researchers analyzed medical data for 53,172 adults from 23 studies in countries around the world. Participants were an average of 60 years old.

They found using the lower arm’s reading, compared with the reading from the higher arm, resulted in 12% of people who had hypertension falling below thresholds for diagnosis or treatment of the condition.

Because hypertension also is used to help calculate a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, missing a diagnosis of high blood pressure can have serious consequences, the authors noted.

Using the higher arm reading, compared with the lower one, researchers reclassified 3.5% of participants – or 645 more people – as at-risk for cardiovascular disease using the risk score developed by the AHA and American College of Cardiology. The researchers reclassified 4.6% of participants – or more than 1,000 extra people – as at-risk for coronary heart disease based on another model, the Framingham risk score, which is used to predict the risk of developing heart disease in people with no symptoms.

For both risk scores, using the higher arm readings better predicted cardiovascular illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure was the primary or contributing cause of more than 670,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2020.

High or poorly controlled blood pressure is a major cause of premature death and cardiovascular events globally, “so we’re dealing with something that’s really very common here,” Clark said.

For people whose blood pressure is being monitored at home with an ambulatory device, the monitor should be attached to the arm with the highest reading, he said. And those who self-monitor should check both arms to see which arm is consistently higher and use that arm for routine measurements.

Taking blood pressure in both arms will take health care professionals more time, but it should be done to provide more accurate readings, said Dr. Shawna Nesbitt, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“And you should really measure more than once to get the most accurate reading,” said Nesbitt, who specializes in blood pressure disorders. Not doing so could mean measurements aren’t consistently accurate. “We may be allowing people to walk around with higher pressures than they should.”

The longer a person experiences uncontrolled high blood pressure, the higher their risk for heart attacks or strokes, Nesbitt said.

“This study is clinically relevant to what we do every single day,” she said. “Every hospital or clinic visit we have – even going to the dentist – somebody is measuring your blood pressure.”


Source: American Heart Association

Chemicals Produced in the Gut after Eating Red Meat May Contribute to Heart Disease Risk

Chemicals produced by microbes in the digestive tract may be partly responsible for the increased heart disease risk associated with higher consumption of red meats such as beef and pork, a new study suggests.

Cardiovascular disease – which includes heart attacks and strokes – is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and around the world. As people age, their cardiovascular disease risk increases.

But risks can be lowered by eating a diet emphasizing fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, lean protein and fish, staying physically active, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking and properly managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

“Most of the focus on red meat intake and health has been around dietary saturated fat and blood cholesterol levels,” study co-author Meng Wang said in a news release. Wang is a postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

“Based on our findings, novel interventions may be helpful to target the interactions between red meat and the gut microbiome to help us find ways to reduce cardiovascular risk,” she said.

The study was published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

Prior research has shown some chemical byproducts of food digestion, called metabolites, are associated with a higher cardiovascular disease risk. Trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO, is a metabolite produced by gut bacteria to help digest red meat. High blood levels of TMAO may be associated with higher risk for cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes.

In the new study, researchers measured metabolites in the blood samples of nearly 4,000 people in the Cardiovascular Health Study, which investigated risk factors for cardiovascular disease in adults age 65 and older.

Study participants, who were an average 73 years old at the study’s onset, were recruited from Sacramento, California; Hagerstown, Maryland; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Pittsburgh. They were followed for an average of 12.5 years and in some cases up to 26 years.

Participants answered questionnaires about their dietary habits, including how often they ate foods such as red meat, processed meat, fish, poultry and eggs.

Eating more meat – especially red meat and processed meat – was associated with a higher risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The risk was 22% higher for about every daily serving.

The increase in TMAO and related metabolites associated with eating red meat was responsible for one-tenth of the higher cardiovascular risk, according to the study.

Researchers also found evidence that blood sugar levels and inflammation may play a more important role in linking red meat consumption to cardiovascular risk than blood cholesterol or blood pressure.

The findings suggest a need for more research into the different chemicals that may play a role in red meat consumption, the authors said.

“Research efforts are needed to better understand the potential health effects,” Wang said.


Source: American Heart Association

Scientists Design Skin Patch That Takes Ultrasound Images

The future of ultrasound imaging could be a sticker affixed to the skin that can transmit images continuously for 48 hours.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a postage stamp-sized device that creates live, high-resolution images. They reported on their progress this week.

“We believe we’ve opened a new era of wearable imaging: With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs,” said co-senior study author Xuanhe Zhao, a professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT.

The sticker — about 3/4-inch across and about 1/10-inch thick — could be a substitute for bulky, specialized ultrasound equipment available only in hospitals and doctor’s office, where technicians apply a gel to the skin and then use a wand or probe to direct sound waves into the body.

The waves reflect back high-resolution images of a major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs and stomach. While some hospitals already have probes affixed to robotic arms that can provide imaging for extended periods, the ultrasound gel dries over time.

For now, the stickers would still have to be connected to instruments, but Zhao and other researchers are working on a way to operate them wirelessly.

That opens up the possibility of patients wearing them at home or buying them at a drug store. Even in their current design, they could eliminate the need for a technician to hold a probe in place for a long time.

In the study, the patches adhered well to the skin, enabling researchers to capture images even if volunteers moved from sitting to standing, jogging and biking.

“We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images on demand,” Zhao explained in an MIT news release.

A different approach tested — stretchable ultrasound probes — yielded images with poor resolution.

“[A] Wearable ultrasound imaging tool would have huge potential in the future of clinical diagnosis. However, the resolution and imaging duration of existing ultrasound patches is relatively low, and they cannot image deep organs,” said co-lead author Chonghe Wang, a graduate student who works in Zhao’s Lab.

The MIT team’s new ultrasound sticker produces higher resolution images by pairing a stretchy adhesive layer with a rigid array of transducers (they convert energy from one form to another). In the middle is a solid hydrogel that transmits sound waves. The adhesive layer is made from two thin layers of elastomer.

“The elastomer prevents dehydration of hydrogel,” co-lead author Xiaoyu Chen explained. “Only when hydrogel is highly hydrated can acoustic waves penetrate effectively and give high-resolution imaging of internal organs.”

Healthy volunteers wore the stickers on various areas, including the neck, chest, abdomen and arms. The stickers produced clear images of underlying structures, including the changing diameter of major blood vessels, for up to 48 hours. They stayed attached while volunteers sat, stood, jogged, biked and lifted weights.

They showed how the heart changes shape as it exerts during exercise and how the stomach swells, then shrinks, as volunteers drank and then eliminated juice. Researchers also could detect signs of temporary micro-damage in muscles as volunteers lifted weights.

“With imaging, we might be able to capture the moment in a workout before overuse, and stop before muscles become sore,” Chen said. “We do not know when that moment might be yet, but now we can provide imaging data that experts can interpret.”

In addition to working on wireless technology for the stickers, the team is developing software algorithms based on artificial intelligence that can better interpret the ultrasound images.

Zhao thinks patients may one day be able to buy stickers that could be used to monitor internal organs, the progression of tumors and development of fetuses in the womb.

“We imagine we could have a box of stickers, each designed to image a different location of the body,” Zhao said. “We believe this represents a breakthrough in wearable devices and medical imaging.”

The findings were published in Science.


Source: HealthDay

Getting More Exercise than Guidelines Suggest May Further Lower Death Risk

Doubling to quadrupling the minimum amount of weekly physical activity recommended for U.S. adults may substantially lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes, new research finds.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found people who followed the minimum guidelines for moderate or vigorous long-term, leisure physical activity lowered their risk of dying from any cause by as much as 21%. But adults who exercised two to four times the minimum might lower their mortality risk by as much as 31%.

“Our study provides evidence to guide individuals to choose the right amount and intensity of physical activity over their lifetime to maintain their overall health,” study author Dong Hoon Lee said in a news release. Lee is a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“Our findings support the current national physical activity guidelines and further suggest that the maximum benefits may be achieved by performing medium to high levels of either moderate or vigorous activity or a combination.”

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both. That advice is based on federal guidelines for physical activity.

For the new research, a team analyzed 30 years of medical records and mortality data for over 100,000 adults enrolled in two large studies: the all-female Nurses’ Health Study and all-male Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The data included self-reported measures of leisure time physical activity intensity and duration. Participants were an average 66 years old.

In the study, moderate physical activity was defined as walking, lower-intensity exercise, weightlifting and calisthenics. Vigorous activity included jogging, running, swimming, bicycling and other aerobic exercises.

Going above and beyond the recommended minimums reaped greater longevity rewards, especially for moderate physical activity. Extra moderate-intensity exercise – 300 to 600 minutes per week – was associated with a 26%-31% lower risk of death from any cause compared with almost no long-term moderate-intensity exercise. By comparison, people who hit just the minimum goals for moderate physical activity had a lower risk of 20%-21%.

For vigorous physical activity, getting 150 to 300 minutes a week was linked to a 21%-23% lower risk of death from any cause compared to getting none. That compared to a 19% lower risk for people who just met the minimum exercise target.

People who reported meeting the recommendation for moderate physical activity had a 22%-25% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, while those who exercised two to four times the recommendation had a 28%-38% lower risk, the analysis found. Those reporting the recommended amount of vigorous physical activity were 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, while those who doubled to quadrupled the recommended target had a 27%-33% lower risk.

Engaging in more than 300 weekly minutes of vigorous or 600 weekly minutes of moderate physical activity did not provide any further reduction in death risk, the study found. But it also did not harm cardiovascular health. Prior research has suggested long-term, high-intensity endurance activities – such as marathons, triathlons and long-distance bicycle races – may increase the risk for cardiovascular problems, including sudden cardiac death.

“This finding may reduce the concerns around the potential harmful effect of engaging in high levels of physical activity observed in several previous studies,” Lee said.

Donna K. Arnett, incoming executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, said in the release that the findings fit with what is already known about the heart health benefits of regular physical activity.

“We have known for a long time that moderate and intense levels of physical exercise can reduce a person’s risk of both atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and mortality,” said Arnett, who helped write guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention from the AHA and American College of Cardiology. She was not involved in the new research.

“We have also seen that getting more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical exercise each week may reduce a person’s risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease even further, so it makes sense that getting those extra minutes of exercise may also decrease mortality,” she said.


Source: American Heart Association

Study of Sleep in Older Adults Suggests Nixing Naps, Striving for 7-9 hours a Night

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Napping, as well as sleeping too much or too little or having poor sleep patterns, appears to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in older adults, new research shows.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adds to a growing body of evidence supporting sleep’s importance to good health. The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration to its checklist of health and lifestyle factors for cardiovascular health, known as Life’s Essential 8. It says adults should average seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

“Good sleep behavior is essential to preserve cardiovascular health in middle-aged and older adults,” said lead author Weili Xu, a senior researcher at the Aging Research Center in the department of neurobiology, care sciences and society at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “We encourage people to keep nighttime sleeping between seven to nine hours and to avoid frequent or excessive napping.”

Prior research has shown poor sleep may put people at higher risk for a range of chronic illnesses and conditions affecting heart and brain health. These include cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35% of U.S. adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep, while 3.6% say they get 10 or more hours.

Previous sleep duration studies show that sleeping too much or too little both may raise the risk for cardiovascular disease. But whether napping is good or bad has been unclear.

In the new study, researchers analyzed sleep patterns for 12,268 adults in the Swedish Twin Registry. Participants were an average of 70 years old at the start of the study, with no history of major cardiovascular events.

A questionnaire was used to collect data on nighttime sleep duration; daytime napping; daytime sleepiness; the degree to which they considered themselves a night person or morning person, based on the time of day they considered themselves most alert; and symptoms of sleep disorders, such as snoring and insomnia. Participants were followed for up to 18 years to track whether they developed any major cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.

People who reported sleeping between seven and nine hours each night were least likely to develop cardiovascular disease, a finding in keeping with prior research. Compared with that group, those who reported less than seven hours were 14% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and those who reported more than 10 hours were 10% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

Compared with people who said they never napped, those who reported napping up to 30 minutes were 11% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The risk increased by 23% if naps lasted longer than 30 minutes. Overall, those who reported poor sleep patterns or other sleep issues – including insomnia, heavy snoring, getting too much or too little sleep, frequent daytime sleepiness and considering themselves a night person – had a 22% higher risk

Study participants who reported less than seven hours of sleep at night and napping more than 30 minutes each day had the highest risk for cardiovascular disease – 47% higher than those reporting the optimal amount of sleep and no naps.

The jury is still out on whether naps affect cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, center director for the Sleep Center of Excellence and an associate professor at Columbia University in New York City. She noted that the new research, which she was not involved in, was restricted to older adults.

Rather than trying to recoup sleep time by napping, people should try to develop healthier sleep habits that allow them to get an optimal amount of sleep at night, St-Onge said. This includes making sure the sleep environment is not too hot or cold or too noisy. Reducing exposure to bright light before going to sleep, not eating too late at night, getting enough exercise during the day and eating a healthful diet also help.

“Even if sleep is lost during the night, excessive napping is not suggested during the day,” Xu said. And, if people have persistent trouble getting enough sleep, they should consult a health care professional to figure out why, she said.


Source: American Heart Association

What Causes Long COVID? Canadian Researchers Think They’ve Found a Key Clue

Teresa Wright wrote . . . . . . . . .

Olympic gold medallist Alex Kopacz may be used to being out of breath when pushing a bobsled, but last year after he was hospitalized for COVID-19, he experienced a very different kind of breathlessness.

He was put on oxygen for two months and experienced a number of other health setbacks in the months following his COVID-19 infection, including blood clots in his lungs and throughout his body.

“It was hard to breathe and pretty much it was just going to be a matter of time to see if my body was going to heal from it,” Kopacz said.

It took him almost four months before he was back on his feet and breathing normally again. But without even an official diagnosis of so-called long COVID, the then-31-year-old didn’t have answers about what was happening to him.

That’s how he became involved in a new Canadian research trial looking at patients suffering from post-COVID syndrome — a study that has identified a potential key culprit causing some people to continue experiencing breathing issues months after contracting COVID-19.

A team of researchers based at five centres across Ontario have zeroed in on a microscopic abnormality in the way oxygen moves from the lungs and into the blood vessels of long COVID patients in their trial.

This abnormality could explain why these patients feel breathless and are unable to perform strenuous activities, says lead researcher Grace Parraga, Tier 1 Canada research chair in lung imaging at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“Those feelings of breathlessness are completely consistent with our finding that we’re not moving the oxygen as efficiently as we should,” she said.

Many long COVID sufferers have been stumping doctors as to what’s wrong with them, because routine clinical tests and chest exams come back with normal readings.

“It’s very exciting for us to actually find something that’s wrong — that it’s in the patient’s lungs and not in their head,” Parraga said.

The study, which was funded by the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, looked at 34 patients — 12 who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 22 others who had not been hospitalized.

The patients were evaluated about nine months after their infection started and were still experiencing a number of debilitating symptoms.

Using an MRI technique developed by Western University that is five times as sensitive and has five times the spatial resolution of a CT scan, the researchers were able to see how tiny branches of air tubes in the lungs were moving oxygen into the red blood cells of their patients.

Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Any disruption in the flow of this oxygen to red blood cells will trigger the brain to say, ‘breathe more’ — resulting in a feeling of breathlessness, Parraga explained.

All 34 of the patients who participated in the study were experiencing problems in the level of oxygen being absorbed by their red blood cells.

And they all had the same result, regardless of the severity of their symptoms or whether they had been hospitalized for COVID-19 — another key find, Parraga said.

“All these patients had this abnormality. They all had really serious symptoms, so their exercise scores were low, they were breathless when they exercised and when we measured the oxygen levels in their blood in the tips of their fingers after exercise, that was also low.”

And these external measurements corresponded to the abnormality the researchers found in their MRI measurement of the lungs, she said.

“The takeaway is that now we know what’s wrong.”

The reason why this anomaly is happening is not yet known. But identifying this as a possible trigger for these patients’ symptoms is an important step in trying to learn more, Parraga said.

“I think now that we know what’s going on, we can move on to why. And I think the important part is why some people and why not others? How can we predict who is going there and who isn’t? So, that’s going to take a little bit more time for us to get there.”

Dr. Michael Nicholson, a respirologist with the post-acute COVID-19 program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Ont., who co-authored the study, says the findings give patients an identifiable reason why they are still experiencing symptoms months after getting COVID-19.

Up until now, normal tests performed on these patients have not picked up what’s happening to them, so they’re often left to feel as if they’re imagining their illness, he said.

“There’s nothing that’s absolutely obvious. And so these individuals are now given an answer that actually there is something at this very particular site down the pathway that is abnormal,” Nicholson said.

“For these other individuals, that now we can say, ‘I understand your symptoms, I think we have a better appreciation of what’s happening. We don’t necessarily know it completely.’… That’s a positive for them.”

The research team acknowledges the sample size of this study, which has been peer-reviewed, is small and therefore that results should be considered “exploratory and hypothesis-generating.”

But that hasn’t tempered their excitement at the prospect of making headway in understanding long COVID and taking one step closer to understanding how to treat it.

“I think it’s a nice, scientific Pandora’s box, so to speak, of opening up and saying, ‘OK, now we have to focus on why this is happening,’” Nicholson said.


Source : Global News


Read also at Western News

Innovative lung-imaging technique shows cause of long-COVID symptoms . . . . .

Hypertension Elevates Risk for More Severe COVID-19 Illness

Hypertension more than doubles the risk of hospitalization related to Omicron infection, even in people who are fully vaccinated and boosted, according to a new study led by investigators in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. The findings are published in the journal Hypertension.

The risk is especially widespread given that nearly 1 out of every 2 adults in the U.S. have hypertension, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The take-home message is that avoiding infection is extremely important—even when the circulating viral variant is presumed to cause mild disease in most people,” said Joseph E. Ebinger, MD, a clinical cardiologist and director of clinical analytics at the Smidt Heart Institute and first author of the study.

By reviewing electronic medical records, Cedars-Sinai investigators identified 912 people who were fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine, received a booster shot and were subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 during the Omicron surge that occurred in Southern California from Dec. 1, 2021 through April 20, 2022. Of these individuals, 145 required hospitalization.

“We were surprised to learn that many people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 had hypertension and no other risk factors,” said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and a senior author of the study. “This is concerning when you consider that almost half of American adults have high blood pressure.”

The team also found that chronic kidney disease, having had a heart attack, or heart failure, greatly increases the risk of hospitalization after infection.

“These findings were expected considering that these are chronic medical conditions that are well established to be associated with worse outcomes,” said Ebinger, an assistant professor in the Department of Cardiology in the Smidt Heart Institute.

Because hypertension is common in people with chronic kidney disease, heart attack and heart failure, the investigators conducted an analysis that excluded patients diagnosed at some point with these conditions. The risk for hospitalization was still substantial for people diagnosed with hypertension alone.

The risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 also increased with age and duration between a study participant’s last vaccination and infection. Hypertension, however, was associated with the greatest magnitude of risk: 2.6-fold.

These findings extend reports from early in the pandemic that also found associations between hypertension and severe COVID-19. Notably, the researchers found that conditions such as obesity and diabetes, risk factors identified early in the pandemic, were not as strongly associated with hospitalization during the Omicron surge. The hypertension risk, however, persisted. More research is needed to understand the biological processes that may cause more severe COVID-19 illness in people with hypertension, and how to reduce this risk.

“Uncovering why hypertension is linked to COVID-19 could help us better understand how SARS-CoV-2 affects the body and provide clearer targets for prevention and treatment,” said Cheng, the Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Science at Cedars-Sinai.

Meanwhile, people with hypertension who develop COVID-19 should be aware of their heightened risk for hospitalization and talk to their physician about antiviral therapy, according to Ebinger.


Source: Cedars-Sinai

Loss of Male Sex Chromosome With Age Leads to Earlier Death for Men

Approximately 40% of men will lose their male sex chromosome in certain cells by age 70, and that can lead to deadly heart failure, a new study finds.

The loss of the male sex chromosome as many men age causes the heart muscle to scar and can lead to deadly heart failure, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine shows. The finding may help explain why men die, on average, several years younger than women.

UVA researcher Kenneth Walsh, PhD, says the new discovery suggests that men who suffer Y chromosome loss – estimated to include 40% of 70-year-olds – may particularly benefit from an existing drug that targets dangerous tissue scarring. The drug, he suspects, may help counteract the harmful effects of the chromosome loss – effects that may manifest not just in the heart but in other parts of the body as well.

On average, women live five years longer than men in the United States. The new finding, Walsh estimates, may explain nearly four of the five-year difference.

“Particularly past age 60, men die more rapidly than women. It’s as if they biologically age more quickly,” said Walsh, the director of UVA’s Hematovascular Biology Center. “There are more than 160 million males in the United States alone. The years of life lost due to the survival disadvantage of maleness is staggering. This new research provides clues as to why men have shorter lifespans than women.”

Y CHROMOSOME LOSS AND HEART HEALTH

While women have two X chromosomes, men have an X and a Y. But many men begin to lose their Y chromosome in a fraction of their cells as they age. This appears to be particularly true for smokers. The loss occurs predominantly in cells that undergo rapid turnover, such as blood cells. (Loss of the Y chromosome does not occur in male reproductive cells, so it is not inherited by the children of men who exhibit Y chromosome loss.) Scientists previously observed that men who suffer Y chromosome loss are more likely to die at a younger age and suffer age-associated maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease. Walsh’s new research, however, is believed to be the first hard evidence that the chromosome loss directly causes harmful effects on men’s health.

Walsh, of UVA’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center,and his team used cutting-edge CRISPR gene-editing technology to develop a special mouse model to better understand the effects of Y chromosome loss in the blood. They found that the loss accelerated age-related diseases, made the mice more prone to heart scarring and led to earlier death. This wasn’t the result of just inflammation, the scientists determined. Instead, the mice suffered a complex series of responses in the immune system, leading to a process called fibrosis throughout the body. This tug-of-war within the immune system, the researchers believe, may accelerate disease development.

The scientists also looked at the effects of Y chromosome loss in human men. They conducted three analyses of data compiled from the UK Biobank, a massive biomedical database, and found that Y chromosome loss was associated with cardiovascular disease and heart failure. As chromosome loss increased, the scientists found, so did the risk of death.

POTENTIAL TREATMENT

The findings suggest that targeting the effects of Y chromosome loss could help men live longer, healthier lives. Walsh notes that one potential treatment option might be a drug, pirfenidone, that has already been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a form of lung scarring. The drug is also being tested for the treatment of heart failure and chronic kidney disease, two conditions for which tissue scarring is a hallmark. Based on his research, Walsh believes that men with Y chromosome loss could respond particularly well to this drug, and other classes of antifibrotic drugs that are being developed, though more research will be needed to determine that.

At the moment, doctors have no easy way to determine which men suffer Y chromosome loss. Walsh’s collaborator Lars A. Forsberg, of Uppsala University in Sweden, has developed an inexpensive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, like those used for COVID-19 testing, that can detect Y chromosome loss, but the test is largely confined to his and Walsh’s labs. Walsh, however, can foresee that changing: “If interest in this continues and it’s shown to have utility in terms of being prognostic for men’s disease and can lead to personalized therapy, maybe this becomes a routine diagnostic test,” he said.

“The DNA of all our cells inevitably accumulate mutations as we age. This includes the loss of the entire Y chromosome within a subset of cells within men. Understanding that the body is a mosaic of acquired mutations provides clues about age-related diseases and the aging process itself,” said Walsh, a member of UVA’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. “Studies that examine Y chromosome loss and other acquired mutations have great promise for the development of personalized medicines that are tailored to these specific mutations.”

The researchers have published their findings in the journal Science.


Source: University of Virginia

Moderate Drinking Linked to Brain Changes and Cognitive Decline

Consumption of seven or more units of alcohol per week is associated with higher iron levels in the brain, according to a study of almost 21,000 people publishing in the open access journal PLOS Medicine. Iron accumulation in the brain has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and is a potential mechanism for alcohol-related cognitive decline.

There is growing evidence that even moderate alcohol consumption can adversely impact brain health. Anya Topiwala of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and colleagues explored relationships between alcohol consumption and brain iron levels. Their 20,965 participants from the UK Biobank reported their own alcohol consumption, and their brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Almost 7,000 also had their livers imaged using MRI to assess levels of systemic iron. All individuals completed a series of simple tests to assess cognitive and motor function.

Participants’ mean age was 55 years old and 48.6% were female. Although 2.7% classed themselves as non-drinkers, average intake was around 18 units per week, which translates to about 7½ cans of beer or 6 large glasses of wine. The team found that alcohol consumption above seven units per week was associated with markers of higher iron in the basal ganglia, a group of brain regions associated with control of motor movements, procedural learning, eye movement, cognition, emotion and more. Iron accumulation in some brain regions was associated with worse cognitive function.

This is the largest study to date of moderate alcohol consumption and iron accumulation. Although drinking was self-reported and could be underestimated, this was considered the only feasible method to establish such a large cohort’s intake. A limitation of the work is that MRI-derived measures are indirect representations of brain iron, and could conflate other brain changes observed with alcohol consumption with changes in iron levels.

Given the prevalence of moderate drinking, even small associations can have substantial impact across whole populations, and there could be benefits in interventions to reduce consumption in the general population.

Topiwala adds, “In the largest study to date, we found drinking greater than 7 units of alcohol weekly associated with iron accumulation in the brain. Higher brain iron in turn linked to poorer cognitive performance. Iron accumulation could underlie alcohol-related cognitive decline.”


Source: Science Daily

How Society Thinks About Risk

From pandemics to nuclear energy – the world is full of risks. Psychologists at the University of Basel have developed a new method of determining how risk is perceived within a society.

Many of our everyday activities involve a certain degree of risk – whether to our work, finances or health. But how is risk perceived within a society and how do individuals think about risk?

This was what Dr. Dirk Wulff and Professor Rui Mata, researchers in the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Basel, set out to discover. “There is a lot of academic interest in the phenomenon of risk,” explains Dirk Wulff. “But disciplines such as psychology, sociology and economics define it in different ways.”

According to Wulff, little attention has been paid until now to the fact that the meaning of risk can differ from individual to individual depending on goals and life experience. He feels it is important to understand how different people think about risk in order, for example, to gauge attitudes to new technologies or societal challenges.

Risk links polar ends of the sentiment spectrum

To investigate this, the researchers have developed a new method based on word associations and an algorithmic process that maps the representation of risk for different groups and individuals. The researchers adopted a new approach, employing a snowball word association method. Participants were asked to name five things they associated with the term risk and then, in turn, five things they associated with these associations. Using this method, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1205 people, with equal representation of men and women and different age ranges.

An algorithm was used to generate a semantic network of risk from the 36,100 associations. It identified the following components: threat, fortune, investment, activity and analysis. The semantic cluster “threat” (danger, accident, loss, etc.) was the component most prominently associated with risk, closely followed by “fortune” (profit, game, adventure). “Up until now, studies have mostly focused on the negative components of risk and ignored the fact that it can also have positive associations,” Wulff comments.

The method is designed to map both individual and group-specific differences in risk perception. The psychologists investigated the differences between men and women and between different age groups. Overall, women and men and people of different ages appeared to share similar thoughts about risk. Nevertheless, there were some differences: a higher proportion of older people than younger people and a higher proportion of women than men associated risk more closely with threat and less with fortune.

Small differences between languages

The researchers also posed the question: Do people from different language regions think about risk in a similar way? To investigate this, they compared the semantic network of risk that emerged from the German survey group with those that resulted in two other languages – Dutch and English. There were some small differences in the frequency of associations. For example, in Dutch the term risk tended to be more closely associated with threat and in English more with fortune and finance. Overall, however, the results indicate that there are some universal correlations in risk representation that transcend language boundaries.

“Our study lays new foundations for examining the question of how people think about risk,” says Wulff. “It could play an important role in helping to provide a better understanding of how different social groups interpret risk, enabling risk communication strategies to be improved to combat social polarization.”


Source: University of Basel