high blood pressure

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Why To Exercise Today: So You Don’t Have A Stroke

runner with inhaler (Matthew Kenwrick/Flickr)

(Matthew Kenwrick/Flickr)

Don’t use the heat as an excuse.  You can always climb stairs in an air-conditioned office building or run over to the gym. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be out of town, jump in the lake for a long, glorious, vigorous swim.

In any case, you should do something. According to new research, breaking a sweat while exercising regularly may reduce your risk of stroke. You’ve heard it before. But it’s worth restating. Why wouldn’t you run around a little a few times a week to possibly avoid the horrible physical ordeal of a stroke? Particularly if you live in a part of the country known for its high stroke rate? But enough nagging.

The new, NIH-funded study of more than 27,000 Americans, 45 years and older who were followed for an average of 5.7 years, was published today in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. Most participants, equally divided between men and women, black and white, lived in regions of the southeastern U.S., known as “the stroke belt.”

From the AHA news release:

  • One-third of participants reported being inactive, exercising less than once a week.
  • Inactive people were 20 percent more likely to experience a stroke or mini-stroke than those who exercised at moderate to vigorous intensity (enough to break a sweat) at least four times a week.
    Continue reading

Study: Higher Education Linked To Lower Blood Pressure

A new report finds women with higher education degrees have lover blood pressure over a lifetime


By Marielle Segarra, WBUR intern

There are many ways to decrease your blood pressure. You can diet, exercise, quit smoking and reduce your stress. But Brown University researchers have found another path to lower blood pressure, particularly for women: getting an undergraduate or master’s degree.

In a study published Sunday in the open access journal BMC Public Health, researchers found that women who had 12 years or less of schooling (up to high school), measured 3 millimeters of mercury higher on blood pressure tests than women who attended school for at least 17 years. Men had a 2 mm difference.

Eric Loucks, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of medical science at Brown, says that on an individual level, the difference in blood pressure is not earth shattering. But if the overall education system shifted to reflect these findings, public health as a whole could improve significantly, he said.

In the paper, Loucks examined 4,000 patient records from the 30-year Framingham Offspring Study. The study participants were the children of members of the Framingham Heart Study, which found that smoking cigarettes causes heart disease, and elevated blood pressure can cause stroke.

Other studies have linked heart disease with lower education levels, but Loucks wondered if the connection was even stronger, and if the biological underpinnings of heart disease (blood pressure, in this case) were also affected by educational level.

Upon closer examination, the female participants had much more dramatic results. Continue reading

Storytelling, Like A Drug, Can Improve Your Health

A new study suggests that stories have real healing power

As journalists, we sometimes wonder whether there’s anybody out there listening to the stories we tell, and even if they are, what real impact we can possibly have. (These questions tend to come up late at night, after a week-long blogging daze, excessive chauffeuring of the kids and falling on ice several times.)

And then, amidst all of this doubt, a study appears showing that storytelling can actually heal the sick. Not just make them feel warmer and cozier, but measureably improve their health.

Dr. Pauline Chen, writing for The New York Times reports:

The Annals of Internal Medicine has published the results of a provocative new trial examining the effects of storytelling on patients with high blood pressure. And it appears that at least for one group of patients, listening to personal narratives helped control high blood pressure as effectively as the addition of more medications.

This is what make pieces like these interviews by Dr. Annie Brewster so important, for instance this one with a mother battling colorectal cancer or this one with a 19-year-old bulimic.

As one reader commented: “You are so courageous and truly beautiful for eloquently recounting your story. By speaking out you will help others overcome their self hatred and addiction.” And another wrote: “I knew some of the data about eating disorders. Hearing a human voice makes all the difference.”

Indeed.