October 2022 – The American Heart Association (AHA) recently revised its checklist for achieving optimal heart health, introducing its new Life’s Essential 8. The list replaces the AHA’s decade-old Life’s Simple 7.
Sleep health is the new addition to the cardiovascular health scoring tool, which now advises that adults get seven to nine hours per night. The organization updated four of the categories:
Diet: More emphasis was given to following heart-healthy diets like the DASH and Mediterranean.
Nicotine exposure: Secondhand smoke and vaping were added as risk factors.
Blood lipids: People now can get a non-fasting blood sample that measures total, HDL, and non-HDL cholesterol. Non-HDL cholesterol can provide similar risk information as LDL cholesterol.
Blood sugar: Measurements now include hemoglobin A1c, a key component to assessing type 2 diabetes risk.
Three categories were unchanged:
Physical activity: The optimal weekly level is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
Body mass index (BMI): A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is ideal for heart health.
Blood pressure: Levels less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) remain optimal. Stage 1 hypertension is 130 to 139 mm Hg for systolic pressure (the first number) or 80 to 89 mm Hg for diastolic pressure (the second number).
You can calculate your heart health score at mlc.heart.org. The guidelines were published online June 29, 2022, by Circulation.
Biomarkers are measurable indicators of what’s happening in your body. They can be found in blood, other body fluids, organs, and tissues, and can be used to track healthy processes, disease progression, or even responses to a medication. Biomarkers are an important part of dementia research.
Staff Writer Jocelyn Kaiser joins Sarah to talk about a recent Science paper describing the results of a large study on a blood test for multiple types of cancer. The trial’s results suggest such a blood test combined with follow-up scans may help detect cancers early, but there is a danger of too many false positives.
And postdoctoral researcher Timo Reinhold of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research joins Sarah to talk about his paper on how the Sun is a lot less variable in its magnetic activity compared with similar stars—what does it mean that our Sun is a little bit boring?
From a Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News release:
“This proof of concept study demonstrates a new paradigm that measurement of blood proteins can accurately deliver health information that spans across numerous medical specialties and that should be actionable for patients and their healthcare providers,” said Peter Ganz, MD, co-leader of this study and the Maurice Eliaser distinguished professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the Center of Excellence in Vascular Research at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.
Specific patterns of protein levels in our blood could be used to provide a comprehensive “liquid health check” that gives a snapshot of health and potentially an indication of the likelihood that we will develop certain diseases or health risk factors in the future, according to research by scientists in the U.S. and U.K. working with SomaLogic. The results of their proof-of-concept study involving more than 16,000 participants, and published in Nature Medicine, showed that while the accuracy of models based on specific protein expression patterns varied, they were all either better predictors than models based on traditional risk factors, or would constitute more convenient and less expensive alternatives to traditional testing.
For the study, nearly 8,300 people at risk for heart disease had fasting and nonfasting lipid profile tests done at least four weeks apart. (Fasting means they had nothing to eat or drink except water for at least eight hours before the test.) The differences in their total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol values were negligible. Triglyceride levels were modestly higher in the nonfasting samples.
Don’t want to skip breakfast before your cholesterol test? You probably don’t need to. A study published online May 28 by JAMA Internal Medicine adds to the evidence that fasting isn’t necessary before this common blood test, often referred to as a lipid profile.
From a Washington University School of Medicine news release:
A blood test to detect the brain changes of early Alzheimer’s disease has moved one step closer to reality. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that they can measure levels of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta in the blood and use such levels to predict whether the protein has accumulated in the brain. The findings represent a key step toward a blood test to diagnose people on track to develop the devastating disease before symptoms arise.
Up to two decades before people develop the characteristic memory loss and confusion of Alzheimer’s disease, damaging clumps of protein start to build up in their brains. Now, a blood test to detect such early brain changes has moved one step closer to clinical use.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that they can measure levels of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta in the blood and use such levels to predict whether the protein has accumulated in the brain. When blood amyloid levels are combined with two other major Alzheimer’s risk factors – age and the presence of the genetic variant APOE4 – people with early Alzheimer’s brain changes can be identified with 94% accuracy, the study found.