Cardiovascular disease risk reduction and diet.




Obes Res

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There are several risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some of these are age, male gender, and a family history of CVD. Other, possibly more important risk factors identified include cigarette smoking, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. Factors associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease include physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, obesity, excessive intake of alcohol, elevated homocysteine levels, certain infections and inflammation, estrogens and androgens, and certain psychosocial factors. The synergism of the presence of multiple risk factors must also be considered. For many patients there are no real symptoms, but there are some important signs that may be found during a doctor's appointment. These signs may include high blood pressure, a heart murmur, an abnormal chest x-ray, or an irregular heart pattern found when having an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).

Some patients do exhibit signs and symptoms. Chest pain or a feeling of pressure, like a heavy weight being placed on the chest, is one of the most common. This pain may seem to travel to the neck and jaw, or to the left shoulder and down the left arm. Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or being unable to breathe properly unless in an upright position is also very common. Some people may also experience chest pain while exercising, but not when resting. A feeling of weakness or becoming easily fatigued, palpitations (rapid, pounding heart beat that can be felt), swelling in the ankles or legs, chronic cough, and fainting can also occur.

In a series of studies, researchers decided to investigate the role of diet and cardiovascular disease risk. The study was published in the November issue of Obesity Research. The researchers compared a prepared meal plan, which met the macro and micro-nutrient requirements, with a self-selected diet that was based on the exchange system. All three studies involved adults with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and type 2 diabetes. The first two studies were 10 weeks long and varied in the amount of contact by the research team. The third study was 52 weeks and evaluated long-term effects. The outcome measurements consisted of blood pressure, lipid levels, glycemic control, homocysteine, weight, and quality of life. The first study demonstrated significant progress in both diets, but slightly more improvement was seen in the prepared meal group. The second study produced improvements in many cardiovascular risks. In the long term study, improvements were seen in risk factors and weight loss and these improvements were maintained over the 52 week period. The authors concluded that regular and nutritionally complete diets offer benefits for reducing cardiovascular risks and body weight.1


1. McCarron DA, et al. Reducing cardiovascular disease risk with diet. Obes Res. Nov 2001; 9 Suppl 5:S335-40.