New Science Sheds Light on Hot Button Consumer Issues Like Weight Loss, Cholesterol and More

Several topics of consumer interest and well-being were presented as part of ACC.13 in San Francisco. Topics included identifying preeclampsia risk in pregnancy, fluctuation of cholesterol levels with changing seasons, cardiac rehabilitation challenges with women, financial incentives in weight loss, and the correlation between age and weight gain.

In one study, researchers in England found that measuring and tracking the number of capillaries in women at various points throughout pregnancy could help predict which women would be likely to develop preeclampsia. Data show that using this novel, simple measure seemed to identify those women likely to develop preeclampsia 87 percent of the time — an improvement to the currently used screening test. Repeating the test during the course of pregnancy at or after 27 weeks gestation accurately identified the condition 75 percent of the time and was less likely to include women who would not go on to develop the condition, the researchers said.

In another study, cholesterol levels seemed to fluctuate significantly with the turning seasons, leaving some people with borderline high cholesterol at greater cardiovascular risk during the winter months. The study, which evaluated lipid profiles of 227,359 participants who underwent health checkups in primary care facilities in Brazil from 2008 to 2010, showed that LDL cholesterol increased an average of 7mg/dL during the winter compared to summer. Researchers said this moderate, but significant, increase was enough to result in an 8 percent overall increase in the prevalence of high cholesterol during the winter. The variation in the maximum and minimum cholesterol measures were 7±2 mg/dL for LDL-C, 3.4±0.3 mg/dL for HDL and 12±9 mg/dL for triglycerides. Meanwhile, cholesterol levels during the summer months painted a very different picture, with higher levels of HDL and triglycerides, which were 9 percent and 5 percent more prevalent, respectively.

When it comes to cardiac rehabilitation, women with coronary artery disease who completed a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program were two-thirds less likely to die compared to those who were not referred to the program, according to researchers. In a new study, only one in three women was referred to cardiac rehab. Of those, only half actually attended. Compared to men, women had lower rates of referral (31.1 vs. 42.2 percent of men; p<0.0001) and attendance (50.1 vs. 60.4 percent; p<0.0001). They were also older (mean age 67.3 vs. 62.7), and had a higher prevalence of heart failure and diabetes. Of note, women who were referred to a program but elected not to attend also seemed to have better outcomes than those who were never referred.

Two other studies focused on weight and weight loss. The first, found that being overweight, especially from a young age, are much more likely to have increases in left ventricular mass and relative wall thickness — both strong and independent predictors of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. According to researchers, the earlier someone becomes overweight, the greater the increase in the heart’s mass later in life. The second study found that financial incentives for weight loss may help with attaining sustained weight loss. The study showed a significant difference in the completion rates between the incentive versus non-incentive groups (62 percent vs. 26 percent, p<0.001).

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