Healthy Us: Heartburn, fried foods, waistlines and deprescribing medications

Pill-free approaches to control heartburn
Harvard researchers analyzed self-reported health information of about 43,000 middle-aged women who were followed for 10 years. They found that women who adhered to five healthy lifestyle factors controlled nearly 40 percent of their gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms each week, regardless of whether they took heartburn medication. These included: maintaining a healthy body weight; not smoking; 30 minutes of exercise daily; limiting coffee, tea, and soda to no more than two cups per day and eating a healthy diet. Researchers noted that each one of these factors may prevent the inappropriate relaxation of the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus.

How much will fried foods harm your heart?
How many servings of crispy French fries does it take to raise your risk of cardiovascular disease? Not many, according to a large analysis published in January by the journal Heart. Scientists pooled the findings of 17 studies (half a million people) on fried foods and problems like heart attacks, clogged coronary arteries, heart failure and stroke. The study showed that those who ate the most fried foods each week were 28 percent more likely to have heart problems, compared with people who ate the least. Each additional 4-oz. serving of fried foods per week bumped up overall risk by 3 percent. The advice in the Harvard Health Letter is to indulge sparingly, and avoid food fried in animal fats; instead, choose foods fried in vegetable oils.

Check your waist circumference
Even if your weight is normal, a widening waistline may put you at higher risk of heart disease, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Fat inside the center of your body is more worrisome than fat found just beneath the skin. Advice in the publication Circulation says check your waist circumference regularly. Ideally your waist size should be less than one-half of your height, even if your body mass index is in the normal range.

Deprescribing medications
Two-thirds of older people take five or more medications. This phenomenon is called polypharmacy, an overload of drugs that may not benefit a patient or interact well with one another, causing harm such as falls, cognitive impairment, hospitalization, and death. Among older people, adverse drug reactions account for one in 11 hospital admissions.
Hence, the Drive to Deprescribe campaign, launched this year by the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, which represents medical directors and administrators of long-term care facilities. In addition, the National Institute on Aging has funded nine grants to test effective deprescribing strategies. In the meantime, the advice is for patients to regularly review their medication regimes with their physicians to prune away risky or unnecessary drugs.

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