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This Federal Agency Is Concerned About the Rising Rate of Antibiotic-Resistant STDs


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) had been declining until the 1970s. However, a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1 reveals that trend has reversed. Some of the diseases that fall under the category of STDs are treatable with antibiotics, while others have no known treatment or cure.

Interestingly, whether a disease is categorized as an STD depends on a number of factors, including whether infections transmitted through sexual contact are also counted in the category. For instance, you may not think of the Epstein-Barr virus,2 responsible for mononucleosis, as an STD, but many times it is classified as one.

STDs are the most common infectious diseases.3 There are more than 20 different types that affect over 13 million men and women in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, these diseases may spread rapidly as they often don’t produce many symptoms, and the symptoms that are apparent often mimic other health conditions.

The causes are often bacteria, viruses or parasites that may be passed between sexual partners, from mother to baby during birth or breast-feeding, or from sharing infected needles. Through reports gathered from health departments across the U.S., the CDC has determined the rates of certain STDs has risen dramatically over the past several years and are now at a record high.4

What STDs Are Being Tracked?

The report from the CDC names three different STD infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. These are the STDs that are reportable by law5 as they are considered important to the public’s health. By law, they need to be reported by either a doctor or laboratory when they are diagnosed for the purposes of collecting statistics and helping to identify trends and outbreaks.

Overall, there are at least 50 diseases that are reportable to the CDC, including anthrax, diphtheria, hepatitis, measles and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.6

This means that not all sexually transmitted infections or diseases need to be reported to the CDC or other governmental agency for tracking. However, every state has its own list of diseases that must be reported to a state agency, which must also include the federally mandated reportable diseases.7 According to some estimates, there are nearly 19 million new cases of herpes and genital warts diagnosed each year, but those numbers aren’t recorded or tracked by the CDC.8

One reason governmental agencies don’t track all STDs is that tracking is expensive and time-consuming, especially for a disease or infection that has no cure and no certain way to demonstrate the date of infection or how it may spread. Herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes genital warts are two such infections. Any data the CDC has is as a result of states that require reporting, and therefore they are not a total reflection of the entire U.S.

The CDC estimates that more than 16 percent of the U.S. population between 14 and 49 have been infected with genital herpes, some of whom don’t have symptoms and may not know they are infected.9 This may mean this estimate is very low, based on reporting requirements.

STD Prevalence on the Rise

Results of the CDC report indicate three of the more commonly transmitted diseases have reached record levels in the U.S. There were 1.6 million cases of chlamydia in 2016, 470,000 of gonorrhea and 28,000 new cases of syphilis.

Although all three have the potential of being cured with antibiotics, mutations of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria that causes gonorrheal infections have led to a high incidence of antibiotic resistance. Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, stated:10

“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat. STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

The CDC information on syphilis and gonorrhea dates back to 1941,11 giving the agency a solid foundation of historical data on those diseases. Symptoms that are easily identifiable may be confirmed with a culture or physical examination. However, the symptoms of herpes are subtler and you may not even present with symptoms that prompt a visit to your doctor.

Once a treatable and reportable STD has been recorded, public health officials are tasked with finding ex-partners and recommending they are tested and treated for the infection.12

Pregnancy Rates in Many Age Groups Drop

Interestingly, although the spread of STDs has risen, the number of teen pregnancies has dropped. Since 1991 the birthrate among teenage girls has dropped over 65 percent.13 Fertility rates in women of childbearing years also declined to 62 births for every 1,000 women.14 Dr. Elise Berlan, an adolescent medicine specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, believes it is likely related to increased access and use of contraceptives, naming condoms as the top method for teen birth control. However, according to the CDC:15

“Male condoms may not cover all infected areas or areas that could become infected. Thus, they are likely to provide greater protection against STDs that are transmitted only by genital fluids (STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV infection) than against infections that are transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact, which may or may not infect areas covered by a condom (STDs such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus [HPV] infection, syphilis, and chancroid).”

Following this logic:

  • Condoms are the birth control of choice in teenagers
  • The rate of teen pregnancy is dropping
  • Condoms protect primarily against STDs transmitted by genital fluid such as gonorrhea and chlamydia
  • Rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia are rising

It appears there may be other reasons for a reduction in teen pregnancy as rates of STDs normally prevented by condoms are rising, indicating genital fluids are being shared. This could potentially signal a decline in teen fertility. The Pew Research Center attributes the declining birth rate in teens to several factors, including a poor economy, better information about pregnancy prevention and an increased use of birth control.16

Additionally, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that, while more teens are using contraception, more teens are also delaying sexual debut, and fewer teens having sex.17 However, it follows that fewer sexual encounters and better use of condoms to avoid pregnancy would likely not lead to rising rates of specific STDs commonly prevented by condoms.

Untreated STDs May Have Devastating Results

Since many STDs have few symptoms and the outcome of untreated infections may be lethal, investigators are mandated to contact the infected individual’s sex partners.18

Once the investigators have the contact information for any partners from the previous 60 days, they set about asking potentially embarrassing questions such as: How many partners have you had sex with in the past year, and were they men, women or both? Was sex vaginal, anal or oral? If the investigators have little information about the partners, they may resort to using social media contacts to find the individuals.

These efforts are necessary to prevent further spread of infections and to treat those who have contracted the disease. Men and women suffer from chlamydia in nearly equal numbers.19 Symptoms in men and women are slightly different, although the infection is caused by the same bacteria.

The number of cases of syphilis is also rising, but now affecting different groups of people. The CDC report found diagnoses of syphilis in men increased by 18 percent in a single year, with most cases occurring in men having sex with men.20

Women also experienced a 36 percent increase in the diagnosis of syphilis and there was a 28 percent increase in the number of newborns diagnosed. Infants infected before birth may trigger stillbirth, miscarriage or premature birth.21 Babies born with congenital syphilis may have deformed bones, anemia or neurological disorders, such as blindness or deafness. Nearly half of babies infected while in the womb will die before or shortly after birth.22

Syphilis is also deadly to adults. Left untreated it may affect the brain, heart and other organs, ultimately leading to death.23 The infection is often difficult to identify as the symptoms mimic other health conditions. The symptoms may include rashes, swollen lymph glands, fever, sores and muscle aches. These symptoms will subside, and the disease will progress silently to the end stage. David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, commented to CNN:24

 “For the first time in many years, we are now seeing more cases of babies born with congenital syphilis than babies born with HIV. It means that women are not getting access to prenatal care, testing and treatment for syphilis. It’s an unconscionable situation in America today.”

Gonorrhea rates also increased, with the largest increases occurring among gay or bisexual men.25 Fueling the spread are special phone apps for men to hook up with men, which may be driving the increasing diagnosis of oral and rectal infection.26 In women, the infection affects the mucus lining of the reproductive tract, including the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes.27

Men and women may be infected in the urethra, mouth, throat, eyes and rectum. Untreated infections may lead to permanent health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and a life-threatening blood infection.

Greater Challenges With Gonorrheal Infections

Although theoretically gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that should respond quickly to antibiotics, the reality is that the bacteria has developed resistance to most of the antibiotics used to treat the infection. This may soon pose a major public health threat in the U.S. and is already called an emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) in several countries, including Norway, Sweden, Japan, France and the United Kingdom.28

WHO continues to monitor the development of antibiotic resistance in the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. In a news release, Dr. Teodora Wi, Medical Officer of Human Reproduction at WHO stated:29

“The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them. These cases [reported from countries using surveillance to track gonorrhea] may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhea is actually more common.”

With rising antibiotic resistance, the CDC has recommended dual antibiotic therapy to “address the potential emergence of gonococcal cephalosporin resistance” as they believe it is the “only remaining recommended treatment.”30

Antibiotic Treatment Trends Toward Failure

Although I believe antibiotic use needs to be minimized, when used properly and responsibly, antibiotics can and do save lives that are threatened by bacterial infections. When antibiotics were first introduced for patient use, science didn’t account for the ability bacteria have to mutate and essentially outsmart antibiotics. This is clearly what has been happening in the past decades as we now have nearly 18 different superbugs identified in the CDC’s report “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013.”31

According to this report, 2 million American adults and children are infected each year with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resulting in the death of 23,000 as a direct action of the infection and more from associated complications. Unless there are changes to the way antibiotics are used and prescribed, these numbers are only going to grow.

This is essentially the evolution of bacteria as they struggle for survival. These microorganisms have taught each other how to adapt to the best pharmaceutical drugs, and they are winning the battle.

With little financial incentive to explore new antibiotic options, pharmaceutical companies are focusing instead on medications meant to be taken for a lifetime, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs. Talk of an end to the era of antibiotics circulates through scientific communities and popular media. Editor and columnist Sarah Boseley commented in The Guardian on the speed at which bacteria have accommodated to antibiotics, saying:32

“The era of antibiotics is coming to a close. In just a couple of generations, what once appeared to be miracle medicines have been beaten into ineffectiveness by the bacteria they were designed to knock out.”

Stop the Spread of STDs and Antibiotic-Resistant Disease

There are several steps you can personally take to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease.

Prevention and immune support

Preventing infections and focusing on naturally supporting your immune system will help you to stay well. Make positive lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced diet, getting at least eight hours of quality sleep, staying hydrated and addressing your stress level.

Become familiar with natural compounds that have antimicrobial activity, such as garlic, oregano extract, colloidal silver, fermented foods, sunlight and vitamin D. Research has shown that bacteria do not tend to develop resistance to these types of treatments, offering hope for the future.

Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. If your physician recommends an antibiotic, ask if it is necessary. Sometimes medications are recommended when other options are as effective, such as treating a non-debilitating cold or upper respiratory infection with quality sleep, vitamin C, zinc lozenges, staying hydrated and resting.

Purchase grass fed (antibiotic-free) meat and dairy products as these are an even greater contributor to antibiotic-resistant disease than medical overuse. Avoid using antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers at home as use contributes to antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption.

Get involved on the national level

If you live in the U.S., you have the option of writing to your representative or senator directly from your computer. Let them know how you feel about the overuse of antibiotics in food production, and urge them to take a stand for the future of human health by changing policy.

Practice safe sex

The surest way to avoid an STD is to practice abstinence from all sex, including oral, anal and vaginal, according to the CDC.33 Using condoms correctly may help prevent the spread of STDs spread by genital fluids. If you have sex, be in a mutually monogamous relationship where you agree to have sex with only one person who agrees to have sex only with you. Before having sex, talk with your partner and both get tested for STDs. These conversations are not comfortable, but your health is worth it!

Natural Options Support Your Health and May Help Prevent Outbreaks

If you do contract an STD, discuss your treatment options with your physician. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away and may have unintended but dangerous consequences in your life and the lives of those with whom you are in contact. There are several supportive remedies you may use at home to prevent outbreaks of STDs that cannot be cured, such as herpes, and support the antibiotic therapy your physician prescribes for those infections that have recommended treatments.34

Probiotics or fermented foods and prebiotics

Antibiotics to treat STDs upset the bacterial balance of your gut microbiome. The addition of friendly bacteria from fermented foods and the fiber that feeds them (prebiotics) may help to restore that balance.

Propolis

This resin produced by bees may help genital herpes to heal faster when a 3 percent ointment is applied topically. In one study comparing the results of Zovirax (an antiviral drug used to lessen the symptoms of herpes infections) against propolis ointment, participants using the propolis saw their lesions heal faster than those participants using Zovirax.

Zinc

A zinc cream topically applied to genital herpes may reduce the severity and duration of the outbreak.

Lysine

An imbalance between lysine and arginine in your body may trigger an outbreak of herpes virus. Foods rich in arginine that may trigger an outbreak include chocolate,35 turkey, walnuts, peanuts and dairy.36 Foods rich in lysine include figs, pears, apricots, broccoli and cauliflower.

In one study,37 participants who took a lysine supplement suffered 2.4 fewer lesions than those who didn’t use the supplement during the duration of the study. When a lesion did occur, the symptoms were less severe and the lesions healed faster.

Green tea

When the extract is applied to the skin, it may speed the healing of genital warts caused by HPV. A proprietary extract ointment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently on the market.

Aloe vera

A 5 percent cream used topically may improve the symptoms of genital herpes in men.


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Vitamin E Helps Decrease Your Cancer Risk


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with potent antioxidant activity that helps combat damaging free radicals. It also plays a role in the making of red blood cells, helps your body use vitamin K (which is important for heart health1) and is involved in your immune function and cell signaling. As with many other nutrients, many do not get enough of this basic micronutrient from their diet.

In the U.S. alone, 75 to 90 percent of the population fails to reach the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin E.2,3 The RDA for people over the age of 14 is 15 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E per day, but most Americans get only half that amount.4 Insufficient vitamin E can increase your risk for a wide variety of diseases, including immune dysfunction, cognitive deterioration, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers,5 especially prostate, colon and lung cancers.6,7

Obesity heightens your risk of vitamin E deficiency further, in part because the increased oxidative stress in fat cells increases your body’s need for vitamin E to begin with. Obesity also impairs your body’s utilization of vitamin E.8,9 Food is your best source of vitamin E, since food contain a combination of the eight types of vitamin E. If you’re using a supplement, there are key considerations that need to be heeded, which I’ll review below.

Low Vitamin E Level Again Linked to Higher Risk of Colorectal Cancer

A number of studies have looked at vitamin E’s influence on diseases like cancer. It’s important to realize that while some studies have linked vitamin E supplementation to an increased risk for cancer,10 most of those studies were looking at synthetic vitamin E, which I do not recommend using. Natural vitamin E, on the other hand, has a protective effect.
Studies assessing the anti-cancer potential of natural vitamin E found that:

  • 300 IUs11 of natural vitamin E per day may reduce lung cancer risk by 61 percent12
  • Gamma-tocotrienol, a cofactor found in natural vitamin E preparations, may decrease prostate tumor formation by 75 percent13
  • Gamma-tocotrienol also fights existing prostate cancer tumors and may inhibit growth in human breast cancer cells14

Most recently, a meta-analysis15 of 11 studies concluded that patients with lower concentrations of serum vitamin E (the vitamin E level in your blood) had a higher risk for colorectal cancer. A much earlier study,16 published in 1993, also found that high intake of vitamin E helped decrease the risk of colorectal cancer — especially in those under the age of 65. As explained in the study:

“Vitamin E is the major lipid-soluble antioxidant found in cell membranes, where it protects against lipid peroxidation. In addition, like carotenoids and water-soluble vitamin C, it can also stimulate the immune system and may protect against the development of cancer by enhancing immune surveillance. Vitamins E and C reduce nitrite, compounds that induce tumors …”

Other Health Benefits of Natural Vitamin E 

Aside from its cancer-preventive potential, natural vitamin E may also:

Lower your risk of heart disease and stroke17

Help relieve symptoms associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a common obesity-related fatty liver disease

Lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in the elderly18

Boost improvements in blood vessel function that occur when a smoker quits smoking19

Delay loss of cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.20 Results showed that clinical progression of Alzheimer’s slowed by 19 percent per year in the group receiving 2,000 IUs per day of vitamin E, compared with placebo. This delay translated into just over six months of delayed progression over the two-year follow-up period. Caregiver time also increased the least in the group receiving vitamin E.

This study actually used synthetic alpha-tocopherol that was not balanced with tocotrienols or any of the other tocopherols — beta, gamma and delta. Chances are the benefits would have been even greater if the natural form was used

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need for Optimal Health?

According to one scientific review,21,22 a mere 21 percent of the people studied had a protective level of serum vitamin E, which is thought to be 30 micromol per liter (?mol/L). This appears to be the threshold above which “definable effects on human health in multiple areas” are obtained.23 Human studies have also found that achieving a level of 30 ?mol/L requires a daily intake of at least 50 IUs of vitamin E.24

A primary reason for such widespread deficiency is that most people eat a primarily processed food diet, which tends to be lacking in vitamin E and other important nutrients. Moreover, following a low-fat diet can have the undesirable side effect of lowering your vitamin E level, as your ability to absorb the vitamin E present in the foods you eat or supplements you take is then impaired.

Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, taking it with some healthy fat, such as coconut oil or avocado, can help increase its bioavailability. In fact, studies have shown your body will absorb only about 10 percent of the vitamin E from a supplement when you take it without fat.25

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency and Why Vitamin E Is so Important During Pregnancy

Signs and symptoms of serious vitamin E deficiency include:26,27

Muscle weakness and unsteady gait

Loss of muscle mass

Cardiac arrhythmia

Vision problems, including constriction of your visual field; abnormal eye movements; blindness

Dementia

Liver and kidney problems

Deficiency during pregnancy can be particularly problematic. Worldwide, about 13 percent of people have vitamin E levels below the “functional deficiency” threshold of 12 ?mol/L, and most of these are newborns and young children. Babies deficient in vitamin E are at increased risk for immune and vision problems. Being deficient in vitamin E during pregnancy also raises your risk for miscarriage.28

Natural Versus Synthetic Vitamin E

Synthetic vitamin E is derived from petrochemicals and has known toxic effects, yet synthetic alpha-tocopherol is the type most commonly used when investigating the health effects of vitamin E. Hence, it’s not so surprising that synthetic vitamin E supplements would fail to provide certain health benefits and potentially increase certain health risks. 

Natural vitamin E includes a total of eight different compounds, and having a balance of all eight helps optimize its antioxidant functions. These compounds are divided into two groups of molecules as follows:

1. Tocopherols  

a. Alpha

b. Beta

c. Gamma

d. Delta

2. Tocotrienols

a. Alpha

b. Beta

c. Gamma

d. Delta

Tocopherols are considered the “true” vitamin E, and many claim it’s the only kind that has health benefits. Part of the problem with tocotrienols is that they simply haven’t received as much scientific attention. In my view, it’s safe to assume you would benefit from a balance of all eight and not just one. Foods are the ideal source of vitamin E, as all eight vitamin E compounds are naturally available.

Synthetic vitamin E supplements typically include only alpha-tocopherol, and research29,30 published in 2012 concluded that synthetic alpha tocopherols found in vitamin E supplements provided no discernible cancer protection while gamma and delta tocopherols found in foods do help prevent colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers. Bear in mind that a supplement will not actually tell you it’s synthetic, so you have to know what to look for on the label.

  • Synthetic alpha-tocopherol is typically listed with a “dl” (i.e., dl-alpha-tocopherol)
  • Nonsynthetic or naturally-derived is typically listed with a “d” (d-alpha-tocopherol)

Note that when vitamin E is stabilized by adding either succinic acid or acetic acid, the chemical name changes from tocopherol to tocopheryl (as in d-alpha-tocopheryl succinate, for example). 

Guidance When Choosing a Vitamin E Supplement

I strongly recommend avoiding synthetic vitamin E supplements as they’ve been shown to have toxic effects in higher amounts and/or over the long term. Synthetic vitamin E has also been linked to an increased tumor progression and accelerated lung cancer in mice.31 So, if you opt for a supplement, make sure you’re getting a well-balanced all-natural vitamin E supplement, not a synthetic one.

Another potential problem is that if you take high amounts of alpha-tocopherol in isolation, it could potentially deplete the other tocopherols and tocotrienols from your body. This is true whether you’re taking a natural or a synthetic one, so I recommend looking for a food-based supplement that has a balance of all eight types of vitamin E (four tocopherols and four tocotrienols).

Also look for a supplement that is free of soy, soybean oil derivatives and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (some of the most common GE ingredients found in supplements are derivatives of corn, soy and cotton seed).

Your Best Source of Vitamin E

Supplements are best taken in addition to, not in place of, a healthy diet, and only if you actually need them. One way to evaluate your need for a vitamin E or other supplements is to use a nutrient tracker, such as Cronometer.com/Mercola, which is the most accurate one on the market because of their decision to eliminate inaccurate crowd sourced data. It’s available free of charge.

Vitamin E can easily be obtained from a healthy diet, so before considering a supplement, consider including more vitamin E-rich foods in your diet. Vitamin E is synthesized by plants, and the highest amounts are found in plant oils.

However, while some health authorities recommend canola oil as a good source,32 this is actually a terrible source. Beans — which are a good source of vitamin E — may also be problematic for many due to their high lectin content. Three general categories of foods that contain higher amounts of vitamin E that will circumvent these potentially problematic sources are:

  • Leafy greens
  • High-fat foods such as nuts, seeds and fatty fish/seafood, including shrimps and sardines
  • Oil-rich/high-fat plants such as olives and avocados

More specific examples of foods high in vitamin E include:33,34

Food Serving Size Vitamin E (mg)

Sunflower seeds

1 ounce

7.4 mg

Almonds

1 ounce 6.8 – 7.3 mg

Sunflower oil

1 tablespoon 5.6 mg

Hazel nuts

1 ounce 4.3 mg

Avocado (sliced)

1 cup 3.2 mg

Broccoli (boiled/steamed)

1/2 cup 1.2 mg

Mango (sliced)

1/2 cup 0.7 mg

Spinach (raw)

1 cup 0.6 – 3.8 mg

Kiwi

1 cup 2.7 mg


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How Your Height Might Affect Your Health


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Most kids love hearing people comment on how tall they’re getting. In some circles, particularly homes where sports like volleyball or basketball are revered and often played, being tall is considered a definite plus. But new research has emerged that suggests being taller — or significantly shorter than average — isn’t necessarily better in terms of health and may even pose health risks.

Part of the impact comes from how your height might affect your organs, studies say, such as one published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.1 Scientists explored how height and venous thromboembolism, the third leading cause of heart attack and stroke, may be associated. According to the study, the condition is also known as VTE and the more simple term “blood clots.”

Evaluating a group of more than 2 million Swedish siblings, men shorter than 5 feet 3 inches in height had a 65 percent lower chance of acquiring VTE, a type of blood clot that begins in a vein, when compared to men taller than 6 feet 2 inches.

Other aspects of the study included pregnant women, who are more prone to develop this type of blood clot, and the finding that those shorter than 5 feet 1 inch had a 69 percent lower incidence of the condition compared to women over 6 feet. That supports the premise of another interesting study from 2003 that suggests shorter people are, on average, the ones with longer lifespans.2 According to CNN:

“Among men, an association with height was found for risk of blood clots in the lungs, called pulmonary embolism, as well as in the legs and other locations. Among women, only the risk of blood clots in the legs was significantly associated with height.”3

Some scientists questioned the fact that the studies focused on Swedish individuals and how that might relate to people in the U.S., but others maintain that Sweden is just as ethnically diverse as populations in the U.S.

Studies on How Height May Affect Health

According to the study, gravity may hold the most culpability in causing the problem. As Dr. Bengt Zöller, associate professor at Lund University and Malmö University Hospital in Sweden and the study’s lead researcher, explained, gravitational pressure in the veins of longer legs can cause blood flow to slow or even stop temporarily. Zöller noted:

“Height is not something we can do anything about. However, the height in the population has increased, and continues increasing, which could be contributing to the fact that the incidence of thrombosis has increased.”4

Unfortunately, thromboembolisms now affect 600,000 people in the U.S. annually. The problem is becoming so prevalent around the world that Zöller wonders whether height should be a consideration in peoples’ health profiles in relation to risk right along with a patient’s weight, “although formal studies are needed to determine exactly how height interacts with inherited blood disorders and other conditions,” he adds.

Zöller believes it may also be because taller people have longer leg veins, which means there’s more surface area for problems to occur. In addition, immobilization, cancer, surgery and hospitalization can trigger the condition.

There’s another aspect to consider, however. Dr. Mary Cushman, professor of medicine and pathology and director of the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Program at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, observed that the study supports evidence that, while overall body size is an important factor in VTE development, it occurs in the legs as opposed to the arms for a reason:

“Basically, the blood has to travel up a vein against gravity, and when there is a longer distance to travel, there is more opportunity for the blood to clot abnormally. This is not the case in the arms, for example, where arm movement allows blood to more easily flow out of the limb with the help of gravity.”5

In women, not only pregnancy but the use of oral contraceptives, estrogen and other hormones for menopause symptoms seemed to be significant triggers for VTE. However, the researchers didn’t have access to records of the study participants regarding their childhoods or information on their parents’ lifestyles, such as whether or not they were smokers, maintained healthy weights or exercised.

The bottom line regarding blood clots is how dangerous they can be. According to Cushman, blood clots can be deadly because they can break free from leg veins and travel to the lung. If it’s big enough, it can kill you, and it’s sometimes quite sudden.6

Height-Related Health Risks

It may be surprising to some, having never heard there were any problems associated with greater-than-average height, but Time lists several physical aspects influenced, for good and for ill, by height. In fact, there are risk factors, but also possible benefits. Certain cancers are more prevalent in tall people, including aggressive forms of prostate cancer in men and melanoma, breast, endometrial, colon and ovarian cancers in women.

The National Cancer Institute reported in mid-2015 that height is a definite risk factor in women developing breast cancer, especially as genetic factors and biological pathways can influence height.7

According to a 2016 review published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology,8 eating too many animal proteins during crucial stages of growth and development, including the period before birth, may increase a person’s height and exponentially increase their chances of dying from cancer. Researchers called the problem “over-nutrition.” 

What over-nutrition could lead to, the report states, is activation of growth processes that leave cells vulnerable to mutations. Further, co-author Matthias Schulze, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition, noted that height may influence how large organs become; the larger the organ, the more at risk cells are to malignant transformation. As the Lancet explains:

“These pathways are thought to be activated by over-nutrition, especially increased intake of milk, dairy products, and other animal proteins during different stages of child development. Limiting over-nutrition during pregnancy, early childhood, and puberty would avoid not only obesity, but also accelerated growth in children — and thus might reduce risk of cancer in adulthood.”9

In addition, researchers scrutinized 135,861 pregnant women with different racial profiles in the U.S. and 5,567 were found to have gestational diabetes. The study showed that those who were taller had a 60 percent lower risk for the disease in comparison with women on the shorter end of the scale, even with age and weight factored in.10

Being Tall Linked to Lowered Heart Disease and Diabetes Rates

While being taller may increase certain cancer risks, taller people may benefit from lower heart disease and diabetes rates, because they often have larger lungs and more robust hearts. The “over-nutrition” many tall people have engaged in may translate to increased production of a hormone that helps optimize cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

CNN cites a 2012 study11 in which researchers concluded that being taller was negatively associated with heart disease, heart failure, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as stomach and oral cancers, liver disease and mental disorders.

However, the abstract of the comprehensive review, composed of about 121 studies and involving around 1 million people, also listed positive associations to being the tallest one in the room, including that taller people may be at increased risk of “[d]eath from ruptured aortic aneurysm, pulmonary embolism, melanoma and cancers of the pancreas, endocrine and nervous systems, ovary, breast, prostate, colorectum, blood and lung.”

More Blood Clots and Higher AFib Risk

With every rule there seems to be an exception, and that’s true with taller people, thought to have overall healthier hearts. The exception was found during a 16-year study12 presented at a cardiology conference in early 2017, which revealed that taller, larger women are almost three times more likely to have atrial fibrillation, a dangerous condition involving heart rhythm irregularity, commonly known as AFib, or AF.

It’s a problem that develops gradually as young women grow into adults and reach physical maturity, because the larger a young woman’s body size becomes, the greater her chance of developing the irregularity, the study cautioned. Health.com noted:

“Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that develops in the atria — the two upper chambers of the heart. The quivering heartbeat increases risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart rhythm problems … It’s the most common heart rhythm disorder, and everyone has a 1 in 5 chance of developing atrial fibrillation during their lifetime, the researchers said in background information. The problem occurs most often in people older than 60.”13

Study author Dr. Annika Rosengren, professor of internal medicine at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, observed that the implications of the problem may be bigger than scientists first realized simply because the global population is becoming both taller and heavier overall. As a consequence, “We might be looking at substantially more AF in the future.”

Research first focused on young men who may be exhibiting AFib due to their height and accompanying weight, which sparked the study in young women. Studies began with 1.5 million Swedish women experiencing their first pregnancy, the average age being 28. The women were examined at intervals for the 16-year study, their height and weight being recorded along with heart-related health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

During that time, more than 7,000 women were hospitalized with atrial fibrillation, at an average age of 49. Compared to smaller women, those with the most “body surface area” exhibited a 2.6-times greater risk, leading doctors to conclude that taller, larger body size is an indication of a larger atria, an area that encompasses the two upper chambers of the heart.

These individuals are likely to have more pressure against their lungs, which can cause the atrium to distend, as well as interrupt the heart’s electrical pathways, according to Dr. Allan Stewart, director of aortic surgery for Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

You Can’t Change Your Height, so What’s the Takeaway?

It’s true that you can’t change your height, but the primary implication of these studies is that while everyone should be guarding their health, taller people need to be eating right, exercising regularly and building solid, foundational lifestyles to optimize their health and longevity. Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, an attending physician of internal medicine at New York University’s Langone Health in New York (not involved in the new study), asserts:

“The bottom line regarding this recent study, whether you are a taller or shorter individual, you must be aware of all the additional lifestyle factors that may increase your risk for blood clots, such as smoking or a sedentary lifestyle. We have no control over our height, but we certainly can all take the appropriate measures in making healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of various conditions.”14

Experts even say the potential effects of height on disease and mortality risk are still likely very low — certainly lower than the risk factors you can control, such as diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.


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Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal
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