Kris Kresser: Why has the American approach to heart disease failed?

Why Has the American Approach to Heart Disease Failed?
on April 18, 2017 by Chris Kresser 

Tsimane 2

A recent New York Times article correctly suggests that diet and lifestyle changes are far more effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease than statins and stents. But what diet, and what lifestyle? Is it as simple as avoiding “artery-clogging saturated fat,” as the author suggests? Read on to find out why the American approach to heart disease has really failed.
Jane Brody wrote an article in The New York Times called “Learning from Our Parents’ Heart Health Mistakes.” She argues that despite decades of advice to change our diet and lifestyle in order to reduce our risk of heart disease, we still depend far too much on drugs and expensive procedures like stents.
She says:
Too often, the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.
To support this argument, she refers to a recent paper published on the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon. The study found that the rate of coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane was one-fifth of that observed in the United States (and the lowest that has ever been measured). Nearly nine in 10 Tsimane had unobstructed coronary arteries and no evidence of heart disease, and the researchers estimated that the average 80-year-old Tsimane has the same vascular age as an American in his mid-50s.
I certainly agree with Ms. Brody so far, and her analogy that the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped is spot on.
The problem is what comes next, as she attempts to answer the question of why the Tsimane have so much less heart disease than Americans:
Protein accounts for 14 percent of their calories and comes primarily from animal meats that, unlike American meats, are very low in artery-clogging saturated fat. [emphasis mine]
Does saturated fat “clog” your arteries?
Artery-clogging saturated fat? Are we still using that phrase in 2017?
As I’ve written before, on average, long-term studies do not show an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels. (1) (I say “on average” because individual response to saturated fat can vary based on genetics and other factors—but this is a subject for another article.)
If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. (2)

Does saturated fat really “clog” your arteries?

Are “clogged arteries” the cause of heart disease?
Moreover, as Peter Attia eloquently and thoroughly described in this article, the notion that atherosclerosis is caused by “clogged arteries” was shown to be false many years ago:
Most people, doctors included, think atherosclerosis is a luminal-narrowing condition—a so-called “pipe narrowing” condition.  But by the time that happens, eleven other pathologic things have already happened and you’ve missed the opportunity for the most impactful intervention to prevent the cascade of events from occurring at all.
To reiterate: atherosclerosis development begins with plaque accumulation in the vessel wall, which is accompanied by expansion of the outer vessel wall without a change in the size of the lumen. Only in advanced disease, and after significant plaque accumulation, does the lumen narrow.
Michael Rothenberg also published an article on the fallacy of the “clogged pipe” hypothesis of heart disease. He said:
Although the image of coronary arteries as kitchen pipes clogged with fat is simple, familiar, and evocative, it is also wrong.
If heart disease isn’t caused by “clogged arteries,” what does cause it?
The answer to that question is a little more complex. For a condensed version, read my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: Why Everyone Should Know Their LDL Particle Number.”

For a deeper dive, read Dr. Attia’s article.
Here’s the 15-second version, courtesy of Dr. Attia:
Atherosclerosis is caused by an inflammatory response to sterols in artery walls. Sterol delivery is lipoprotein-mediated, and therefore much better predicted by the number of lipoprotein particles (LDL-P) than by the cholesterol they carry (LDL-C).
You might think that I’m splitting hairs here over terminology, but that’s not the case. It turns out that this distinction—viewing heart disease as caused by high LDL-P and inflammation, rather than arteries clogged by saturated fat—has crucial implications when it comes to the discussion of how to prevent it.
Because while it’s true that a high intake of saturated fat can elevate LDL particle number in some people, this appears to be a minority of the population. The most common cause of high LDL-P in Americans—and elsewhere in the industrial world—is almost certainly insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. (I explain why in this article.)
And what is one of the most effective ways of treating insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome? That’s right: a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet!
News flash: diets high in saturated fat may actually prevent heart disease.
Perhaps this explains why low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (yes, including saturated fat) have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases in body weight, as well as improvements in several CV risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin, and C-reactive protein, as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol. (3)
(In case you’re wondering, low-carb diets in these studies had a null effect on LDL cholesterol: they neither increased nor decreased it.)
Saturated fat is a red herring.
Instead of focusing so much on saturated fat intake, which is almost certainly a red herring, why not focus on other aspects of the Tsimane’s diet and lifestyle that might contribute to their low risk of heart disease?

For example:
They are extremely active physically; Tsimane men walk an average of 17,000 steps a day, and Tsimane women walk an average of 15,000 steps a day—and they don’t sit for long periods. Ms. Brody does mention this in her article.
They don’t eat processed and refined foods. We have been far too focused on calories and macronutrient ratios and not enough on food quality. We now know that hunter–gatherers and pastoralists around the world have thrived on both high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets (like the Tsimane, who get 72 percent of calories from carbohydrate) and low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (like the Masai and Inuit).

But what all hunter–gatherer diets share in common is their complete absence of processed and refined foods.
Perhaps if we stopped focusing so much on the amount of fat and carbohydrate in our diet and started focusing more on the quality of the food we eat, we’d be better off.
And of course we also need to attend to the many other differences between our modern lifestyle (which causes heart disease) and the ancestral lifestyle (which prevents it), including physical activity, sleep, stress, light exposure, play/fun, and social support.
The Tsimane study illustrates exactly why an evolutionary perspective on diet, lifestyle, and behavior is so important. It helps us to generate hypotheses on what aspects of our modern way of life may be contributing to chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and gives us ideas about what interventions we need to make to prevent and reverse these diseases.

Thinking clearly: What is mindfulness all about?

Do you ever just wish you could get someone who knows virtually everything that’s known about the brain and quiz them about mindfulness? Well, I do – a lot – and I just got my wish!

It is my pleasure to present this interview with John McBurney MD. A practicing physician with of over 35 years’ experience, he is board certified in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine. Dr. McBurney maintains a daily mindfulness meditation practice as well as home yoga practice.

Could you describe the neurological response to mindfulness practice?

Mindfulness practice ultimately comes down to the concept of neuroplasticity.

In mindfulness, in cultivating awareness of the breath and voluntary moment by moment awareness of the brain, we are training the brain – just like when you are learning to play the violin or any other complex skill – we are training to break out of those self-referential ruminative recursive mental states and to achieve an orientation toward the outer world and in the present moment rather than anticipating the future or reliving the past.

contemplative neuroscience mechanisms behind mindfulness

 Could we be losing something by focusing more on the external realities rather than the self?

Occasionally, we do hear of adverse experiences arising from mindfulness. With any robust intervention there are always potential risks.

How long does it take for mindfulness to have a noticeable effect?

The results can happen almost immediately, however, they are also cumulative. We are still figuring out what the minimum effective dose is. 

What is the relevance of the changes in functional connectivity in the brain in someone who has devoted  a monumental amount of time to meditation, such as Tibetan monks, who may put in more than 10,000 hours in to their practice, compared to the likes of you and me?

A very neat study was published by David Cresswell in Biological Psychiatry in 2016. They invited individuals with high level of stress, unemployed adults, to a weekend retreat experience. They were randomised to in 2 groups:

  • a 3 day mindfulness retreat (the treatment group) and
  • a 3 day relaxation retreat where they read stories, told jokes and had a good time (the control group).

The study was conducted in one centre over one weekend, so it is well controlled. Initially, both groups rated the interventions as being equally helpful to them, subjectively.

The researchers looked at the functional connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the cingulate gyrus. They also looked at Interleukin-6, a known marker of inflammation, that has been previously shown to be elevated in stressed out unemployed people.

Even with this brief weekend mindfulness intervention, the treatment group developed increased connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the cyngulate gyrus. There was a neuroplastic response even after a 3 day mindfulness retreat. This was also associated with a decrease in the marker IL-6. Even after 4 months, IL-6 was decreased in the treatment group, but in the control group, IL-6 levels continued to rise, independent of whether they managed to get a job or not.

This is also relevant to doctors, who are at high risk for burnout. Because of their work commitments, the mindfulness retreat for doctors was condensed from the standard 8 week model developed by John Kabat-Zinn to a weekend intervention. The question was: does the weekend model work? The research at the University of Wisconsin where this was developed was reassuring: the residents are less stressed out, more effective and have a greater level of satisfaction.

We still don’t know the absolute minimum dose, but it seems that a weekend of mindfulness can be life-changing for the brain.

Another paper published in PLOS ONE from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Harvard looked at the practices such as meditation, prayer, mindful yoga, Tai-Chi, Qi Gong, etc, i.e. ones that elicit a relaxation response (as opposed the stress response).

This study showed that in both novice and experienced practitioners of relaxation response modalities, there were changes in the epigenetic transcription of the genome. There was upregulation of pathways associated with mitochondrial integrity, downregulation of inflammatory pathways, improved insulin-related metabolism and improved nitric oxide signalling.

Long term potentiation, the standard mechanism for memory formation, strengthens existing neural connections. This happens immediately, as you read this. Over time, long term potentiation leads to formation of new connections,through synaptogenesis, dendritic arborisation and neurogenesis i.e. brain structure changes. In turn, this affects the most neuroplastic neurons located in the hippocampus.

mindfulness minimum effective dose response neurology

In reference to this fascinating recent study of the fight or flight response, it seems plausible that breathing regulates our stress levels much more than conscious thought. Could you explain the significance of this in terms of mindfulness?

The ancients believed that emotions reside in the body. This comes up a lot in serious yoga classes.

This highly innovative study shows that the control of the adrenal medulla – the main effector of the stress response – is not from the conscious ruminating thinking centres, but by the motor and sensory cortex.

This explains why breathing, as well as yoga and Tai-Chi, are an important part of meditative practice. In my experience, these kind of interventions do affect the stress response in a beneficial way.

Mindful exercise exists in many form. For example, weightlifters need to be very mindful to maintain perfect form. Cycling is another example: it is vital to concentrate on every pedal stroke and maintain an even cadence. Once you start to day dream, you notice straight away that your output is way worse. This overlaps with the concept of flow. It is about getting in the zone. There is a very inspiring TED talk by Judson Brewer MD, Ph.D. that explains the physiology behind flow and how it is augmented by mindfulness. Mindfulness is work, and it does require discipline. There is a paradox here of non-striving and non-doing while also being disciplined.

You are a sleep medicine expert. Could you comment on the relationship between mindfulness and sleep?

Insomnia is a complex problem with many causes. However, for most people with idiopathic insomnia, the cause is these self-referential recursive ruminations. They aren’t able to “turn their brain off”. Through mindfulness practice, they are generally able to tame the default mode network that’s responsible for ruminating and daydreaming. A simple strategy would be to lie in bed and concentrate on the breath. This would ease the transition between wakefulness and sleep.

mindfulness default mode network neurological basis for the self

Mindfulness is a mainstay treatment for many mental health disorders. What about use of mindfulness in the treatment for organic pathology of the brain usually treated by neurologists?

There is some preliminary data that mindfulness training has a beneficial effect of seizure frequency in patients with epilepsy. It is a medical condition associated with tremendous anxiety and stress, so mindfulness could have a significant benefit in more than one way. It may even have a benefit it terms of remembering to take medication on time, etc.

Some robust studies show that the frequency of relapse in multiple sclerosis decreases with mindfulness intervention. The effect from mindfulness is similar in magnitude to the effect from beta-interferon. 

John Kabat-Zinn used to take the patients who suffered from chronic pain or had diseases for which we had no answer, and those patients got better. Even beyond neurology, there is some evidence that mindfulness can have benefits in psoriasis. We are probably only at the bottom of this mountain.

Dr McBurney has given me so much to think about. I will follow up with part 2 of our discussion that focuses more on the philosophical and life experience aspects of mindfulness once I wrap my head around it.

neurological path mindfulness default mode network adrenal medulla

Gretchen Reynolds: You are never too old to give up on exercise

cyclist robert marchand

At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.

The study, which appeared in December in The Journal of Applied Physiology, may help to rewrite scientific expectations of how our bodies age and what is possible for any of us athletically, no matter how old we are.

Many people first heard of Mr. Marchand last month, when he set a world record in one-hour cycling, an event in which someone rides as many miles as possible on an indoor track in 60 minutes.

Mr. Marchand pedaled more than 14 miles, setting a global benchmark for cyclists age 105 and older. That classification had to be created specifically to accommodate him. No one his age previously had attempted the record.

She was particularly interested in Mr. Marchand’s workout program and whether altering it might augment his endurance and increase his speed.

Conventional wisdom in exercise science suggests that it is very difficult to significantly add to aerobic fitness after middle age. In general, VO2 max, a measure of how well our bodies can use oxygen and the most widely accepted scientific indicator of fitness, begins to decline after about age 50, even if we frequently exercise.

But Dr. Billat had found that if older athletes exercised intensely, they could increase their VO2 max. She had never tested this method on a centenarian, however.

But Mr. Marchand was amenable. A diminutive 5 feet in height and weighing about 115 pounds, he said he had not exercised regularly during most of his working life as a truck driver, gardener, firefighter and lumberjack. But since his retirement, he had begun cycling most days of the week, either on an indoor trainer or the roads near his home in suburban Paris.

Almost all of this mileage was completed at a relatively leisurely pace.

Dr. Billat upended that routine. But first, she and her colleagues brought Mr. Marchand into the university’s human performance lab.

They tested his VO2 max, heart rate and other aspects of cardiorespiratory fitness. All were healthy and well above average for someone of his age. He also required no medications.

He then went out and set the one-hour world record for people 100 years and older, covering about 14 miles.

Afterward, Dr. Billat had him begin a new training regimen. Under this program, about 80 percent of his weekly workouts were performed at an easy intensity, the equivalent of a 12 or less on a scale of 1 to 20, with 20 being almost unbearably strenuous according to Mr. Marchand’s judgment. He did not use a heart rate monitor.

The other 20 percent of his workouts were performed at a difficult intensity of 15 or above on the same scale. For these, he was instructed to increase his pedaling frequency to between 70 and 90 revolutions per minute, compared to about 60 r.p.m. during the easy rides. (A cycling computer supplied this information.) The rides rarely lasted more than an hour.

Mr. Marchand followed this program for two years. Then he attempted to best his own one-hour track world record.

First, however, Dr. Billat and her colleagues remeasured all of the physiological markers they had tested two years before.

Mr. Marchand’s VO2 max was now about 13 percent higher than it had been before, she found, and comparable to the aerobic capacity of a healthy, average 50-year-old. He also had added to his pedaling power, increasing that measure by nearly 40 percent.

Unsurprisingly, his cycling performance subsequently also improved considerably. During his ensuing world record attempt, he pedaled for almost 17 miles, about three miles farther than he had covered during his first, record-setting ride.

He was 103 years old.

These data strongly suggest that “we can improve VO2 max and performance at every age,” Dr. Billat says.

There are caveats, though. Mr. Marchand may be sui generis, with some lucky constellation of genes that have allowed him to live past 100 without debilities and to respond to training as robustly he does.

Lifestyle may also matter. Mr. Marchand is “very optimistic and sociable,” Dr. Billat says, “with many friends,” and numerous studies suggest that strong social ties are linked to a longer life. His diet is also simple, focusing on yogurt, soup, cheese, chicken and a glass of red wine at dinner.

But for those of us who hope to age well, his example is inspiring and, Dr. Billat says, still incomplete. Disappointed with last month’s record-setting ride, he believes that he can improve his mileage, she says, and may try again, perhaps when he is 106.

Natasha Hind: If you want to look like David Gandy, workout intensity is the key

 

david gandy

David Gandy is basically a real-life Bond character: he’s got the looks, the charm and his guilty pleasure is powerboat racing.

As can be expected of someone who’s had to sport tiny white trunks for a major fragrance commercial, the 37-year-old is also brimming with knowledge when it comes to fitness and health.

From a young age Gandy was very sporty, although for all the wrong reasons (“I’d usually get involved in sports to get out of school”, he tells us). As he entered his teens, he became more interested in nutrition and training, and his interest grew from there.

Nowadays, the model hits the gym between three and six times a week depending on his schedule and credits medium weights and supersets (where you do one set of exercise, followed by a set with a different exercise, without a rest between them) for his incredibly toned physique.

But his journey to get to where he is now hasn’t been without its setbacks – Gandy experienced rotator cuff injuries and back pain as a result of trying to lift the heaviest weights in a quest for the body he wanted.

“I’m still learning at the end of the day,” he reveals.

We caught up over tea in the Langham Hotel about his fitness routine, finding motivation to work out and his one love: Dora.

Let’s talk about fitness – what does your weekly gym routine consist of?

When I’m not training for something, I’ll go three or four times a week. When I’m training for a campaign or, for example, Light Blue (the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance advert) then I’ll go six days a week. I’m also a lot more conscious of my diet when I’m training for something specific.

With my schedule, it changes every day. I’m a late night trainer, so sometimes I’ll be in the gym from 9pm onwards for 60-90 minutes. It’s quite a strange routine but sometimes that’s the only time I can fit it in.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m steering much more away from heavy weights. I learned the hard way by stupidly trying to push two reps with the highest weight I could and injuring myself. Now I’m much more about using lighter weights, doing supersets and getting the form a lot more correct.

Sometimes I’ll do a week of heavy training to shock my muscles and then I’ll change it back. I also switch up my routine out of boredom because doing the same thing all the time is very repetitive.

What’s your ultimate piece of fitness advice?

A lot of guys come up to me and say ‘I’m constantly working out but I’m not seeing the results, why is that happening?’ and I tell them to look at form and nutrition.

If you’re not eating enough protein then you’re not allowing the protein to mend your muscles.

You tear your muscles every time you train and mend them with protein, which allows them to grow. If you don’t have that after you’ve worked out, you’re not going to see the results.

It’s also important to have an intense 30 or 45 minute workout rather than sitting around doing weights and having lots of breaks in between.

What do you eat after a workout

If I have time to make a meal then it’ll be lean chicken or turkey and salad or vegetables. Otherwise it’ll be a protein shake with a mixture of seeds, nuts and almond milk.

You obviously work very hard to maintain your physique. Have you ever felt self-conscious about your body?

Yes of course, that’s why I work out. I wanted to look a certain way and that’s why I hit the gym. I feel better from an energy point of view and because it makes me feel healthy and much more confident. It helps with my job obviously – if you’re in swimwear or underwear – but at the same time I do it just for myself.

People think I started working out for modelling, but I didn’t, I trained before that when I was at school and university. I didn’t have the body I wanted at the time so I worked hard to improve it.

What’s your approach to ageing and weight gain?

 

I used to be able to change my body very quickly, for example if I was training for something, it would take two weeks to get in shape, whereas now it’s a four week or six week training regime to achieve the same results. But that’s ageing and that’s how you have to adapt to stuff.

It’s the same science at the end of the day, if you’re not getting the results you want you just have to train a little harder.

What are your thoughts on dieting?

The definition of diet fads is about changing your whole lifestyle. There are a number of pieces of the puzzle to put together and if you just do that for, say, eight weeks to get ready for a holiday, within that one week your body will pretty much go back to how it was before. It’s going to regain fat very quickly.

To me, it’s all about continuing a healthy lifestyle – everything in moderation. You don’t have to cut everything out. It’s also about being nutritionally aware of what you’re eating and, still, a lot of people are nutritionally inept in many ways.

It’s important to educate people. I haven’t eaten processed foods and meat for a good seven or eight years. The information is out there, you’ve just got to do the research. There’s no real excuse to not know what you’re talking about with regards to food.

You sound pretty healthy, do you ever eat biscuits?

I don’t generally eat them but, if I do, my family and I are fans of Rich Tea biscuits, which are actually quite healthy, and Jaffa cakes.

How do you motivate yourself when you can’t be bothered to hit the gym?

I think it’s important to always have a goal that will motivate you to go. For example, if you don’t want to run, book yourself in for a half marathon or a 10k in a few months time. That way you’ll be less likely to give up that run or convince yourself you’re not going to go today because there’s this idea in the back of your mind that you might make an utter fool of yourself on race day.

It doesn’t have to be running, it could be climbing a mountain, anything, you’ve got to prepare for it. It’s also kind of engrained in me to get up and go. I feel worse for not going to the gym. If I go, I feel motivated and energised.

Yes, it’s difficult to get down there sometimes but once I go I feel so much better.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you in the gym?

I split my finger open at the gym once. I dropped a weight on it and it split like a grape. Then I went up to the biggest trainer, he was built like a brick s**thouse, and he almost fainted because of the blood. Now I have a funny-shaped finger.

Also, a guy shouted ‘man, you’re on fire’ at me the other day because I was training hard. I was like, ‘yeh!’ – it really motivated me. It was slightly weird, because we’re all very English and like to put our heads down and not talk to each other, but he just wanted to shout something at me and I thought, great! Although now if he doesn’t say that every time I’m working out I’ll feel like I’m not working hard enough.

 

Natasha Hinde Huffington Post 9.7.17

Retinopathy Update

eye-eyelashes-face-woman-63320.jpeg

American Diabetes Association Updates on Diabetic Retinopathy

 

Improvements in assessment and treatment of diabetic retinopathy position statement

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes that affects vision.

High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels starving the retina of vital nutrients and oxygen resulting in blurry vision. Without appropriate treatment this condition may lead to complete vision loss.

The four stages of retinopathy range from mild non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) to moderate NPDR, to severe NPDR, to the most advanced stage – proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).

DR is  a neurovascular complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and its rate of occurrence depends on the level of glycemic control and the duration of diabetes.

Other risk factors associated with DR include hyperglycemia, nephropathy, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Studies have proven that reduction in blood pressure (BP) decreases the progression of retinopathy in people with type 2 diabetes, but strict BP targets (systolic blood pressure of 120 mmHg vs. 140 mmHg) do not provide additional benefits. In another study, retinopathy progression was slowed in patients with dyslipidemia by adding fenofibrate, mainly in NPDR at baseline. In addition, several studies propose that pregnant patients with type 1 diabetes may exacerbate retinopathy with poor glycemic control during conception and may threaten their vision.

Optimization of blood glucose, blood pressure, and serum lipid levels in conjunction with appropriately scheduled dilated eye examinations can decrease the risk of vision loss from DR complications, but a substantial amount of those affected with diabetes develop diabetic macular edema (DME) or proliferative changes that require intervention. Large prospective randomized studies have shown that the use of intensive therapy could possibly prevent or delay DR with the goal of attaining near-normoglycemia. Although, intravitreal injection of anti–vascular endothelial growth factor agents may treat DME and PDR, it may threaten reading vision.

A meta-analysis study, conducted worldwide from 1980–2008 and consisting of 35 studies, predicted the global prevalence of DR to be 35.4% and PDR to be 7.5%. In developed countries, DR is mostly the cause of new cases of blindness among those 20 to 74 year old and eye disorders, such as glaucoma and cataracts, are frequently seen in diabetes patients. However, recent advancements in systemic therapy of diabetes have helped patients to improve their metabolic control. The statement incorporates these medical developments for the use of physicians and patients to aid in diagnosis and treatment of DR. It also provides an opportunity to improve glucose management and avoid or delay potential progression of the retinopathy.

The statement includes that screening recommendations for patients with diabetes depend on the rates of appearance and progression of DR and the associated risk factors. Ophthalmologist or optometrist examinations in patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes should be within 5 years after onset of diabetes and at the time of diabetes diagnosis, respectively. Women planning for pregnancy or who are pregnant with pre-existing diabetes should be examined before pregnancy or in the first trimester. In diabetes patients where no evidence of retinopathy is found, follow-up eye exams can be scheduled every two years. If any retinopathy is identified, then subsequent dilated-pupil retina exams are advised at least yearly, but more frequently if progressive retinopathy is diagnosed.

Fortunately, the cost-effectiveness of screening and traditional laser treatment for DR has been established with no more disputes. It is focused on telemedicine’s impact on the detection and eventual management of DR that appears to be most effective with lower ratio of providers to patients, with prohibitive distance to reach a provider, or when the alternative is no patient screening. The latest advancement in retinopathy treatment, anti-VEGF therapy has been taken into consideration, as they are more cost-effective than laser monotherapy for DME. Also, having retinopathy is not contraindicated with aspirin therapy for cardioprotection because studies suggest that aspirin does not increase the risk for retinal hemorrhage. Nonetheless, future studies are needed to determine the cost-effectiveness of anti-VEGF as a first-line treatment option for PDR.

Practice Pearls:

  • Optimize glycemic control, blood pressure, and serum lipids to reduce the risk or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Follow the screening recommendations for patients with diabetes for eye examination by ophthalmologist or optometrist.
  • The presence of retinopathy is not a contraindication to aspirin therapy for cardioprotection because aspirin does not increase the risk of retinal hemorrhage.

Reference:

Javitt JC, Canner JK, Sommer A. Cost effectiveness of current approaches to the control of retinopathy in type I diabetics. Ophthalmology 1989;96:255–264 42

Pasquel FJ, Hendrick AM, Ryan M, Cason E, Ali MK, Narayan KMV. Cost-effectiveness of different diabetic retinopathy screening modalities. J Diabetes Sci Technol 2015;10:301–307

Solomon SD, Chew E, Duh EJ, Sobrin L, Sun JK, VanderBeek BL, Wykoff CC, and Gardner TW. Diabetic Retinopathy: A Position Statement by the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. Mar 2017; 40(3): 412-418.https://doi.org/10.2337/dc16-2641

 

Keep safe when cycling

cyclist

Reflective jackets are a great safety aid for cyclists riding in the dark, if they have them and  wear them consistently. A possible way to overcome a cyclists reluctance to wear the said jacket, say for example if they think to themselves, “I’ll be back before it gets dark or it’s too warm for my jacket” is to take the decision out of the equation.

Researchers have found that reflective tape attached to the rear frame of the bike and pedal cranks does the job of increasing visibility just as well as jackets do, but without any active behaviour required of the cyclist.

“Reflective tape is highly recommended to complement front and back lights in bicycle riding at night”, they conclude.

Human Factors, 2016, doi:10.177/001872081667145

Adapted from article in Human Givens Volume 24 No 1 2017

BBC – Hidden disabilities: Pain beneath the surface

help-686323_960_720Hidden disabilities: Pain beneath the surface

Imagine having to inject yourself thousands of times over the course of your lifetime, but never talking about it to anyone.

Many people live with hidden disabilities – conditions which don’t have physical signs but are painful, exhausting and isolating. Sympathy and understanding from others can often be in short supply.

Georgia Macqueen Black has Type 1 Diabetes.

She was diagnosed at the age of 11.

Type 1 Diabetes cannot be seen until I take out my insulin pen and inject myself, but the mechanical parts – blood tests and injections – are only the surface layers of what I have to manage.

Someone may see me inject, but there’s an isolating exhaustion I take with me afterwards. There will always be another injection and it can generate a disconnection between myself and other people.

Every day I gather the willpower to be a “good” diabetic, but when I follow the rules and still have high blood sugar I feel alone. It makes me feel foggy with a limited ability to concentrate. And the side-effects of too much or too little sugar in your blood can lead to you turning in on yourself.

The biggest challenge is accepting the monotony of managing diabetes. There are days when I’m tired of having a weaker immune system – a lesser known side-effect of diabetes – or when I find lumps under my skin from injections, but then I have to put those feelings to one side and carry on.

Some people might not think diabetes deserves the label “disability”, but if unmanaged it affects my ability to carry out tasks and I have to think how exercise, stress or dehydration will impact my blood sugar levels.

I often worry about how life will be when I’m older. This feeling of uncertainty hangs over me from time to time, and can make me feel lonely and a bit lost.

But I know there’s a silent solidarity out there. Someone with an impairment could be having a day where everything has become derailed and they feel ill, but I bet you they won’t show it. It’s that resilience that I really connect to.

Top tips on hidden disabilities

 

  • There’s so much mental labour involved so if I seem distracted it’s probably because of that
  • Believe me when I ask for help. Just because I don’t look like I need assistance, doesn’t mean I’m OK
  • Respect priority seats and wheelchair spaces on public transport
  • Listen to access requirements with an open mind – often small changes make a huge difference
  • Ask for what you need – in asking for help you don’t have to pretend to be someone else

 

Produced by Beth Rose

BBC Disabilties 5.7.17