HEALTH

Study: High blood pressure in middle age fair predictor of heart attack, stroke

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — A hike in blood pressure during middle age significantly raises the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, according to new Northwestern Medicine research released Monday. The study offers a new understanding on the importance of maintaining low blood pressure early in middle age to prevent heart disease later in life.

Men and women who developed high blood pressure in middle age or who started out with high blood pressure had an estimated 30% increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who kept their blood pressure low. Previous estimates of a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease were based on a single blood pressure measurement. The higher the blood pressure reading, the greater the risk. The new Northwestern Medicine study expanded on that by showing a more accurate predictor is a change in blood pressure from age 41 to 55 years.

"We found the longer we can prevent hypertension or postpone it, the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease," stated lead author Norrina Allen, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Even for people with normal blood pressure, we want to make sure they keep it at that level, and it doesn’t start increasing over time."

"There hasn’t been as much of a focus on keeping it low when people are in their 40s and 50s," Allen added. "That’s before a lot of people start focusing on cardiovascular disease risk factors. We’ve shown it’s vital to start early."

People that maintain or reduce their blood pressure to normal levels by the age of 55 years have the lowest lifetime risk for a heart attack or a stroke.

The study used data from 61,585 participants in the Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project. Starting with baseline blood pressure readings at age 41, researchers measured blood pressure again at age 55, then followed the patients until the occurrence of a first heart attack or stroke, death or age 95.

Men who developed high blood pressure in middle age or who started out with high blood pressure had a 70% risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to a 41% risk for men who maintained low blood pressure or whose blood pressure decreased during the time period. Women who developed high blood pressure had almost a 50% risk of a heart attack or stroke compared to a 22% risk for those who kept their blood pressure low or saw a decrease.

Men generally have a 55% risk of cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes; women have a 40% risk.

The study is published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.


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HEALTH

Research: Vitamin E helps repair cell membranes

BY Michael Johnsen

AUGUSTA, Ga. — According to new research released Tuesday, Georgia Health Sciences University researchers have identified one of the internal bodily functions of vitamin E: The antioxidant found in most foods helps repair tears in the plasma membranes that protect cells from outside forces and screen what enters and exits.

"Without any special effort, we consume vitamin E every day and we don’t even know what it does in our bodies," stated Paul McNeil, GHSU cell biologist and the study’s corresponding author. Century-old animal studies linked vitamin E deficiency to muscle problems, but how that happens remained a mystery until now, McNeil said. His understanding that a lack of membrane repair caused muscle wasting and death prompted McNeil to look at vitamin E.

Such everyday activities as eating and exercise can tear the plasma membrane, and the new research shows that vitamin E is essential to repair. Without repair of muscle cells, muscles eventually waste away and die in a process similar to what occurs in muscular dystrophy. Muscle weakness also is a common complaint in diabetes, another condition associated with inadequate plasma membrane repair.

Vitamin E appears to aid repair in several ways. As an antioxidant, it helps eliminate destructive byproducts from the body’s use of oxygen that impede repair. Because it’s lipid-soluble, vitamin E can actually insert itself into the membrane to prevent free radicals from attacking. It also can help keep phospholipids, a major membrane component, compliant so they can better repair after a tear.

For example, exercise causes the cell powerhouse, the mitochondria, to burn significantly more oxygen than usual. "As an unavoidable consequence, you produce reactive oxygen species," McNeil said. The physical force of exercise tears the membrane. Vitamin E enables adequate plasma membrane repair despite the oxidant challenge and keeps the situation in check.

When he mimicked what happens with exercise by using hydrogen peroxide to produce free radicals, he found that tears in skeletal muscle cells would not heal unless pretreated with vitamin E.

The research was reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Next steps, which will be aided by two recent National Institutes of Health grants, include examining membrane repair in vitamin E-deficient animals.


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Prestige makes blockbuster acquisition: 17 GSK legacy brands

BY Michael Johnsen

IRVINGTON, N.Y. — Prestige on Tuesday acquired 17 over-the-counter brands from GlaxoSmithKline for a total of $660 million in cash. Among the brands Prestige acquired are the pain relievers BC, Goody’s and Ecotrin brands; digestive brands Beano, Gaviscon, Phazyme, Tagamet and Fiber Choice; and the Sominex sleep aid brand.

"We expect that upon completion, the transactions will give our company a strengthened portfolio with total OTC revenues of approximately $500 million, as well as platforms to compete in two new categories: adult aspirin-based analgesics and gastrointestinal," Prestige CEO Matthew Mannelly said. "We believe the acquisitions are consistent with our strategic direction, fit with our fixed asset-light outsourced model, provide opportunities for certain cost savings, are financially attractive to shareholders and will result in annual corporate revenues of approximately $600 million with an OTC business segment representing 85% of revenues and 90% of profits."

Prestige has expanded its product portfolio through acquisition by leaps and bounds in the past year with its acquisition of Blacksmith Brands and Dramamine from Johnson and Johnson.

The transactions are expected to be completed in the first half of calendar year 2012 subject to customary legal and regulatory closing conditions, including clearance under the Hart-Scott Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as applicable, and the company closing on its committed financing for the acquisitions.


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