Health Beat–December, 2003

By Mary Jane Dittmar
Fire Engineering/

Following are some issues to consider in your plans for safeguarding your health.

Sudden Withdrawal From Aspirin Linked To Heart Attacks
French researchers reported at a meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians recently that suddenly stopping aspirin therapy may be dangerous, especially for patients with a history of heart disease. They noted that 51 patients had experienced a heart attack or a condition such as severe chest pain within a week of stopping the aspirin. Taking an aspirin daily to lessen the risk of a heart attack and stroke has become a common practice among millions worldwide. Some 1,236 cases of patients were reviewed. (Reuters, MSNBC’s Health Library, Oct. 29, 2003.)

Panel to Update Research on Lifestyle-Cancer Link
Dr. Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Free and University College Medical School London and director of the International Centre for Health and Society at University College London, will chair a panel on cancer and nutrition. The 21-member panel of renowned scientists from 12 countries (half of them from the United States) is investigating the role of diet and physical activity in cancer risk, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). This study will conclude in 2006.

The panel’s report will replace the Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective (1997) report, which concluded that simple, everyday choices that reflect adopting a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and other plant foods; engaging in regular physical activity; and maintaining a healthy weight could prevent between 30 and 40 percent of cancer cases worldwide.

The new report also will rank the accumulated evidence for links between food intake, nutrition status, and physical activity levels and the risk of specific cancers. It will also include a series of recommendations geared to individuals governments, industry, and entire communities and address the evidence for any impact of food and nutrition on the progress of cancers once diagnosed.

Passive Smoke Exposure Can Increase Lung Cancer Risk
If you are exposed to secondhand smoke, you are more likely to develop lung cancer (13% to 32%) than people not exposed to the smoke, according to recent studies. Researchers based their findings on analyses of data from 1,263 lung cancer patients, who were compared with a control population of close to 2,800. Subjects were evaluated on exposure to smoke at home (spouse’s smoking) and in the workplace and social environments.

Some statistics from an International Agency for Research on Cancer in France were sobering. They showed that exposure to spousal smoking raised the risk of lung cancer by 18 percent, which rose to 23 percent if the exposure was long-term (at least 31 years). Exposure to smoke in the workplace, according to the study, was shown to increase the risk of lung cancer by 13 percent (long term, at least 21 years, 25 percent). With regard to exposure to the smoke in social settings, the cancer risk was 17 percent higher, 26 percent if the exposure were for a period of 20 years. The researchers believe the risk associated with passive exposure to smoke may be underestimated and that it is important to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. (Int J Cancer 2003;December 10 online issue; Reuters Health.)

Study: Air Pollution Poses Higher Death Risk from Cardiac Than Respiratory Causes
The following information is of particular interest in light of the high number of line-of-duty deaths caused by heart attacks or apparent heart attacks during the past several years. A study conducted at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, in December 2003, reports that air pollution in 150 U.S. cities studied was associated with more closely associated with deaths from heart disease (45.1%) than respiratory disease (8.2 percent). This and previous research has shown that inhaling particulate matter (PM) can alter cardiac function.

Long-term exposure to PM was most significantly associated with death from ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and cardiac arrest, and other related conditions.

Research has already established a connection between PM exposure and lung disease and the lung inflammation that results from breathing polluted air has been shown to be a factor in developing heart disease. Yet, the researchers involved in this later study were surprised by the degree of impact air pollution was shown to have on the heart.

Researches used data from a 1982 American Cancer Society survey of 500,000 adults and from the Environmental Protection Agency. Circulation 2003;109; Reuters Health,, Dec. 15, 2003; “Air pollution increases heart risks,” AP,, Dec. 16, 2003.

Almonds May Lower Your LDL
According to a study published in Metabolism, a diet high in almonds and other heart-healthy foods achieved a 35 percent decrease in LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad” cholesterol in just two weeks. Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and the University of Toronto, led by Dr. David Jenkins, have determined a dietary plan with a variety of cholesterol-lowering foods (the Portfolio plan) can be as effective in lowering cholesterol as some medications. In addition to almonds, this diet plan includes margarine enriched with plant sterols, oats, barley, eggplant, okra, tofu, soymilk, and meat
alternatives made from soy. The almond is the only nut included in the
Portfolio diet. It contains vegetable protein, plant sterols, and fiber, and is rich in vitamin E. (Archangel Health News,, Dec. 18, 2003.)

Do you have a health or safety tip or story to share? Is there an issue you’d like to see covered? Contact or call (973) 251-5052.

Mary Jane Dittmar is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering magazine and Before joining the magazine in 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.

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