Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 17th 2014 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, January 17, 2015
Women who smoke cigarettes are
just as likely as men to develop poten-
tially fatal aneurysms in the main
artery leading from the heart, accord-
ing to a recent study.
Guidelines already recommend
screening men over age 65 who have
ever smoked for abdominal aortic
aneurysm, a life-threatening condition,
but it may be time to give women the
same advice, the authors say.
"Smoking is a major risk factor for
abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and
the risk appears to be as strong among
women," said lead author Dr Eiman
Jahangir, a senior lecturer with the
University of Queensland School of
Medicine-Ochsner Clinical School
program in New Orleans.
AAA occurs when a person s aorta,
the biggest blood vessel in the body,
swells to a larger size. The aorta runs
from the heart through the abdomen
delivering blood to much of the body.
Symptoms of an abdominal aortic
aneurysm may include a pulsing feel-
ing, swelling or pain in the stomach
While the condition can be treated
with surgery, "the risk is that they can
continue to grow and burst, which is
usually fatal," said Dr Vimal Gokani,
a clinical research fellow at the British
Heart Foundation in London who was
not involved in the study.
Most cases of aneurysm occur in
people over 65 and Gokani noted in
an email that as the population ages,
the problem is likely to become more
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, more than
10,000 people in the US die each year
from AAA. Jahangir and colleagues
write in the Journal of Epidemiology
and Community Health that it s the
16th leading cause of death for sen-
The study team analysed data from
a long term study of people in the US
South. They focused on a total of
18,792 participants who were over
65 and had Medicare coverage.
Participants answered question-
naires including information about
demographics, tobacco use and
personal and family health his-
The researchers compared this
information with Medicare
records to determine that 281 peo-
ple had suffered aneurysms during
the study period.
Men were twice as likely as
women to have aneurysms and
whites were 2.5 times more likely
than blacks to experience the con-
Smoking was the strongest risk
factor, however, with former
smokers---both men and women---
facing almost twice the risk of
never smokers, and current smok-
ers facing an overall risk five and
a half times that of never smok-
ers.The difference smoking made
was especially pronounced among
women, with former smokers
having three and a half times the
risk of women who had never
smoked and current smokers hav-
ing nine times the risk of women
who had never smoked. The
researchers note that this is prob-
lematic, as aneurysms are more
often severe when they happen
Having high blood pressure or
a history of heart surgery also
increased the risk of aneurysm,
while being overweight was linked
to a lowered risk. Gokani noted
that having a family history of
aneurysm and high cholesterol
can also increase a person s risk.
Currently, men between the
ages of 65 and 75 who have ever
smoked are advised to have a one-
time screening ultrasound to
check for aneurysm, according to
Jahangir. He said that women are
not currently included in these
recommendations and "more
studies need to be done to see if
women would also benefit from
screening ultrasound for AAA."
Both Jahangir and Gokani said
that quitting smoking will likely
reduce the risk of aneurysm.
"Smoking cessation is very dif-
ficult, but so important," Gokani
He cited recent research show-
ing that when smoking rates in a
country are lowered, the rates of
aneurysm go down as well.
Jahangir advises men ages 65-
75 who have ever smoked to get
an abdominal ultrasound and
advises women to talk to their
doctors about whether a screening
If an aneurysm is found, Gokani
recommends that people should
stop smoking and "seek medical
advice to ensure that their blood
pressure is under control, that
their cholesterol levels are nor-
Women smokers exposed to
same risk for aneurysm as men
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
A lack of exercise could be killing
twice as many people as obesity in
Europe, a 12-year study of more than
300,000 people suggests.
University of Cambridge researchers
said about 676,000 deaths each year
were down to inactivity, compared
with 337,000 from carrying too much
They concluded that getting every-
one to do at least 20 minutes of brisk
walking a day would have substantial
Experts said exercise was beneficial
for people of any weight.
Obesity and inactivity often go hand
However, it is known that thin peo-
ple have a higher risk of health prob-
lems if they are inactive. And obese
people who exercise are in better health
than those that do not.
The study, published in the Amer-
ican Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
attempted to tease out the relative
dangers of inactivity and obesity.
Researchers followed 334,161 Euro-
peans for 12 years. They assessed exer-
cise levels and waistlines and recorded
He said eliminating inactivity in
Europe would cut mortality rates by
nearly 7.5%, or 676,000 deaths, but
eliminating obesity would cut rates
by just 3.6 per cent.
Prof Ekelund added: "But I don t
think it s a case of one or the other.
We should also strive to reduce obesity,
but I do think physical activity needs
to be recognised as a very important
public health strategy."
Prof Ekelund, who is based in Nor-
way, is into cross country skiing and
clocks up at least five hours of vigorous
exercise each week.
However, he says all it would need
to transform health, is brisk walking.
The diseases caused by inactivity
and obesity were largely the same,
such as cardiovascular disease. How-
ever, type 2 diabetes was more com-
mon with obesity.
Commenting on the findings, Bar-
bara Dinsdale, from the charity Heart
Research UK, said: "This study once
again reinforces the importance of
being physically active, even when
carrying excess weight.
Prof John Ashton, president of the
Faculty of Public Health, said changes
were needed to make exercise easier.
Inactivity 'kills more than obesity'
Experts have said getting everyone to
do at least 20 minutes of brisk
walking a day would have substantial
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