Stressful Childhood Can Lead to Earlier Death


Poverty, smoking and long-term bullying during childhood have previously been reported to adversely impact health.  In this study The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed over 17,000 men and women to evaluate the impact of childhood stress on future health problems.  People who reported verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, having a battered mother, having a family member incarcerated, living with a family member who abuses drugs or alcohol, living with mentally ill person, or having parents separated or divorced during childhood were more likely to die prematurely.  Those who reported 6 or more of the negative childhood experiences were 1 ½ times more likely to die prematurely than those who reported none.  People with bad childhood experiences died at about age 61 compared to 79 years of age for people who didn’t have negative experiences as children.

 It is important for adult guardians to recognize and try to alleviate these childhood stressors.  Further research is also needed in this area.


Premature Heart Disease Common in Indians and South Asians


Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.  The prevalence of heart disease varies among ethnic groups.  Immigrants from India (South Asia) have a four times greater risk of developing heart disease than other Americans.  Indians are also more likely to develop premature heart disease, have heart attacks at an earlier age and develop diffuse disease due to a genetic predisposition and a multitude of lifestyle risk factors.  This includes both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

 Genetic risk factors include: high lipoprotein (a) levels, elevated triglyceride levels and lower levels of less protective HDL (healthy) cholesterol.  Indians are also more prone to have abdominal obesity, diabetes, sedentary lifestyles and diets high in fat and starches which can increase the risk of developing heart disease.  The traditional Indian diet includes deep-fried foods (re-use of vegetable oil when cooking), coconut milk, roti, naan and other white breads, white rice, paneer (cheese), whole milk and high fat yogurt.

 Even though Indians have a strong genetic risk for heart disease they can lower their risk by making healthy lifestyle changes. 

 Below are some tips that may help reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Avoid deep frying, try to broil, bake, steam instead
  • Use low fat milk and dairy products
  • Increase fruit and vegetable and fiber intake
  • Use olive oil or canola oil, do not re-use cooking oil
  • Avoid ghee (clarified butter)
  • Increase intake of fish, nuts
  • Decrease intake of starches like white rice, roti, white potatoes and naan
  • Avoid eating all or majority of carbohydrates at one meal, do not skip meals
  • Increase activity level (walking 30 minutes a day counts as exercise)
  • Weight loss (lose abdominal fat, waist circumference goal men <36 inches, women <32 inches)

 Lipoprotein (a) is a sub-class of LDL (Bad) cholesterol, when levels are elevated in the blood the risk for heart disease and stroke are increased.  Elevated lipoprotein (a) levels are associated with premature heart disease and have little to do with diet or lifestyle, they are usually hereditary.  All Indians/South Asians should have a lipoprotein (a) level checked at least once in their lifetime, preferably when they are younger since it is a marker of premature heart disease.

“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” discusses how women can help control their cholesterol and other risk factors to prevent a heart attack, stroke and diabetes. “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthier Heart” is due to be released Fall 2009. For more info visit

Large Thighs Protect Us from Heart Disease and Premature Death?


measuring hips

 Over the past year we have heard a lot about the increased risk for heart disease and diabetes with belly fat.  But now we may also have to start measuring our thighs??

 A recent study published on the British Medical Journal website (September 2009) states that adults with a thigh circumference less than 60 cm are at a higher risk for heart disease and premature death.  This is the first study I came across reporting health problems related to thigh girth.  This study followed 1463 men and 1380 women from Denmark for 10 years.  The researchers found that adults with smaller thigh size were more likely to experience an early death and heart disease, even after taking body fat and other high risk factors (such as smoking and high cholesterol) into account.  The authors suggest that the increased risk in men and women with narrow thighs may be related to too little muscle mass in this region which could contribute to problems with insulin sensitivity and lead to the development of diabetes and heart disease.  The increased risk was observed in both adults with and without belly fat.

 We will have to await future studies to see if these results are validated in other groups.  For more heart healthy info visit