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Working Too Much?

If you're putting in significant time at work - 55 hours or more per week - you may be bumping up your risk of stroke. New research from the UK suggests that stroke risk rises by 33 percent among people in Europe, the U.S. and Australia who work much more than the usual 35-40 hours per week. It also found that the risk of coronary heart disease was 13 percent higher among those whose workweeks exceeded 55 hours. The findings were based on data from about 600,000 workers after researchers controlled for other risks including smoking, physical activity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, study leader Mika Kivimaki, of University College London, said his team found "no differences between men and women, or between older people and younger ones, or those with higher or lower socioeconomic status." Although the findings were statistically significant, a 55 percent increased risk isn't as scary as it may seem. Here's why: if the normal risk of stroke is one person in 100, a 55 percent increase means that 1.55 people of 100 are at risk. With a 13 percent increase, if 1 person in 100 normally has a heart attack, the risk rises to 1.13 per 100.

More Potassium, Please

Potassium from bananas, sweet potatoes and white beans can help protect midlife women from strokes, but most of women in this age group don’t consume nearly enough potassium-rich foods. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York followed more than 90,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 for an average of 11 years and determined that those whose diets included the most potassium were 12 percent less likely to have a stroke and 16 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke (the most common type where the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off) than were women whose potassium intake was lowest. They also found that the women who received the most potassium were 10 percent less likely to die than women who consumed the least, and that the risk of ischemic stroke was reduced by 27 percent among those who did not have high blood pressure and whose potassium consumption was highest. The risk of all types of stroke was 21 percent lower among these women than among those whose potassium intake was lowest. Women who had high blood pressure and consumed the most potassium had a lower risk of death, but not a reduced risk of stroke compared to those whose diets contained the least potassium, a result that speaks to high blood pressure as a primary risk factor for stroke. Only 2.8 percent of women in the study get at least 4,700 mg of potassium daily, the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only 16.6 percent of the women consumed at least 3,510 mg or more as recommended by the World Health Organization. The study results were based on potassium intake from food, not supplements.

Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller et al, “Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women's Health Initiative.” Stroke, September 4, 2014.

What Sugary Sodas Can Do to Your Kidneys

A study from Japan suggests sweetened sodas increase the risk of kidney diseaseA study from Japan suggests another reason to avoid sweetened sodas: an increased risk of kidney disease. More than 12,000 employees at a Japanese university had their urine tested for the presence of protein as part of their annual check-ups. Protein in the urine can be an early – but reversible – indication of kidney damage. The researchers found that nearly 11 percent of the employees who reported drinking two or more soft drinks daily had protein in their urine during three years of follow up. By comparison, protein was found in the urine of just 8.4 percent of the employees who drank no sodas, and in about 9 percent of those who reported drinking about one can per day. In addition to kidney disease, protein in the urine can also be a very early indication of heart disease, stroke and heart failure. The study results were presented on November 9, 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology. An earlier study, published in 2007, found that drinking two or more colas a day - diet or regular - was linked to twice the normal risk of chronic kidney disease. The same risk was not observed for carbonated beverages other than colas.

T.M. Saldana et al, “Carbonated beverages and chronic kidney disease,” Epidemiology, July 2007