Archive for the 'Cardiovascular Disease' Category

Fat Cells Can Increase Stroke Risk

Measuring your waist line regularly is a good way to keep an eye on weight gainBeing overweight increases the risk of ischemic stroke by 22%, while being obese increases the risk 64%, according to Italian Researchers from the University of Naples Medical School. In their 2010 study of almost 2.3 million people, the researchers found that being overweight and obese independently affected stroke risk.  

One possible reason for this, one of the researchers told Reuters, is that fat cells can secrete unhealthy substances that promote inflammation and contribute to hardening of the arteries and blood clotting.

Source: “Being overweight ups stroke risk, study confirms”, Reuters Health, April 5, 2010

More Information:  Control weight gain with exercise

Beta Blockers May Help Prevent Cancer

Beta Blockers are prescription medications used for high blood pressureTreatment with a certain type of blood pressure medication has been associated with better outcomes in breast cancer, according to British researchers from the Nottingham University Hospital in England.

Based on their review of 466 medical records of breast cancer patients, those taking blood pressure medication referred to as beta blockers, had a 71% reduction in the risk of breast cancer-specific death.  Also, there was a 57% reduction in the risk of distant metastasis, compared with patients on other antihypertensive agents or no antihypertensive therapy. 

The findings of this study add to previous research suggesting that drugs of this type might have anticancer activity.  In one study of patients with cardiovascular disease, there was a significant reduction in total cancer incidence among patients treated with beta blockers versus those on other antihypertensive medications.  In another study, prostate cancer was found to be significantly reduced in patients treated with alpha-1 blockers.

These findings are very compelling, but more research in this area is needed before any definite conclusions can be made.  

Source: Powe DG, et al “Beta-blocker treatment is associated with a reduction in tumor metastasis and an improvement in specific survival in patients with breast cancer” EBCC 2010; Abstract 445. 

Source: “EBCC: Beta-Blocker Role in Breast Cancer Examined ”, MedPage Today, March 30, 2010 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Rate of Depression

Salmon and vegetables are key foods in the Mediterranean dietThe Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on consumption of olive oil, legumes, fish, vegetables, fruits and whole grains may help protect against major depression, according to Spanish researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 

In this 2009 study, participants were scored on their dietary practices and categorized according to their adherence to the Mediterranean Diet.  Those in the highest category of adherence to the Diet were found to be the least likely to develop depression, whereas those in the lowest category were the most likely.

The Mediterranean diet is based on a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids, a high intake of legumes, cereal, fruits and nuts, vegetables, and fish, moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products, and low intake of meat.

A growing body of literature is reporting the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet with respect to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Cognitive Decline, Parkinson’s Disease, Erectile Dysfunction, and Type 2 Diabetes.

More Information: Depression

Source: “Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Depression”, MedPage Today, October 5, 2009
Source: ”Mediterranean Diet Protects Against Stomach Cancer”, Reuters, January 15, 2010

A Simple Way to Make a Major Difference in your Health

Vitamin D supplementsA recent study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah has found that people who increase their vitamin D blood levels to 43 or higher may lower their risk of diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Heralded as “One of the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2007″, Vitamin D continues to surface in new research as a critical nutrient in maintaining good health and preventing disease, yet almost half of the world’s population has lower than optimal levels of vitamin D.  

It is well known that hip fractures and muscle weakness, in people over 50, are linked with a deficiency in Vitamin D.  Many recent studies have also found that low Vitamin D levels are associated with a number of serious, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, gum disease, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis, cancer, stroke, mental decline, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.

A Vitamin D deficiency can be treated with a simple daily supplement and a blood test can measure the circulating Vitamin D levels in your blood.  A level of 30 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D is considered normal, although this may vary from lab to lab.

Many doctors are routinely drawing blood levels of Vitamin D to to make sure patients are getting enough vitamin D to optimize good bone health and prevent chronic disease. Ask your doctor about this.

Important Note: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, thus toxicity can occur from high intakes of vitamin D. Overdosage can occur from large amounts of supplements or cod liver oil, but it is unlikely to result from sun exposure or diet. Parents should consult with their pediatrician before giving any child vitamin D supplements. Excess vitamin D can reach toxic levels and be harmful.

  Source: “Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good”, HealthDay News, March 15, 2010 


Marathon Runners May be Causing Damage to Their Arteries

Illustration of the heart and aortaWhile moderate exercise has a protective effect on the heart, exercising too much can do harm, say Greek researchers from Athens Medical School.

In their recent study, male marathon runners had significantly increased stiffness of the aorta when compared with people who took part in moderate, recreational exercise. 

The aorta is the major artery leading from the heart and is the largest and most important artery in the body.  Stiffness of the aorta can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even death. 


Read more:

Source: “Marathoners Face Greater Risk of Artery Problems”, HealthDay, March 14, 2010 

Do You Know the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?

Rescue SquadHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability, yet most Americans don’t know the warning signs of a heart attack, according to the CDC.

“Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help,” says the American Heart Association.

Heart attack warning signs can include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort. This is the most common symptom. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Women are more likely than men to experience these symptoms, particularly back or jaw pain, as well as shortness of breath.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs: These may include
    • breaking out in a cold sweat,
    • nausea/vomiting or
    • lightheadedness

Chest pain is the most common symptom, but one study in the journal Chest revealed one in 12 patients do not have typical symptoms when having a heart attack. Heart-attack victims who don’t show symptoms of severe chest pain — often women, seniors or those with chronic conditions — are 10 times more likely to be misdiagnosed and also more likely to die of a heart attack. 

Source: Chest 2004

Mom’s Risk of Heart Disease Linked with Number of Births

 A pregnant womanA woman’s future risk of heart disease and stroke may be associated with the number of births she has in her lifetime, say researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

In their large recent study, women who gave birth two times had the lowest risk of future cardiovascular disease, whereas women with no, one, or three births had about 10 percent greater risk. The risk rose to 30 percent in women with four births and almost 60 percent in women with five or more births. 

Another large and well-designed study designed a completely different tool to predict a woman’s risk of suffering a future heart attack, stroke, or other major heart disease in the next 10 years. Read more

Source: American Heart Journal, February 2010
Source: “Heart disease risk tied to mom’s number of births”, Reuters, February 25, 2010

Pleasant Music is Good for the Mind and Body

PianoListen to music you like for 15 to 20 minutes a day — and consider it a healthful a practice like regular exercise and a healthy diet, says Dr. Michael Miller from the Center for Preventive Cardiology, in an article by Health Day.

Involve your child in music on a daily basis, says the Nemours Foundation.  

A growing body of research is pointing to the healthful benefits of listening to pleasant music.  It has been found to help with such things as pain, stress, depression, intelligence, memory, and sleep to name a few.

One recent study found that soothing music was associated with a  reduction in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure in patients with coronary heart disease. And another study found that music, like laughter, may benefit heart health. 

Music therapy is being used successfully with stroke patients. Finnish researchers recently found that listening to music for a few hours a day was associated with a stroke patient’s early recovery.

“Listening to music offers many benefits to children, research indicates. Musically inclined kids appear better at math and reading, have shown better focus, improved self-esteem and seem to play better with other children,” report experts in a recent article by Health Day. 

Much more research needs to be done, but the healthful benefits of music are surfacing in almost every area of our lives. 

Source: “Health Tip: Introduce Your Child to Music”, Health Day, March 1, 2010
Source: “Tune Up Your Health”, Health Day, January 29, 2010
Source: Michael Miller, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, Center for Preventive Cardiology, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore
Source: Aniruddh Patel, Ph.D., Esther J. Burnham senior fellow, Neurosciences Institute, San Diego
Source: Robert Zatorre, Ph.D., Montreal Neurological Institute, and professor, department of neurology and neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal
Source: Bradt J, et al “Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients” Cochrane Database of Syst Rev 2009; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006577.pub2

Magnesium may Boost Memory Yet Deficiency is Common

Dark green leafy vegetables and fish have magnesiumHalf the population of the industrialized countries has a deficiency in magnesium. A deficit in this important mineral has been linked with allergies, asthma, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, heart disease, muscle cramps and other conditions.  And now researchers are finding evidence that magnesium may also play an important role in memory and learning.

In a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mice given extra doses of a new magnesium compound had better learning abilities and working memories. This is an interesting study in that it provides evidence that a magnesium deficit may lead to decreased memory and learning ability, while an abundance of magnesium may improve cognitive function. The findings, described in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Neuron, are early however.  Before we start taking magnesium supplements, more research needs to be done. 

It’s good to keep in mind, however, that the average adult needs to consume between 300 and 400 milligrams of magnesium a day from magnesium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables. 

Source: Magnesium May Boost Brain Power, Fox News Health, February 1, 2010
Source: “Health Tip: Finding Magnesium in Food”, Health Day, January 14, 2010
Source: American Dietetic Association,, February 2010



Scientists Are Learning How to Slow Aging

Scientists are getting closer to unraveling the mystery of aging and now a new study points to evidence that omega-3 fatty acids appear to slow the biological aging process.  University of California researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids may slow aging by protecting the body’s chromosomes from the usual damage that occurs with aging. In their recent study of patients with heart disease, those who had the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the most slowing of their biological aging process, while those who had the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had evidence of the fastest rate of aging.

To determine the speed of biological aging, the researchers measured the length of telomeres on the patients’ chromosomes. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes and the shortening of telomeres has been linked to not only the aging process,  but cancer and a higher risk of dying. Telomeres allow cells to divide while keeping the genetic material intact. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get progressively shorter until the cell ultimately dies.  This normal aging process can be sped up by environmental factors such as obesity, poor diet, inactivity and smoking.  Scientists theorize that counteracting telomere shortening could allow people to be healthier and live longer.

In the University of California study there was no distinction between meals of fatty fish and fish-oil supplements—leaving open the question of whether it’s better for people to eat more fish, to eat plants such as flaxseed or just to take omega-3 supplements.

Experts point out that the results of this study are preliminary and need to be replicated before physicians should use them in practice, but a number of other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart health, and the American Heart Assn. recommends that patients with known coronary artery disease get at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil through intake of oily fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines, or the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Source: MedPage Today January 19, 2010

Video source: JAMA