Less Heart-Damaging Inflammation with a Vegan Diet?
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A vegan diet may help lower heart-damaging inflammation more than the diet recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA), a new study finds.
The study included 100 people with heart disease, which was defined as having at least one narrowed heart artery. Half were randomly selected to follow a vegan diet, which excludes meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, seafood, and fish. The others followed the AHA diet, which encourages lean poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products, along with plant-based foods. All of the participants received weekly groceries, a cookbook, and sample menus. They also provided 24-hour diet recall records twice a week on random days.
After eight weeks, C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were 32% lower among people in the vegan diet group when compared with the AHA diet group. Elevated levels of CRP — a marker for inflammation — are associated with a higher risk of heart attack. The study, in the Dec. 4, 2018, Journal of the American Heart Association, lends further support for the benefits of plant-focused diets.
More Trees, Fewer Heart Risks?
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Living in a leafy, green neighborhood may lead to lower levels of some telltale markers for heart disease and stroke, new research suggests.
During the five-year study, researchers collected blood and urine samples from 408 people recruited from a cardiology clinic in Louisville, Ky. The researchers also estimated green space exposure using satellite imagery that showed the vegetation density in each of the participants’ neighborhoods.
People who lived in greener surroundings had lower urinary levels of epinephrine (indicating lower levels of stress) and F2-isoprostane, a marker of cell-damaging oxidation (indicating better health). They also had evidence of having a higher capacity to repair blood vessels when compared with people who lived in areas with less vegetation nearby (mainly business districts, industrial areas, and transportation zones).
The findings, published online Dec. 5, 2018, by the Journal of the American Heart Association, add to earlier research showing health benefits from living near green spaces.
What is the Advantage of Smart Watches on Heart Health?
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Time is relative but we still need a device to measure it if we want to have an effective daily routine. Without a watch, we couldn’t be able to know what time it is and our best bet would be to look up in the sky and try to figure it out by the position of the sun. And though that is an option it isn’t as convenient as a watch and it is no surprise why a wristwatch has been and still is one of the most popular fashion accessories. It looks nice and it effectively serves its purpose.
Still, we are living in times where technology has a lot of impact on everything and even watches are under a certain type of revolution. Nowadays, we are facing huge popularity of smartwatches that differ from the traditional wrist ones both in the design and functionality. But what is better and are there possible health benefits of smartwatches?
it seems that a smartwatch can very soon turn into a medical device as well, and this is something that matters. A smartwatch allows you to monitor your heart rate and function and the AI will inform you if the unusual function or rhythm has been detected. Along with that, in the future diabetes patients could rely on the smartwatch to remind them when to take their medicine.
Atrial Fibrillation may Increase your Risk of Dementia
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People with atrial fibrillation, or afib, a type of irregular heartbeat that is linked with stroke, also may have a greater risk of dementia than those without the condition, according to a study published online Oct. 10, 2018, by Neurology.
Researchers recorded medical data from 2,685 people, average age 73. None of them had dementia and 243 had afib. After nine years, another 279 people developed afib. The researchers found that people with afib showed a faster rate of decline in thinking and memory skills than those without the condition, and were 40% more likely to develop dementia.
It’s well known that people with afib can significantly lower their risk of stroke by taking anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners), and the study found that people who took the drugs also had a 60% lower dementia risk. (The researchers found that aspirin did not have the same effect.)
The thinking is that blood thinners stop the formation of small clots that can cause small unnoticed strokes, which could lead to faster cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia.
Does your Achilles Tendon Offer Clues to your Heart Health?
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A tendon that stretches between your heel and your calf may tell you something about your cardiovascular health. Researchers found that people with thicker Achilles tendons have more significant coronary artery disease and are at higher risk for a heart attack than those with thinner tendons.
The study, which was presented in November 2018 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Chicago, found that people with thicker Achilles tendons were more likely to have a blocked heart artery and left main coronary artery disease, which is associated with a high risk of heart disease and death. It’s unclear, however, exactly why this artery was thicker in these individuals.
Why your Heart Needs a Good Night’s Sleep
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Ordovas is an investigator at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, Spain.
In the new research, his team used coronary ultrasound and CT scans to track the artery health of nearly 4 000 Spanish adults. The study participants, average age 46, did not have heart disease at the beginning of the study.
The study couldn’t prove cause and effect, but people who slept less than six hours a night were 27% more likely to have body-wide atherosclerosis than those who slept seven to eight hours a night, Ordovas and his colleagues reported.
Too much sleep wasn’t great for the heart, either. The study also found that women who slept more than eight hours a night had an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
Role of caffeine and alcohol
Participants with “poor-quality” sleep – frequent awakenings or difficulty getting to sleep – were also 34% more likely to have atherosclerosis, compared to those with good-quality sleep.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“This is the first study to show that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart,” Ordovas said in a journal news release. He also directs nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University in Boston.
People who had short and poor-quality sleep also tended to consume higher levels of caffeine and alcohol, Ordovas noted.
“Many people think alcohol is a good inducer of sleep, but there’s a rebound effect,” he said. “If you drink alcohol, you may wake up after a short period of sleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep. And if you do get back to sleep, it’s often a poor-quality sleep.”
Two US experts agreed that sleep is a key component of cardiovascular health.
Good sleep hygiene
While a direct cause-and-effect relationship between sleep and heart health remains unclear, “targeting one’s sleep habits is finally getting recognised in the medical world as an important factor to improve heart disease,” said Dr Eugenia Gianos. She directs women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Gianos reasoned that behaviours in a person’s waking hours may explain the sleep-heart connection. That’s “because patients with good sleep hygiene have the energy to be physically active, make healthy food choices and handle stress better,” she said.
Dr Thomas Kilkenny directs sleep medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, also in New York City. The new study “opens a door to further investigations to hopefully demonstrate the cause and effect between poor sleep quality and the generation of atherosclerosis disease,” he said.
“In the meantime, physicians should constantly evaluate their patients to identify sleeping disorders and stress to their patients the need to maintain at least six to eight hours of sleep per night,” Kilkenny said.
Taming Stubbornly High Blood Pressure
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As many as one in seven people being treated for high blood pressure doesn’t have the condition under control, according to a recent scientific statement from the American Heart Association. The problem — known as resistant hypertension — is defined as having high blood pressure despite taking three or more blood pressure medications, including a diuretic.
For most people, high blood pressure means a reading of 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher. Staying below that threshold can dramatically lower a person’s odds of having a stroke or heart attack. That’s why it’s so important to address the barriers that prevent people from reaching their blood pressure targets, says Dr. Randall Zusman, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Many cases of alleged resistant hypertension occur because people don’t take their medications as prescribed, for various reasons,” he says. But sometimes, people have habits that counteract the effects of blood pressure drugs. In other cases, undiagnosed medical conditions may be to blame.
Many blood pressure drugs (see “Medications: Many options and combinations”) are available as inexpensive generics, so cost isn’t usually the reason people skip doses. More often, they’re troubled by side effects, some of which are easy to remedy. For instance, some people who take ACE inhibitors develop a bothersome cough. Taking a lower dose doesn’t help — you either have the cough or you don’t, says Dr. Zusman. So instead of taking an ineffective dose of an ACE inhibitor, they should switch to an angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB), which doesn’t have that side effect.
Sometimes people try to self-manage their drug regimen, which can be risky. “I can’t tell you how many people come in to my office and say, ‘I felt lightheaded one day, so I stopped taking one of my pills,'” says Dr. Zusman. Or they may cut one of their pills in half. They don’t realize different medications have different modes of action and the specific combination is what’s driving down their blood pressure. Also, abruptly stopping a beta blocker can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise, putting your heart at risk.
|Medications: Many options and combinations
There are more than 200 different drugs to treat high blood pressure. They fall into several classes, including
(For commonly prescribed examples, see www.health.harvard.edu/heart-meds/blood-pressure.)
The drugs your doctor prescribes may depend on other medical conditions you have, such as angina or atrial fibrillation. Combination medications, which pack two different classes into one pill, may allow you to swallow fewer pills. But they might not be available in doses or formulations that are best for your situation.
Diet and drug issues
Many people don’t understand the reason behind the standard advice to eat a low-sodium diet (sodium is a key component of salt). “A high-sodium diet interferes with commonly prescribed blood pressure drugs, making them less effective,” says Dr. Zusman. Avoid processed and restaurant-prepared foods, which are by far the biggest contributors of sodium in the American diet.
You should also avoid routine use of over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others). These drugs, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can raise blood pressure. If you take pain relievers daily or several times a week, ask your physician about the best option for your needs and take the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.
Sometimes, people with resistant hypertension have an underlying medical condition that elevates their blood pressure. These include an excess of the hormone aldosterone, which causes the body to hold on to sodium and water but lose potassium; renal artery stenosis, a narrowing of the arteries supplying the kidneys; and obstructive sleep apnea, in which the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep, causing pauses in breathing. People with resistant hypertension are far more likely than the general public to have one of these conditions, says Dr. Zusman.
In addition to steering clear of salty foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and don’t have more than two alcoholic drinks per day if you’re male or one drink per day if you’re female. Also, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. These habits have the added benefit of helping you maintain a healthy weight, which also helps control blood pressure.
Exercise May Help Outrun a Family Risk for Heart Disease
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Staying physically fit helps lower your risk of heart disease — even if the condition runs in your family, a new study finds.
Researchers relied on data from nearly half a million middle-aged and older adults in the United Kingdom. Over the six-year study, people with high levels of grip strength, self-reported physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness (as measured by a stationary bike test) were less likely than others to have a heart attack or stroke. That was true even among people with high genetic risk, based on whether they carried certain gene variants that have been linked to heart disease.
Among the one-third of people at the highest genetic risk, higher fitness levels were linked to a 49% lower risk for coronary artery disease compared with those who were the least fit. They were also 60% less likely to have atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder that raises the risk of stroke. The study was published April 9 in the journal Circulation.