Heart disease news archives

January - March 2008

Heart disease news summaries:

Meditation is effective in controlling high blood pressure without the possible side-effects and hazards of anti-hypertension drugs, according an analysis at the University of Kentucky. Reported in the American Journal of Hypertension, the analysis evaluated nine trials and found that meditation was associated with approximate reductions of 4.7 mm systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm diastolic blood pressure.

Ottawa Citizen (March 30, 2008)

What's special about vitamin D? You can't get very much of it naturally through your diet. And, many Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient.

Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to high blood pressure in several studies, but further research is needed to determine whether consuming additional vitamin D — either in food or pills — lowers blood pressure or heart attack risk.

The recommended dietary intake of vitamin D goes up as people age; however, most experts recommend at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

How can you get 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day? You could eat vitamin D–rich foods (fatty cold-water fish, fortified breakfast cereals and juices, and milk), but you'd have to eat a lot to raise your blood levels. Getting more sun can increase vitamin D, but doing so means raising your risk for skin cancer. If your daily multivitamin contains less than 1,000 IU of Vitamin D, you can take a vitamin D supplement to make up the difference.

Harvard Medical School, HEALTHbeat (March 27, 2008)

Almost 40 percent of American adults haven't seen a dentist in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's important to get an exam regularly, because the health of your mouth affects your overall health. Plaque build-up can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, which can contribute to heart disease.

Lansing State Journal (March 23, 2008) - From the editors of Fitness magazine

Happy marriage aids blood pressure. A study at Brigham Young University found that men and women in happy marriages scored four points lower on 24-hour blood pressure readings than single adults with a good group of supportive friends or relatives. According to the study, it's not just being married that benefits health - what's most protective of health is having a happy marriage.

Edmonton Journal (March 22, 2008)

A vaccination for high blood pressure? A phase II study shows promising results in reducing blood pressure for people with hypertension. The vaccine developed by the Swiss company Cytos produced significant reductions in blood pressure that lasted for four months. There were no serious side-effects, but the trial involved only 48 patients receiving a single course of injections. Authors state: "Vaccination for hypertension may turn out to be very useful in many patients."

The Lancet Journal (March 8, 2008)

Editor's note: These findings are very promising but it will likely be some years before this hits the marketplace.

Certain oral contraceptives may pose health risks, study suggests. The finding raises concerns about long-term effects of synthetic hormones on vascular health in young women.

"The logical conclusion of this study is that over a long period of time it would not be good to have exposure to an agent that is reducing blood vessel flexibility, because it could be associated with the development of heart disease or related problems," said co-author Dr. Paul F. Kaplan, Eugene gynecologist and senior researcher.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest that estrogen is beneficial to arterial vascular health of women, but we don't know how synthetic hormones taken by young women affect their long-term cardiovascular health. Effects may not be noticed while women are young, but they may be adding to the fact that rates of cardiovascular disease are so high in women.

Dr. Kaplan stressed that a longer, larger study is needed. Additional research is planned under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

ScienceDaily (March 11, 2008)

Dark chocolate is supposed to be good for the heart. It's artery-opening activity is attributed to compounds called flavanols abundant in cacao beans (as well as in onions, apples, berries, beans, and some types of tea). Just because cacao beans contain flavanols doesn't mean that chocolate does. In fact, the bitter-tasting flavanols are traditionally removed.

You can't tell the flavanol content from the color of a chocolate bar or the percent cocoa it contains. Look for the least-processed chocolate you can find. Skip chocolate that has been treated with alkali. And keep in mind that you don't need much - an ounce, sometimes less — of flavanol-rich chocolate. The tough part is stopping with a small piece. An ounce of dark chocolate delivers about 150 calories. Eat that much every day without cutting back elsewhere and the girth you gain would far outweigh any benefit from chocolate.

Harvard Heart Letter (February 2008)

Cholesterol - How low do you go? The latest research sets the cholesterol bar even lower, particularly for people who already have heart disease. Lowering your LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) is even more important than previously thought. One of the safest and cheapest ways to treat high cholesterol is to change your eating habits: no more than 25% to 35% of your total daily calories from fat, more fiber such as that found in oat bran, and increased consumption of plant stanols and sterols, which are found in a number of food products such as certain margarines. Genetic and physiological differences influence how dietary fat affects cholesterol levels. Some people can influence their cholesterol levels through exercise and diet, others require medication.

Harvard Medical School, HEALTHbeat (February 5, 2008)

Exercise can reduce your chances of getting heart disease. For those who already have heart disease, exercise reduces the chances of dying from it. Aerobic exercise is the centerpiece of any fitness program.

Nearly all of the research regarding the disease-fighting benefits of exercise revolves around cardiovascular activity, which includes walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling. Experts recommend working out at moderate intensity. This level of activity is safe for almost everyone and provides the desired health benefits. Whether you're 9 or 90, evidence shows exercise can enhance your health and well-being.

Harvard Medical School, HEALTHbeat (January 31, 2008)

Editor's Note: Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Can calcium supplements increase vascular events? According to a report on Medscape, a new study has shown that calcium supplementation might increase vascular events in elderly women. The findings are unexpected because previous trials have shown that calcium improves blood cholesterol levels. Age may play a role. In women in their 50s and 60s the correlation with vascular events and calcium supplementation wasn't as strong as in more elderly women. According to Dr. Erin Michos of Johns Hopkins University, this is a thought provoking study but further work should be done. Others have warned it is premature to make treatment decisions on the basis of this new study.

Heartwire - a professional news service of WebMD (January 24, 2008)

Editor's Note: If you are currently taking calcium supplements, discuss this with your doctor.

People who are physically active and who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of of death from heart disease and other causes. A study in the European Heart Journal on January 9, 2008 reports that people who don't exercise or drink have a 30 - 49% greater risk of heart disease than those who exercise, drink moderately, or both. Studies conducted with over 12,000 participants over 20 years revealed physical activity combined with light to moderate intake of alcohol is associated with reduced risk.

Heartwire - a professional news service of WebMD (January 11, 2008)

Editor's Note: This may be inappropriate advice for those who don't drink due to religious beliefs or alcoholism.

Fewer heart patients visiting the dentist will be recommended for pre-procedure antibiotics. According to the American Heart Association, only an extremely small number of cases of infective endocarditis may be prevented by antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Antibiotics should only be recommended for people undergoing dental procedures who have underlying cardiac conditions associated with a high risk for an adverse effect from infective endocarditis.

According to researchers, further studies are necessary to look at the efficacy of preventive treatment on infective endocarditis among people who undergo a dental or medical procedure.

Cardiology Today (January 2008)

Editor's note: Talk to your doctor if you have previously had antibiotics for dental procedures.

More restaurants going trans fat free. Starting January 1, 2008, restaurants in Calgary, Alberta will be not be allowed to cook with fats and oils that have more than 2% trans fats. New York City was the first jurisdiction in the US to implement a ban of trans fats from its restaurants.

Trans fats are generated when liquid oils are turned into semi-sold fats such as margarine and shortening used in cooking and baking. Trans fats have been linked to obesity, clogged arteries, and increasing bad cholesterol levels while lowering the good cholesterol.

Globe and Mail (December 31, 2007)

Check out more heart disease news summaries in our quarterly archives or by checking the index on the main heart disease news page.

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