Heart disease news archives

July - September 2008

Heart disease news summaries:

People with heart disease run such a high risk of depression that they should be screened for the condition, according to the American Heart Association. Studies have found 15 to 20 percent of patients hospitalized with a heart attack show symptoms of major depression. People with heart disease who are not hospitalized show depression rates of about 9.3 percent, compared with 4.8 percent of healthy people, according to the heart association. About 16 million people have heart disease in the US, including 8.1 million who have suffered a heart attack.

New recommendations call for all patients with heart disease to be screened at hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics, and cardiac rehab centers for depression. Those showing signs of the mood disorder should be seen by a mental health professional.

They also recommended that heart patients being treated for depression be monitored to make sure they follow the plan for dealing with both conditions.

Bloomberg (September 29, 2008)

Overweight people at risk of heart attack 12 years earlier than leaner folks. A study of more than 111,000 men and women found that the heavier the person, the younger the age of a first heart attack. The most obese people have their heat attacks on average when they were 59. That compares to about age 75 for the leaner group and age 71 for the normal weight group.

The rate of diabetes (another heart disease risk factor) was 17 percent in the leaner group and 49 percent in the most obese.

"The study shows that...there is a tremendous risk difference in terms of having your first heart attack if you are overweight or obese." says Dr. Arya Sharma of the University of Alberta in Edmonton.The study appears in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Canwest News Service (September 24, 2008)

People with heart disease should do whatever they can to avoid being sedentary. Dr. Anil Nigam, of the Montreal Heart Institute and colleagues evaluated leisure time physical activity among 14,021 generally middle-aged men and women with heart disease who had artery-clearing procedures between 1974 and 1979.

After following these individuals for an average of 14.7 years, investigators found that decreasing physical activity levels correlated with increasing death rates.

Over the course of the study, the death rate was lowest (30 percent) among those involved in strenuous recreation such as endurance activities or competitive team sports. Men and women reporting moderate or mild activity levels had higher overall death rates of 35 and 40 percent, respectively.

The death rate was highest (42 percent) among those reporting leisure activities that primarily involved sitting, the investigators reported in the American Journal of Cardiology (August 2008).

Sedentary folks, versus those more physically active, were 1.6 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease or other causes over the long term.

Reuters (September 5, 2008)

Rapid pulse rate increases heart attack risk. New research presented in Munich at the European Society of Cardiology has revealed patients with a rapid pulse rate are more likely to have a heart attack.

The study of 11,000 patients with heart disease found a patient with a pulse rate above 70 beats per minute is 34 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, 53 percent more likely to have heart failure, and 46 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

The research found that lowering the heart rate with a drug called Ivabradine reduced the risk of heart attack by almost a third. "The study will change the way we manage heart disease because we will be looking at the heart rate," Professor Sindone said.

abc.net.au (September 3, 2008)

Apple, orange juice don't mix with pills. Apple, orange, and grapefruit juice can decrease the absorption of other drugs including certain antibiotics and beta blockers - pills widely prescribed for high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, abnormal heart beats, and chest pain.

Drugs are almost always best taken with water and people should avoid drinking juices for at least two hours (after taking the meds), the time it takes most drugs to be absorbed.

Canadian News Service (August 20, 2008)

Cholesterol drugs don't boost cancer risk study says. Cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by millions of Americans don't raise the risk of cancer, according to a new report that calms fears raised by an earlier study from the same authors.

The findings appear to clear drugs including Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor and AstraZeneca Plc's Crestor from responsibility for the cancers, said Richard Karas, director of preventive cardiology at Tufts Medical Center and the senior author of the paper.

"It's important that people don't worry that their medicines may be contributing to cancer," Karas said.

Bloomberg.com(August 20, 2008)

Does fitness offset fatness? Exercise is the single best thing you can do to prevent or control heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, gallstones, depression, and a host of other physical woes. That’s true whether your weight is in the normal range or you could afford to lose a few pounds.

Consider exercise and a healthy weight in your efforts to stay healthy or get healthy. Physical activity and weight loss (when needed) improve the flexibility of arteries. They lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. They ease inflammation throughout the body. And they make blood less likely to form clots inside arteries, which can trigger heart attacks and strokes. Exercise helps you lose or maintain weight, while losing weight can give you more energy and mobility for exercise.

This doesn’t mean you need to run marathons. Walking at least 30 minutes a day is great. Walking for longer, or doing something more intense, is even better. You don’t need to instantly slim down to a healthy weight, either. If you are overweight, losing just 5% to 10% of your weight will start you on the road to better health.

Harvard Medical School HEALTHbeat (August 19, 2008)

New implant device remotely monitors heart failure patients. Cardiologists at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital may be able to curb visits for some of their patients as they recently became Chicago’s first researchers using a new wireless pressure sensor technology that allows them to track the pulmonary artery pressure of patients at home.

The implanted pressure sensor is about the size of a standard paper clip. It is implanted into the pulmonary artery through a catheter-based procedure. Subjects can get readings from home when they lie on a pillow containing an antenna that interacts with the implanted device to get readings on heart and lung pressures.

Northwestern Memorial has implanted three patients to date and seven more are planned. With this system, pressure data is transmitted to a secure database that makes the data available to physicians from a proprietary web site. Data can also be made available to physicians on a hand held device, like a BlackBerry.

ScienceDaily (August 8, 2008)

Fatal medication errors occurring at home increased substantially from 1983 to 2004. The overall rate of a fatal medication error, irrespective of location, rose by 360% during the years studied. Fatal medication errors at home and not combined with other drugs or alcohol rose by 560%. When domestic fatal medication errors were combined with consumption of alcohol or street drugs, the percentage increase skyrocketed to 3200%.

Fatal medication errors were distributed across a wide range of ages, demographic, and geographic areas. The increases were highest for men, whites, and middle-aged people (40–59 years). In fact, more than half of all fatal medication errors occurred in middle-aged people.

The explanation for the increase may be more than the inability or unwillingness of people to take drugs properly at home. Deaths may have occurred because patients were both ill and inappropriately at home. The high costs of hospital care make early discharge the norm, even when it's not appropriate for certain patients; home health services can be inadequate or non-existent; doctors might fail to counsel patients on proper drug use and the dangers of drug–drug or drug–alcohol interaction; and over-the-counter availability could make drugs seem safer than they are.

These statistics make an urgent case for increased awareness and education about proper use of drugs and drug interactions, and they highlight the responsibility of all health professionals, including pharmacists, to incorporate this information into routine care of patients.

The Lancet, Volume 372, Number 9637 (August 9, 2008)

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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