Heart disease news archives

October - December 2008

Heart disease news summaries:

Getting more sleep each day appears to lower risk of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries, which is considered to be a precursor of heart disease. US researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center followed 495 people aged 35 to 47. They assessed the buildup of calcium in the coronary arteries at the start of study and again five years later. The subjects' sleep patterns were recorded on a computer program.

Among those who slept less than five hours a night, 27% developed coronary artery calcification. That dropped to 11% in those who slept five to seven hours, and just 6% in those who slept more than seven hours a night. The study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Reuters(December 24, 2008)

The stress of living with in-laws and kids could increase a woman's risk of serious heart disease. According to H. Iso, M.D., of Osaka University, women living in multi-generational households have a two-to-three-fold higher risk of coronary heart disease compared with those who lived with only a spouse. The cause is probably due to stress from multiple family roles, researchers said.

Previous studies have suggested that living in a multi-generational household could be both beneficial and stressful.Researchers conducted the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective (JPHC) study of 90,987 Japanese men and women ages 40 to 69. All participants were disease-free when they enrolled in the study between 1990 and 1994. They were surveyed regarding living arrangements, personal and family medical histories, perceived stress, occupation, personality, and diet and exercise.

The study found playing multiple roles like daughter-in-law, mother, and partner could boost levels of stress hormones and inflammatory proteins that strengthen the effects of other risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes, researchers said.

Despite an increased risk of disease, researchers found no association in either men or women between mortality from coronary heart disease and multi-generational family structure.

MedPage Today (December 12, 2008)

A Mediterranean diet plus a daily serving of nuts may lower stomach fat and blood pressure in older adults at risk for heart disease, a Spanish study found. The number of patients who had metabolic syndrome, which includes a large waistline, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, decreased almost 14 percent after a year on the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fish and healthy fats and mixed nuts. That compares with a two percent drop in those on a low fat diet, according to research released in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

“There are enough scientific evidences to recommend the Mediterranean diet over the low fat diet for health outcomes,” said Emilio Ros, a doctor in endocrinology and nutrition service at the Hospital Clinic Barcelona, and an author of the study

In addition, a July report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that overweight people lost more pounds on a Mediterranean diet than did those on a diet low in fat.

Longer follow-up of the patients in the study is needed to confirm the benefits, the authors wrote.

Bloomberg (December 8, 2008)

Heart disease is still the number 2 killer in Canada according to a new Statistics Canada report. Heart disease death rates dropped 16.3 per cent between 2000 and 2004; however, the top three causes of death for the overall population (cancer, heart disease, & stroke) remain the same for men and women.

Canwest News Service (December 5, 2008)

Vitamin D may help lower risk of heart attacks. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology says people with low levels of Vitamin D are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to people with higher vitamin levels. "Vitamin D deficiency is an unrecognized, emerging cardiovascular risk factor, which should be screened for and treated," said cardiologist James O'Keefe of the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. The evidence that people lacking in Vitamin D have a higher risk of heart disease comes from the Framingham Heart Study, a famous study that has followed thousands of ordinary people since the 1950s to find links between lifestyle and cardiovascular health.

Although experts caution that more study is required, studies certainly seem to indicate that Vitamin D protects against some cancers and heart disease and may help fight infection.

Vitamin D is available from sunshine and vitamin pills.

Canwest News Service (December 2, 2008)

Working out on a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill just 25 to 30 minutes most days of the week is enough to modestly lower risk of hospitalization or death for patients with heart failure say researchers from Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI).

The study reported at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2008 by Christopher O'Connor M.D., director of the Duke Heart Center and David Whellan, M.D., of Thomas Jefferson University, involved 2331 patients at 82 study sites in the US, Canada, and France. Patients were randomized into a group that received usual care or to a group that received usual care plus an exercise training program that began under supervision but then transitioned to home-based, self-monitored workouts.

Researchers hope the findings will put to rest long-held fears that exercise may be too risky for some patients. "The most important thing we found from this study is that exercise is safe for patients with heart failure, and when adjustments were made for specific baseline characteristics, it significantly improved clinical outcomes," said O'Connor.

Noted Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the $37 million study, "As the number of people affected by heart failure is expected to rise with the aging US population, it is promising to know that patients can benefit from a low-risk method to improve their health."

ScienceDaily (November 20, 2008)

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function. Music (chosen by the participants) caused tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate in order to increase blood flow. This healthy response matches what the same researchers found in a 2005 study of laughter.

The physiological impact of music may affect the activity of brain chemicals called endorphins. "The emotional component may be an endorphin-mediated effect," said Dr. Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The results of the study, conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center, were presented at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association, on November 11, 2008, in New Orleans.

ScienceDaily (November 12, 2008)

Lack of sleep may lead to heart disease. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine, sleeping less than 7 1/2 hours a night was associated with a 33 percent higher rate of stroke and heart attacks.

They found that shorter duration of sleep is a predictor of heart incidents in older individuals with hypertension. Subjects in the study whose blood pressure rose at night were also more prone to heart disease. The study followed 1,255 people with hypertension for about 50 months and tracked blood pressure (day and night), sleep duration, and heart events such as stoke, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death.

Agence France-Presse (November 12, 2008)

Many octogenarians not only stand an excellent chance of surviving open-heart surgery, but are able to maintain a good quality of life. Researchers at McGill University followed 185 patients 80 years of age or over who had surgery to repair or replace defective heart valves.

Five years after the operations, 60% of them were still alive and 90% of those still living were leading independent lives. "Age should not be a reason for doctors to rule out the possibility of heart surgery for octogenarian patients," said cardiac surgeon Kevin Lachapelle.

Canwest News Service (November 1, 2008)

A French doctor has unveiled the world's first fully implantable artificial heart. The revolutionary mixture of animal tissue, titanium, and missile technology perfectly replicates the human heart according to its inventor. It's covered in in specially treated tissue to avoid rejection by the body's immune system and the formation of blood clots. The heart can respond instantly to changes in blood pressure and flow and adjusts the heart rate accordingly.

Professor Alain Carpentier, head of research on cardiac grafts and prostheses at Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris said the new heart was necessary given the chronic shortage of heart donors and growing heart patient waiting lists.

Assuming French medical authorities give the go-ahead, it should be ready for clinical trial on approximately 20 volunteers by 2011.

Daily Telegraph, Paris (October 28, 2008)

Exercising once a week can help prolong life expectancy for people with heart disease according to a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Patients with established heart disease are encouraged to be physically active to prevent disease progression and prolong their life expectancy.

But how much exercise is required? A study to be published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation concludes that even one weekly exercise session is associated with lower all-cause mortality, both in women and men.

The study was based on data collected in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study. 3500 women and men with heart disease were studied over an 18-year period. Mortality decreased by 30 per cent among women who exercised once a week compared to those who did not exercise at all. For men the corresponding figure was 20 per cent.

ScienceDaily (October 23, 2008)

Aspirin does not prevent heart attacks in patients with diabetes, study suggests. Taking regular aspirin and antioxidant supplements does not prevent heart attacks in high risk groups with diabetes and asymptomatic arterial disease, and aspirin should only be given to patients with established heart disease, stroke or limb arterial disease, according to a study published on the British Medical Journal website.

Those with diabetes are two to five times more likely to suffer from heart disease than the general population and heart disease is a major cause of death in patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes. Aspirin is commonly prescribed for the prevention of heart disease in patients with diabetes and with peripheral arterial disease.

Overall, researchers found no benefit from either aspirin or antioxidant treatment in the prevention of heart attacks or death in patients with diabetes. Only patients with a history of heart disease or stroke benefit from taking aspirin, writes Professor William Hiatt in an accompanying editorial.

ScienceDaily (October 16, 2008)

US doctors are implanting too many artery-opening heart stents, risking more deaths, heart attacks and other complications, because they're not performing tests that could gauge patients' risks, two studies found.

Doctors could cut their use of heart stents, which are tiny metal tubes used to prop open clogged vessels, by one-third if they used a technique that better measures the severity of a blockage, according to data released at a Washington, D.C. medical conference. In another study, researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association found more than half the patients with stable heart disease aren't getting a recommended exercise stress test before doctors clear their coronary artery.

More than 1.2 million angioplasties, are performed each year in the US, according to the American Heart Association. As a result of the failure to perform diagnostic tests, some patients may be getting an angioplasty when it's not necessary or advisable, researchers in both studies found.

Bloomberg (October 14, 2008)

Family doctors are more likely to chalk up the symptoms of heart disease to anxiety if the sufferer is female, a study found. When the patients didn't complain of a specific and recent source of stress in their lives, there was no difference in the way men and women were diagnosed for heart disease or referred to a cardiologist. The findings, presented at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics meeting in Washington, may help explain why women often don't get prompt treatment for heart disease, which is their leading cause of death, researchers said.

Doctors in the study read vignettes about a 47-year-old man or a 56-year-old woman, whose ages would have given them a similar risk of heart disease. When the story said the patient appeared anxious and reported a recent cause of stress, doctors interpreted chest pain, shortness of breath, and irregular heart rates as psychological symptoms rather than heart disease more than twice as often in the woman. In reality, stress is a risk factor that can signal an elevated risk of heart disease in anyone, the researchers said.

The gender of the physician didn't affect the results. An earlier study yielded similar findings among medical students and physician assistant students, showing the bias is deep and widespread. Given that women are more likely to discuss stress with their doctors, and don't always have conventional symptoms of heart disease such as chest pain, physicians need to be aware of gender bias.

Bloomberg (October 12, 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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