Lifestyle changes are known to reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. A new study that simulated the effect of lifestyle change on future cardiovascular risks for people with high blood pressure suggests one change – adopting a heart-healthy diet – may do more than others.
The findings predict adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet would do more to cut cardiovascular events over a 10-year period than changes such as weight loss and physical activity for young and middle-aged adults with stage 1 hypertension that isn’t being treated.
Researchers tracked the incidence of heart failure over six years in more than 94,000 middle-aged adults in the U.K. Biobank who wore wrist accelerometers to record the amount and intensity of their physical activity over seven days between 2013-2015.
Participants who engaged in 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity during the week of observation reduced their risk of being hospitalized for or death from heart failure by two-thirds compared to participants who did not engage in the same amounts of moderate or vigorous physical activity during the week.
A six-year analysis of more than 94,000 adults in the U.K. Biobank with no history of heart failure at enrollment has found that engaging in moderate or vigorous physical activity may lower the risk of developing heart failure, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
The study is one of the first to use objectively measured activity levels to estimate heart failure risk. The results are consistent with previous studies finding that performing 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week may reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke.
Heart health and your health in general are clearly tied to your psychological health. It should come as no surprise to regular readers here that eat less; move more; live longer works.
The American Heart Association has released a scientific statement addressing how psychological health can contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Their analysis of science to date concluded that negative psychological health (depression, chronic stress, anxiety, anger, pessimism, and dissatisfaction with one’s current life) is linked to CVD risk and may play a direct role in both biological processes and downstream lifestyle behaviors that cause CVD. Conversely, positive psychological health can contribute to better cardiovascular health and reduced cardiovascular risk.The majority of research suggests interventions to improve psychological health can have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health.
Get regular health check-ups that include basic screening for psychological health and seek help from a mental health professional if you have concerns. The study also recommends exercise, meditation, and other self-care as potential ways to promote both mental and physical health.
Levels of alcohol consumption currently considered safe by some countries are linked with development of heart failure, according to research presented at Heart Failure 2022, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
“This study adds to the body of evidence that a more cautious approach to alcohol consumption is needed,” said study author Dr. Bethany Wong of St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. “To minimize the risk of alcohol causing harm to the heart, if you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do drink, limit your weekly consumption to less than one bottle of wine or less than three-and-a-half 500 ml cans of 4.5% beer.”
Many people with heart failure also have diabetes or high blood pressure. But new research suggests those conditions, even when treated, aren’t well controlled, placing people at risk for worsening heart problems, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
“We know that controlling hypertension and diabetes is critical for people with heart failure,” said Dr. Madeline Sterling, a primary care physician at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. “But few studies have been able to ascertain how well those risk factors have been controlled. This study really takes a big step forward in doing that.”
Sterling wrote an editorial accompanying the study that appeared in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Heart Failure.
Heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump as well as it should and fails to deliver enough oxygen to the body, making it harder for people to perform everyday tasks. Hypertension, another name for high blood pressure, and diabetes are major risk factors for heart failure, which affects more than 6 million people in the U.S., especially those who have other heart problems or who have had heart attacks.
In the new study, researchers analyzed 18 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a series of federal studies assessing the prevalence of major diseases and their risk factors among U.S. adults.
While just 8% of 1,423 people diagnosed with heart failure had poor glycemic control, defined in the study as a hemoglobin A1C level of 8% or higher, 21% of those being treated for diabetes failed to meet blood glucose goals. This did not vary by race or ethnicity.
Researchers also found 48% of people with heart failure had uncontrolled hypertension, which the researchers defined as a systolic blood pressure, the top number in a reading, of at least 130. Among people prescribed blood pressure-lowering medication, poor control was even higher, at 51%. Black adults had higher uncontrolled rates than their white peers, at 53% compared to 47%.
That higher rate of poor blood pressure control among Black adults with heart failure was not surprising since it mirrors racial disparities in blood pressure control in the general population, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, senior author of the study, funded in part by the AHA.
“This speaks to a larger problem, which is a systemic failing to control the leading risk factors that account for the greatest number of non-communicable deaths worldwide,” said Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“The reasons for these disparities are manifold,” said Dr. Leah Rethy, a resident physician at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and lead author of the study. They include the history of structural racism in the U.S., which is largely responsible for disparities in access to health care, proximity to green spaces where people can safely meet exercise goals and “all sorts of things that influence somebody’s life course up until the time they get heart failure,” she said.
While the vast majority of people in the study had insurance, they also reported incomes below the poverty line, which could affect their access to quality care or the ability to pay for medications, said Sterling, who was not involved in the research. The study also did not track whether people being treated for high blood pressure and diabetes were actually taking the medications prescribed to them.
The study documented only the prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure and poor glycemic control, not why those risk factors were uncontrolled, Rethy said.
“We think there’s probably a number of reasons that include a lack of understanding or focus from providers about the importance of blood pressure control, but also perhaps a lack of accessibility to consistent and affordable primary and specialty care for adults with heart failure,” she said, “particularly those under age 65 who don’t qualify for Medicare.”
Sterling added that “it’s actually quite hard to control these risk factors. It’s not just a matter of giving people medications. This study is shedding light on this.”
Many people who have heart failure are older, frail and may have cognitive issues, so it may be difficult for them to perform the extensive self-monitoring needed to manage their health, she said. “A lot is put on patients to manage this at home, and it’s a challenge.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s an insurmountable one, Rethy said. The key is finding ways to help health care professionals and patients put into practice what researchers know about how to get blood pressure and blood glucose levels under control.
“There are many good medications and lifestyle interventions that we know work,” she said. “We shouldn’t think of it as too lofty to achieve. We have access to lots of tools to help fix it.”
Exposure to air pollutants – even at levels below World Health Organization air quality guidelines – may trigger a heart attack within the hour, according to a new study from China that found the risks were highest among older people and when the weather was colder.
The study found exposure to any level of four common air pollutants could quickly trigger the onset of acute coronary syndrome. ACS is an umbrella term describing any situation in which blood supplied to the heart muscle is blocked, such as in a heart attack or unstable angina, chest pain caused by blood clots that temporarily block an artery. The strongest risk occurred within the first hour of exposure and diminished over the course of the day.
Acai (ah-sigh-EE) berries are a grape-like fruit native to the rainforests of South America. They are harvested from acai palm trees.
The fruits are about 1 to 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter and a deep purple color. The seed constitutes about 80 percent of the fruit. The taste of acai berries has been described as a blend of chocolate and berries, with a slight metallic aftertaste.
A growing body of research suggests heart attacks, angina and other heart events increase during winter and summer.
Now, a new study could explain why.
Researchers reviewed an international registry of 1,113 people, the majority from Japan, with acute coronary syndrome. Heart attack is a type of acute coronary syndrome, which occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly decreased or blocked.
Using images of the fatty deposits in participants’ coronary arteries, researchers put people into groups: plaque rupture, plaque erosion and calcified plaque. Each plaque scenario can block blood flow and lead to a heart attack or other cardiac event. But a rupture is more immediate and occurs when the calcified plaque breaks off. Erosion can happen over time.
“We looked at those three underlying mechanisms to see whether they were different among the different seasons. As expected, we found a significant difference,” said Dr. Ik-Kyung Jang, lead author of the study published Thursday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Jang is an interventional cardiologist and director of the Cardiology Laboratory of Integrated Physiology and Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Like the gift that keeps on giving, COVID-19 is the plague that keeps on taking. It turns out that the affliction can cause complications with other medical conditions.
COVID-19 can cause serious cardiovascular complications including heart failure, heart attacks and blood clots that can lead to strokes, emergency medicine doctors report in a new scientific paper. They also caution that COVID-19 treatments can interact with medicines used to manage patients’ existing cardiovascular conditions.
The new paper from UVA Health’s William Brady, MD, and colleagues aims to serve as a guide for emergency-medicine doctors treating patients who may have or are known to have COVID-19. The authors note that much attention has been paid to the pulmonary (breathing) complications of COVID-19, but less has been said about the cardiovascular complications that can lead to death or lasting impairment. Continue reading →
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Following is a super discussion of the relationship between body weight and heart health from Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
Excess body weight increases risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and many other illnesses. However, not everyone who is overweight or obese develops these illnesses; and simply having a “normal” body weight or body mass index (BMI)-a measure of body weight relative to height-is no guarantee of low risk. “The relationship between BMI and risk for CVD and death is complex,” says Edward Saltzman, MD, academic dean for education at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Elevated BMI does increase CVD risk, but risk is also impacted by things like body-fat percentage, waist circumference, age, duration of obesity, race, ethnicity, gender, and other genetic factors,” as well as lifestyle elements such as smoking and level of physical activity. Continue reading →
How many times and how many ways do we have to hear that keeping our weight under control and being physically active are good for us? Eat less; move more; live longer.
Weight loss, regular physical activity and other lifestyle changes are effective yet underused strategies that should be added to optimize management of atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm), according to “Lifestyle and Risk Factor Modification for Reduction of Atrial Fibrillation,” a new Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association published in the Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm that affects at least 2.7 million people in the United States and is increasing as the population grows older. In AF, the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, beat rapidly and erratically, interfering with proper movement of blood through the chambers, which can allow blood clots to form. Parts of these clots can break off and flow to the brain, causing an ischemic stroke. People who have AF have a five-fold greater risk of having a stroke compared to people without the condition.
To reduce stroke risk in their patients, health professionals use medications or procedures to regulate the heart rate, prevent abnormal heart rhythms (AF) and reduce blood clotting. Continue reading →
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
The following is from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard.
When heart experts talk about prevention, they usually refer to one of three types: secondary, primary and primordial prevention.  All three have similar elements, but different starting times and different effects.
Despite the power of individual behavior change, it must be noted that unfavorable eating patterns are driven by a variety of biological, social, economic, and psychological factors. This is acknowledged in a 2018 review paper, which recommends that “governments should focus on cardiovascular disease as a global threat and enact policies that will reach all levels of society and create a food environment wherein healthy foods are accessible, affordable, and desirable.”  The central illustration of the paper (below) highlights several policy strategies that may help boost healthy eating, such as improving nutrition labels, regulating food marketing, and promoting healthy school and work environments.Continue reading →
Younger women are having more heart attacks, says a recent study. Researchers were surprised to find that while the heart attack rate has decreased among older adults, it’s risen among those ages 35-54, especially women. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study reviewed more than 28,000 hospitalizations for heart attacks in four cities.
“This observational study found a trend in young women,” says Virginia Colliver, M.D., cardiologist with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians-Heart Care in Bethesda, Maryland. “But the research doesn’t provide insight into why the uptick in heart attacks is happening to younger people. I suspect it has to do with more people having risk factors for heart disease at an earlier age.”
Heart Attack Risk Factors for Women
There are several factors that increase your chance of developing heart disease. Almost 50% of all Americans have at least one of three major risk factors for the condition: Continue reading →
Being a senior citizen with a family tree containing both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, I read everything I can on the subject. Here is the latest from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).
Did you know that taking care of your heart can reduce your risk for memory and thinking problems? A review of medical research conducted by the Global Council on Brain Health recently showed a reduced risk of dementia with improved heart health. So, let’s review their major findings to learn how we can take better care of our hearts and brains. Continue reading →
I love my Apple Watch and have written several posts about how it helps me to keep fit. Now comes a study from Scripps that makes me feel even better about it. You can read further about the watch on my Page – How my Apple Watch promotes my good health.
If you wear a smart watch or fitness tracker, you’re likely capturing an important but currently underused vital sign—resting heart rate—that soon may serve as a valuable window into your health, according to new study by the Scripps Research Translational Institute.
In a heart study of unprecedented scale, researchers evaluated the resting heart rate of more than 92,000 individuals for over 32 million days using de-identified data from wrist-worn devices. The scientists found that average resting heat rate varied widely between individuals, with norms that differed by up to 70 beats per minute. Less than 10 percent of the variability could be attributed to expected factors such as age, sex, body mass index or daily sleep duration. However, for individuals, resting heart rate was much more consistent over the two-year study period, with infrequent episodes outside of their norms.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, a Cleveland Clinic survey finds that two-thirds of Americans (66%) in a committed relationship are concerned with their partner’s heart health. Moreover, 60% of Americans say they are more motivated to live a heart healthy lifestyle for their partners than for themselves. This is especially true for men – 67% compared to 52% for women.
The survey was conducted as part of Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute’s “Love your Heart” consumer education campaign in celebration of American Heart Month. It looked at how relationships affect heart health. Continue reading →