Tag Archives: heart health

The promise of meditation for the heart and mind – AHA

Meditation, as a religious practice or mystic experience, may be as old as humanity. Evidence of its use dates back as far as 7,000 years, and some scholars speculate it might have begun among people sitting in caves, gazing into their fires.

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Today, it’s also the focus of serious scientific attention. While much of the work is preliminary, what researchers have learned about potential health benefits has them eager to learn more.

“Interest in meditation is vast – and is deep,” said Dr. Prab Nijjar, a cardiologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis.

Nijjar, who has led studies related to meditation and the heart, cautions that “there’s probably more that we don’t know than we know” about meditation’s benefits. But he’s far from alone in seeing potential.

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Alcohol may be more risky to the heart than previously thought

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).

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“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.”

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Prediabetes in young adults may raise heart attack risk

Young adults diagnosed with prediabetes may be more likely to be hospitalized for heart attacks than their peers with normal blood sugar levels, according to preliminary new research.

Prediabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. It is defined as having fasting blood sugar levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL. About 88 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, 29 million of whom are under 45 years old.

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“Prediabetes, if left untreated, can significantly impact health and can progress to Type 2 diabetes, which is known to increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease,” researcher Dr. Akhil Jain said in a news release. He is a resident physician at Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby, Pennsylvania.

“With heart attacks happening increasingly in young adults, our study was focused on defining the risk factors pertinent to this young population, so that future scientific guidelines and health policies may be better able to address cardiovascular disease risks in relation to prediabetes,” he said.

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These Heart Risk Factors Are a Recipe for Dementia

The faster you pile up heart disease risk factors, the greater your odds of developing dementia, a new study suggests.

Previous research has linked heart health threats such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity with mental decline and dementia.

Amassing those risk factors at a faster pace boosts your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, according to findings published online April 20 in the journal Neurology.

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Uncontrolled blood pressure, diabetes may be common among people with heart failure – AHA

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).

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“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.”

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About 1 in 4 adults has an often-missed liver disorder linked to higher heart disease risk

Statement Highlights:

  • It is estimated that about one in four adults worldwide has an abnormal build-up of fat in the liver, called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • NAFLD can lead to permanent liver damage, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with fatty liver disease.
  • Because NAFLD is often missed in routine medical screening, the new American Heart Association scientific statement raises awareness and understanding about its link to heart disease and to outline how to prevent and diagnose the condition.
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It is estimated that about one in four adults worldwide has a liver condition that is a risk factor for heart disease, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement published today in the Association’s peer-reviewed journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. The condition, called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), occurs when abnormally elevated amounts of fat are deposited in the liver, sometimes resulting in inflammation and scarring. The prevalence of NAFLD is an estimate, given the challenges in diagnosing the condition, which are detailed in the statement.

An American Heart Association scientific statement is an expert analysis of current research and may inform future guidelines. Professional organizations specializing in gastroenterology have previously published statements on the condition, however, they focus on liver toxicity (including scarring, cirrhosis and liver cancer) rather than heart disease risk. This is the Association’s first statement about NAFLD.

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common condition that is often hidden or missed in routine medical care. It is important to know about the condition and treat it early because it is a risk factor for chronic liver damage and cardiovascular disease,” said P. Barton Duell, M.D., FAHA, chair of the statement writing committee and professor of medicine in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute and Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.

There are two types of NAFLD: one when only fat is present in the liver (called non-alcoholic fatty liver), and the other when inflammation and scarring are also present (called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH). Excess alcohol intake can cause similar fat deposits and liver dysfunction, so the term NAFLD is used to differentiate between disease caused by excess alcohol intake vs. disease without alcohol as the underlying cause.

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Air pollution exposure may cause heart attack within an hour – AHA

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.

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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.

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Obesity significantly increased heart failure risk among women with late menopause – AHA

Research Highlights:

  • While women who enter menopause before age 45 are known to be at higher risk of heart failure, obesity significantly increased heart failure risk among women who experienced late menopause – at age 55 or older, according to a new study.
  • The findings indicate that maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding abdominal obesity may protect against developing heart failure, especially among women who experience late menopause.
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While women who enter menopause before age 45 are known to be at higher risk for heart failure, obesity significantly increased heart failure risk among women who experienced late menopause – at age 55 or older, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

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Hold the salt: Reducing sodium intake can help heart failure patients

For the past century, people with weak hearts have been told to lower their salt intake, but until now there has been little scientific evidence behind the recommendation.

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The largest randomized clinical trial to look at sodium reduction and heart failure reported results simultaneously in The Lancet and at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st annual scientific session over the weekend, and the findings were mixed.

Though reducing salt intake did not lead to fewer emergency visits, hospitalizations or deaths for patients with heart failure, the researchers did find an improvement in symptoms such as swelling, fatigue and coughing, as well as better overall quality of life.

“We can no longer put a blanket recommendation across all patients and say that limiting sodium intake is going to reduce your chances of either dying or being in hospital, but I can say comfortably that it could improve people’s quality of life overall,” said lead author Justin Ezekowitz, professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre

Avoid anything in a bag, box or can

The researchers followed 806 patients at 26 medical centers in Canada, Australia, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand. All were suffering from heart failure, a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump blood effectively. Half of the study participants were randomly assigned to receive usual care, while the rest received nutritional counseling on how to reduce their dietary salt intake.

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Brain images show less injury and look healthier in adults with heart-healthy lifestyle

Research Highlights:

  • On imaging tests, brains were larger (the brain usually shrinks in size with increasing age and health conditions) and showed fewer signs of injury in early to late middle-aged people (ages 40-69 years) who had higher scores for cardiovascular health.
  • An analysis of more than 35,000 adults with no history of stroke or dementia found that maintaining good cardiovascular health, in addition to protecting against heart attack and stroke, appeared to also be beneficial to overall brain health.
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On imaging tests, brains were larger and showed fewer signs of injury in early to late middle-aged adults (ages 40-69 years) who had nearly ideal cardiovascular health, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2022, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health to be held in person in New Orleans and virtually, Feb. 8-11, 2022.

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Heart attack survivors could experience more rapid brain function declines

Cognitive function declines faster in people who have heart attacks than in those who don’t, new research shows, suggesting that preventing heart attacks could help preserve brain health.

The study is one of the first to look at how sudden cardiac events such as heart attacks affect brain function over the short and long term. The findings will be presented next week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference. The research is considered preliminary until the full findings are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“For too long, we have thought about and addressed heart disease and brain disease as two separate conditions,” lead study author Dr. Michelle C. Johansen said in a news release. She is an assistant professor of cerebrovascular neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“We need to realize that what’s going on in the heart and brain are related. Managing risk factors to prevent a heart attack is actually good for your brain as well,” she said.

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Groundbreaking pig heart transplant in a human may help patients awaiting donor hearts

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center announced the first successful transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart into a human. According to reports, the patient, a Maryland man, is doing well following the groundbreaking surgery on Friday, Jan. 7 to save his life.

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Porcine (pig) heart transplants aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, the federal agency authorized the surgery in this case for “compassionate use” as no other options remained for the patient, according to the medical team.

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What Your Resting Heart Rate Says About You

If you want to know more about your cardiovascular health, here is one big question for you: Do you know what your resting heart rate is? 

Your resting heart rate can tell you a lot about your cardiovascular health — and while some of what it says may seem scary at first, don’t worry! There are ways to improve your cardiovascular health. At Tri-City Medical Center, we see patients with high resting heart rates lower theirs to healthier levels all the time.

Here’s a little background on just what your heart might be trying to tell you.

What Do My Heart Rate Numbers Mean?

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats each minute when you’re not active. The normal range is between 50 and 100 beats per minute. If your resting heart rate is above 100, it’s called tachycardia; below 60, and it’s called bradycardia. Increasingly, experts pin an ideal resting heart rate at between 50 to 70 beats per minute. 

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Major life events influence level of physical activity, may negatively impact heart health – AHA

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Important life events, including entering school, a first job, having a child, getting married or retiring from work, can significantly affect a person’s level of physical activity.
  • Individuals with lower levels of education, who lived alone, who lack access to a safe outdoor space, Black Americans, some members of the LGBTQ+ community and women who are pregnant or new parents are identified as potentially susceptible to lower levels of physical activity in general or during important life events.
  • Patients and health care professionals should engage in more conversations about exercise and ways to stay active, especially during major life events and transitions.

Starting a new school or a new job, having a baby or entering retirement are major life events that significantly affect a person’s physical activity level, which may lead to poorer heart health. Individuals and health care professionals need to be proactive in addressing this issue, according to guidance from a new American Heart Association Scientific Statement published today in the Association’s flagship journal Circulation. A scientific statement is an expert analysis of current research and may inform future guidelines.

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The statement, entitled “Supporting Physical Activity in Patients and Populations During Life Events and Transitions,” focuses on the need to better understand how life changes affect physical activity levels and what can be done to help people maintain good heart health throughout life transitions. The statement writing group members note that because sedentary behavior is an emerging cardiovascular disease risk factor, it’s important to recognize how physical activity levels may impact health during major life events and transitions. The statement also provides guidance for health care professionals to identify, address and promote regular physical activity to patients experiencing significant changes in their lives. Options for community-level interventions to promote physical activity are also explored.

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New guidelines may help doctors diagnose chest pain – AHA

Chest pain is about more than pain in the chest. But when it comes on suddenly, experts behind new guidelines on evaluating and diagnosing it don’t want you pondering nuances. They want you to act. Now.

“The most important thing people need to know about chest pain is that if they experience it, they should call 911,” said Dr. Phillip Levy, a professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president for research at Wayne State University in Detroit. “People shouldn’t waste time trying to self-diagnose. They should immediately go to the nearest hospital. And if they’re going to go to the nearest hospital to get evaluated for chest pain, ideally, it should be by an ambulance.”

Levy helped lead the committee that wrote the new guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. The recommendations aim to help patients and health care professionals act faster, make smarter choices and communicate better about chest pain.

Part of that is spreading the word that some people may not report chest “pain” but rather chest “discomfort,” which may include pressure or tightness in the chest but also in other areas, including the shoulders, arms, neck, back, upper abdomen or jaw.

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Gum disease and heart disease: The common thread – Harvard

For decades, researchers have probed the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health. Gum disease begins when the sticky, bacteria-laden film dentists refer to as plaque builds up around teeth. A completely different type of plaque — made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in blood — can build up inside arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this fatty plaque is the hallmark of coronary artery disease.

People with gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. But there may not be a direct connection. Many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems. Shared risk factors, such as smoking or an unhealthy diet, may explain the association. Still there’s a growing suspicion that gum disease may be an independent risk factor for heart disease.

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The inflammation link

“Periodontal disease increases the body’s burden of inflammation,” says periodontist Dr. Hatice Hasturk of the Harvard-affiliated Forsyth Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focused on oral health. Acute inflammation — which involves an outpouring of immune cells that attack irritants and microbial invaders — fosters healing over the short term. But long-term (chronic) inflammation is a key contributor to many health problems, especially atherosclerosis.

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