Easy Habits for Preventing Heart Attacks

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE, HEART AND STROKE

Ambulance

Photo credit: Andrew Malone

You’ve probably heard that taking a baby aspirin daily can help prevent heart attacks. The bulk of Bayer’s commercials are centered on the idea, and what better way to up sales than prescribing aspirin daily? However, there are a number of other ways you can help prevent a heart attack. If your parents have had a heart attack, you’re especially at risk and should take precaution.

Not everyone likes the idea of taking medication to become healthier. Kicking the tobacco habit and working out at least 30 minutes a day are natural ways to lower your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight by eating foods low in fat, bad cholesterol and sodium is also wise. However, just like e-therapy, this is easier said than done. Check out these ways to keep heart-healthy easily.

A Strange Approach

A recent study shows getting annual flu shots may prevent heart attacks. The study involved over 3,000 patients over 60 and it seems that these shots can lower your risk by up to 50 percent. Many people are divided over the benefits of flu shots, but this information might sway some doubters. Flu shots are especially helpful for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.

Less than half of all Americans get the shot, but that may change. Shots are widely available at pharmacies and at a reasonable cost. Older people are more prone to heart attacks, and a weakened immune system with the flu can’t help. It might be time to consider a new, annual autumnal habit.

Health Habits to Start

Vitamin K2 is crucial for a healthy heart, and fermented foods are rich in this vitamin. Yogurt and kimchi are just two examples. Of course, you can also check to make sure your multi-vitamin has appropriate K2 levels. A study has shown that people with proper K2 levels are 52 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack.

Cod liver oil is another essential nutrient for a healthy heart. If you were traumatized by foul-tasting spoonfuls in the past, don’t worry. There are a number of pill forms available, and some even come with a non-fishy taste. This is an important supplement to add to your regular regimen.

The Hardest Easy Tip

Reducing stress and being happy is the best way to prevent a heart attack, as well as other ailments. It might seem that if you could be happy and stress-free, you would. However, many people pile stress on themselves unnecessarily. It’s essential to find an outlet for stress and make time for activities you enjoy.

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent a heart attack. Knowing your family history and taking care of yourself (mentally, physically and emotionally) can, however, provide a great boost to your health. The next time you feel like skipping the gym, lighting up or taking on that extra project you don’t have time for, think again. Is it worth it?

About the author:

Adrienne is a blogger and aspiring writer. When she’s not blogging about tech and social media, you might find her practicing her French, whipping up some recipes she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over vintage postcards and stamps.


Organic vs. inorganic food: fact vs. perception

April 17, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

I found this link very informative and I thought I’d share it with you.

 Organic Food: Fact vs. Perception

The take home message from the American Heart Association is:

“…eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, regardless if they are organic or non-organic since either kind provides important nutrients and fiber for healthy diets.”


Three new drug to battle monster diseases approved by FDA

April 13, 2011 by  
Filed under CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

FDA approves new treatment for large brain aneurysms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the cPAX Aneurysm Treatment System for surgery on brain aneurysms that are difficult to manage because of their size and shape.

FDA approves new drug for advanced melanoma

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of ipilimumab for the treatment of previously treated metastatic melanoma. It is the first drug approved for metastatic, or advanced, melanoma in more than a decade.

FDA approves new treatment for rare form of thyroid cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved vandetanib to treat adult patients with late-stage (metastatic) medullary thyroid cancer who are ineligible for surgery and who have disease that is growing or causing symptoms.


The “broken heart“ syndrome

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

Yes, it is for real and there is real science behind it. It is called “Takotsubo cardiomyopathy” (TTC) named after a Japanese octopus trap basket by the Japanese scientists who first described it. The trap resembles closely the abnormal shape of the ventricle in TTC patients. Other terms applied to this condition are left ventricular apical ballooning syndrome or stress-induced cardiomyopathy or neurogenic myocardial stunning. TCC is thought to be rare because in many cases, Takotsubo is mistakenly diagnosed as an acute coronary syndrome as the main symptom is chest pain or angina. Other signs are changes in ECG readings, mildly elevated cardiac enzymes and wall motion abnormalities.

What cause a heart to break?

An intensely emotional or stressful event can trigger TCC. Mayo Clinic cites the following examples:

Are women more likely to have a broken heart?

The answer is “yes.” The broken heart syndrome is more common in women that in men. Several cases have been reported in women right after C-section delivery, possibly in connection with severe postpartum depression. It has also been reported in postmenopausal women. Cases were also reported among the elderly who suffered from abuse. In a nutshell, those who are at high risk for a broken heart are women who are 50 or older and may suffer from domestic abuse.

How can you detect a broken heart?

The electrocardiogram (ECG) can detect abnormalities that can indicate TCC. However, an imaging tool may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis based on the abnormal structure of the ventricle. This can be through echocardiogram or cardiac CT.

How can you mend a broken heart?

The same drugs that are prescribed for angina and acute coronary syndrome (angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers or diuretics) may be prescribed for TCC. The good thing about TCC or broken heart syndrome is that it is transient (not permanent) and the recovery rate is high. Plus, you are most likely to get it only once, according to Singaporean researchers. Could it be that a heart cannot be broken twice?

Check out these resources:


Friends can help prevent cancer…

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

I am not the type to forward chain emails. But this one cuaght my attention and touched my heart. It was sent by one of my very good friends who is fighting cancer – for the second time.

Every month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month…….

Give this heart to everyone you don’t want to
lose in ‘2011 including me if you care.

‘Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.’

A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.

If you want your dreams to come true, you mustn’t oversleep.

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.

The best vitamin for making friends…… B1.

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

the heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge..

One thing you can give and still keep…is your word.

You lie the loudest when you lie to yourself.

If you lack the courage to start, you have already finished.

One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.

Ideas won’t work unless ‘ You’ do.

Your mind is like a parachute…it functions only when open.

The 10 commandments are not a multiple choice.

The pursuit of happiness is the chase of a lifetime!

It is never too late to become what you might have been.

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.. So love
the people who treat you right.. Forget about the
ones who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands. If
it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life
would be easy, they just promised it would be
worth it.

Friends are like balloons;
once you let them go, you might not get them
back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own
lives and problems that we may not even notice
that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so
caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we
forget what’s right and wrong.. Sometimes we just
don’t realize what real friendship means until it
is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so
I’m going to tie you to my heart so I never lose
you.

Send
this to all your friends including me and see
how many you get back. Even send it to your
balloons that you think have flown away forever.
You may be surprised to see it return. 


 

Thank you for being in my life!!!


Gear up for Charity Runs This Spring

February 24, 2011 by  
Filed under CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

I am getting kind of impatient with this heart problem of mine. The sooner my heart rhythm is back to normal, the sooner I can train. There are several local charity runs I am interested in but can’t register until I am sure I’d be fit enough to run.

Here are a couple for charity runs in your area you might want to join in.

Fresh Air Fund seeks racers for the NYC Half-Marathon

Here is an appeal from one of my favorite not-for-profit organizations. The Fresh Air Fund still has some spots available for runners on our Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half-Marathon this coming March 20th.

Ready to be a part of one of the world’s best road races? Join The Fresh Air Fund-Racers on March 20th, 2011! The amazing 13.1-mile course takes you through beautiful Central Park, action-packed Times Square and ends with breathtaking finish-line views of the New York City harbor. More than 11,000 runners, of all ages and abilities, finished the NYC Half-Marathon last year, and we are so proud of our very own 2010 Fresh Air Fund-Racers who ran and raised $100,000 for us!

We are calling all runners and Fresh Air Fund supporters to come out and either challenge themselves to run the race or join our cheering squad. The Fresh Air Fund provides runners with guaranteed entry in exchange for fundraising before race day. Entries are limited – please get in touch soon! Please email kbrinkerhoff@freshair.org or call (212) 897-8890.

March for Babies

The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization advocating for pre-term babies and their families. It organizes several charity walks (March for Babies) each year. You can join as an individual, as a team (family, company, group of friends, etc.).

“When you walk in March for Babies, you give hope to the more than half a million babies born too soon each year. The money you raise supports programs in your community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. And it funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies. We’ve been walking since 1970 and have raised an incredible $2 billion to benefit all babies.”

Here are some for my friends in Britain:

Walk the Walk

The 2011 26.2 Moonwalk for Breast Cancer in London is scheduled for 14 May, followed by another one in Edinburg on 11 June. Then there is the London Sun Walk on 24 July.

Race for Life for Cancer Research

Race for Life is UK’s largest female-only event. You can do 5k or 10k and race money for Cancer Research UK.


Dressing for the winter outdoors

February 23, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

We are in the mountains once again to enjoy the snow, the sun and the fresh air. Every year, European families spend at least a week in some winter get away to do winter sports and enjoy nature. I moved in Europe almost 20 years ago but I never went on winter holidays until I had a family of my own. In many parts of North America, winter holidays are kind of a luxury despite the many beautiful ski resorts in the US and Canada. Here is Switzerland, almost everybody does it. You can go to the high-end resorts like St. Moritz or Gstaadt or you can go to simpler, down-to-earth places. You can get there by helicopter, by car or by train or by bus, depending on your budget. You can check-in in a five-star hotel or rent a 1-room apartment. Or you can commute up every morning and come down again every evening. In other words, winter sports and holidays are for everyone, not only the well-off. It is part of the culture of this country to be active, summer or winter.

So here we are, a family of 4 squeezed in a 4-bed hotel room without TV or phone. But the ski lift is just a stone’s throw away and we get free entry to the local indoor pool. The local bus is for free and the apfel strudel is just scrumptious! The kids can ski the whole day and I can go snow shoe walking. What more can I ask?

When I first ventured out into the winter cold, I did not know a thing about winter gear and how to protect myself from the elements. Nowadays I know better how to dress myself and my little boys. Here are the recommendations from the American Heart Association Start! Walking This Winter brochure:

Layer your clothing. Layering provides the best insulation for a workout.

Cover your head, hands and feet. You can lose a lot of body heat if your head is exposed.

Cover your head and ears or use a face mask to protect yourself from cold and wind. Your hands and feet are the farthest points from your heart and are the least insulated. Gloves or mittens and wool socks insulate and wick moisture away.

In addition, sturdy walking shoes are of utmost importance:

These recommendations, by the way, are not only for the mountains in winter time. It applies for winter outdoors in general.


The heart, the thyroid, and medications: it’s not yet over

February 15, 2011 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE, HEART AND STROKE

My heart problems are still not over… Sad to feel bad on this day of hearts.

To backtrack, I presented with symptoms of hyperthyroidism starting last week, which is most probably due to wrong dosage of my thyroid replacement hormones. The most common symptoms (source: Endocrineweb.com) are:

Palpitations

Heat intolerance

Nervousness

Insomnia

Breathlessness

Increased bowel movements

Light or absent menstrual periods

Fatigue

Fast heart rate

Trembling hands

Weight loss

Muscle weakness

Warm moist skin

Hair loss

Staring gaze

For me, the heart problems are the worst. Because of these, I have to temporarily give up my jogging runs, my morning coffee, and my occasional glass of red wine.

But well, I learned my lessons that I shouldn’t easily forget, namely:

  • Graves’ disease, a disease which is characterized by symptoms of hyperthyroidism, is a lifetime condition. It is easily manageable but there is no cure.
  • Hyperthyroidism does not stop with complete removals of the thyroid. Overdose of the replacement hormones (I am taking levothyroxine) can trigger hyperthyroidism.
  • The symptoms build up gradually over weeks. I simply overlooked or ignore them. Now I know the early signs. Hopefully there is no “next time” but if there is, I know what to watch for.
  • The same medicine of different brands are not 100% the same. I should know this because I write about drugs and I know what bioequivalence and biosimilarity are.

As drugs.com rightly tells us:

Different brands of levothyroxine may not work the same… It may take several weeks before your body starts to respond to this medication. Do not stop taking levothyroxine suddenly. Even if you feel well, you may still need to take this medicine every day for the rest of your life to replace the thyroid hormone your body cannot produce.

The overdose came from changing brands. Now my dosage has been adjusted down. I now have to be careful and make sure that the dose isn’t too low. I have to be patient yet vigilant in the coming weeks…

Photo credit: wikicommons media


Dabigatran is the new drug for stroke prevention

February 10, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

People suffering from arrhythmia are prone to stroke. Stroke may be prevented with the use of anticoagulants. Before September 2010, the most common prophylactic oral anticoagulants approved for this indication were aspirin and warfarin. Then came dabigatran…

Dabigatran etexilate was approved as Pradaxa in the US. PRADAXA (dabigatran etexilate mesylate) comes in capsules and “is a prescription medicine used to reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots in people who have a medical condition called atrial fibrillation.”

According the supporting clinical trial data, mainly from the RE-LY (Randomized Evaluation of Long-term anticoagulant therapy) study, dabigatran is better able to prevent ischemic strokes than warfarin in patients at high risk for stroke. In addition, dabigatran seems to be easier to use, with less complications (bleeding, hemorrhage) than warfarin. Warfarin is notoriously known to be a complicated drug to use which require close patient monitoring and genotyping patients for safer dosage.

Dabigatran is not really a new kid in the block. It is already used in Europe to prevent bleeding complications after certain surgical procedures. It is better accepted by patients than the heparin injections usually prescribed. However, the US is the first to approve for stroke prevention. Japanese health authorities approved it in January 2011.

Side effects and complications

The most common side effects reported for dabigatran are stomach problems. Precaution should be taken in combining with other anticoagulants.

Bleeding complications may occur

In addition, data from the RE-LY study indicate a small increase in the risk for having a heart attack associated with dabigatran.

Cost effectiveness

Another study investigated the cost-effectiveness of dabigatran vs. warfarin and concluded:

“In patients aged 65 years or older with nonvalvular AF at increased risk for stroke (CHADS₂ score ≥1 or equivalent), dabigatran may be a cost-effective alternative to warfarin depending on pricing in the United States.”

Dabigatran is approved for stroke prevention in the US and is currently being reviewed in Canada and Europe for this similar indication.

When is it available?

In theory, dabigatran is already in use in the US and Japan for stroke prevention. In practice, doctors are still cautiously testing the waters as they do not want to compromise their patients’ health.

Expiration!

Hardly used and already expired? Dabigatran capsules in bottles should be used within 30 days after the container has been unsealed. To avoid this, go for the hermitically sealed individual capsules in blister packs. But make sure the blister is intact before you take a capsule!


The heart, the thyroid and medications

February 9, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

When it feels like your heart is jumping erratically inside your chest, you ask yourself “What’s wrong with me?” If you are a health-conscious person like me, you will ask “Where did I do wrong?” Was it the coffee this morning? Was it the glass of wine I had last night? Was it the jogging run in the cold?

My palpitations started last weekend and worsened on Monday. Monday night was a sleepless night as I felt my heart regularly “missing a beat.” I was wreck on Tuesday, walking around like a bear with a sore head. So I sat down and went through my risk factors for heart problems.

  • Family history of heart disease – no
  • Weight/Body Mass Index – normal
  • Physical exercise – regular jogging runs and walks
  • Diet – not perfect but okay
  • Smoking – no
  • Alcohol – 1 glass a week
  • Coffee intake – 1 cup a day
  • Stress levels – manageable at the moment
  • Sleep – 6 to 7 hours a day is not bad
  • Postmenopausal – no yet
  • Blood pressure – always low
  • Lipids – never had any problems before

So my risk profile makes me a very unlikely candidate for a heart problem. So what is wrong with me? Do I need to see a doctor? Many people tend to put off seeing the doctor because of the feeling of being foolish when told “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.” Many times last Monday I started reaching for the phone and many times I changed my mind.

Then I began to think back. Have I felt like this before? What has changed in the last few months? And it dawned on me…

…racing pulse, irregular heartbeat, sleeplessness, nervousness, mood swings

Gosh! It’s my thyroid hormones again! In 2001, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and had my thyroids taken out. Since then, I had to have hormone replacement therapy and take levothyroxine in the form of tablets every day. It is a challenge to find the right dosage as it is dependent on age, body weight, and pre-existing medical conditions including pregnancy, menopausal stage, etc. I have had major problems a couple of years back when I moved to another country and had to change the brand of my medication – same dosage, same active ingredient, different brand name. It took us (me and my new doctor) almost a year of trial and error to figure out the right dose for me. Then silly of me – we changed to another brand late last year.

So now I believe I know what’s wrong with me. And in an hour, I have an appointment with my doctor.

I have learned a few lessons in this experience:

What happened before can happen again. Be careful when changing medication brands. The concept of “personalized medicine” is really important. In my case, the drugs in theory were the same – bioequivalent – but my body reacts differently to different brands.

No, I have to run to my doctor for a new prescription.


NYC: No smoking in parks and beaches

February 7, 2011 by  
Filed under ASTHMA, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

“My world gets smaller everyday”, an old song goes. I can imagine that smokers are feeling this way these days. Especially in New York City. It all started with smoking bans in restaurants and bars in 2002. In 2011, the smoking bans will include parks and beaches as well. To be exact, the 1700 parks and the miles of beach of New York City, as well as the pedestrian malls and Plazas around Times Square, according to a report in The New York Times.

This means that cigarettes smokers are restricted more and more in terms of places where they can smoke.

The legislation was heavily and heatedly debated in the NY City Council. The pro group are supporting the rights of non-smokers. Here are what the supporters of the ban have to say:

The contras were not necessarily smokers but fear that this ban will “set a dangerous precedent”.

But how bad is the exposure to second-hand smoking to warrant such drastic measures? A New York City health department study in 2009 analyzed levels of cotinine, a nicotine by-product, in blood samples of new Yorkers. The results showed that 56.7% of non-smokers in the city have high levels of cotinine. This is significantly much higher than the national average of 44.9%. Those of Asian ethnicity or ancestry are especially susceptible – with 68.7%.

The study went on to report that smoking incidence in New York is lower that in other parts of the US due to strict indoor smoking bans. New Yorkers, however, though exposed to lower levels of smoke, are exposed more frequently due to the tight spaces typical of an urban setting. Research studies have shown that exposure indoors and outdoors does not significantly differ if the smoker is within 3 feet away.

The grounds for the legislation, therefore is public health. Recent evidence indicates the second hand or passive smoking has strong adverse effects on the health of non-smokers. These effects include increased risk for heart disease and stroke, asthma and cancer.

The legislation will be implemented by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Those who break the law will be fined.


Heart(y) News: Wear Red Today, 4 February

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

Are you ready to paint the town red today? Or at least wear something red. I’m planning to for 2 special reasons. It’s National Wear Red Day in the US and many parts of the world. And I’m attending a Chinese New Year’s party tonight. Red symbolizes the color of the heart. In many Asian cultures, red is also the symbol of life, love, luck and happiness. Happy New Year!

NIH researchers identify genetic cause of new vascular disease
ACDC is not your favourite rock band but stands for arterial calcification due to CD73 deficiency. It is rare vascular disease not previously described in medical literature. Till now. It is characterized by “progressive and painful arterial calcification affecting the lower extremities”, but does not affect the coronary arteries. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) has now identified the gene that causes the disease.

Walk faster, live longer
How long do you think you will live? You can tell by how fast you walk. This is according to a meta-analysis  by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh of nine studies involving about 35,000 people aged 65 and older.
“The reason that there’s a relationship between walking speed and longevity is because your walking speed is a very simple reflection of how well many of your body systems are doing”, according to one of the researchers.

30 minutes of brisk walking each is recommend for our health.

Most Americans with High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol at Unnecessary Risk for Heart Attack and Stroke
2 out of 3 adult Americans have high cholesterol levels that are not managed properly. In addition, about 50% have hypertension that is also not being treated effectively. This despite the fact that a wide range of treatments for dyslipidemia and hypertension are available and not that expensive too. This is according to the latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They key figures are given below:

Current cost estimates for  cardviovascular treatment in terms of direct medical costs is $300 billion each year. This expenditure can triple by 2030, according to experts, unless we do something right now.

Mechanical valves beat bioprostheses in younger patients: 10-year study
Mechanical or biologics? This is a question that patients needing valve replacement have to consider. A 10-year Swiss study showed that those who opt for mechanical valves actually tend to live longer despite a lifetime burden of taking anticoagulation agents.


Heart Events this February

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

The heart month is in full swing and there are lots of heart(y) activities for you to check out and join.

Macy’s Wear Red Sale

Starts on Wednesday, February 2 and ends on February 6
Come wearing red and get an extra 20% off!

Four ways to save during the Wear Red Sale!

  1. Wear red to any store and receive extra savings!
  2. Purchase a Red Dress Pin for $2 at any Macy’s store. Macy’s will donate 100% of all Red Dress Pin sales to the American Heart Associations’s Go Red For Women movement.
  3. Use your Macy’s Card to make a purchase
  4. Shop online using promo code: WEARRED

 

“Go Red” Twitter Party/Go Red Por Tu Corazon

On February 2 at 8 pm/7CT. In this Twitter party, top Latina bloggers will discuss heart disease among Latinas, and they can protect themselves.

The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection Fashion Show 2011

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, The Heart Truth will open Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with its annual Red Dress Collection Fashion Show. As the runway lights shine on the generous participation of celebrities and designers, we will showcase the power of the Red Dress in encouraging women to protect their heart health. The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection 2011 is presented by Diet Coke with national sponsor Swarovski and partners Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and AOL Inc.

The collection will be auctioned to the public at www.clothesoffourback.org. Proceeds will benefit the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and will be used to further efforts related to women’s heart health awareness and research.

2011 International Stroke Conference

Starts on February 9 in Los Angeles, California

Williston Go Red with Blood Pressure Screenings

On February 4, Williston State College in Williston, North Dakota is offering

 

Go Red for Women Girlfriends Challenge

From January 2 to April 2, 2011, four teams of women will take the challenge to improve their heart health. Through educational sessions, new exercise options and realistic goal-setting, teams will encourage and support each other to make lifestyle changes and improve their health (University of Wisconsin).

Red Dress Dash.

On February 3, 2011, wear your best or warmest red dress and dash from the Monona Terrace to the State Capitol (Wisconsin) to increase awareness of women and heart disease.


February is the Heart Month

February 1, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

February is the month of the heart in many parts of the world. But the Heart Month goes beyond the celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14. The Heart Month is also a health observance dedicated tp heart health.

US

In the US, February is called “American Heart Month.”

In the US, the Go Red for Women and the American Heart Association (AHA) are organizing the National Wear Red Day this coming Friday, 4th February. These groups are campaigning for everyone to put on something red and convince other to do so, too. TV Star Jennie Garth is currently the celebrity spokesperson of Go for Red Women.

The AHA tells us how American Heart Month started.

“Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation’s No. 1 killer. To urge Americans to join the battle against these diseases, since 1963 Congress has required the president to proclaim February “American Heart Month.” (Note this is not “Heart Month” or “National Heart Month.”)

The American Heart Association led initial efforts to develop Annual American Heart Month. During American Heart Month, thousands of our volunteers visit their neighbors. Their goal is to raise funds for research and education and pass along information about heart disease and stroke.”

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHIBI) is also campaigning for National Wear Red Day with The Heart Truth®, a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease.

UK

In the UK, February is called “National Heart Month” with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as the major moving force.

This celebration is especially meaning for BFH because the group will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. That is why a lot of activities are scheduled for February, from fun games to fundraising drives. One of the highlights is the Wear Red Day on Friday 25th February.

Canada

Canada also celebrates Heart Month in February, supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) of Canada. Here is what HSF has to say:

“Every year, tens of thousands of people across Canada put their hearts into making a difference to the lives of others by participating in the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s largest grassroots fundraising initiative – Heart Month.

Some demonstrate their generosity of spirit by donating to our worthy cause. Some experience the great satisfaction that comes with raising funds using our easy online fundraising tools. And others enjoy volunteering their time to meet with friends and neighbours as they rally support for our cause through door-to-door fundraising.

Whether it’s time or money you’re able to contribute to Heart Month, we invite you to experience the joy of giving by helping us raise funds for vital life-saving research. Great things happen when you put your heart into it. Make a difference, get involved today!


Heart(y) news, 28 January

January 28, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

MEDICAL DEVICES

First bioabsorbable stent approved in Europe
Absorb everolimus-eluting bioresorbable vascular scaffold (BVS) stent is the first bioabsorbable stent to be in the market. The stent manufactured by Abbott “utilizes a poly-L-lactide polymer and is indicated for the treatment of coronary artery disease.” Absorb has been approved for the European market.

Nearly a quarter of ICD implants are not recommended by professional guidelines
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are mean to save lives and recommended by many clinical guidelines. Unfortunately, many ICD implant procedure do not meet guidelines specifications and were found to be increase risk for in-hospital complications.

HEART DRUGS

Merck stops vorapaxar in stroke patients, closes out TRACER trial
Trials testing the investigational cardiovascular drug vorapaxar has run into problems. The data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) had recommended that the drug should be contraindicated in subjects with a history of stroke due to potential increased risk in intracranial hemorrhage.

FDA Alert: Multaq (dronedarone) and Risk of Severe Liver
TFDA has issued a safety communication regarding the antiarrhythmic drug dronedarone (Multaq). The drug was linked to several cases of rare but severe liver problems, two of which necessitated liver transplantation. The manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis has informed health care professionals about the risk but claims that causal association has yet to be established. The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are has expressed a need to update product info on dronedarone as precautionary measure.

CCB/macrolide antibiotic combo ups risk of hypotension
Millions of people are using calcium-channel blockers (CCBs) for treatment of hypertension, angina and arrhythmia. Many of them may also be prescribed macrolide antibiotics for infections. However, these 2 classes of drugs which are effective and safe can cause toxicity when combined. The dangerous drug-drug interaction especially concerns the use of the antibiotics erythromycin or clarithromycin together with CCBs which can result in hypotension.

SHARING EXPERIENCE

Finally I got this through email:

Seeking patients to share their rehab experiences

The American Heart Association is working with international design consultancy IDEO (www.ideo.com) to design a better cardiac rehab experience for patients. We are interested in speaking to several patients in the Greater Boston area for in-home visits to talk about their rehab experiences, after an event such as a heart attack or heart procedure.

Visits would take place in the participant’s home, will be conducted by 2-3 IDEO designers and AHA employees, and will last 1.5 hours. Each participant will be compensated $150 for their time. If interested, please complete our online survey linked here. All responses will be kept confidential.


A tribute to Jack LaLanne: the man who lived healthy and lived well

January 27, 2011 by  
Filed under DIABETES, HEALTHCARE, HEART AND STROKE

In the 40s, back when doctors voted Camels as the best smoke, Jack LaLanne was doing push ups and cutting down on sugar.

However, Francois “Jack LaLanne” was way ahead of his time and preached a healthy lifestyle way back then. Not only did he preach it, he practiced it.

Let us pay tribute to Jack LaLanne, fitness guru and visionary. LaLanne passed away last weekend at the age of 96.

LaLanne was well-known for his long-running TV show The Jack LaLanne Show. He built the first modern health club in the US and designed gym equipment. In doing so, he pioneered fitness and work outs in the US and the rest of the world.

However, not only did LaLanne promote physical exercise, he also advocated a healthy diet of less sugar, fat and white flour and more fruit and vegetables. Plus – very important – a positive attitude towards life. In one episode of his show (see YouTube video still in black & white), LaLanne listed the following as the things that make us feel tired:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Empty calories
  • Nervous tension

And this was done in the 60s!

In an interview with health author Connie Bennet (shared through the Huffington Post), LaLanne stated

“In my mind, nothing on this earth is more addictive than refined sugar.”

LaLanne’s healthy philosophy was based on health problems early in life which was attributed to being “sugar-holic”, according to a report by Reuters. He suffered from depression, mood swings, as well as headaches. Changing his diet made Lalanne feel better but he did not stop there. He went on to share his philosophy of a healthy lifestyle. He performed incredible fitness stunts to drive home his point.

“At age 45, in 1959, he did 1,000 push-ups and 1,000 chin-ups in 86 minutes. In 1984 a 70-year-old LaLanne had himself shackled and handcuffed and towed 70 boats 1.5 miles in Long Beach Harbor.”

Unfortunately, not many of his generation listened to what he had to say. Today, the American population is threatened by chronic health problems that include obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Even well into his 90s, LaLanne continued to be physical active. Reuters describe a typical Lalanne daily work out as:

“LaLanne exercised for two hours a day. A typical workout would be 90 minutes of weightlifting and 30 minutes of swimming, changing his routine every 30 days.”

However, not only did LaLanne live a healthy long life, he also lived “well”, loving and enjoying life to the fullest.

As Connie Bennet writes:

“In fact, the idea of “just surviving” or “getting by” was completely foreign to him. I mean, the “Godfather of Fitness” really lived, as I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.”

Why didn’t more people listen to LaLanne way back then? Is it too late to change our ways.

I think LaLanne will be the first to say that it’s never too late to start living healthy. To start going back to the natural way.


How many hours do spend in front of the screen?

January 25, 2011 by  
Filed under . ANNOUNCEMENTS, HEART AND STROKE

In a previous post, I discussed a study that indicates that 2 hours is the maximum duration of time we should spend in front of a screen during leisure hours. To recap what the study authors have to say:

“This is a new research area, which has attracted attention only in the past 18 months to two years, but it has implications both for public-health recommendations and clinical guidelines. I think there is a direct message from our research, which is that there should be a cut-off of two hours daily screen time as a maximum during leisure hours.”

Unfortunately, I do not fully understand why this 2-hour limit should only apply to leisure hours. What about those who spend the whole day in front of a computer screen? And what about the fact that the boundary between working and leisure hours becomes hazy? A nephew of mine earns his living by playing the X-Box 8 hours a day.

 So how much time do we really spend in front of the screen? There are many numbers and figures around but surprisingly few from reliable sources and up-to-date data. Here are some figures  from SixWise.com

According to many sources, Americans spend 2.6 million minutes on Facebook each day.

The American Heart Association conducted a survey in 2009 and reported the following figures on social network use:

  • 37% of respondents (35% men, 39% women) spend less than an hour social networking
  • 18% spend 1 to 2 hours
  • 7 % spend 2 to 3 hours
  • 3% spend 3 to 4 hours
  • 3% spend more than 4 hours, especially those aged between 18 and 25.

According to figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) (as quoted in kidshealth.org):


Winter health superstar: cinnamon

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under DIABETES, HEART AND STROKE

There is nothing more mouth-watering than the aroma of baking apfel strudel in the oven on a cold, snowy day in January. Mind you, I am no baking expert so I must confess that the apfel strudel is the frozen type from the supermarket.

Apfel strudel is the apple pie in the Alpine regions of Europe and its wonderful smell comes from the combination of apples and cinnamon. Such a healthy combination, I would say.

Cinnamon is an essential ingredient of many pastries and recipes, including apple pies, pumpkin pies, rice pudding and of course ginger bread. However, aside from being a yummy condiment, cinnamon has some medicinal benefits. Especially against diabetes.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree Cinnamomum zeylanicum. I had the pleasure of meeting a cinnamon tree in Brazil about 10 years. According to WedMD, there are 2 varieties of cinnamon, the Ceylon and the Cassia and the latter is the one that we commonly use in our kitchen.

Benefits

Several studies have shown cinnamon to be an effective antiglycemic agent, e.g. a compound for lowering blood sugar. And it does this in a very effective and sustainable way – by decreasing insulin resistance.

Diabetes is a chronic progressive disease. There are many drugs out there which are used to treat diabetes by controlling sugar levels. However, as the diseases progresses, these medications lose their efficacy because of increasing insulin resistance. This leads to use of add-on medications that will also eventually lose their efficacy. Cinnamon, on the other hand, control sugar levels by improving insulin resistance.

Aside from improving sugar levels, some studies also reported that cinnamon may have cardiovascular benefits by lowering cholesterol levels.

Cinnamon is available as a herbal supplements and can be purchased without prescription.

Caveats

However, before launching on a cinnamon supplementation therapy, patients should be aware that cinnamon is counterindicated in patients with liver problems. It can also interact with other herbal supplements such as:

In addition, cinnamon may also interact with other medications. Interactions can cause toxicity that may be potentially life-threatening. Therefore, CHECK WITH YOUR DIABETES EXPERT BEFORE STARTING ON A SPECIAL THERAPY!!!

Nutritional info

The table below was taken from www.whfoods.com.

Nutritional info for ground cinnamon, 2 tsp = 4.52 grams = 11.84 calories

Nutrient Amount

DV (%)

Nutrient Density WHF Rating
manganese 0.76 mg

38.

57.8 excellent
dietary fiber 2.48 g

9.9

15.1 very good
iron 1.72 mg

9.6

14.5 very good
calcium 5 5.68 mg 5.6 8.5 very good

Heart health tip: limit screentime to 2 hours each day

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

When flying long haul (and I’ve done lots lately – covering almost 40,000 km in the last 3 weeks), I make sure that I wear the so-called “compression” socks. In addition, I make sure I stand up, walk around and do stretching regularly. This is to help prevent a life-threatening condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that can lead to pulmonary embolism.

However, this vascular problem is not only restricted to frequent flyers. It seems that we can easily suffer from DVT any time while sitting at our office or even at home. While sitting in front of our computer screens, to be more precise. An example was

“…a [2003] case from New Zealand in which a young man who spent up to 18 hours a day sitting at his computer nearly died after developing a massive blood clot that formed in his leg veins, broke off and traveled to his lungs.

This disorder has been dubbed as “e-thrombosis.”

I read a more recent report in the New Zealand Herald last week which cited not just one case but a study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) which goes:

“… the risk of heart attack and stroke for those that spend over the allotted four hours in front of a screen (TV or computer monitor) increased by 113 per cent. The risk of death by any cause increased by almost 50 per cent. Those numbers are as compared to people who spend less than two hours in front of a screen. The findings come from a survey of 4,500 adults…”

I looked up the original source paper, which was conducted by British researchers and used the term “screen based entertainment time”. This new report suggests that it is not only time spent in front of the computer but overall “screen time” which includes time spent in front of the TV or video console that is detrimental to our health. In addition, it is not only e-thrombosis that threatens out health but a whole range of cardiovascular problems that come with leading a sedentary lifestyle. It indicates that each and every one of us who live in the digital age may be at risk for these health problems.

In the coming days, I’d be bringing you some specifics on this issue. Considering the attention that the film “The Social Network” is getting (a film which I saw twice on the return long-haul flight), this is a very relevant and timely topic.

In the meantime, I give you the conclusions of the authors of the JACC study:

“This is a new research area, which has attracted attention only in the past 18 months to two years, but it has implications both for public-health recommendations and clinical guidelines. I think there is a direct message from our research, which is that there should be a cut-off of two hours daily screen time as a maximum during leisure hours.”

Two hours? What can you achieve in two hours? And what about screen time during working hours?


Secret of cardiovascular benefits of alcohol unravelled

January 13, 2011 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

At least in southern Europe, it is believed, that a glass of wine a day, keeps the doctor away.  Wine is an integral part of the supposedly healthy Mediterranean diet. Many studies also support this statement when it comes to cardiovascular health.  Population studies have shown that light to moderate drinkers have 20 to 40 percent lower heart disease and cardiac-related death compared to people who don’t drink. The secret has been unraveled.

Scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that the molecule Notch may be the reason for alcohol’s “protective” properites.  They found that drinking alcohol moderately, say one to three drinks per day, inhibits Notch, which previous research has shown, influences vascular smooth muscle cell development. The growth and movement of smooth muscle cells in blood vessels can lead to the hardening and narrowing of arteries, known as atherosclerosis, or in the other case, the re-narrowing of arteries, or restenosis.  Atherosclerosis and restenosis are risk factors for heart attack and stroke. 

The researchers found in mice and humans that “regular, limited amounts of alcohol decreased Notch, which in turn decreased the production and growth of smooth muscle cells, leaving vessels open and relatively free of blockages or build-up – a desirable state for a healthy heart.

In the study, when human smooth muscle cells were treated with moderate levels of alcohol,  the expression of the Notch 1 receptor significantly decreased and this inhibited Notch signaling, resulting to decreased growth of smooth muscle cells. Artificially switching the Notch pathway in these cells reversed the inhibitory effect of moderate alcohol on smooth muscle cell growth.   Reduced vessel thickening was also observed in a group of mice which received alcohol in a mouse model of vessel remodeling (which occurs when vessels change their shapes in response to injury). 

By identifying Notch as the signalling pathway regulated by alcohol, the benefits of moderate drinking to cardiovascular diseases were finally identified at a molecular level.  The next step is to find out how alcohol inhibits Notch in smooth muscle cells and this is going to be a really challenging task, according to the Notch experts. 

Meanwhile, those with coronary diseases can enjoy and raise a glass.  Cheers!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.