Check out what your drink does to your heart

September 9, 2008 by  

Heart experts from all over Europe and the world met in Munich, Germany last August 30 to September 3 to share the latest research findings on cardiovascular sciences at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2008. Today and in the coming days, I will be presenting some extracts from reports presented at the Congress.

One of the most interesting presentations under the topic “Cardiovascular Disease Prevention – Risk Assessment and Management” is entitled “The gourmand’s heart – a bitter sweet relationship?” where Spanish heart expert S.S. Menendez summarized the latest updates on the health effects of four common food and drinks in the Western diet, namely tea, coffee, wine and chocolate.


Dutch researchers reported that tea showed beneficial effects on cardiovascular health in many studies (but not all) conducted in Europe. The substances responsible for the positive effects are most likely the strong oxidants flavonols and catechins found in tea.


The caffeinholics among us will immediately ask – what about coffee? Greek researchers reported that coffee does not increase the long-term risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Nor does it worsen existing conditions of CVD. However, coffee consumption may increase blood pressure and interact with cigarette smoking, leading to adverse effects. Also, the health effects of coffee may differ depending on the type of coffee and the way it is prepared.


Researchers from the land of chocolate – Switzerland – reported about the positive effects of cocoa. Cocoa benefits cardiovascular health by “lowering blood pressure, improved endothelial function, improved insulin sensitivity and platelet function.” However, these effects are only true for unprocessed cocoa from the cacao beans but not necessarily for the chocolate goodies you see in Swiss confectionaries. Processing of cacao may lead to loss of its antioxidant properties.


Now, the list won’t be complete without touching on wine. Italian researchers reported that moderate alcohol consumption reduces CVD risk, CVD mortality and total mortality in healthy people and in patients with a history of CVD. Wine, especially, should be alcoholic drink of your choice. For maximum cardiovascular protection, 1 to 2 glasses per day for women and 2 to 4 glasses per day for men are recommended. However, overconsumption of alcohol can lead to major health problems as discussed in a previous post.

In conclusion, tea, cocoa, and wine showed beneficial effects on cardiovascular health but the effect of coffee is not clear. As parting shot, the author gives the following prudent recommendation:

Take a coffee or cocoa drink for breakfast, drink green tea during the day, a glass of wine in the evening and … a piece of dark chocolate before going to bed !!!

Photo credits:

woodsy at stock.xchng

wine at stock.xchng

The HEARTS Act Passes Congress

July 3, 2008 by  

On June 10, 2008, the Josh Miller HEARTS Act passed the Congress, thus paving the way for saving more lives.

According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, the HEARTs Act

will establish a grant program through the U.S. Department of Education to provide schools with funds for automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and AED/CPR training.”

The law was introduced by Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton earlier this year. It had gained the support of almost 100 House cosponsors.

The Act is named in memory of Josh Miller, a student from Sutton’s hometown. The 15-year-old Josh suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during the final game of the 2000 Barberton High School football season. There was a delay of defibrillation due to unavailability of an AED, resulting in Josh’s death. It is hoped that the Josh Miller HEARTS Act will help prevent similar tragedies.

Cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death not only in the United States but also worldwide. According to advocates of the Act, there is a lack of support and funding for sudden cardiac arrest prevention and awareness by the government. Some states are lagging behind than others in terms of requiring AEDs and CPR training in school. Through this Act, it is hoped that the federal government with step up access to AEDs and other life-saving interventions in schools all over the country.

In an earlier post, I reported about the survey by the American Heart Association on the American people’s readiness to act and help in an emergency situation and the results are sobering. It is hoped that the Act will change this.

The Josh Miller Helping Everyone Access Responsive Treatment in Schools Act of 2008, or the Josh Miller HEARTS Act:


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What is the Gestational Diabetes Act?

June 24, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes affects 4% to 8% of all pregnant women, and about 135, 000 women in the United States each year. Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy and glucose levels typically return to normal after pregnancy. The risk for the mother includes preeclampsia during pregnancy, while the developing fetus may be born jaundiced and hypoglycemic. There is also an associated risk that gestational diabetics and their babies will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

The symptoms of gestational diabetes often go undetected as increased urination may be associated with pregnancy. Increased thirst is also a silent symptom. Women should be routinely tested in their 24th to 28th week of pregnancy with a glucose tolerance test. This should be done earlier if there is a history of gestational diabetes.

While any woman can have gestational diabetes there are known risk factors per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Age. Women older than age 25 are at higher risk.
  • Family or personal history. Your chance of developing gestational diabetes increases if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes, or you had gestational diabetes in a prior pregnancy.
  • Weight. Being overweight before pregnancy makes it more likely that you’ll develop gestational diabetes, though weight during your pregnancy doesn’t cause gestational diabetes.
  • Race. While it is unknown why, you’re at increased risk if you’re black, Hispanic or American Indian.
  • Previous complicated pregnancy. If you’ve had an unexplained stillbirth or a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, you should be monitored more closely for gestational diabetes the next time you become pregnant.

For more information o see the Mayo Clinic site.

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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.