Entries in Heart Health (20)


'Berry' Good Diets Are Beneficial for Heart Health

Photodisc/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Doctors have long advised patients to add helpings of berries to their diets for the antioxidants. Now researchers say berries can be good for the heart.

A new study has found that women who eat at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries a week can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32 percent. The berries contain plenty of compounds called anthocyanins, which researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say may dilate arteries and cut plaque build-up.

The researchers looked at almost 94,000 American women ages 25 to 42. They found that 405 heart attacks had been reported by the participants, who answered questions about their diets every four years for 18 years.

The findings were published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Dick Cheney to Pen Memoir About Heart Troubles

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For years late-night comics have wondered whether or not Dick Cheney has a heart. Now we have an answer — he does. And he’s writing a book about it.

The “non-political memoir,” to be published late next year, will chronicle the former vice president’s 34 years of heart troubles, starting with his first heart attack in 1978, the four he suffered in later years, and the heart transplant he received earlier this year. His daughter Liz Cheney and cardiologist Jonathan Reiner will co-author.

Gary Schwitzer, publisher of the website, said he wondered if Cheney will address the fact that the left ventricular assist device inserted into his heart to prevent it from failing was developed with taxpayer-supported government research at the National Institutes of Health.

“The book could do a public service…depending on how it deals with these values,” Schwitzer said.

Either way, Cheney isn’t the only Republican who plans to weigh in on personal healthcare reform in book form. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced earlier this year she is writing a diet and fitness book that will allow you to shed pounds — perhaps without giving up such Palin family favorites as Moose Chili and Eskimo ice cream, which involves taking lard and sugar, beating them together until cream, then adding berries.

Politics aside, nutrition experts are on board with the concept of Palin’s book.

“Not sure what her idea of taking a balanced approach to diet means, but if she’s advocating getting off the fad diet roller-coaster I’m glad she’s sending that message,” said Cynthia Sass, a registered dietician in New York City.

Sass said she hopes Palin will collaborate with a registered dietitian to ensure that the information she provides is sound, accurate and science-based.

Perhaps just the idea of being a heartbeat away from the presidency is enough to put someone on a health kick — though there’s no word on whether the marathon running former Republican vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, is shopping any fitness titles yet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chocolate for Heart Health: The Darker the Better

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- When it comes to heart health, not all chocolate is created equal.

This was the finding of a new study in which researchers at San Diego State University pitted dark chocolate against white chocolate to see which one offered the most benefit.

The researchers suspected that dark chocolate consumers would see the most health benefits from the dark chocolate, which among the various types of chocolate has the highest concentration of flavonoids. Flavonoids are compounds produced by plants that function as important pigment molecules. They’ve gained popularity as the substance responsible for the cardioprotective effects of red wine.

Specifically, researchers sought to discover what good things would happen if they studied people who ate chocolate every day, and whether different kinds of chocolates produced different health effects. The flavonoids are in highest concentration in the cocoa, which is absent in white chocolate.

The researchers fed either one of two types of dark chocolate or white chocolate to 31 experimental subjects over 15 days, after which they monitored their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

They found that those who ate either form of dark chocolate had lower blood sugar levels and better cholesterol ratios, more “good” cholesterol, or HDL, and less “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, compared to the white chocolate group.

Given these positive changes in factors associated with heart disease, researchers concluded that dark chocolate was the most likely to reduce risk of future cardiovascular disease.

The researcher presented the results at the conference Experimental Biology in San Diego.

In past animal studies and select human studies, flavonoids have been shown to be good antioxidants, scavenging oxygen radicals responsible for damage and aging.  Anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and cardio-protective effects have also been attributed to this special substance.

The new study adds to the evidence that chocolate, in small amounts, can be a good thing. A 2009 Swedish study found that small amounts of dark chocolate helped patients improve blood pressure control, and other studies have found protective benefits against diabetes in small doses.

But a small amount is the key detail. And for some of the study participants, it was a hard message to stomach.

“Compliance with our study subjects were great because everybody wanted to eat chocolate,” the researchers said. “We actually had to tell them not to eat more than 50 grams a day.”

Along with flavonoids, 50 grams of dark chocolate has about 252 calories -- and half of those calories are from fat.  To put this in perspective, a single chocolate chip gives you enough calories to provide energy to walk about 150 feet.

Most Americans don’t need more calories; more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Fortunately, flavonoids are found in many different fruits and berries, which are associated with many fewer calories and much less fat.

So while preliminary results are hopeful for chocolate lovers everywhere, don’t indulge just yet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Too Much or Too Little Sleep Can Hurt Your Heart, Study Says 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (CHICAGO) — A new study suggests too much or too little sleep can hurt your heart.

People who sleep less than six hours a night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack and one-and-a-half times more likely to have congestive heart failure, while people who sleep more than eight hours a night are more likely to have chest pain and coronary artery disease — a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.

The findings are part of a study presented today at the 61st Annual conference of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago.

“Based on these findings, it seems getting six to eight hours of sleep everyday probably confers the least risk of cardiovascular disease over the long term,” said study author Dr. Rohit Arora, chair of cardiology at Chicago Medical School.

Not sleeping enough activates the part of your nervous system responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response releasing high levels of stress hormones that raise your blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, all of which are inherently bad for your heart.

Teasing out the harmful effects of too much sleep is more complicated. But some studies suggest people who oversleep may be more likely to have depression and less likely to exercise, which could up the risk of heart disease.

Although Arora’s study is not the first study to show that sleep is beneficial, it is one of the largest. The findings support a compilation of studies on sleep between 1980 and 2009 recently published in the European Heart Journal that also concluded sleeping too little or too much raises your risk of dying from coronary artery disease and stroke.

“Sleep has a large impact on health over long periods of time,” said Dr. C. Noel Bairey-Merz, director of women’s health center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Six percent of US adults report sleeping six hours or less, according to a National Health Interview Survey between 1984 and 2000.

Experts say the study should serve as a wake-up call for doctors to start asking patients about their sleep habits and for patients to bring up sleep quality with their doctors.

The importance of sleep to patients “is no longer worth ignoring,” said Dr. Robert Eckel, professor of medicine and Charles A Boettcher II Chair of Atherosclerosis at the University of Colorado.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Patients Who See Images of Clogged Arteries Stick to Treatment, Studies Reveal 

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two recent studies found that patients with clogged arteries who see images of their condition are more likely to adhere to treatments such as weight loss and cholesterol-lowering statins, Health Day reports.

Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease in America, yet researchers in the study said that out of patients who undergo statin therapy -- drugs used to prevent heart attacks -- only about 20 percent to 50 percent comply with the treatment.

Patients in both studies underwent tests that take clear, detailed pictures of the heart. Researchers found that patients with the most severe coronary artery disease who saw evidence of their condition were 2.5 times more likely to lose weight than those who saw little or no evidence of disease.

The studies are being presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago on Saturday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Red Wine’s Antioxidants Not Source of Heart-Healthiness

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands) -- It’s long been touted that a glass of red wine a day keeps the high blood pressure at bay. But according to a new Dutch study, the antioxidants called polyphenols found in red wine may not lower blood pressure at all.

HealthDay reports that among the study’s findings, the anti-hypertensive effects of polyphenols are not the source of red wine's cardiovascular system benefits.

The study surveyed 61 people averaging around 61 years of age, all of whom had borderline high blood pressure. Study participants consumed dairy beverages that contained either the red wine polyphenols or a harmless placebo over the course of four weeks.

The study concluded that there was no difference in blood pressure levels between the two groups.

"Red wine drinking may still be beneficial to prevent cardiovascular diseases. However, this apparently occurs in a blood pressure-independent manner," said study author Ilse Botden, a graduate student at University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

The findings, however, do not indicate that red wine in moderation isn’t heart-healthy.

The research suggests that while red wine does not decrease cardiac risks by lowering blood pressure, its anti-inflammatory properties instead are mainly responsible for lowering a drinker's cardiovascular risk, according to Dr. William O'Neill, a professor of cardiology and the executive dean for clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The study’s findings will be presented Friday at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Cardiac Arrest Strikes More than 200,000 Each Year

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine caution that the rate of people treated for cardiac arrest each year in U.S. hospitals may be on the rise.  They report that, already, hospitals may treat more than 200,000 for cardiac arrest -- a condition in which the heart stops cutting off blood and oxygen flow to the brain and organs.

Of those who suffer cardiac arrest while at the hospital, the researchers report that 21 percent survive.  They say only 10 percent survive cardiac arrest when in other settings.
What the study proves, said the study's lead author, Dr. Raina M. Merchant is that cardiac arrest "represents a tremendous problem for hospitals in the United States."

Merchant adds that knowing the numbers of patients suffering these events can "provide a roadmap for improving allocation of resources to care for these critically ill patients … ."

Merchant and colleagues say that more can be done to improve cardiac arrest survival rates.  For example, hospitals can prevent the condition by more attentive patient monitoring, beginning CPR and defibrillation efforts more quickly and acting in close accordance with resuscitation guidelines.

The study's findings were published online in Critical Care Medicine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Combination Cholesterol Drugs Show No Added Heart Benefits

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- The combination of statins and niacin, both cholesterol modifying medications, doesn't reduce the chances of having a heart attack, according to findings by the AIM-HIGH trial conducted by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, an arm of the National Institutes of Health.

The findings prompted the NHLBI to stop their trial a year and a half early.

The AIM-HIGH study looked at patients who had lowered their LDL, or so-called bad cholesterol, with the help of statins and tried to see if raising HDL, or good cholesterol, by adding niacin to their therapy would additionally reduce the risk of having a heart attack. But the combined therapy of extended release niacin taken with statins showed no benefit in the patients tested.

Previous studies showed that low HDL cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular events in men and women, regardless of LDL cholesterol.

"We have had great clinical data that low HDL levels are bad for decades, but there is no evidence that raising HDL levels does anything to reduce the risk," said Dr. Cam Patterson, chief of the division of cardiology at the University Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Still, many cardiologists believe raising HDL reduces the chance of having a heart attack. In fact, the Framingham Cardiac Risk Score, a risk assessment tool used by cardiologists, looks mainly at the HDL score to assess a patient's risk of heart disease. It's unclear which HDL-raising treatments can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Niacin, found over-the-counter and frequently recommended to be taken two to three times daily, blocks the breakdown of HDL while preventing fat cells from releasing LDL. But niacin, also known as vitamin B3, has also been shown to increase the risk of stroke in some patients.

While many experts said they were surprised by the AIM-HIGH findings, some said they wouldn't abandon their longstanding belief in targeting HDL just yet.

In fact, some patients in the control group of the randomized trial may have had a longstanding history of niacin use before they started the study. The entire group of patients studied also had well-controlled LDL levels, which could indicate that their risk of heart disease or heart attack already may be lower compared to those with uncontrolled cholesterol.

Still, many doctors may be too focused on raising HDL without clear evidence of its benefits, according to Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the preventative medicine research institute at the University of California San Francisco.

"There should be less emphasis on raising HDL and more on lowering LDL via diet and lifestyle, and focus on lipid lowering drugs in combination with diet and lifestyle changes to lower LDL, not raise HDL," said Ornish.

Many experts say patients should not stop taking cholesterol-lowering drugs like niacin or statins without talking to their doctor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Aims to Help Americans Get Healthier; Prevent Bad Heart Health

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. health officials are teaming up with the American Heart Association with the goal of reducing the rate of death from heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease, according to HealthDay News.

But those connected to the new initiative are not simply trying to cut down the number of deaths.  Dr. Ralph L. Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, says it is about encouraging a change in lifestyle that can prevent death from heart disease.

"The goal is to shift the population to a healthier lifestyle," he said.  "It's a much more prevention-oriented goal that we have had in the past."

The goals have been included in those of "Healthy People 2020," an initiative introduced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the objective to improve the nation's health within the next decade.

HHS and the American Heart Association hope to increase the number of people who are regularly tested for high blood pressure and cholesterol and raise awareness of heart attack and stroke early warning signs with the new strategy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Nighttime Leg Twitching Sign of Heart Problems?

Siri Stafford/Digital Vision(NEW YORK) -- New information finds that restless leg syndrome could be a sign of hidden heart problems.

Millions of Americans are thought to suffer nighttime muscle twitching of the legs and it wasn't always thought to be a big deal but Dr. Arshad Jahangir at the Mayo Clinic, where the research was conducted, says it can be linked to a thicker heart muscle.

Jahngir and others looked at 584 patients with the syndrome and found that those with more frequent twitching were more likely to have a thickening of the heart.

The link is not yet certain, but if you suffer from restless legs syndrome, Jahangir advises it's worth discussing with your physician.

“Not every patient who has frequent leg movement had ventricular hypertrophy,” Jahangir said, “so we need to understand more why some people get this type of thickening response and others not.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio