A Medley of Heart Health News

by | May 15, 2011 | Articles, Conditions, Heart

Invincible Young Americans

Younger Americans are not making the connection between unhealthy behaviors and future risk of heart disease and stroke.  In a new survey by the American Stroke Association, 80% of young Americans questioned believe they are living healthy lifestyles, but in fact many are not.  And although the majority surveyed said they wanted to live long and healthy lives, a third did not appreciate that adopting healthy behaviors now could affect their risk of stroke in the future.

Almost 50% of 18 year olds were not concerned about heart disease, and while only 22% of 44 year old were not concerned, by this age almost 50% of them already had health problems.  There is a mountain of research showing that the earlier we adopt healthy behaviors the bigger impact it has on lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The four ideal heart healthy behaviors to consider are being physically active, maintaining a good body weight, eating 4 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and not smoking.  The three ideal health factors are normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.  Another recent study showed that only 1 in 2000 Americans meets all seven of these heart health goals.

Families, schools, and communities are starting to recognize that heart health starts early.  There are numerous campaigns to eliminate sugar and fast foods from younger childrens’ diets.  Neighborhood parkways are springing up to make it realistic to walk or bike to school.  No smoking policies and educational programs have helped lower the rate of smoking in the US.  The biggest obstacles are still diet and exercise.

Arsenic and Heart Disease

Exposure to even moderate amounts of arsenic in drinking water increases the risk of heart disease, new research from Bangladesh shows, and this risk is even worse in anyone who has ever smoked.

Lead author of the study, Dr Yu Chen (New York University School of Medicine, NY), points out this is one of the first studies to quantify the risks of moderate exposure to arsenic in terms of cardiovascular disease and also the first time that a synergistic effect of smoking and arsenic exposure on heart disease has been demonstrated.

Arsenic is a heavy metal.  Similar to lead, cadmium and other heavy metals it is harmful to arteries.  Recent research is proving that exposure to heavy metals at levels much lower than “accepted” is causing harm to our bodies, especially arteries.  Cigarette smoke is the largest source of cadmium exposure – perhaps the addition of another heavy metal explains the further increased risk of heart disease in smokers exposed to arsenic?

The largest food source of arsenic is from commercial poultry which is fed arsenic to induce growth.  The organic arsenic ends up in the poultry manure as the more dangerous inorganic arsenic which is finding its way into our water supplies.  Have your well water tested for heavy metals and eat only organic poultry that is free of arsenic.

Chelation is a procedure that can remove heavy metals from the body.  A simple 45 minute IV treatment can pull metals from tissue deposits in the body whence it is then safely eliminated in the urine.

Red Wine Goes High-Tech

Occasionally there is a study that makes me just grin…  It seems that the polyphenol compounds in red wine may soon be used to coat the life-saving stents that are put into a clogged coronary artery

Once a stent is inserted into a clogged section of artery the body tends to scar around the stent and will often restenose (clog again).  By covering the metal stent with drugs that inhibit blood clotting the rate of restenosis has been lowered considerably.  However, these drugs also seem to inhibit the friendly endothelial cells that line the arteries from growing over the stent.

Research from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center shows that red wine polyphenols not only keep the stent from restenosing but they also encourage healthy endothelial cells to migrate into the area and lower inflammatory markers.

For many years we’ve known about the heart healthy benefits of compounds from brightly colored berries and red wine.  They get their color from a plant pigment called anthocyanin, which is part of the larger flavonoid family of plant derived products, which in turn is part of the larger polyphenol family of plant compounds.  In general, the polyphenols help control inflammation and oxidation while improving blood sugar and cholesterol.  As a result these tasty treats are especially good for the heart.

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, currants, cranberries and grapes top the list of heart healthy fruits.  Get at least one serving of berries every day and enjoy red wine in moderation.

Aspirin Still Recommended?

Look for more controversy over the strong recommendation that everyone at risk for heart disease take aspirin.  A recent meta-analysis published online April 8, 2011 in the American Journal of Cardiology examined 90,000 subjects and found a 14% reduction in the risk of heart disease in the group taking aspirin.

In March, the US Preventive Services Task Force issued an update to its 2002 recommendations for aspirin in primary prevention. These stipulated that aspirin was likely of benefit for preventing heart attack in men age 45 to 79 and preventing stroke in women 55 to 79, when the benefits outweigh the gastrointestinal risks on an individual-patient basis.

But over the ensuing months, a steady stream of studies have warned against aspirin use in some of the key primary-prevention populations, including patients with asymptomatic atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and peripheral artery disease.  Most striking of all was the May 2009 meta-analysis, published in the Lancet, finding that while aspirin used for primary prevention may reduce the risk of nonfatal ischemic events, these benefits are offset by higher bleeding, leaving no net effect on vascular mortality.

I think there is still a major role for aspirin in primary prevention but people need to consult with their doctor to make sure they tolerate it.  The benefit of aspirin is still there.

A heart attack occurs when an inflamed cholesterol plaque ruptures causing the blood to clot in the area of the ruptured plaque.  Aspirin helps lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in two ways.  First, it lowers inflammation.  Second, it makes clot forming platelet cells “slippery” thus discourging clot formation.  In this sense aspirin helps after the fact.

Perhaps a better strategy than taking aspirin is to prevent the inflamed plaque from occurring in the first place.  Eliminate inflammation causing sugar, high-glycemic foods and inflammatory fats from the diet.  Add 6-8 daily servings of artery friendly fruits and vegetables.

Supplement with a variety of natural compounds proven to lower the risk of artery plaque.  Consider pomegranate, resveratrol, pycnogenol, grape seed extract, policosanol, Sytrinol, red yeast rice, and L-arginine complexes such as Pro-Argi 9 Plus.  Add an omega-3 supplement such as fish oil or flax in order to lower inflammation

Cheers to a healthy heart!

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