Posts Tagged ‘American Heart Association’

Family History Better Predictor of Heart Attack Than Stroke

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Family genetics may play more of a role in your risk of a heart attack than strokes. 

New research conducted at the University of Birmingham in England suggests that a family history of heart attack appears to be a stronger risk factor for heart attack than a family history of stroke is for stroke. 

Nearly 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year and about 600,000 will experience their first stroke according to a report from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health-related data.  “Both stroke and heart attack are leading health conditions that can financially wipe out a family,” explains Jesse Slome, the association’s executive duirector. 

Researchers noted that their findings would be helpful to doctors as a means of predicting a patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke.   The scientists collected data on nearly 1,000 people who had heart attacks and 1,015 stroke survivors. 

Among those with heart disease, 30 percent had a parent with a heart attack and 21 percent had a sibling with a heart attack, the researchers found.  Seven percent had two or more siblings who suffered heart attacks, and 5 percent reported both parents had had heart attacks. 

On the other hand, 21 percent of those who suffered a stroke or transient ischemic attack, considered a minor stroke, had at least one parent with a stroke, and 8 percent had a brother or sister with a stroke. 

Two percent of the stroke survivors had two parents with strokes, while 14 percent had at least two siblings with a stroke, the researchers found.  When two parents had suffered a heart attack, the risk of heart attack increased six times.  If one parent suffered a heart attack, the risk was 1.5 times greater for their offspring.

Stroke risk did not change substantially based on parental stroke history, the authors said. 

“Individuals in their 40s and 50s should recognize that a family history of heart disease can be important information about future risk of having a heart attack,” Slome explains. “With greater risk comes a greater need to plan.”

Fruit And Veggies Can Cut Dying From Heart Disease

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. 

According to researchers who analyzed data from more than 300,000 people from eight European countries, there is just one more reason to eat vegetables and fruit daily.

Individuals between ages 40 to 85 who took part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study were followed for an average of nearly 8.5 years. 

The findings published online in the European Heart Journal found that there were 1,636 deaths from ischemic heart disease, which is the most common form of heart disease and a leading cause of death in Europe. 

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, people with ischemic heart disease have reduced blood flow to the heart, which can cause angina, chest pain and heart attack. 

According to the study results, people who ate at least eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 22 percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease than those who ate fewer than three portions a day. A portion was considered to be 80 grams, which would equal a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot. 

For each additional portion above the lowest intake of two portions, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease was reduced by 4 percent, the study authors noted. 

The risk of a fatal ischemic heart disease for someone eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day would be 4 percent lower compared to someone consuming four portions a day, and so on up to eight portions or more. 

The main message from this analysis is that people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease.

Long Sleep Linked To Increased Health Risks In Older Adults

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Metabolic syndrome is a group of obesity-related risk factors that increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

A person with at least three of these five risk factors is considered to have metabolic syndrome: excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health conditions impacting the aging American public.

According to a research abstract presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies participants who reported a habitual daily sleep duration of eight hours or more including naps were 15 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome. 

This relationship remained unchanged after full adjustment for potential confounders such as demographics, lifestyle and sleep habits, and metabolic markers. Removing participants with potential ill health from the analysis slightly attenuated the observed association. Although participants who reported a short sleep duration of less than six hours were 14 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome in the initial analysis, this association disappeared after controlling for potential confounders.

Researchers noted that the most surprising aspect of the study was that long sleep – and not short sleep – was related to the presence of the metabolic syndrom.

The study involved over 29,000 adults, making it the largest study to assess the relationship between sleep duration and the presence of metabolic syndrome. Participants were 50 years of age or older. Total sleep duration was reported by questionnaire.

We can recommend that long sleepers reduce the amount of overall sleep they achieve, which may in turn have beneficial effects on their health one medical expert noted. Programs can be developed to modify sleep in an attempt to reduce the health burden on elderly populations, who are already at higher risk of disease.

Location Determines Heart Attack Survival

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Researchers found that people who suffer from cardiac arrest in some neighborhoods of Fulton County in Georgia — which is home to the city of Atlanta — are up to three times more likely to die than in other neighborhoods. They’re also less likely to have bystanders perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on them.

The neighborhoods with the highest cardiac arrest death rates tended to be poorer and less educated, with more black residents, the study authors noted in their report in the June issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance nearly 800,000 Americans will have a first heart attack in 2010 and some 470,000 will have a recurrent attack.

The findings have national public health indications experts explain. They show that it is time to change our thinking on how and where we conduct CPR training if we are ever going to change the dismal rate of survival from cardiac arrest,” the study author said.

The researchers at the University of Michigan estimated that 15 lives could be saved in Fulton County each year if the neighborhoods with the lowest rates of CPR had the same rates as those neighborhoods with the highest.

To improve cardiac survival rates that have been stagnant for 30 years, CPR training should be more basic and available to the people who are most likely to witness someone experiencing cardiac arrest, they note.  Health care resources are extremely limited. To make improvements, we need to understand where and how best to make change.

Gene Scan May Show Cancer Heart Risk

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

The Stanford University professor and researchers designed a computer algorithm to bring together known and genetic health risks. 

For example, a 40-year-old white male begins with a 16 percent lifetime chance of developing prostate cancer. But after taking his genes into account, the researchers put his risk at 23 percent. 

His Alzheimer’s risk, however, plummeted from 9 percent for most white men his age to 1.4 percent when genetics were considered. 

The gene scan cost about $50,000 to sequence, but the price is falling. The latest machines from companies like Illumina and Life Technologies Corp can map out a patient’s whole DNA code for as little as $5,000. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance this could eventually be reduced to a computer algorithm.  

“I think it will come to the point where this is happening for the average guy,” a researcher noted in a telephone interview. “We think the genomic information is going to be cheap and it is going to be fast … and the analysis could be run with the click of a mouse at any time .”

Diet With Vitamin B Is Heart Healthy

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

According to Japanese researchers who analyzed dietary questionnaires completed by more than 23,000 men and almost 36,000 women part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study diets with good levels of the vitamin are good for your heart.

The study found that women who ate more foods with the B-vitamins folate and B-6 were less likely to die from stroke and heart disease, while men who ate a diet high in these B-vitamins were less likely to die of heart failure.  The study appears online in the journal Stroke.

During a median 14 years of follow-up, 986 of the people died from stroke, 424 from heart disease, and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system.

Vitamin B-12 intake was not associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The researchers believe that folate and vitamin B-6 may help protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that’s affected by diet and heredity. Previous research suggests that too much homocysteine may damage the inner lining of arteries and promote the formation of blood clots.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance library of information, fish, liver, meats, whole grains and fortified cereals are sources of vitamin B-6, while vegetables and fruits, whole or enriched grains, fortified cereals, beans and legumes are sources of folate.

Being Overweight Increases Stroke Risk

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Being overweight puts an individual at significantly higher risk of ischemic stroke, with a serious possibility of permanent disability and reduced life expectancy.

Ischemic strokes occur when blood vessels supplying the brain are blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain, are less common.  Stroke is a leading critical illness according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization based in Los Angeles, California.

While being overweight increases a person’s likelihood of having stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, the question of whether being overweight or obese directly ups stroke risk has not been answered adequately; evidence from past research has been controversial.

Researchers examined medical literature for studies with at least four years of follow-up that looked at stroke risk based on body mass index, or BMI, a standard measure of weight in relation to height used to gauge how fat or thin a person is. They found 25 studies including 2,274,961 people, who had a total of 30,757 strokes.

People who were overweight were 22 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than normal weight people, while the risk for obese people was 64 percent higher, the researchers found. Hemorrhagic stroke risk wasn’t higher for overweight people, but it was 24 percent higher for obese people.

A person’s risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years can be estimated based on their gender, blood pressure, whether or not they smoke, and whether or not they have diabetes.

For example, a 62-year-old man whose systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 125, doesn’t smoke, and does not have diabetes or other cardiovascular problems, would have a 4 percent risk of stroke over the following decade; if the same man had a systolic blood pressure of 160 (140 and above is too high) and wasn’t receiving treatment for high blood pressure, his risk of stroke within the next 10 years would be 15 percent.

Obesity would raise the risk of stroke to nearly 6 percent for the man with normal blood pressure, and to 25 percent for the man with untreated high blood pressure.

Chocolate May Make Some Strokes Less Likely

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Unfortunately for chocolate fans, the same research found that chocolate does not appear to have a protective benefit for the most common type of stroke.

People who have a stroke have either an ischemic or a hemorrhagic stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked, either partially or completely. This type of stroke accounts for about 80 percent of all strokes. 

In the context of an appropriate intake, eating small amounts of cocoa could be beneficial, the researchers noted.  The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention in San Francisco. 

The benefit attributed to cocoa stems from substances it contains known as flavonoids, which are believed to help protect against certain cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and blood clotting. 

In the study, the researchers reviewed data from 4,369 middle-age French women, none of whom had any evidence of heart disease at the start of the study in 1993. The women’s average body-mass index was 23, a number that’s considered normal weight. 

In the next 12 years, 493 of the women were diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease: 200 had heart attacks and 293 had a stroke. Of the strokes, 189 were ischemic and 91 were hemorrhagic.

After adjusting the data to account for known cardiovascular disease risk factors — such as smoking, physical activity, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and diabetes — the researchers found no statistically significant association in the risk for cardiovascular disease between the highest levels of cocoa consumption and the lowest.

Stroke Incidence Rises Significantly Among Younger Americans

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

A new report presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference noted that the average age of stroke patients in 2005 was nearly three years younger than the average age of stroke patients in 1993-1994.

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, this represents a significant decrease as the percentage of people 20 to 45 having a stroke was up to 7.3 percent in 2005 from 4.5 percent in 1993-1994.  Stroke is one of the three most frequently incurred critical illness.  Cancer and heart disease are the other two impacting millions of Amerucans yearly.

Stroke has traditionally been considered a disease of old age.  Medical experts report that the findings are of great public health significance because of the potential for greater lifetime burden of disability among younger patients.

Researchers examined data from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, which includes about 1.3 million people. They report that the trend is likely occurring throughout the United States because the higher prevalence of risk factors such as obesity and diabetes seen in the young here are also seen throughout the country.

The study recorded the age of people hospitalized for their first-ever stroke from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994, then compared it to calendar years 1999 and 2005.

In 1993-94, the average age of first stroke was 71.3 years old. The average age dropped to 70.9 in 1999 and was down to 68.4 by 2005.

Researchers also found racial differences in stroke incidence. For blacks, the incidence of strokes among those over age 85 dropped significantly by 2005. For whites, the incidence decreased significantly starting at age 65 by 2005.

Coffee Drinking Reduces Risk Of Stroke

Friday, February 26th, 2010

According to a new study self-reported coffee consumption was inversely related to stroke risk.  The study followed 23,000 men and women.  They were followed for an average of 12 years found by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England.

Overall, people who reported any intake of coffee had a 27 percent lower risk of stroke than those who said they never drank java, the researchers reported. Drinking more coffee was not associated with a greater reduction in stroke risk. 

The reduced risk was irrespective of the type of coffee consumed, caffeinated, decaffeinated, instant or ground.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the educational organization, prior studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes — a major risk factor for stroke — and also with a reduced risk of heart disease. 

Those studies generally have not been carried out with rigorous methods, researchers note.  Typically, they rely on self-reports, how much coffee you say you drink.  But what might be two cups for me might be an entirely different two cups for you. 

So, there are no official suggestions that people drink coffee to lower their risk of stroke. There has been no study designed to produce the kind of evidence needed to make recommendations, they noted.

Single Men Face 64% Greater Risk Of Stroke

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

According to a new Israeli study when age and known stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and diabetes were included in the analysis, single men had a 64 percent higher risk of fatal stroke than married men. 

The study, which tracked more than 10,000 civil servants and municipal workers from 1963 to 1997, found that 8.4 percent of the single men died of strokes, compared to 7.1 percent of the married men. 

According to the medical researchers, the 3.6 percent of men who reported dissatisfaction with marriage also had a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke, compared to those who considered their marriages to be very successful. 

“Clearly stroke is one of the three major critical illness that threaten Americans,” notes Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “It’s clear that a long, happy relationship is associated with a higher likelihood of taking the recommended measures against the known stroke risk factors.” 

Most of the men (86 percent) were immigrants, some of whom arrived before the state of Israel was created, one researcher noted.  A not inconsiderable proportion of these men had migrated from states of personal persecution and economic hardship and it is not known whether this had something to do with the finding.

Lower IQ Linked To Heart Disease Risk

Monday, February 15th, 2010

An estimated 80 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade group.  Nearly 800,000 Americans will suffer their first heart attack this year.

The findings do not prove that those with low IQs develop more heart disease.  The study’s authors point out that they only show a possible connection between intelligence level and heart problems. 

Still, one of the authors suggested the findings show the value of helping kids to be smarter. From a public health perspective, there is the possibility that IQ can be increased, with some mixed results from trials of early learning and school readiness programs. It may also be worthwhile for health promotion campaigns to be planned with consideration of individual cognition levels. 

The study, published in the February issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, examined more than 1,100 Scottish men and women aged around 55 years in 1987, who were followed-up for two decades. 

Of the factors studied, cigarette smoking boosted the risk of heart disease the most, followed by low IQ. The researchers suggested that low IQ could boost the risk of heart disease due to its links to lack of healthy activities and related obesity and high blood pressure. Low IQ could also be a sign of illness or insufficient nutrition during a person’s lifetime.

Migraines Linked To Heart Attack Risk

Friday, February 12th, 2010

According to a new study the incidence of heart attacks in people with migraine is almost double that of people who don’t suffer the headaches.  Researchers note that the exact reason why the two conditions are linked is still unclear.

The report in this week’s online edition of Neurology compared 6,102 people with migraine and 5,243 without the headaches.  The research found a 4.1 percent incidence of heart attacks in the migraine patients, compared with 1.9 percent in those without the debilitating headaches.

Previous studies have found an association between migraine and cardiovascular problems including heart problems and stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, an educational organization that tracks heart disease and cancer information. One study, which looked at only women, found an increased incidence of stroke, especially for migraine with the visual disturbances called aura (women are up to four times more likely than men to have migraines). Another study, which looked only at men, found an increased risk of heart disease.

The new study did find a higher incidence of heart attack for migraine with aura — three times that of the migraine-free group. It also found that people with migraine were more likely to have the classic risk factors for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems: diabetes (12.6 percent versus 9.4 percent), high blood pressure (33.1 percent versus 27.5 percent) and high cholesterol (32.7 percent versus 25.6 percent). 

Cardiovascular risk reduction is important for everybody. If you have migraine, it might be more important for you than for the general population. They should be particularly vigilant about controlling body weight, keeping blood pressure low, modifying all the risk factors that are within their control. 

The majority of people who have migraines are women, often young women according to some medical experts. This is a marker that might help prevent cardiac disease. There have been several large population studies that show women with migraines have an increased risk of cardiovascular events. These are the women we should be intervening with. If they use oral contraceptives there should be a concern, because they can form blood clots, particularly if they smoke.

Heart Disease And New Study On Saturated Fat

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Research has shown that saturated fat can raise blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and elevated LDL is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Because of this, experts generally advise people to limit their intake of fatty meat, butter and full-fat dairy. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that adults get no more than 7 percent of their daily calories from the fat; for someone who eats 2,000 calories a day, that translates into fewer than 16 grams of saturated fat per day. 

But in the new analysis, which combined the results of 21 previous studies, researchers found no clear evidence that higher saturated fat intakes led to higher risks of heart disease or stroke. 

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, may sound like good news for steak lovers, but a past AHA president cautioned against “over interpreting” the results. 

They note that no one is saying that some saturated fat is going to harm you…people should enjoy their food.  They point out, many studies have shown that dietary saturated fat can raise people’s cholesterol, and the new analysis is not going to change recommendations to keep saturated fat intake in check. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit educational organization that tracks data related to heart disease and cancers, a number of studies have linked the so-called Western diet to greater heart disease risks; that diet pattern is defined as one high in red and processed meats and saturated fats — but also high in sweets and other refined carbohydrates like white bread. 

On the other hand, diets described as Mediterranean or “prudent” — generally high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, unsaturated fats from vegetable oil — may help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.  It’s that type of eating pattern that people should strive for. 

For the current study, researchers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center in California, pooled data from 21 studies that included a total of nearly 348,000 adults.  

Participants, who were generally healthy to start, were surveyed about their diet habits and then followed for anywhere from five to 23 years. Over that time, 11,000 developed heart disease or suffered a stroke.

Early EKG Improves Survival Odds From Heart Attack

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The research found that these people often were able to bypass the emergency room and go directly to the cardiac catheterization laboratory for treatment with what’s commonly known as an angioplasty. 

Findings published in the January issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions report those given an EKG by paramedics were treated 60 minutes, on average, after reaching the hospital, compared with 91 minutes for people who did not have an EKG before arriving at the hospital. 

Research has shown that rapid angioplasty treatment reduces the chances of dying within the next year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks informatioon on surving cancer, heart attacks or stroke, the three primary critical illnesses. 

For the study, the researchers examined medical records for cardiac patients taken to three hospitals in Southeast Michigan for five years to 2008.   Of those who did not have an EKG done before arrival, 2 percent died in the hospital. None of the patients who were given pre-arrival EKGs died in the hospital, the study reported.

As Obesity Increases, So Does Stroke Risk

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Researchers followed over 13,500 middle-aged Americans for 19 years to determine incraesed stroke risk associated with several measures of obesity, emphasizing body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight and height, but also such measures as waist circumference.

Their findings published online in Stroke found that the risk of stroke was increased with each measure of obesity.   The degree of risk varied by sex and ethnic group. For example, people in the highest BMI category had a 1.43 to 2.12 times higher risk for stroke, with variations by race and sex. The risk ratios ranged from 1.65 to 3.19 when obesity was measured by waist circumference and from 1.69 to 2.55 when the ratio of waist to hip was used.

“Obesity contributes to both diabetes and hypertension [high blood pressure], which are associated with stroke and at an earlier age,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Each year about 600,000 people experience their first stroke according to the organization’s annual statistical update.

The risk was especially high for blacks, the study found. For example, the incidence of stroke was 1.2 per 1,000 person-years for white women and 4.3 per 1,000 person-years for black women. In the highest BMI category, rates ranged from 2.2 for white women to 8.0 for black men.

That higher incidence of stroke for blacks has been found in many previous studies, and it also is seen in Asians, Yatsuya said. The reason is unknown, but there may be a genetic difference, the medical experts noted.

The increased risk linked to weight was evident in every ethnic group, according to the researchers.  Men and women in the highest obesity category had about double the risk for stroke as did those in the lowest category.  Obesity appears to act by increasing the incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes, two major risk factors for stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

According to medical researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, the more omega-3 that patients with coronary heart disease consumed, the slower their telomeres shrank. Telomeres are structures at the end of a chromosome that get shorter the more times a cell divides, making them a marker of biological age. 

The scientists finding, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, report that there is a significant impact of omega-3s on cell support and cell functioning.  They note that if you supplement with omega-3s or eat omega-3s, your cells stay healthier, your cells age less quickly. 

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, “Cardiologists have known for two decades that increased dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for patients with coronary artery disease, particularly those who have had a prior heart attack. It reduces the risk of subsequent heart attacks and death. 

Researchers noted that the reasons for that benefit have not been well defined.  For the new study, the researchers followed about 600 patients in the San Francisco Bay Area with coronary artery disease. Blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and telomere length were measured at the beginning of the study and again about five years later. 

The medical experts reported that as blood levels of omega-3 went up, the rate at which telomeres shortened decreased.  To the extent that that is a marker of biological aging, the rate of biological aging went down. 

The findings don’t change current recommendations regarding omega-3 fatty acids or what people should be doing.   The American Heart Association recommends that those with coronary heart disease get about a gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids.

Drinking Green Tea Decreases Lung Cancer Risk

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Those who had at least a cup of day of green tea could see more than a 5-fold decrease in lung cancer risk. Still better were the results for former or current smokers, who saw a nearly 13-fold decrease in risk.

The theory is that smoking elicits an inhibitory effect in the well-known antioxidants in the green tea, which is why current and former smokers see a higher degree of protection. The findings were reported at the American Association for Cancer Research-International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer.

However, researchers still note that green tea or not, stopping smoking is the best way to remove lung cancer risk. Lin said, “We suggest smokers or nonsmokers, both of them, should drink green tea to keep away from lung cancer. However, the cessation of smoking is the best way for cancer prevention.”

Lin’s group designed a hospital-based study that included questionnaires and genetic typing. They used 170 lung cancer patients and 340 healthy controls. The longer the green tea “habit,” the better, as well. Researchers saw a more than threefold reduction in risk for more than 10 years compared with none among both smokers and those who never smokers.

An earlier study that we reported on showed another possible antioxidant benefit of green tea. It showed that green tea may also help slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Visit website for free information on this important protection.

More Proof That Statins Cut Stroke Risk

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with white adults. 

Researchers found that much of the benefit from statins such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor appears tied to the drugs’ lowering of blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  Their review of data from clinical trials including almost 267,000 participants showed an overall 12 percent reduction in stroke incidence among those taking statins, with each 1 percent reduction in total cholesterol predicting a 0.8 percent relative risk reduction of stroke. 

Medical experts note that the report contains hints that the reduction of stroke risk is not entirely explained by the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins.  They noted that there are many possible explanations for the reduction in stroke risk observed in actively treated patients, and one of those is a reduction of inflammation with statin therapy. 

There was no debate about the value of statin therapy in reducing other cardiovascular risks in people with high LDL levels. The Italian analysis found more benefits from statins than from other cholesterol-lowering regimens. 

The most gratifying thing reported by this meta-analysis is that statins among all lipid-lowering therapies appear to be the most effective, noted an expert from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The use of statin therapy is particularly important among people who have had a stroke. They are being used more aggressively in people who have had a stroke in an attempt to prevent another. 

At least one trial has shown a significant reduction in second strokes among people taking statins.  The report, published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was led by physicians at G. d’Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy.

New Stroke Therapy May Restore Function

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Researchers at University of California, Irvine, have found that a protein naturally occurring in humans restores motor function in rats after a stroke. Administered directly to the brain, the protein restores 99 percent of lost movement; if it’s given through the nose, 70 percent of lost movement is regained. Untreated rats improve by only 30 percent. 

Presently no drugs exist that will help a stroke after a few days.  Medical experts noted that the findings offer optimism that there may be therapies that can repair damage to a significant degree long after the stroke.  The studies chronicle the success of a small protein called transforming growth factor alpha, which plays critical tissue-forming and developmental roles in humans from just after conception through birth and into old age.

Each year about 600,000 Americans have their first stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the country,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the non-profit organization.  “Most people survive but the financial and emotional costs can be devastating to families.” 

TGF alpha has been studied for two decades in other organ systems but never before has been shown to reverse the symptoms of a stroke. No lasting side effects were observed.  

When put inside a cylinder, healthy rats will jump up with both front legs, but stroke-impaired rats will use just one leg, favoring the injured side. When given a choice of directions to walk, impaired rats will move toward their good side. 

One month after the study rats suffered an induced stroke (equal to about a year for humans), some were injected with TGF alpha. Within a month, they had regained nearly all their motor function, hopping up with both legs in the cylinder exercise and not favoring a side in the directional test. Rats that did not receive treatment improved just 30 percent.

Weekend Stroke Victims Receive More Aggressive Treatment

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

January 13, 2010.  Stroke victims brought to a hospital on a weekend are more likely to receive the powerful clot-dissolving drug tPA than those who arrive on a weekday.

Researchers conducted the study following a report showing that aggressive treatment for heart attacks was more likely to be given during the week rather than the weekend.

The heart attack study sent researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina.Kazley searching through the records of almost 79,000 people admitted to Virginia hospitals between 1998 and 2006 with ischemic strokes, in which a clot blocks a brain blood vessel.

The research team found that relatively few patients received tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which works quickly to break up clots. In fact, only 543 of the 58,378 people admitted on weekdays got the drug, compared to 229 of the 20,279 admitted on weekends. The numbers show that the weekend stroke victims were 20 percent more likely to be given tPA than weekday arrivals.

The findings published in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology explained that because there are fewer elective procedures on weekends, patients have better access to expertise and better access to diagnostic technology such as CT [computed tomography] scanners. They are also more likely to present at an earlier time, since they are less likely to have to battle traffic to get to the hospital.

Despite the higher level of tPA treatment on weekends, no statistical significance in the death rates of the two groups was seen in the study. Only about one percent of patients who got the treatment, and at those low numbers it is very difficult to find a significant difference.

“It is vital for all adults to understand the symptoms of a stroke vital to getting treatment quickly,” explains jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.   Stroke symptoms can include a sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, vision trouble, dizziness and headache.

Excess Protein in Urine Is Indicator of Heart Disease Risk Among Whites

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine note that proteinuria, a long accepted indicator of heart disease risk, has far less impact on blacks than it does on whites.   Medical experts believe that the more protein in a patient’s urine, the greater the risk for heart disease and stroke. 

The study indicates that excess protein in the urine — a common finding with progressive kidney disease in individuals with diabetes — is strongly associated with calcium deposition in the major arteries in white patients, but not in black patients.  Therefore, they conclude, that proteinuria appears to be associated with an increased risk of heart attack in the white ethnic group. There may be biologic factors predisposing whites to heart disease or protecting blacks from developing it, the scientists note.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to cancer, heart disease and stroke, in the general community, blacks have more heart disease risk factors than whites, including higher blood pressures and LDL (known as “bad”) cholesterol levels, and higher blood sugars in patients with diabetes. As such, they face a higher risk for heart attack than whites. 

Several large studies have shown that despite having more risk factors for hardening of the arteries, black men had less calcium in the heart arteries — one-eighth the amount — compared to white men. In addition, given access to equivalent healthcare as whites, blacks with diabetes face only half the risk of a heart attack, indicating that blacks appear to somehow be protected from the cardiovascular effects of these risk factors. 

The researchers evaluated whether excess protein excretion in the urine — a major heart disease risk factor in whites — was also a risk factor for heart and vascular disease in blacks. The level of urine protein was examined in over 800 white participants and nearly 400 black participants, all with diabetes. Participants were also tested for atherosclerosis, based on the buildup of calcium in their major arteries. 

The research team found that in the white population, greater amounts of protein in the urine were directly associated with higher levels of atherosclerosis. This association, however, was not seen in the black study population. 

The study appears in the January issue of Diabetes Care.

Hazards of Obesity Now Rival Smoking in U.S.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University and The City College of New York analyzed 1993-2008 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that included interviews with more than 3.5 million adults. 

The results showed that the quality-adjusted life years lost to obesity are equal to, or greater than, those lost because of smoking. 

From 1993 to 2008, the number of adult smokers decreased 18.5 percent and smoking-related quality-adjusted life years lost remained relatively stable at 0.0438 quality-adjusted life years lost per population. Over that same time, the proportion of obese Americans increased 85 percent, resulting in 0.0464 quality-adjusted life years lost. Obesity had a larger effect on disease, while smoking had a greater impact on deaths, the researchers found. 

Although life expectancy and quality-adjusted life expectancy have increased over time, the increase in the contribution of mortality to quality-adjusted life years lost from obesity may result in a decline in future life expectancy. 

The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Another recent study concluded that if both smoking and obesity rates in the United States remain unchanged, life expectancy in the nation will be reduced by almost nine months. That study was published in the Dec. 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. 

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Breast-Feeding May Help A Woman’s Heart

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Researchers found that those women who had not breast-fed were much more likely to have calcification or plaque in their coronary artery, aorta and carotid artery. When calcifications and plaque build up in the arteries, blood flow can be reduced, and, if enough of these deposits build up, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care had previously looked at breast-feeding’s effect on older women.  Their study found that post-menopausal women who had breast-fed were less likely to report having heart disease.  Another study on breast-feeding from a different research group recently reported in the journal Diabetes that women who breast-fed were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that indicate an increased risk for heart disease.

The current study included women who had at least one baby. At the time of the study, they were 45 to 58 years old, had never been diagnosed with heart disease and had no known symptoms of heart disease.

The researchers found that 32 percent of the women who had not breast-fed had coronary artery calcification, compared with 17 percent of the breast-feeding moms. The researchers found calcifications in 39 percent of the aortas of women who hadn’t breast-fed, versus 17 percent of the women who had. They also found plaque deposits in the carotid artery of 18 percent of the women who had not breast-fed and 10 percent of those who had.

After adjusting the data for socioeconomic status, family history and lifestyle factors, heart disease risk factors and body mass, the researchers concluded that women who had not breast-fed were five times more likely to have aortic calcifications than women who consistently breast-fed. 

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Heart Disease To Cost $503 Billion In 2010

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The record amount represents an increase of nearly 6 percent, and many cases could have been prevented, according to the American Heart Association report. 

The figure includes both health care costs and lost productivity due to death and disease, according to an update published online in the journal Circulation.  An estimated 80 million Americans – about one in three – have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Obesity and other risk factors, like too little exercise and poor diet, are fueling the expected increase in health care costs associated with heart disease and stroke.  Current statistical data shows Americans to be on average overweight, physically inactive and eating a diet that is too high in calories, sodium, fat and sugar according to the head of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee. 

According to the heart association, 59 percent of adults who responded to a 2008 national survey described themselves as physically inactive.  The report also says fewer than half of people with heart disease symptoms are receiving cholesterol-lowering drugs, like statins. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and in most industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes accounted for 32 percent of all deaths globally in 2005. 

The heart association said the number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures jumped 33 percent from 1996 to 2006, from 5.4 million to 7.2 million.

Life Expectency In U.S. Hits New High

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

According to federal officials women born in 2007 can expect to live to 80.4 years on average and men to 75.3 years.  The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that while Americans can expect to live longer than their parents, life expectancy in the United States is still lower than in many other industrialized countries, including Canada and Japan. 

Along with increased life expectancy, the report notes the death rate has dropped to an all-time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 people, continuing a long-term trend.  “It is increasingly likely that Americans will live a long life into their 80s, 90s and even past 100,” explains Jesse Slome, execuitive director of the American Associatiion for Critical Illness Insurance.  “But few are prepared for the consequences of living that long.”

The death rate has been decreasing in the United States since the 1960s with fewer deaths from the three primary critical illnesses, heart disease, stroke and cancer are driving the trend, he said.   The report is based on data from nearly 90 percent of U.S. death certificates. 

According to the report, life expectancy in 2007 increased to 77.9 years (77 years and 11 months) up from 77.7 years in 2006. Since 2000, life expectancy has increased 1.4 years.

The five leading causes of death, accounting for 64 percent of all deaths, are heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents. 

Death rates in the United States vary by region and state, with the Southeast leading the nation. The researchers report that white women have the longest life expectancy (80.7 years) followed by black women (77 years).   At age 65, life expectancy was 18.6 years in 2007, an increase of 6 percent since 2000. 

Experts note that living longer will also have unforeseen effects on the country.  “People living 20 years or more than their predecessors will have to rethink retirement planning,” Slome said.  “The nation will see a significant drain on Social Security and Medicare benefits as these programs were designed to support people for only five to 10 years after retiring.”

Many Stroke Survivors Don’t Take Lifesaving Meds

Monday, December 14th, 2009

According to research, about 19 percent of patients didn’t take prescribed blood thinners.  Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 143,579 people die each year from stroke in the United States and stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.   Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55 the Association notes.

Ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood flow in the brain. Several types of medications can reduce the risk of another ischemic stroke. These include blood thinners – also known as antithrombotic medications, of which aspirin is the most common.

This seven-year study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, examined 4,168 ischemic stroke survivors.  Researchers found that about 19 percent of patients didn’t take blood thinners. Men, older patients and non-Hispanic patients were more likely to take blood thinners.

 

The study will be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Smokers Double Risk For Heart Disease

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some 785,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year and 1.4 million will be diagnosed with cancer. 

Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System followed over 12,000 male and female smokers, former smokers and nonsmokers for a three year time period. 

During that time, current smokers were 4.16 times more likely to die of cancer, 2.26 times more likely to die of heart disease and 2.58 times more likely to die from any cause than were former or nonsmokers. Current smokers were also more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers found that there were no significant differences between former smokers and nonsmokers in the risk for dying from heart disease or any cause.  Former smokers they reported were more likely to die of cancer than those who’d never smoked.  

The findings were published online in Circulation, by the American Heart Association.  The researchers noted provide strong evidence that people with heart disease who continue to smoke take a very high risk of increasing their chances of death in the short term.  They note that the findings should provides impetus for a smoker to stop.  The benefits of risk reduction accrue relatively quickly when someone stops smoking, although the lingering cancer risk is still there, the researchers concluded.

Moderate Drinking May Help Your Heart

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

The type of alcohol — beer, wine or spirits — made no difference, the researchers reported in the Nov. 19 online issue of Heart. The Spanish analysis used 10-year data on over 40,000 men and women who were participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study. 

But for men, there was a point at which the coronary benefits of alcohol declined, and risk began to rise again.  The rate of coronary heart disease for non-drinking women in the study was 56 per 100,000. For women listed as low drinkers, averaging less than 5 grams a day, it was 42. For women who were moderate drinkers (5 to 30 grams a day), it was 36; for high drinkers (30 to 90 grams a day) it was 12; and for heavy drinkers (more than 90 grams a day) it was 12. 

The rates for men were 398 per 100,000 for those who never drank, 318 for low drinkers, 255 for moderate drinkers, 278 for high drinkers and 334 for heavy drinkers, the researchers reported.

The report showing that the source of alcohol made no difference does help puncture one explanation for what has come to be called the “French paradox,” the low level of heart disease seen in that country despite consumption of what Americans would describe as an unhealthy, fat-rich diet. Some experts have attributed the paradox to the beneficial effects of red wine. 

A number of well-done studies have shown that people who drink have higher levels of HDL cholesterol.  HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind that prevents formation of artery-blocking plaque deposits. 

The American Heart Association recommendation is that “if you drink, do so in moderation.” That means one to two drinks a day for a man, one drink a day for a woman, with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Every 34 seconds an American will suffer a heart attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

SOURCES: Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor, epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., internist, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, associate professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Nov. 19, 2009, Heart, online.

Diuretics Still Best Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Medical researchers reported the findings of a study at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association this week.   They reported that the thiazide-type diuretic chlorthalidone outshone three other treatments — a calcium channel blocker, an ACE inhibitor and an alpha-receptor blocker — in most areas.  This was especially effective in lowering the incidence of stroke and heart failure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some 785,000 will have a new coronary attack this year according to the industry trade group. 

The findings the medical experts note are largely unchanged.  They note that the main message is that treating hypertension [high blood pressure] is very necessary and that treating hypertension with chlorthalidone resulted in a significant reduction in heart failure and stroke. 

The original trial, begun in 1994, involved more than 42,000 patients with hypertension and at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The participants were randomly assigned to take one of the following anti-hypertensive drugs: chlorthalidone (the diuretic), amlodipine besylate (the calcium channel blocker), doxazosin mesylate (the alpha blocker) or lisinopril (an ACE inhibitor). 

The five-year follow-up, which ended in 2002, was intended to see if new differences emerged with long-term use of the medications, especially regarding coronary heart disease, total mortality, heart failure and aggregate cardiovascular disease. 

This is the largest hypertension trial to date, one researcher noted.  Earlier results had also found that diuretics were as good or better than other blood pressure-lowering drugs for treating hypertension in patients with metabolic syndrome (a collection of factors that put people at risk of heart disease), especially black patients.

Migraine Increases Likelihood Of Stroke

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off by plaque accumulation or a blood clot.

In astudy presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed the findings of 21 studies that included a total of 622,381 men and women, aged 18 to 70, in Europe and North America.

Those with migraines were 2.3 times more likely than people without migraines to suffer ischemic stroke. The risk was 2.5 times higher for migraine sufferers who experienced aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blurred vision), and for women experiencing aura, 2.9 times higher.

The findings reinforce the link between migraine and stroke and also correct some discrepancies in previous analyses that yielded mixed results, according to Hopkins cardiologist and senior study investigator Dr. Saman Nazarian.

Nazarian said nearly 1,800 articles have been written about the relationship between migraine and stroke, but the Hopkins review is believed to be the largest of its kind and was more selective, including only studies that used similar designs and groups of people.

“Identifying people at highest risk is crucial to preventing disabling strokes. Based on this data, physicians should consider addressing stroke risk factors in patients with a history or signs of light flashes and blurry vision associated with severe headaches,” Nazarian said in a Hopkins news release.

There are a number of migraine prevention and treatment options, including smoking cessation, taking medications to lower blood pressure or taking blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin, Nazarian added. For women with migraines, additional options include discontinuing use of birth control pills or stopping hormone replacement therapy.

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Rapid Cooling May Help When Heart Attack Hits

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Swedish researchers examined the use of a device called RhinoChill, which cools the brains of heart attack patients during ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

The median time between cardiac arrest onset and the start of cooling was 23 minutes. On arrival at hospital, the average body temperature of cooled patients was 93.56 degrees F, compared with 95.9 degrees for standard care patients. 

The study found that 46.7 percent of patients in the cooling group survived to hospital discharge, compared with 31 percent of patients who received standard care.   In addition, some 36.7 percent of those in the cooling group and 21.4 percent of those in the standard care group were in good neurological condition when discharged from the hospital. 

Patients who received a combination of early CPR — started within six minutes of collapse — and cooling had the best outcomes.   The researchers noted that the earlier you can do the cooling, the better. When resuscitation efforts were delayed, there was no significant difference in survival.  

The study was to be presented Nov. 15 at an American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some785,000 Americans will have a new cornary attack this year.