Posts Tagged ‘high blood pressure’

New Information Can Help Predict Who’ll Survive Heart Attack

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Important news for the nearly one million Americans who will have their first heart attack over the next 12 months.  Researchers report that it may be possible to predict who will survive or die as a result of that attack. 

According to the new study which analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people there are traits that could predict the risk that a heart attack would be fatal. Those traits included having high blood pressure, being black and having a very high body mass index which is a measurement based on height and weight. 

“For some people, the first heart attack is more likely to end their life,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade group.  “But increasingly more people are surviving heart attacks as well as cancer and strokes.”

The researchers found that in general blacks are at higher risk than non-blacks of sudden cardiac death, in which the heart suddenly stops beating.  But, they noted, they are at less risk of coronary heart disease. 

High blood pressure and increased heart rate were stronger predictors of sudden cardiac death than coronary heart disease.   Extreme high or low BMI was predictive of increased risk of sudden cardiac death, but not of coronary heart disease. 

Certain markers that can be identified by doctors evaluating patients’ electrocardiograms are associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death. 

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 director.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Fitness Level, Not Body Fat, Stronger Predictor Of Longevity After 60

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A study reveals that adults over age 60 who had higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness lived longer than unfit adults, independent of their levels of body fat.

Prior studies have provided evidence that obesity and physical inactivity each can produce a higher risk of death in middle-aged adults. Whether this is also true for older adults is uncertain, according to background information in the article.

Medical researchers at the University of South Carolina, Columbia examined the associations between cardiorespiratory fitness, various clinical measures of adiposity (body fat) and death in older women and men. The study included 2,603 adults age 60 years or older (average age, 64.4 years; 19.8 percent women) enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study who completed a baseline health examination during 1979-2001. Fitness was assessed by a treadmill exercise test and adiposity was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percent body fat. Low fitness was defined as the lowest fifth of the sex-specific distribution of treadmill exercise test duration. There were 450 deaths during an average follow-up of 12 years.

The researchers found that those who died were older, had lower fitness levels, and had more cardiovascular risk factors than survivors. However, there were no significant differences in adiposity measures. Participants in the higher fitness groups were for the most part less likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels.

Fit participants had lower death rates than unfit participants within each stratum of adiposity, except for two of the obesity groups. In most instances, death rates for those with higher fitness were less than half of rates for those who were unfit.

Middle-Age Heart Risk Factors Shorten Men’s Lives

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Although death from heart disease has been declining, in part due to better control of cardiovascular risk factors and better care, a study by British researchers looks at death from heart disease in terms of life expectancy.

The researchers collected data on nearly 19,000 men ranging from 49 to 69 years of age. The men were first evaluated between 1967-1970.  At the start of the study, the men completed a questionnaire that included questions about their medical history, smoking, employment and marital status. In addition, height, weight, blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were also measured.

After about 28 years of follow-up, 7,044 surviving men were examined again in 1997.  When the study began, 42 percent of the men smoked, 39 percent had high blood pressure and 51 percent had high cholesterol. By 1997, about two-thirds had stopped smoking and their blood pressure and cholesterol levels had also dropped, the researchers noted.

Despite these changes in risk factors for heart disease, men who had three heart risk factors in middle age had a threefold higher risk of dying from heart disease and a twofold increased risk of dying from other causes, compared with men with none of these risk factors, the study found.

Men who had all three risk factors at the time they entered the study lived 10 years less than men with none of the risk factors. Life expectancy after 50 was an additional 23.7 years for men with three risk factors, compared with 33.3 years for men without the risk factors, the researchers found.

Individuals who choose to not treat and control these major cardiovascular risk factors should recognize they may be giving up, on average, as much as 10 to 15 years of life by doing so, te research team reported.  The study was published in the Sept. 18 online edition of the British Medical Journal,

SOURCES: Robert Clarke, M.D., reader in epidemiology, University of Oxford, UK; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 18, 2009, British Medical Journal

During CPR, More Chest Compressions Saves More Lives

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When it comes to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) you’re better off doing less mouth-to-mouth and more chest compressions, according to a new study.

CPR consists of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  It is performed on people whose hearts have stopped beating.  Medical experts explain that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation moves oxygen into the lungs of someone who can’t breathe on his own, while chest compressions move blood carrying that oxygen to the heart and the brain.

This year some 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.  The average age of a person having a first heart attack is 64 for men and 70 for women.

Researchers found that the odds that someone whose heart has stopped beating will survive goes up markedly when rescuers spend more time giving chest compressions.

The findings emphasize that the chest compressions you do on a loved one are one of the most important things that can be done, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.  They shared the important information recognizing many are untrained or not confident giving mouth-to-mouth ventilation.  Evenn by themselves, chest compressions can make a difference, the medical researchers noted.

Canadian medical researchers examined CPR tracings in over 500 patients who suffered “out-of-hospital” cardiac arrest in the US and Canada.  There was roughly a 10 percent increase in the chance of survival for every 10 percent increase in amount of time that rescuers spend giving chest compressions they found.

Researchers found that the heart began pumping blood effectively on its own about 80 percent of the time when rescuers spent most of their time on chest compressions, compared to just shy of 60 percent of time when they spent most of their efforts on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Similarly, about one in eight patients survived long enough to go home from the hospital when rescuers spent most of their time on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but that rate of survival doubled when rescuers spent most of their time on chest compressions. 

The study appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association, September 14, 2009.

More Adults At Risk Of Heart Disease

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Only 7.5 percent of Americans are now in the clear when it comes to heart disease risk factors according to a new study.

Resaerchers found that several decades of steady reductions in heart disease may be on the wane.  The obesity epidemic affecting millions of Americans bears much of the blame for the increased risk.  As a result, the decline in cardiovascular disease mortality in the U.S. seems to be coming to an end and may even reverse itself.

A worsening cardiovascular risk profile in the population could potentially lead to increases in the incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease, noted researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   The increases in cardiovascular disease and diabetes will affect the nation’s medical costs, stated Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Medical costs account for two-thirds of all U.S. bankruptcies, he noted.

The researchers collected data on adults 25 to 74 years of age looking for low-risk factors for heart disease.  These include items such as not smoking, having low blood cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal weight and no sign of diabetes.

Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the study found that in 1971 to 1975, a paltry 4.4 percent of adults had all five of these heart-healthy factors. However, by 1994 that number had risen to 10.5 percent of adults. 

The latest data, from 2004, found that the fraction of American adults with all five healthy characteristics had dropped to 7.5 percent.  Minorities tended to fare worst, since whites tended to have more low-risk factors than either blacks or Mexican-Americans, the report found.

The reserachers identified three reasons for the backslide in health; decreases in the percentages of adults who were not overweight or obese, a decrease in those who had a favorable blood pressure, and an increase in the number who have diabetes.  There was one bright spot in the report, a decrease in the percentage of adults who were not currently smoking.

Because excess weight is a major cause of diabetes and hypertension, it is critical that the percentage of adults who are overweight or obese be reduced, the researchers noted.  “This alarming development is occurring despite great improvements in medical interventions to prevent cardiovascular diseases,” he said. “It is of particular concern that these trends do not yet reflect the consequences of the current epidemic of childhood obesity.”

If these trends continue, the recent gains in life expectancy in the U.S. will be lost, the medical experts noted.

The study was published in the Sept. 14 online edition of Circulation.

SOURCES: Earl S. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Rob M. van Dam, Ph.D., assistant professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School; Boston; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 14, 2009, Circulation, online

Cut Salt For Better Health

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

If Americans cut their salt intake to recommended levels, they’d have far fewer cases of high blood pressure, and save billions of dollars in critical illness health care costs.

High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and its complications including heart and kidney disease.  Scientists with the Institute of Medicine recommend that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. The average American, however, consumers about 1,000 mg more than that, according to the authors of the study appearing in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Researchers estimate that if the average sodium intake fell to the recommended level there would be 11 million fewer cases of high blood pressure each year.   According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance estimmates some 70 million American adults have high blood pressure.  The costs of treating high blood pressure and related heart disease and strokes would fall by $18 billion.

While reducing sodium intake sounds simple, it is actually fairly difficult for individuals to do, the researchers noted.  That’s because so much of the sodium Americans consume comes not from their own salt shakers, but from packaged foods and meals eaten out.

SOURCE: American Journal of Health Promotion, September/October.

Coffee Linked To Heart And Stroke Risk

Friday, September 4th, 2009

People who drink lots of coffee but who don’t follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to have atrial fibrillation, according to a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Barcelona.

Researchers studied patients who’d been recently diagnosed with the common heart arrhythmia to supply information about their dietary habits, including caffeine consumption. Their diets were compared with those of people without atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation means the heart’s two upper chambers quiver instead of beating regularly, leading to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and an increase in the risk of stroke.

According to the scientists, daily coffee intake was divided into four categories: none, low (one cup per-day), medium (two to three cups a day), and heavy (more than three cups).

The individuals participating in the study were cross-ranked according to their adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and includes little red meat.

The report notes that individuals with atrial fibrillation were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet than those without the heart condition. Those with atrial fibrillation also consumed more red meat and full-fat dairy products.

The heaviest coffee drinkers were also more likely to have atrial fibrillation than those who drank less, the study found.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 30, 2009

Strokes Occurring At Younger Ages

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Strokes are no longer an affliction of old age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis found that people in the working ages of life are having strokes with greater regularity than ever before. 

While more people under the age of 65 are suffering strokes, rehabilitation is often not offered to younger people with mild stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  Heart attacks, cancer and strokes are the three major critical illnesses affecting Americans.

The study examined data on nearly 8,000 people treated for stroke between 1999 and 2008. Researchers found that 45 percent were under 65 and 27 percent were under the age of 55. This differs drastically from data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which states that 66 percent of all strokes occur in people over 65, the report in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy reports.

Most of the strokes among those under 65 were mild.  Individuals typically do not have outward signs of impairment and therefore are discharged with little or no rehabilitation.  The report noted that these individuals have trouble reintegrating back into complex activities of everyday life such as employment.

About 71 percent of patients who had a mild to moderate stroke were discharged directly home, discharged with home services only, or discharged with outpatient services only.   Follow-up with stroke victims revealed that 46 percent of those with a mild stroke said they were working slower, 42 percent said they were not able to do their job as well, 31 percent said they were not able to stay organized and 52 percent said they had problems concentrating.

SOURCES: Timothy J. Wolf, O.T.D., M.S.CI., O.T.R/L, instructor, occupational therapy and neurology and investigator for the Cognitive Rehabilitation Research Group, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Isaacson, M.D., assistant professor, neurology and medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; September/October 2009, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

Ankle Circulation Can Warn Of Strokes

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A simple test of blood circulation in the ankle could help physicians identify individuals at higher risk of suffering another stroke according to the American Heart Association.

According to researchers, a simple test to compare blood flow in the ankle to that in the arm is all that’s needed.  A significant difference between the two readings could suggest that a patient suffers from peripheral artery disease, caused by fatty plaque buildup in the arteries of the extremities.

Stroke survivors and those who have experienced transient ischemic attacks — also known as TIAs or mini-strokes — are at high risk of stroke if they have peripheral artery disease according to the scientists.

Researchers screened survivors of strokes and mini-strokes using a device similar to a blood-pressure cuff to check circulation in their ankles. They found that 26 percent of the patients had peripheral artery disease without symptoms. Those patients were three times more likely to suffer from stroke, heart attack or death within the next two years compared to those who didn’t have the condition.

Seniors Suffer Silent Strokes

Friday, August 7th, 2009

People age 60+ experience silent strokes, researchers report.  They may not be aware and thus won’t utilize benefits of their health insurance or Medicare Supplement insurance.

“These strokes are not truly silent, because they have been linked to memory and thinking problems and are a possible cause of a type of dementia,” study author Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a neuropsychiatry professor at the University of New South Wales in Sidney, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

The research was published in the journal Neurology.  Researchers followed nearly 500 people aged 60 to 64 for four years. The researchers found that 7.8 percent of the group had evidence of strokes that do not cause any noticeable symptoms — known as silent lacunar infarctions — in which blood flow is blocked in one of the arteries leading to areas deep within the brain. An additional 1.6 percent of the study group had experienced silent strokes by the end of the study period.

Those with high blood pressure had a 60 percent greater chance of having a silent stroke than those with normal blood pressure.   Although relatively symptom-free, silent strokes are a major health problem among the elderly, according to the American Academy of Neurology and other health insurance experts.

Individuals who have had a silent stroke are at higher risk for subsequent strokes and for an accelerated loss of mental skills. In addition to high blood pressure, risk factors include diabetes, heart disease, smoking and older age.

Medical and health insurance professionals recommend person experiencing any symptoms of stroke, call emergency medical services immediately.
Common signs of stroke are:
Sudden weakness or numbness of the arms, legs or face, especially on one side
Quick onset of blurred vision in one or both eyes
Difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
Sudden severe headache with no known cause.