An older patient with a weak heart is less likely to get a life-saving implantable defibrillator after a heart attack, even though the devices are covered by Medicare and insurance when used appropriately.
Birth control pills have changed the lives of millions of women, allowing them control over reproduction, and limiting pre-menstrual syndrome misery. These drugs typically included combinations of estrogens and progestins, female hormones that can trick the body into infertility. When The Pill first came out, doses of estrogen were much higher, and consequently dangerous side effects like blood clots and high blood pressure were more common. Older progestins were more apt to cause weight gain, masculizing side effects like facial hair, and acne. The modern newest iterations use much lower doses of estrogen, along with progestins that are kinder to the skin and weight. Although these nuisance side effects are less common than in years past, the latest generation of birth control pills are substantially more likely to trigger dangerous blood clots that may form in the legs and travel to the heart and lungs, obstructing vital blood flow. In some cases, the clots, called pulmonary emboli, can be deadly.
Forbes.com reporter Tara Haelle describes a recent study clarifying this risk, and shares her personal story of surviving a near fatal Pill-induced pulmonary embolus at the age of 18.
In an interview with Haelle, I noted that the risk is especially high for Pill users who smoke, are over 35, are obese, or who have underlying blood clotting disorders. Yet Haelle had none of these risk factors.
It’s important to understand that while the risk of blood clots is important, it will happen to less than 20 in 10,000 women on the drugs.
To read more about the study, along with Haelle’s personal story of survival, click the link below.
It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that smoking around your kids (or anyone else’s for that matter) can trigger an asthma attack and aggravate other lung conditions. But you may not know that when you expose your children to smoke, they are more likely to develop harmful cholesterol plaques in the carotid arteries, which feed the brain, later in life.
An Australian study published in March in the peer reviewed journal Circulation reported that young adults who grew up in smoking households were 70% more likely than their peers to have signs of arterial damage. And as I told Daily Rx reporter Nancy Maleki, “Although the study looks specifically at carotid plaque, we know that plaque in those arteries is a marker for cholesterol buildup elsewhere in the body, including the heart.”
Smoking outdoors, and trying to limit kids’ exposure to smoke, might help protect your loved ones somewhat, but even under those conditions, there was still a 60% higher likelihood of vascular disease.
“Without a doubt it is difficult to break the habit, but when you take into account the lasting harm it can inflict on those who are the most vulnerable and most dependent on the adults in their lives, it’s really a no-brainer,” I told Ms Maleki. “If you can’t quit for yourself, quit for those you love.”
To learn more about the study, and to check out DailyRx.com’s updates on the latest medical news, click the link below.
This is the time of year that our thoughts often turn to love— and weight loss! If only there was an easy way to make it all happen. While I can’t claim to know much about matters of the romantic heart, as a cardiologist, I can definitely help you with your physical heart.
A recent article appearing in the international Friday Magazine offers some sneaky ways to trick yourself into losing weight. I was excited to be asked to contribute my thoughts on the topic, along with my DASH Diet for Dummies co-author, Rosanne Rust. As I told writer Gail Shortland, “women [and men] have so many competing demands on their time and energy that a quick fix is often the most appealing solution….While there are no quick fixes, sometimes it helps to trick the brain into believing we’re getting what we crave. Using a smaller plate can make it look like there is more food, easily cutting a couple hundred calories off of a meal. And since the sense of fullness often doesn’t kick in for a good 30 minutes after eating, using chopsticks can help, by extending the amount of time it takes to finish a meal.”
Gail goes on to offer some rather unique tips that might actually help, including sleeping in the buff and eating with the “wrong” hand. Check out her article for a fun take on a problem that plagues so many of us as we start to shed our wooly winter layers.
To learn about how you can reduce your risk for heart disease by as much as 70%, check out my segment on WFAA’s “Live, Love, Laugh Today” show, which aired last week.
I’m so excited to report that DASH Diet for Dummies has been named one of the Dallas Morning News’ top 5 health and nutrition books for 2015!
With football season nearly over, it’s time to kick back and watch the playoffs. But for many football-crazy (and soccer obsessed) kids, the next season is just a heartbeat away.
We’ve heard a lot this past year about the dangers of concussions, and many people are aware of the risk that football and similar sports can present for those with undiagnosed heart conditions. But what you may not know is that a heavy hit to the chest can cause heart rhythm disturbances in completely healthy, normal hearts.
I was first made aware of this phenomenon as a cardiology fellow-in-training, when a healthy gentleman showed up in our ER complaining of dizziness and shortness of breath. He had a dangerously unstable heart rhythm known as ventricular tachycardia. On questioning, it turned out that his very large dog had been so thrilled to see him that he had jumped up and head-butted my hapless patient in the chest. This hit, occurring at just the wrong time in the heart’s electrical cycle, had triggered this arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm. Had he not come in for treatment, it may have proven deadly.
A similar situation can happen in football. And while the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias are the most worrisome, a rhythm arising in the top chambers of the heart called atrial fibrillation can be devastating. That’s because while this rhythm is much less likely to cause death or fainting, it can raise the risk for stroke if it goes on for longer than a day.
Reporter Tara Haelle describes the results of a case report on just this topic, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Pediatrics. In an interview with Haelle, I noted that while chest-thump arrhythmias are rare, “there is no way to know how often this may occur. It’s very likely that the rhythm problem resolves quickly without treatment in many young, healthy individuals. In that case, it is not likely to ever be diagnosed.”
“Symptoms of dizziness, unusual shortness of breath or a rapid heart rate should prompt a medical evaluation, especially if these symptoms occur after trauma to the chest. It’s especially important that coaches and others involved in sports activities be aware of the possible implications of trauma to the chest.”
To read more about the report and its significance, check out Haelle’s article at HealthDay.com
On any given day, most of use will experience stress in some form or fashion. In fact, stress can sometimes be good for us. It may keep us on track on our projects at home or at work, or impel us to learn to focus our energy to achieve our goals. However, we all know that stress can sometimes be overwhelming, making us feel out of control, angry, or unhappy.
In the past, studies of the effects of stress on the heart have been fairly neutral to slightly negative. However, until recent years, women were largely left out of cardiovascular research.
A new study from Emory evaluated 564 people with heart disease and put them through tests of physical stress and mental stress. Physical stress had a fairly neutral effect on these relatively stable patients. However, the researchers found that in women ages 55 through 64, mental stress had double the effect on the heart as it did for men. For women over 65, there was no substantial effect.
As I discussed with reported Nancy Maleki: “I think women tend to take stress to heart (excuse the pun!) more than men. We often take stress more personally, and consider ourselves at fault for the situation, whereas many men are able to shrug it off, or to compartmentalize the stress in their lives.”
While the study did not address ways to neutralize stress, I noted that “it’s important for women to learn healthy strategies to cope with the stressful situations in their live. Exercise is often a great way to blow off steam and to feel better about yourself in the process. Mindful activities like yoga and meditation can also make a difference, by teaching us how to breathe deeply and to clear out the negative thoughts and feelings that can keep us down. Even a fairly sedentary hobby like knitting or scrapbooking may help, by giving us something else to focus on, if only for a short time.”
To read more about the study, click on the link to DailyRx.com
Alcohol, enjoyed in moderation, may help to protect against heart attacks, strokes, and even dementia. But this is clearly a case of “a little will do ya.” When it comes to health, for men, two drinks per day is the limit, and for women, it’s one. Overindulgence can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities like atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and brain damage, to say nothing of the harmful effects it can have on behavior and risk taking. Over time, excessive alcohol may even weaken the heart muscle, resulting in congestive heart failure.
You can’t save up your 2 drinks a day (or one, if you’re a woman) and “spend” your allotment all at one time. This is a quick and easy road to high blood pressure. And it’s not just the middle aged that have to worry. A recent study from Boston Children’s Hospital found that young men who binge drink are substantially more likely to develop high blood pressure. Young women do not seem to suffer the same blood pressure consequences.
As I told U.S. News and World Report health writer Tara Haelle, “Binge drinking may increase adrenaline levels and raise levels of other hormones and blood chemicals like cortisol, which are associated with high blood pressure.” Lesser amounts may actually help the blood vessels to dilate.
To learn more about alcohol and its effects on blood pressure, click the link to the story on USNews.com