Mammograms are part of many women’s yearly health check up, yet it turns out that these common tests can also predict your risk for heart disease. Like every other organ of the body, the breasts are supplied by arteries, blood vessels which continuously supply freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients. And like the others arteries in the body, these arteries can become filled with cholesterol plaque, or atherosclerosis.
When your mammogram is read by the radiologist, she may report calcifications within the breast tissue. These may be a warning sign of cancer. Yet calcifications can also show up in the breast arteries, indicating hardening of those arteries due to atherosclerotic plaque. This finding was first reported several years ago, and a new study from Mount Sinai Hospital takes it one step further, by correlating these blood vessel calcifications with the risk for heart disease. In fact, women who have breast arterial calcifications are highly likely to have cholesterol plaque in the heart, making mammograms a valuable tool in identifying women at high risk for heart disease.
To learn more, and to get my take, check out reporter Tara Haelle’s article on Everyday Health.
February may be a month of Valentines and roses, but for many of us, it’s just a painful reminder of a once happy relationship gone bad. Divorce is stressful, painful, and complicated, and it can literally make your heart hurt.
A study published last year in the peer-reviewed medical journal Circulation found that once-divorced women were 25% more likely to have a heart attack than women who remained married. Even after remarriage, the risk remained higher than average. For men, the risk was higher than average, but only matched the women’s risk after 2 divorces. For women, two divorces meant a 77% higher risk compared to those who had never divorced.
In an interview with reporter Tara Haelle, I suggested that “… likely it is the stress of divorce itself that created an unhealthy setting that promoted the development of heart disease. It’s impossible to know whether the women whose marriages ended in divorce were more likely to have other unhealthy relationships, and thus more sources of stress in their lives. Yet recent research has found strong evidence that women’s hearts react in a much more negative way to stress than those of men.”
Want to know more? Follow the link below to the article on the Forbes website.
Thanks to greater awareness and high tech interventions, along with treatment of important risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, heart attack deaths have dropped substantially over the past 15 years. But despite the impressive gains in prevention and treatment, younger women continue to die from heart disease at a higher than expected rate. The reasons are varied and complex, but a recent Canadian study sheds some light on the subject. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that following a heart attack, only 65% of women age 55 and younger took all the meds considered appropriate for their condition, compared to 75% of men in the same age group.
In an interview with DailyRx reporter Emily Giunta, I pointed out that “women often minimize their symptoms, or convince themselves and others that everything is OK when in fact it is not. As a result, they may be less inclined to fill prescriptions for medication after a heart attack.”
It is also possible that doctors are reluctant to prescribe certain drugs for women due to concerns about possible side effects. For instance, some heart drugs should not be prescribed if a woman is pregnant or likely to become pregnant. That’s an important discussion for a woman of child-bearing age to have with her cardiologist.
In concluding the interview, I told Giunta that “Heart disease kills more women than all causes of cancer combined, including breast cancer, yet it tends to be underplayed in the press and popular media. Women tend to get to the hospital hours later into a heart attack than do men. It’s been shown that part of the reason for this difference is due to the role the spouse plays in recognizing the importance of the symptoms. And since at least 75 percent of heart disease is preventable in the first place, it’s critical that the message gets out loud and clear to women, their families and their physicians.”
For more on this study, click the link below.
DDT and other pesticides may have serious effects on the endocrine, or hormonal system, and since they accumulate in fatty tissues, obese women may be at higher risk. Other sources of these endocrine disrupters include common plastics and auto exhaust. Once these chemicals get lodged in the body, they can be very hard to flush out, and consequently may impact our health in a wide variety of ways, raising the risks for heart disease, generalized inflammation, and diabetes, among others.
A Portuguese study recently assessed the presence of these chemicals in the bodies of 121 obese women, and reported alarmingly high levels.
As I told DailyRx reporter Don Rauf, “The study should … remind us that our own health is inextricably linked to the health of the Earth, and that by protecting our planet, we are also protecting ourselves, those we love, and all of our fellow creatures.”
To learn more, click on the link below to read the article on DailyRx.com
Atrial fibrillation is a common but serious heart arrhythmia, affecting 2.7 million people in the United States. This irregular heart rhythm substantially raises your risk for stroke and may also contribute to congestive heart failure. Blood thinners and other medications are commonly required to keep the problem under control.
Atrial fibrillation is more prevalent in older folks, but obesity is a major risk factor. Hypertension, coronary artery disease, lung disease, heart valve disease, and sleep apnea can also contribute. Although it cannot always be prevented, a recent study found that people who improved their fitness and lost weight also cut their risk of atrial fibrillation symptoms in half.
As I told Everyday Health reporter Tara Haelle, “What’s really striking about this study is the fact that achieving a measurably higher level of fitness had a really huge impact on whether or not someone would be free of atrial fibrillation and not require drugs or procedures to treat the condition, whether or not they lost weight.”
To learn more, click on the link below.
It’s clear that cholesterol medication can reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke in those at greatest risk. Yet when it comes to the more senior population, research has been lacking. In many studies of the drugs, the average age of participants is in the mid-60’s, but a recent French study chose to evaluate a much older population.
In this 9 year observational study of nearly 7500 relatively healthy men and women, the average starting age was 74. At the onset of the study, none had been diagnosed with heart attacks or strokes. Over an average of 9 years the researchers found that those who were prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol and triglycerides had a 30 percent lower likelihood of developing stroke. The risk reduction held, even when factors such as age, body size, baseline cholesterol, and blood pressure were taken into account.
Cholesterol drugs aren’t for everyone, but it’s good to know that when they are needed, the benefits appear to be substantial even for seniors.
To read more about the study, and to get my take on the findings, see reporter Beth Greenwood’s article at DailyRx.com
Thanks to high levels of stress, smoking, acidic foods, and habitual overeating, indigestion affects millions of Americans on a daily basis. We’ve become accustomed to popping over-the-counter acid blocking drugs to cope with symptoms, rather than addressing the root causes. While they might seem benign, common drugs like Prevacid and Prilosec may actually increase heart attack risk according to a recent study of relatively healthy individuals.
These drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors are highly effective and commonly recommended by physicians, although many people take them without first discussing their symptoms or treatment plan with a physician.
The researchers found that an older class of drugs known as as H2-blockers, including famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac), did not carry the same risk, although for many people these drugs are less effective at reducing acid reflux symptoms.
To learn more about the study, and to read my comments and recommendations to reporter Tara Haelle, check out the link to the article at EverdayHealth.com
Results showed that over about a 12-year period:
- 14 percent of the non-chocolate eaters had coronary heart disease compared to 10 percent of those eating the most chocolate.
- 5 percent of non-chocolate eaters had strokes, but only 3 percent of the top chocolate eaters did.
Interestingly, the benefits extended to people who snacked on milk chocolate, not just the dark chocolate which we typically consider healthier.
I commented on the study in an interview with reported Tara Haelle. “Don’t feel guilty about indulging your chocolate habit, but take fat, calories, and other not-so-healthy ingredients like excess sugar into account. And remember that there is no ‘magic bullet’ to prevent heart disease and stroke. Make a chocolate indulgence part of your heart-smart diet and healthy way of life.”