Chest Blows in Football can Trigger Heart Arrhythmias

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

Hard Hit to Chest Triggered Irregular Heartbeat in Teen Football Player.

Stress May Reduce Coronary Blood Flow in Women

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


Stress May Reduce Blood Flow for Some Heart Disease Patients | dailyRx.

Binge Drinking May Boost Blood Pressure in Young Men

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

Binge Drinking May Boost Blood Pressure in Young Men – US News.

Childhood Obesity Affects Heart Function

With childhood obesity tripling over the past 3 decades, pediatricians, cardiologists and others in the medical profession worry about the future impact of an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle that begins so early in life. A new German study gives us good reason to be concerned.

Researchers found that that obese children were more likely to have enlarged heart chambers and less efficient heart function. Not surprisingly, obesity also had detrimental effects on blood lipids and other measures of heart health.

Although the study did not follow the children out into adulthood, in an interview with’s Sean Kinney, I suggested that “It’s disturbing, although not surprising, that the changes in obese kids’ risk factors and heart structure mirror what we see in obese adults.

“We know from other studies that obese children are very likely to remain obese throughout their lifetimes, greatly increasing their risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney failure.”

To read more, click on the link below to

Obesity Changed Shape and Function of Heart | dailyRx.

Working Long Hours May Harm Your Heart

With the job market tight, and competition for good jobs fierce, many workers are finding themselves working longer and harder hours than ever before. This sure doesn’t feel healthy, and it makes it harder to maintain those good habits that can sustain good health. Now Korean researchers have confirmed suspicions that long working hours may raise the risk for heart disease.

The included over 8000 adults with an average age of 45, and found that those who worked 61 to 70 hours per week were 42% more likely to develop heart disease compared to those who worked 31-40 hours weekly. People whose work weeks amounted to 71 to 80 hours were at 63% higher risk, and those who peaked out over 80 hours raised their risk by 94%. Women appeared to be at even higher risk than men.

As I discussed with reported Nancy Maleki, “When most waking hours are taken up by work, it leaves little time for family obligations, and even less for ‘optional’ activities like exercise or preparing healthy meals.

“Relationships may also suffer, which itself can have negative impacts on health. Poor quality sleep may be another consequence. The end result is a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, all of which raise heart attack risk.”

While limiting work hours may not always be an option, it’s important to budget the limited time you have, and not to waste it all watching TV or staring at a computer screen. Choose simple yet healthy foods like pre-made salads and easy-to-cook tilapia instead of opting for fast foods or snack foods. And do your best to nurture your relationships and get a good night ‘s rest.

Working Long Hours May Increase Heart Disease Risk | dailyRx.

DASH Diet for Dummies is Now Available

Lower your blood pressure in just two weeks with the #1 rated diet

When high blood pressure becomes chronic, it’s called hypertension—a condition that affects 970 million people worldwide, and is classified by the World Health Organization as a leading cause of premature death. While medications can help, nothing beats dietary and lifestyle modifications in the fight against high blood pressure, and the DASH diet is a powerful tool in your arsenal. Focusing on lowering sodium intake and increasing fiber, vitamins, and minerals can help lower your blood pressure in as little as two weeks. It’s no wonder that the DASH Diet is ranked as the number 1 diet for three years in a row and is endorsed by the American Heart Association, The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, and The Mayo Clinic.

DASH Diet for Dummies is your ultimate guide to taking control of your body once and for all. Originally conceived to alleviate hypertension, the DASH Diet has been proven effective against a number of conditions including Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, PCOS, weight loss, and more. DASH Diet for Dummies contains all the information you need to put the diet into practice, including:

Over 40 DASH-approved recipes, including meals, snacks, and desserts
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The DASH Diet is built upon the principles of healthy eating and getting the most nutritional bang for your buck. Doctors even recommend DASH to their healthy patients as an easy, stress-free way to adopt the food habits that will serve them for life. DASH Diet for Dummies is your roadmap on the journey to good health, so get ready to start feeling better every day.

15 Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes – For Dummies

When you’re battling hypertension, the solution doesn’t involve just one factor, whether that’s reducing your salt intake or getting on the treadmill. Instead, controlling hypertension and improving your health involves creating a more balanced, healthier lifestyle overall. Check out this list of the top tips and tricks from my new book, The DASH Diet for Dummies, to make lifestyle changes that can help you work toward a healthier heart and life:

15 Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes – For Dummies.