Prevention Really Works! Cardiovascular Disease Rates Falling

A new report from Europe, reviewed this month on DailyRx.com, mirrors similar trends in the US: Deaths from heart disease and stroke have fallen over the past 20 years.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Don Rauf, I compared the findings from the European report to one published this year in the American journal Circulation. “Over the past 10 years, the US has seen a 38 percent drop in hospitalizations for heart attack, a 33 percent drop in stroke, and a nearly 84 percent drop in hospitalizations for unstable heart symptoms.”

How could this be, when fewer people exercise, diabetes rates are higher than ever, and overweight and obesity are now the norm? One reason: there are fewer smokers. Tobacco is a leading contributor to heart disease. Another? Statin drugs, which lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the heart arteries, are now widely prescribed not only for people with heart disease, but also for those who are at high risk. We know that these drugs reduce heart attack and stroke risk by 30% or more. And by preventing these problems in the first place, the likelihood of developing congestive heart failure and serious physical and mental disability is greatly reduced as well.

We doctors are also more apt to treat blood pressure aggressively, thanks to a wider range of options with fewer side effects than in years past. Greater affordability of medications, thanks to generics, can’t hurt, either.

To read more about the European study, and what the researchers have to say about their findings, click on the link to DailyRx.com.

Cardiovascular Disease Rates Declined | dailyRx.

Heart Attacks Rising in Younger Women

Many people still think of heart attack as a disease of older men, but the truth is that while heart disease is more likely to strike men earlier in life than women, over 30,000 women under the age of 55 suffer a heart attack in the U.S. every year. A new study spearheaded by researchers from Yale University evaluated over 230,000 separate heart attack hospitalizations for men and women ages 30-54, in an attempt to discover differences, similarities, and trends over time. The good news? More people, regardless of gender, are surviving their heart attacks. The bad news? Over the past 10 years, heart attack rates have risen slightly in women and heart attack-related deaths, while declining, are still more common in younger women than in younger men. The reason? Higher rates of preventable risk factors.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Nancy Maleki, I explained: “It’s disheartening to learn that in this age group, risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes have increased over the past 10 years, despite the fact that in many cases these conditions can be avoided simply by choosing a healthier diet, exercising, and maintaining a safe body weight.”

“Women often have multiple roles, including breadwinner, mother and caregiver, and it’s easy to think that with so many pressing needs, you can put off taking care of yourself for another day. It’s time that women realize that the consequences of ignoring your health can be devastating and sometimes irreversible.”

To learn more about the study and its implications, click on the link to the article on DailyRx.com.

 

Women Died of Heart Attack More Than Men | dailyRx.

Socioeconomic Status Tied to Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) happens when the arteries to the legs (and sometimes the arms) become narrowed by cholesterol plaque. When the buildup is severe, this can lead to poor circulation, pain with walking, poor healing, and, in the worst cases, amputation. PAD shares the same risk factors that lead to heart disease, including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and high cholesterol. However, a recent study from Harvard researchers found that even when those factors are taken into account, people of lower socioeconomic status are harder hit by PAD.

In an interview with reported Nancy Maleki, I pointed out that smoking and diabetes are especially important risk factors for PAD. And while “the cost of cigarettes might lead one to believe that poorer people would be less likely to smoke, in fact that is not the case. Smoking is much more prevalent amongst people of lower socioeconomic background. So is diabetes. But even when smoking, diabetes, and other risk factors were controlled for, people who lived in poverty, regardless of race or ethnicity, were still more likely to have PAD.”

“There is no way to know exactly why this is The authors point out that chronic stress is one possible factor. Stress is known to raise blood levels of inflammation, which may be directly harmful to our arteries.”

The study raises more questions than it answers, but suggests that the effects of stress may be wide ranging. Whether you are rich or poor, getting stress under control is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle.

You can learn more about the study by clicking the link below.

Socioeconomic Status Tied to PAD Risk | dailyRx.

High Cholesterol Linked to Infertility

There are many reasons that couples may have difficulty conceiving, but you might be surprised to learn that high cholesterol appears to be one of them. A recent study of couples who were part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and Environment study found that high cholesterol in both men and women  was associated with lower rates of fertility.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Nancy Maleki, I noted that “Oftentimes, people fear that by lowering cholesterol, they may inadvertently cause other problems to arise. We know that cholesterol is an important component of many of the hormones involved in reproduction. However, typical levels in the US are unnaturally high due to diets high in unhealthy fats and processed foods. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute.

“For most adults of childbearing age, making heart smart lifestyle changes will go a long way towards improving cholesterol levels. In general, women who are considering pregnancy should not take cholesterol medications, since there is no proof that these drugs are safe during pregnancy.”

You can read more about the study and its implications by following the link to the story on DailyRx.com.

High Cholesterol Linked to Problems Getting Pregnant | dailyRx.

Sleep Well for Heart Health

Insomnia and poor quality sleep are common complaints I hear from my patients every day. We all know how rotten a lost night of sleep can make us feel.  But did you know that losing sleep can affect your heart health?

A recent study of people with congestive heart failure found that those who are chronically sleep deprived are more likely to require re-hospitalization. Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is either too weak or too stiff to efficiently pump blood, resulting in fluid buildup in the lungs and throughout the body.

As I told reported Katti Gray, “lack of sleep can contribute to diastolic dysfunction (stiffness of the heart muscle) as well as higher blood pressure, both of which can aggravate heart failure. Sleep apnea is strongly linked to heart failure as well. And as the researchers point out, poor sleep can lead to other behaviors–such as overeating and a sedentary lifestyle–that are harmful to the heart.

For many years, the medical establishment and others considered sleep as something of an indulgence, nice to have, but something that could be put off for another day.” We now know without a doubt that sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.

To read more about the study, click on the link to www.DailyRx.com.

Sleeplessness Tied to Heart Health | dailyRx.

Stroke Prevention: What You Should Know

A stroke is a devastating event which happens when part of the brain is deprived of vital oxygen, causing the death of brain cells. Unless the condition is reversed very quickly, a stroke victim is usually left with some sort of permanent disability. This can range from a minor speech impediment to paralysis and serious impairment of normal thought processes.

Strokes are often caused by the same factors that contribute to heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking, to name the most critical preventable and treatable issues. Another important cause of stroke is a heart rhythm disturbance called atrial fibrillation. In this condition, blood clots may form in the heart and travel to the brain, cutting off blood flow. Less commonly, strokes can be caused by bleeding into the brain.

While the treatment of strokes is advancing, prevention is critical. One test that can help is a carotid ultrasound, or Doppler. This test detects cholesterol buildup in the arteries that feed the brain, allowing doctors to discover and treat blockages in these arteries before a stroke happens. The test won’t detect other causes of stroke, so a normal test doesn’t mean that you are free and clear.  An electrocardiogram or heart monitor can detect heart arrhythmias. And of course routine blood pressure , cholesterol, and blood sugar screening will uncover other treatable conditions.

Simply exercising 30 minutes 5 days per week will reduce your risk of stroke by a life-saving 30 percent. And a heart smart Mediterranean diet can also help to keep your risk low.

To read more about stroke prevention, to find out whether a carotid Doppler might be appropriate for you, and to get my take on carotid testing, check out DailyRx.com’s reporter Don Rauf’s article by clicking the link below.

Stroke Prevention: Who Should Get Screened and When | dailyRx.

Important Health Screening Tests for Women

While we can’t always predict, prevent, or control everything that comes our way, many health conditions can be easily detected with a simple set of screening tests. In a quick office visit, your family doctor, internist, or your Gyn can screen you for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cervical cancer. Other testing, such a mammograms, colonoscopy, and bone density testing may be indicated depending on your age and risk factors. Screening can catch problems early, and help you get them under control before they have a chance to take over your life.

Read more about important tests for women, and get my take on cardiovascular screening in this article by author Natalie San Luis on DailyRx.com

Health Screenings Every Woman Should Know About | dailyRx.

Unequal in the ER? Heart Attack Treatment Delayed in Women

I’d like to believe that we have come a long way since the 1970′s, when women’s health and women’s concerns took a back seat to those of men. And while medical science has come a long way in diagnosing and treating heart attacks, it appears that we still have more work to do before both genders are treated with equal concern and urgency.

A Canadian study of 24 medical centers,  including a hospital in the US and one in Switzerland, found that diagnostic electrocardiograms took about 50 percent longer to obtain for women who came in with heart symptoms when compared with men. Concomitantly, women waited longer for definitive treatment of their heart attacks.

As I told DailyRx.com reporter Doug Hanson: “Despite efforts by the American Heart Association and other groups to raise awareness of heart disease in women, there still appears to be more work to be done. It’s true that women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men, but that is a generalization, and thousands of women do, in fact, have heart attacks and strokes in their 30s and 40s.

“Women can help by recognizing their own risk factors, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and a family history, and sharing this crucial information with first responders.”

You can read more about the study and its implications by following the link below:

High Altitude, Low Obesity?

There’s magic, and good health, in fresh mountain air. A recent study of US Military service members conducted by Air Force Captain Jameson Voss, MD and colleagues, found that the likelihood of service members transitioning from simply overweight to frankly obese was 41 percent lower when they were assigned to a high altitude post.

As I told Huffington Post reporter Morgan Jones:

“Having lived in New Mexico, and done some of my training there, I know that a high altitude lifestyle tends to be one that celebrates an active outdoor lifestyle. People who live at altitude often have easier access to hiking and biking trails than city or suburban dwellers. And while winter may be a time to huddle indoors in the ‘burbs, for those at altitude, it often means more exciting winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. The lifestyle often extends to a fresher and cleaner diet, and fewer unhealthy habits.”

But it appears to be more than simply a healthy mountain lifestyle. “As the authors point out, the lower oxygen levels at altitude may in fact have a direct effect upon appetite and metabolism, above and beyond any impact on lifestyle.”

You can read more about this fascinating study at HuffingtonPost.com:

High Altitude, Low Obesity?.