Tag Archives: diet

Who Benefits from Fish, or Fish Oil? Some New Info on the Link to Heart Disease

IMG_8348rt5x7bwWhile we have known for some time about the potential benefits of fish in the diet, the specific role of supplements containing the beneficial component, omega-3 fatty acids, has been less clear, due to inconsistent results from various studies.

Fortunately, a new study released this month has clarified the link between supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and the development of heart disease. This was actually a meta-analysis, meaning it summarized the data from multiple previous studies, in a manner that yields more information than the individual studies themselves. This was a very thorough analysis, specifically looking at the best quality studies (called randomized trials), and specifically looking at the useful component of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Moreover, the researchers were focused specifically on heart and circulatory complications.

What did they find? The intake of omega-3 fatty acids, either from food or supplements,fish-oil reduced the risk of heart disease by 6%. This reduction is mild, and was actually insignificant, but there was a significant decrease specifically patients who started out with high triglyceride levels (> 150 mg/dL) or LDL cholesterol (> 130 mg/dL). When the researchers included additional nonrandomized studies, the reduction in heart disease was 18%. Another important conclusion was that there does not appear to be any harmful effect of supplementation.

So what can we conclude?
First, supplementation with 1 g of omega-3 fatty acids daily, either from food or supplements, appears to be mildly beneficial in preventing heart and circulatory disease.
Second, the majority of the benefit is in patients who start out with elevation of triglyceride or LDL cholesterol. Previous studies (such as this) have shown that otherwise healthy patients derive minimal or no benefit from fish oil supplementation.
Third, there does not appear to be evidence of harm at this level of supplementation.

Also of note, more detailed studies are ongoing to determine the optimal level of supplementation and specific patients. Finally, keep in mind that there are other potential benefits of fish oil supplementation unrelated to heart disease, so if supplementation makes you feel better or healthier, it may be reasonable.  As always you should discuss your specific health situation with your doctor before considering any supplement or other therapy.

 

For more information, here as a video I recorded last year for the video blogging site Vidoyen.com, who asked me, Do Fish Oil supplements prevent heart disease? Here is a link to my 3 minute reply.

Reference to original article:

Alexander D, Miller P, Van Elswyk M, et al. A meta-analysis of randomized trials and prospective cohort studies of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic long chain omega-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease risk. Mayo Clin Proc 2017;92:15-29

Are “Bad” Fats Still Bad? Some New Information

 

We often receive conflicting information on the role of dietary fats and heart risk. A new breadstudy released this month is attempting to clarify this link, since it is one of the largest studies ever conducted on dietary fats and overall long-term health risk. It was performed by the well-respected Harvard School of Public Health, and used a database of over 126,000 men and women followed for 32 years. These were healthcare workers who are in good health, and the dietary habits were followed closely with detailed questionnaires. Their rates of death over 32 years were then tracked carefully.

Here are some of the key findings:
1. Eating more saturated fat and trans-fats (“Bad” fats) was indeed associated with an increase in overall mortality (death rates).
2. Eating more polyunsaturated and mono unsaturated fats (“good” fats) did reduce the overall risk of death. For example, replacing just 5% of your total calories of bad fats with good (polyunsaturated) fats, would reduce the risk of death by 27%.
3. Simply replacing the bad fats with carbohydrates did not show any protective effect. (I call this the “Snackwell Cookie” effect)
4. In addition to lower heart and vascular disease, subjects  who ate more healthy fats also had a lower risk of dying from neurodegenerative and respiratory disease. So, a healthy diet may protect against a variety of chronic diseases.

Polyunsaturated fats contain essential fats your body can’t produce by itself, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best sources are nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and leafy greens. They are also found and vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, and safflower oil.  In this particular study, monounsaturated fats were also protective but less so than polyunsaturated fats. The most common example of a monounsaturated fat is olive oil.

Of course, this was a retrospective review, so the findings are not as powerful as a randomized study.  Nevertheless, the study appears to support the recommendation that we should reduce saturated fats in our diet, and emphasize polyunsaturated fats instead. We should also be careful not to increase our carbohydrate intake to compensate, emphasizing the role of total calories.  We still have a lot to learn regarding the optimal diet for disease prevention, but studies like this continue to shed light on the subject.

MORE INFORMATION:

This article from CNN Online has a very nice summary of the findings, along with an excellent summary of the various types of good and bad fat, and examples of each in the diet:   Good fats can cut risk of death by 27% @CNN

Here is a link to the scientific summary of the study:

Is Butter really “Back”? Not exactly. . . .

Low Fat or Low Carb? A new study sheds some light. . . .

 

 

Surprise Sources of Salt in Your Diet

IMG_8348rt5x7bwMost of us are familiar with high-salt foods on our diet – but for those of us who have high blood pressure, or are just trying to minimize sodium intake to maintain a healthy lifestyle (which is certainly advocated by the HeartHealth Doctors) – our best intentions can be undone by hidden sources or sodium, especially in processed foods from the grocery store, as well as fast-food and restaurant-prepared items.  Here is a useful article with graphics that illustrates some of the common “culprits” that contain unexpectedly high amounts of salt.

According to the article, the average American adult consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day — more than 1,000 milligrams more than the recommended daily allowance of 2,300 milligrams.   While this guideline is critical for those with hypertension (high blood pressure) , it is more controversial whether healthy adults benefit from strictly watching their sodium intake. However, since sodium intake seems to directly affect our blood pressure, which is turn if elevated can lead to elevated risk for strokes and heart attacks over time, it is probably prudent for all adults (and children) to minimize “extra” or unnnecessary sodium in the diet.

For more information, as well as online resources, about high blood pressure, click here for our previous article. This article also has information on the optimal diet for those with hypertension, the “DASH” diet.

Caffeine and Your Heart -Some New Advice

IMG_8348rt5x7bwYou may have seen this report in the media regarding the effect of caffeine intake on irregular heartbeats.  As many of you know, irregular heartbeats are common and can be quite bothersome.  The challenge to clinicians is sorting out which are due to a more serious underlying cause, and which are simply a nuisance. Because caffeine is a known stimulant, clinicians have often advised patients who suffer from palpitations and various types of irregular heart rhythms to avoid or minimize their caffeine intake.

This new study attempted to look at the link between caffeine intake and various types of Coffee Cupirregular heartbeats. Interestingly, the researchers found that there seemed to be minimal effect of caffeine intake on the extent of irregular heartbeats.

What can we can conclude? Although this study is limited in that it was a retrospective
review, it does show that caffeine may be just one of many triggers for heart related issues. It may play a role in certain patients but not in others. Some patients may want to experiment with their caffeine intake to see if it affects their symptoms, but it may not be necessary for all patients to eliminate it completely.  As always, you should discuss your specific cardiac symptoms and issues with your healthcare provider to determine the optimal treatment strategy for you.

 

Irregular Heartbeats? Coffee May Not Be So Bad for You

http://nyti.ms/23txNCq via @nytimeswell

 

People with irregular heartbeats are often advised to give up caffeine, but a new study suggests they may not have to forgo their coffee.

Researchers had 1,388 people record their intake of coffee, tea and chocolate over a one-year period, and used Holter monitors to get 24-hour electrocardiograms.

More than 60 percent of the participants reported consuming one or more caffeine-containing foods daily. But the electrocardiograms revealed no differences in premature beats or episodes of accelerated heart rate between caffeine users and abstainers. Thestudy is in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“There’s no clear evidence that drinking more caffeine increases the risk for early beats,” said the senior author, Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In fact, evidence from other studies suggests caffeine may even be linked to decreased rates of cardiovascular problems.

“I tell patients that it is very likely that for some people, caffeine is an important trigger” of irregular heartbeats, Dr. Marcus said. “I generally tell them that it’s fine for them to experiment and weigh the pros and cons of caffeine to see how it influences their quality of life. The majority of arrhythmias are not life threatening.”

Can Fish Oil Really Prevent Heart Disease?

IMG_8348rt5x7bwWe are often asked about the role of fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids in general, for the prevention of heart and circulatory disease.   I posted a video addressing this question on the video blogging site Vidoyen.com (clinic here to review). This video addresses the largest research study to date looking specifically at the role of fish oil and prevention. Unfortunately, it did show that the positive role of fish oil may be less than suggested in the past, but there could be a role for specific patients.  As always, yo should talk to your doctor about all of your supplements, to help learn which may play a role for your specific health conditions (and to ensure that there are no unwanted interactions with other medications or health conditions).

you can also find videos the dressing wine, saturated fats, and the new cholesterol medications on the side.  Thanks for your interest and heart disease prevention!

Top articles from our first 2 years. . .

IMG_8348rt5x7bwBW ARA labcoatAs we approach the two-year anniversary of our blog, we would like to thank all of our followers for supporting our efforts to promote heart disease prevention.  In 2 years, this site has been viewed over 7,000 times, and in over 70 countries!  We sincerely appreciate your support, as well as your feedback.

As we look back on nearly 50 posted articles, we wanted to share some of the most relevant and important posts. . . . and we look forward to continue promoting heart health in the future! (And remember as always. . . only your doctor can give you specific advice about your health issues).

Here are are our top 10 tips for a heart healthy diet, and also some great online resources about diet.

Is your heart as old (or older) as you? Find out how to calculate your Heart Age.

Here are some useful online resources about high blood pressure, along with a description of the optimal diet.eca284793cc89e389f347e0f41da895a

Here is some insight into the role of wine and heart health.

Here is an overview of CardioSmart, our favorite online resources for heart disease treatment and prevention.

Have you heard conflicting information on saturated fat? Here is some guidance as well as a discussion of low fat and low carb diets.

running shoesCan running be risky for your heart? Here is some information, as well as this article on the right “dose” of exercise heart heart – but maybe even just 5 minutes a day can help! And it even may help your spouse’s heart as well!

If you or a family member suffers from atrial fibrillation, here is a videotaped lecture that addresses the causes and treatment options for this common condition.

Finally, please check out our video blogging site, Vidoyen.com,  where we have posted several videos on heart prevention issues.

Thank you again for all of your support over the past 2 years, and for your interested in Heart Health awareness and prevention!

 

 

 

Heart Health News. . . You Can Use

IMG_8348rt5x7bwHere are some quick links to useful items in the news recently that reflect new findings on prevention and heart health:

Could drinking alcohol actually affect the way you exercise? Some new research described here suggests that could be the case – and in a positive way. 

The upshot? Because exercise and alcohol intake affect similar “pleasure” centers in our brain, you may actually be tempted to drink more in days you exercise – but people who drink moderate amounts of exercise also tend to exercise more regularly. . . and seem to be healthier. (see our earlier article about wine and heart health).

Is coffee good or bad for you? A new study described here looked at coffee intake and risk of death from various causes.

The upshot? Keep bringing on the java (and consider buying Starbucks stock!)

Can you be “too old” to exercise. . or get its benefits? Not according to new research. 

The upshot? Even in those over age 75, regular walking can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. So keep moving!

This article describes research into the link between weekend sleep and weekday sleep.

The upshot? Sleeping in late on weekends may feel good, but may have negative health consequences.

Remember. . only your doctor can give you specific health care advice. . so always check with your health provider if these articles (and the advice they contain) apply to you and your health situation.