Tag Archives: heart

More benefit to physical activity~ Prevents Heart Failure

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Physicians talk about patients with heart failure (HF) when describing someone with shortness of breath, inability to exert physically without having shortness of breath, or also experiencing fluid retention (leg swelling, increased waist size).

 

Non-physicians (my husband for example) hear about ‘heart failure’ and imagine death, or heart stopping like in sudden cardiac death. The terms could be better, but for now are used as above for physicians and for HeartHealth Doctors followers: Heart Failure refers to symptoms of shortness of breath (dyspnea) or fluid retention either due to reduced (r) heart pumping function (also termed Ejection Fraction or EF) (HFrEF) or preserved (p) EF but ineffective heart pumping function (HFpEF).

 

Heart failure is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization and is more common as people get older.   In the US more than 6 million adults have HF.

 

HeartHealth Doctors blog has information regarding the benefits of exercise and heart healthy lifestyle as powerful ways to prevent symptoms from heart issues.

 

For the first time, the Women’s Health Initiative program (WHI) has reported benefit of physical activity specifically walking, for post menopausal women to prevent HF.

Physical Activity and Incidence of Heart Failure in Postmenopausal Women (J Am Coll Cardiol HF 2018;6:983–95) reports findings from WHI that support regular physical activity – reported as recreational physical activity by participants – as a powerful means of reducing Heart Failure risk (both HFrEF and HFpEF).

The findings again support exercise (physical activity) as medicine – without potential side effects, and with a good dose response (more activity time, less chance to develop Heart Failure).

The study looked prospectively at the women, and the following list are possible ways physical activity impacts risks for developing heart failure. As HeartHealth Doctors have outlined, physical activity improves risk factors for heart disease, and as pointed out in the Clinical Research Study, for Heart Failure-

 

Exercise or physical activity helps prevent or manage:

Obesity

Blood pressure

Glucose / blood sugar regulation

Inflammation and Oxidative stress

Left ventricular compliance (heart pumping/relaxing function)

Arterial function

Aerobic capacity

Skeletal muscle function

Coronary Heart Disease

Diabetes

Atrial fibrillation

 

The researchers removed participants who were unable to walk 1 block prior to enrollment.

They included post menopausal women age ~50-79 years at start of the study and followed the group for 15 years with surveys.

The study highlights new benefit to heart healthy habits of exercise and physical activity; still the best way to multi task for your heart health.

How much physical activity is enough?

The study suggests volume of activity is a good focus rather than intensity – just walk for example work toward the authors’ goal of ‘brisk walking (3.3 mph on level ground) with the target of achieving 30 min/day on 5 or more days of the week.’

Benefit was shown with regular walking pretty much in line with current guidelines of 150 minutes per week; which can be 10 minutes twice a day or 30 minutes 5 days per week ~ now a big study shows one more of so many reasons to be physically active.

 

Physical Activity and Incidence of Heart Failure in Postmenopausal Women (JACC: Heart Failure December 2018)

J Am Coll Cardiol HF 2018;6:983–95

New Guidelines for High Blood Pressure

BW ARA labcoatJust released November 13, 2017, new guidelines for Hypertension, the term for High Blood Pressure, have implications for prevention of heart and vascular disease and stroke. The definition of “high” or elevated blood pressure is now lower, with emphasis on lifestyle changes to prevent progression to hypertension.

The guidelines are written by a group of scientists, researchers, and clinical experts from multiple societies – who review over 900 manuscripts and published research results to include what we know about blood pressure and the effects of uncontrolled blood pressure or hypertension. The guidelines emphasize lifestyle changes that anyone can make to help keep their blood pressure safe.  Lifestyle changes and at times medications can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range and prevent heart disease and stroke.

Why so much focus on high blood pressure? Hypertension is also called ‘the silent killer’ because it may not cause symptoms until heart damage has already happened. Consequences of uncontrolled high blood pressure include stroke, heart failure, erectile dysfunction, vision loss, heart attack, kidney disease/failure. The consequences add up if hypertension combines with other medical problems like diabetes or with lifestyle such as sedentary behavior.

What is blood pressure? It is a measurement of the force of the blood moving through your arteries (arteries are part of the circulation). Blood pressure is made up of two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Arteries exposed to elevated or high blood pressure over time can have changes such as increased size (aneurysm), increased plaque (atherosclerosis), and decreased function (eye blood vessel changes).

What are the new numbers??

The new blood pressure categories define normal as less than 120/80 mmHg, elevated systolic between 120-129 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg, stage I hypertension as systolic between 130-39 mmHg or diastolic between 80-89 mmHg, stage II hypertension systolic at least 40 or diastolic at least 90 mmHg, and hypertensive crisis is systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120 with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

The new guidelines lower the level at which doctors will be paying attention to blood pressure. The category of pre-hypertension is eliminated.

How do I know my blood pressure??

How do you check a blood pressure? The new guidelines emphasized the importance of using proper technique to measure blood pressure. Patients can check blood pressure at home. The use of validated devices is recommended ~ a pharmacist can help with BP monitor selection. Be sure to sit with back support, feet on the floor, and arm at heart level (left chest), relax for 5 minutes before checking the blood pressure. Multiple readings are ok.

What affects blood pressure??

What is Lifestyle and how does it impact blood pressure?  Lifestyle refers to how we live, choices we can make on a daily basis, that add up considerably to our overall heart health. Patients often ask how they can reduce or avoid taking medications – it is possible  to use lifestyle ~ depending on the cause of the elevated blood pressure. Getting to goal weight, staying active, avoiding a high sodium diet (read labels, make your own food), liberal amounts of vegetables in the diet, not using tobacco products, managing stress, avoiding excess alcohol, are all great ways to use lifestyle to keep blood pressure < 120/80mmHg.

Really?

Over the counter medications can increase blood pressure. Nonnarcotic analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naprosyn can increase blood pressure and should be used with intent (not by habit). Pain can raise blood pressure so if the medicine helps reduce pain, that will help but don’t take these medicines ‘just because.’ Medicines such as decongestants, or stimulants for example sometimes found in diet pills, can increase blood pressure. Natural licorice can increase blood pressure levels. Prescription medications such as oral contraceptives, cyclosporin, erythropoietin, or meloxicam can increase blood pressure. Herbal compounds such as ephedra or ma huang can increase blood pressure. Awareness is important when working toward optimal blood pressure.

What does risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) have to do with blood pressure??

The new blood pressure guidelines focus on the patient’s risk for heart and vascular disease and take into consideration if the patient has already had heart attack or stroke or is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk (using the same risk calculator used when evaluating whether or not to treat high cholesterol).

 

Reference: http://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/11/08/11/47/mon-5pm-bp-guideline-aha-2017

 

Where can I get more information??

The Heart Health Docs have covered heart healthy diet and exercise extensively. Lifestyle habits play a powerful role in heart health and in blood pressure management. Simple habits like regular exercise, following the DASH diet, boosting potassium in your  diet, and limiting alcohol are great for getting to goal blood pressure. Keeping a healthy weight will help get to goal blood pressure.

We recommend checking out the American College of Cardiology site, CardioSmart for great information about hypertension.

 

https://hearthealthdocs.com/heart-healthy-diet/

 

https://hearthealthdocs.com/exercise/

 

Really all our site articles are helpful https://hearthealthdocs.com/articles/

 

 

Diet and Heart Disease – What Does the Science Say About What to Eat?

IMG_8348rt5x7bwIt is so hard to keep up with research on diet and disease prevention, especially with so many conflicting reports in the media. To try to sort through this, some researchers looked comprehensively at all of the high quality research available about diet and prevention of heart disease. They put together this nice summary table showing which foods show evidence of harm, which show evidence of benefit, and which are inconclusive.
It is important to remember that this is addressing heart disease specifically, not general health or general disease prevention.  And they limited their conclusions to the most thorough studies of heart disease outcomes.  For example, I think a diet which is low in wheat-based carbohydrates can be very beneficial for maintaining weight and preventing long-term health complications.
If you, or a family member, suffers from chronic heart disease, this table is a good starting point for a discussion with your physician and other health providers about the optimal diet to prevent future heart issues.

 

ACC food guide

Here are more of our articles on Nutrition and Heart Prevention.

You Really Are (and might die from) What You Eat (. . .or Don’t Eat)!

IMG_8348rt5x7bwMost of us understand that there is a link between what we eat and our health – but how strong, and how important, is that connection? Heart and circulatory disease is the number one killer of American adults, and we know that certain dietary behaviors can either promote, or reduce, health consequences.

But a new study  just released, shows just how strong that association is between diet and heart disease. These researchers looked at all of the important studies of specific food types and disease associations, then compared this to national surveys of Americans’ eating habits. They then estimated what proportion was due these various dietary habits.

Overeating, or not eating enough, of the 10 foods and nutrients contributes to nearly half of U.S. deaths from heart and circulatory disease, the study suggests.bread

“Good” foods that were under-eaten include: nuts and seeds, seafood rich in omega-3 fats including salmon and sardines; fruits and vegetables; and whole grains.

“Bad” foods or nutrients that were over-eaten include salt and salty foods; processed meats including bacon, bologna and hot dogs; red meat including steaks and hamburgers; and sugary drinks.

Of course, this was a study of populations, and most of us are most concerned about our personal habits and risk of disease (remember, only your doctor or health care provider can give your specific advice about your health care). And most importantly, the fact that certain dietary habits are “associated” with bad health, doesn’t mean those foods “cause” bad health.   But this is an interesting study that helps quantify the most important targets for change in our diet.  (click here to read  the full study)

For more information on Heart Health and Diet, see our overview article here.

 

An Update on New Research – Straight from the Source!

IMG_8348rt5x7bwThere is always plenty of research being conducted on heart disease prevention, but this week I decided to go straight to the source. This week I will be blogging directly from the Cardiometabolic Health Congress in Boston – a collection of presentations on recent concepts and new research in the treatment of conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The goal? To prevent heart disease and stroke.

Here are some highlights from the first day:

High Cholesterol: The big news in cholesterol treatment is the development of a new class of potent drugs, PCS-K9 inhibitors, (Which I previously reported on here) which are different from statins – they lower cholesterol potently, but must be given by injection. For now, they are reserved for patients with seriously elevated levels while taking statins – or those intolerant of statins.

While statins are very effective in patients with a history of heart disease, many patients who take them have never had cardiovascular disease – they were prescribed purely for prevention. Many people given statins are actually at low long term risk – and the statin may not impact their risk further. Recent research shows that we can refine which patients benefit by using a test to look for early evidence of plaque buildup in the arteries. This test, called a coronary calcium scan (or heart scan) is cheap and quick, and can clarify which patients really will benefit from a statin.  Here is a recent article from the New York TImes with more details.

Obesity: Anyone who has tried to lose weight know the frustration of seeing the weight return over time. We often attribute this to poor will power, but research now shows that certain hormones are activated that actually “stimulate” the body to gain weight – like a weight “thermostat” that tries to return to a prior setting. New research is trying to interrupt this cycle and allow weight to stay off.

Research also shows that there are different “types” of obesity – many people consider themselves overweight, but are otherwise very healthy – normal blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol. In others, their weight leads to chronic issues and eventual complications. So always think of your weight in the context of your overall health.

Finally, when we decide to eat something, we assume we are doing so in response to feeling “hungry”. But research show that we often eat in response to other cues – sights and smells, emotional states, and availability of food. (A great example of “mindless” eating is chomping on popcorn while we are engrossed with a movie) So if you struggle with willpower, try to limit these non-hunger “cues” – remove unhealthy food from the house, and try to steer clear of temptations as you go about your day.

Tomorrow, we will hear about new research into high blood pressure and diabetes. (As always – these are general concepts – only your doctor can address your specific health issues).

Is your Heart older than You? Find out your “Heart Age”

Grewal Kanny MD 2x3 webI decided to spend my birthday figuring out my age. Not my actual age, which is painfully obvious, but my “Heart Age”. This is a new online calculator (featured in the Wall Street Journal this week) created by researchers in the UK, which uses existing data regarding the prediction of future cardiovascular risk (from the Framingham database, which is the most comprehensive set of data available). It has been reformatted into an algorithm that compares your true age with your estimated cardiovascular age, as a general way to look at your overall cardiovascular health.   To use the calculator, you need to know:

– your true age, sex, height and weight

-a recent total cholesterol and HDL if available

-a recent blood pressure reading

-your family medical history

Of course, there are several limitations to a simple calculator like this – it doesn’t take into account any symptoms you may have, or the duration or severity of risk factors. And the database from which it is drawn was created predominantly from Caucasian Americans, so it may not directly predict risk for other ethnic groups (for example South Asians, whose risk may be higher, or based on different weighting of factors). But it is a nice snapshot of your CV health in a format that is easy to understand.

So how did I do? Well, fortunately my Heart Age came out less than my actual age – but not by much. (Luckily, I have 365 days to make some progress!) Give it a try yourself:

Here is a link to the Heart Age calculator.

If your heart age is older than your real age, don’t dismay (the average result is 6 years older than real age!), but do look back at the questions – and notice how dropping your blood pressure, cholesterol, or waist size has a positive impact. We can’t change our age or family history (and generally not our sex), but lifestyle changes can go a long way to reduce our risk. So click here to learn about the best medication for heart disease – a therapy that reduces blood pressure and cholesterol and shrinks our waist size as well!

For more information see our articles on heart healthly diet and heart prevention in women.

Here is an informative video interview with the creator, from the WSJ: http://live.wsj.com/video/how-old-is-your-heart/A280BEEC-4649-4472-8223-65856B0FB3A5.html

Which Supplements Improve Wellness and Prevent Heart Disease?

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Those of us who treat heart disease deal with controversies on a daily basis; but I am not sure that any topic provokes more passion and controversy than a discussion about the use of supplements for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular (and other) disease.   As medical doctors, we are trained to promote therapies grounded in ‘evidence” – that is, clinical trials and investigation. Unfortunately, most supplements and minerals have never been studied as thoroughly as drugs, so the “evidence” either for or against their use is lacking. Confusing this picture is that the proponents of supplement use may have an economic bias for their use, or their preference is based on their personal experience with a limited number of patients.

I am not a pharmacologist or nutritionist, but I do have an immense interest in any and all therapies that can improve my patients’ long-term health. Unfortunately, there is just not the evidence to recommend any specific supplement for the long-term prevention of cardiovascular disease, or any disease or complication for that matter. The preponderance of evidence suggests that eating a healthy and balanced diet, and of course improving lifestyle through weight control and exercise, is far more important than the potential effect of any specific supplement. This is even the case for a general multivitamin. This editorial article, which was just published in the last few months, summarizes the largest analysis to date of all the major research involving supplements in healthy patients. It summarizes a new analysis in over 100,000 subjects, and reaches the conclusion that none of the studied supplements can clearly prevent chronic disease. Fortunately very few of them are harmful as well (the exceptions are B-carotene and possibly Vitamin E, which may cause cancer).  Here is a quote from the authors (including the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health):

In conclusion, β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements are harmful. Other antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins, and multivitamin and mineral supplements are ineffective for preventing mortality or morbidity due to major chronic diseases. Although available evidence does not rule out small benefits or harms or large benefits or harms in a small subgroup of the population, we believe that the case is closed— supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.

For this reason, I do not recommend the routine use of supplements by any of my patients, including a daily multivitamin; but I don’t discourage their use, unless a specific interaction is seen that could be harmful. Certainly, for patients with a specific chronic condition, it is worth looking for nutritional deficiency that can contribute but that can only be done by your physician or care provider. Here is some information about specific supplements:

Folate, Vitamin B6, and B12:  A well done study recently showed that these agents did not prevent vascular disease or cancer.

Fish Oil (omega-3 fatty acids): Here is our video which addresses the potential role of Fish Oil in prevention of heart disease.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency, diagnosed by a low blood level, is a potentially serious condition that benefits from replacement therapy. For those without a true deficiency, there does not seem to be a benefit to taking supplemental doses. Here is a recent article from USA Today which references a recent large study which pooled the results from 40 earlier studies. The conclusion is that Vitamin D supplementation does not seem to prevent chronic disease, except in those with a true deficiency documented by a blood test.

Selenium: The conclusion form the lead researcher of a recent study: “At this time, we cannot support using selenium supplements as a means of preventing cardiovascular disease in healthy people”.

We will address other specific supplements in future posts. In the meantime, consider skipping some (or all) of those supplements,  and instead focus on daily activity (see article here)  and a heart healthy diet (see article here). As always, we appreciate your comments and are happy to provide references.