Tag Archives: risk factors

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.

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. 

 

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).

Asian Americans Face Greater Risk for Stroke and Hypertension

Asian Americans are at higher risk for stroke and hypertension compared to whites, according to a study examining U.S. death records from 2003–2010.

IMG_8348rt5x7bwAlthough heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, certain races and ethnic groups face higher cardiovascular risk than others. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, yet little is known about heart risks in distinct subgroups of the Asian American population.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a recent study analyzed death records for the six largest Asian-American subgroups: Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Together, these subgroups make up 84% of the Asians in the United States.

After comparing U.S. death rates from 2003–2010, researchers found that stroke and high blood pressure was more common among every Asian American subgroup compared to non-Hispanic whites. Compared to whites, Asian Indians and Filipino men also had greater mortality from coronary artery disease—a condition that occurs when the heart’s arteries narrow, often due to the plaque build-up on the arterial walls. (text taken from http://www.cardiosmart.com)

Until further studies clarify the specific reasons for elevated risk in Asian Americans, the goals for prevention in this population are similar to all adults, with a few areas of emphasis:

1. Blood Pressure Control – monitoring blood pressure – .and prompt treatment of elevated readings – it is important for all adults, but in Asian American’s we may need to emphasize more thorough monitoring, and consider intervention ( either lifestyle changes or medications) at an earlier age or with lower blood pressure targets. Here is more information.

2. Manage Your Cholesterol – in recent years we have certainly learned more about specific changes of cholesterol in the Asian population. For example, here is an article I co-authored which looked at specific cholesterol findings in Indian Americans.  Even though the spectrum of specific cholesterol abnormalities vary among the various agents are groups, the lifestyle advice to minimize the impact is universal: Reduce intake of saturated fats, processed grains, and minimize wheat based carbohydrates. Here is more information.

3. Stop smoking and minimize tobacco exposure. Hopefully the impact here is self-explanatory. Here is additional information.

4. Monitor Blood Sugar – Type 2 (or “adult onset”) diabetes is far more common in certain Asian populations (such as Indians), especially those that have moved to Western countries that eat highly processed diets. In many Asians, diabetes can develop even in the absence of the usual weight gain (e.g. abdominal fat) typical in other populations. Ask your physician about screening recommendations for those at risk of diabetes.

4. Stay Active! Regular readers of our blog should be well versed in the many benefits of the ultimate medical therapy: Regular exercise. Here is an overview of the benefits of exercise, and here is even more information.

For now, the screening recommendations for prevention of heart disease and stroke in Asian Americans are no different from the population at large. However, there is some evidence that certain screening tools may benefit certain populations. These include advanced blood testing and imaging to screen for early coronary plaque. If you are concerned about your risk, you should ask your physician whether additional screening may be useful. or even consider calculating your very own “Heart Age”.  In the meantime, clinical studies are providing more and more information about cardiovascular risk in this growing segment of Americans.

Cardiac Rehab~Have you heard of it? #hearthealth @CardioSmart #CardiacRehab #exerciseworks

BW ARA labcoatHeart and Vascular Health result from a mix of a lot of different ingredients; we cover many of these ingredients here at the Heart Health Doctors (for example exercise, diet). Think of mixing or using the best ingredients possible (healthy weight, not smoking, healthy diet, staying active) as PRIMARY prevention (for someone who has never had a heart event).

Another important way to work on the ‘ingredients’ is by SECONDARY prevention – how to regain strength, heal after injury, and build back to great Heart & Vascular Health after an EVENT.

Cardiac Rehab is how. The event that will trigger going to Cardiac Rehab may be having a heart stent, a heart attack, open heart surgery for bypass of blocked heart arteries, valve replacement or repair, chest pain or angina, or most recently, a diagnosis of congestive heart failure; even a combination of these.

It would be great to have Cardiac PREhab programs; for now that is what we do at our blog – education for maintaining heart and vascular health.

Cardiac Rehab remains the program that can reduce mortality (death) by 25% if people who have had a heart event complete the program when compared with people who have had a heart event who did not complete a Cardiac Rehab program.

This CardioSmart video gives a great overview of Cardiac Rehab.

The benefits of Cardiac Rehab in our communities cannot be overstated. Often patients will tell me that they plan to “exercise on their own” or that (women here) they are busy making sure their families are organized and cared for, so “no time.” One program offers discount rate for a spouse to attend rehab sessions and exercise with the patient to help increase participation. I encourage and – to use doctor terminology – order my patients to enroll and participate in Cardiac Rehab despite excuses.

At Cardiac Rehab the exercise is monitored – so the patient’s physician learns of any heart arrhythmia, or of any blood pressure issue (under or over treatment). The patient learns about their heart disease, heart healthy habits, how to follow their personal exercise prescription, eat heart healthy, and how to identify and manage stress. It is time well spent. A challenge for patients of late unfortunately can be cost; many programs have financial aid to help patients attend and complete a rehab program, but I had no argument for my patient whose co-pays for cardiac rehab would have approached $2000 for his sessions. He simply could not participate. The hope is that that is an exception; insurers have the data that shows Cardiac Rehab programs result in patients having fewer followup procedures, come out with better quality of life, and are more prepared to succeed with SECONDARY prevention.

Often patients have up to a year to enroll in a Cardiac Rehab program after a qualifying heart EVENT.  Make it a priority to include this therapy and improve Heart & Vascular Health.

 

 

Our favorite website to learn about heart disease and prevention

IMG_8348rt5x7bwWhen someone learns that they, or a family member, is afflicted by heart disease, it is natural to seek out additional information. Unfortunately, the internet can be a source of both information and misinformation, and sorting through the web for relevant health information can be a daunting task. For both patients as well as their families, the most useful site we have come across (other than HeartHealth docs!) for education and understanding is  cardiosmart.org. This site was created by the American College of Cardiology

logo-cardiosmart-redblue(ACC)and has a wealth of information on the origins, therapies, and manifestations of various heart disease and disorders. Here are some of the key features that you may find helpful:

1. There are disease specific pages that explain various conditions and therapies, such as this page for heart attack, or this detailed explanation of atrial fibrillation.

2. For those who do not currently have a heart condition, but are curious about the risk for heart disease, there is a simple but accurate risk calculator.

3. For those taking cardiac medications, this section lists each medication, with information on dosing, side effects, etc.

4. Those who register here are able to set specific goals, received tailored advice about research and other treatments, and a specific plan for prevention.

Are you aware of other useful educational sites for Heart Disease? If so, please let us know, and help the spread the message of prevention!