Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is Brugada Syndrome A Common Disease?

Brugada syndrome is used to describe a mysterious condition that kills victims in their sleep because of spontaneous abnormal heart rhythms but it is now regarded as an inheritable heart condition.

The illness is rare. Studies made by Japanese found that only 0.05 percent to 0.06 percent of adults have ECGs that are compatible with a diagnosis of Brugada syndrome.

Research conducted outside Japan also showed that Brugada syndrome is responsible for about 4 percent to 12 percent of unexpected sudden deaths.

Persons who do not have an ECG compatible with Brugada syndrome, a history of fainting spells or a family history of sudden unexpected nocturnal deaths, should not worry too much as they are probably not at risk.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Waltz May Help Heart Patients Back To Better Health!

Using waltz for cardiac rehabilitation for 110 heart failure patients to exercise their damaged hearts, the Italian researchers had found that the dance could be just as effective as bicycle and treadmill training for improving exercise capacity.

The dance also improved the patients' sleep, mood and the ability to engage hobbies, do housework and have sex.

It is known that exercise is crucial after people suffer heart problems, but getting people to stick with it is tough. Statistics showed that up to 70 percent drop out of traditional programs.

Waltz is internationally known and is quite aerobic. More importantly, it may capture the patients' interest because it may be more fun than just running on a treadmill.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Let’s Talk About Fats Again – Trans Fats

Being of no health benefits at all, trans fat is often a pervasive and often hidden ingredient in many food items.

It clogs the arteries and makes them more rigid. It not only increases the bad cholesterol (LDL) but also decrease the good cholesterol (HDL).

Eating too much trans fat will make one become possible victim of coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, people are advised to consume no more than 2 g of trans fat a day, as recommended by The World Health Organization (WHO).

Though a small amount is naturally found in some animal-based foods such as meat and diary products, trans fat is mainly found in processed foods such as:

  • Shortening
  • Margarine
  • Snack foods like crackers and cookies
  • Fried food like French fries
  • Fast food
  • Baked goods
  • Dairy creamer or coffee creamer
  • Sweets
  • Instant noodles, which are fried in palm oil

These foods are always sources of saturated fat as well.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Let’s Talk About Fats Again – Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated Fats are considered healthier than saturated fats and people are usually advised to take them instead of saturated fats.

They can be divided into 2 groups:

  • Mono-unsaturated Fats

    Avocados, olive and canola oils are good sources of mono-unsaturated fats. They can lower cholesterol levels and it is believed that it can protect against heart disease.

  • Poly-unsaturated Fats

    Sunflower, corn and soybean oils are believed to contain polyunsaturated fats. They can also be found in grain products, fish and seafood such as salmon, herring and mackerel.

    Various studies have shown that polyunsaturated fats help prevent heart problems such as heart attacks and palpitations.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let’s Talk About Fats Again – Saturated Fats

Fat is a source of energy found in foods. It provides around 9 calories per g, more than twice the number provided by protein or carbohydrates.

According to WHO, the daily intake of fat should not exceed more than 1/3 of their total energy needs.

Basically, there are three main types of fats: saturated, unsaturated and trans fats.

Saturated Fats are found in animal products like butter, cheese, lard and fatty meats, and some vegetable oils such as coconut and palm oil.

Saturated fats can increase the cholesterol level, which will increase the risk of heart disease. Obesity, another risk factor for heart disease, is likely to occur because of the high calorie content.

The Denmark's Experience In Handling The Trans Fat Issue!

The Danish Nutrition Council recognized the harms of Trans Fat: increase the bad cholesterol level (LDL) and decrease the good cholesterol level (HDL) which may increase the risk of getting heart disease.

Hence in 1990s, Denmark made margarine makers to reduce Trans Fat levels. As a result, the national average consumption of Trans Fat fell from about 2.5 g per day to between 1 g and 2 g per day.

However, Denmark aims for a healthy level of Trans Fat consumption, which is zero, instead of a compromise level of about 2 g. Realizing its citizens were still consuming a lot of Trans Fat from imported food, Denmark finally announced a ban on Trans Fat in 2003.

Significant response was reflected among the food industries. The manufacturers had no choice but had to reformulate its products to reduce Trans Fat for all of Europe.

Meanwhile, Danes are not complaining that they have fewer choices in food. For example, they are still enjoying French fries and chicken nuggets from McDonald’s. The only difference is theirs contain a mere 0.33 g of Trans Fat.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Are We Eating Too Much? Just Some Discipline Please!

I attended a seminar last weekend regarding heart disease. One of the speakers is a nutrition consultant. What she said was quite interesting!

Patients of diabetes, hypertension, or obesity who are likely candidates for heart disease are usually told to have healthy lifestyle – eat healthy and moderate exercise.

According to her experience, if she advises such patients not eat this and not to eat that, and insists them eating only healthy stuffs like fruits and vegetable. Very soon, they will not follow her advice and, switch to unhealthy foods. This is because healthy foods are frequently not as tasty as your favorite (most of the time are unhealthy) foods.

She suggested that instead of eating a whole piece of cake, for example, you can always share it with your loved ones such as your spouse or children so that each of you only eats a small portion of it.

Even if the fats contained in the cake are so unhealthy, it will not really affect your health significantly. Yet you still can enjoy your favorite foods.

The method works well for her family, too. Based on her approach, her mother used to have some health issues in the past, can still enjoy her favorite foods though in small portion. She is now 92 years old. Besides some hearing problem, she is still very healthy.

Living healthy is not that difficult, but it does need some discipline.

Don’t you think so?

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Revised BMI For Asians

BMI stands for body mass index. It is widely used as an indicator of body fat because of its simplicity and inexpensive.

BMI = weight (kg)/Height (m) x Height (m)

Since Asian is at a higher risk of getting high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high blood lipid, and diabetes even with their relatively low levels of BMI based on the original WHO's (The World Health Organization) BMI cut offs for weight categories (see Table 1).

These risk factors can easily lead to diseases such as heart attack or stroke if they are not detected and treated early.

After examining the data from some 10 Asian countries, WHO recommended a new Asian model according to health risks, as shown in Table 2.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eat More Mushrooms To Prevent Heart Disease

We usually link healthy antioxidants to blueberries, red wine and, more recently, coffee.

Research has found that mushrooms are the top source of ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Wheat germ and chicken liver are thought to be the best source of ergothioneine. However, the researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that a serving of white button mushrooms has 12 times more ergothioneine than wheat germ; shiitake have up to 40 times more!

So remember to add more mushrooms to your diet. After all, mushrooms are tasty, too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another Reason For You To Take A Walk After Meal

After you finished a high-fat meal, the natural antioxidant system is temporarily overwhelmed so that your endothelium cells start to be damaged by the free radical molecules. Endothelium cells play an important part in maintaining the health of your heart and arteries.

To reverse this process, you just need to take a 45-minute walk, preferably 2 hours after your meal. This was suggested by the researchers at Indiana University.

Similar studies had been conducted by the British Heart Foundation and found that exercising after a high-fat meal can in fact reduce the harm inflicted by 15 percent.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Less Abnormal-Heart-Rhythms Babies Born To Exercising Women!

It is generally agreed by sports medicine experts that exercise is beneficial for pregnant women, or poses little or no harm to developing fetus. The researchers suggest that pregnant women can and should have regular physical activity. However, they should follow recommended exercise based on their individual pregnancy activity level, general health and fitness goals.

Exercise does not appear to be related to a higher risk of preterm delivery. Exercised pregnant women have less low back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints compared to their sedentary peers. They also tend to have less signs of depression, better self-image, and they will return quickly to their pre-pregnancy weights.

Most studies show that exercise does not rise or reduce the weight of infants. In fact, babies born to women who exercise appear to be more alert and may be less likely to have abnormal heart rhythms.

Nevertheless, not all pregnant women should exercise. To avoid injury, women who do not exercise regularly before pregnancy are advised to start exercising for 15 minutes 3 days a week, and gradually increase intensity and time to 30 minutes and 4 days a week.

If pregnant women experience vaginal bleeding, headache, severe shortness of breath, chest pain, leakage of amniotic fluid, or if they detect a reduction in fetal movements, then they must immediately stop exercising and consult the doctor.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Post-CABG Complications May Be Influenced By Poverty!

What is CABG? It stands for coronary artery bypass grafting. Research showed that people living in socially and economically deprived areas may have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications following CABG.

Researchers studied a British community undergoing CABG, and found that as a result of socio-economic deprivation, the post-CABG outcomes may be influenced by reduced access to specialist cardiac services, lower uptake of non-invasive cardiac investigations and revascularization procedures, and lower uptake of cardiac rehabilitation programs.

This is the first study to show that socio-economic deprivation is an independent predictor of poor cardiovascular outcome. Researchers, therefore, suggested that a higher incidence of baseline risk factors in people of low socio-economic status, greater psychological factors such as social isolation and stress in this group, and differences in those given and seeking treatment might explain the above findings.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Heart Health Can Be Improved By Pre-Meal Exercise!

A study reported that taking a long walk before a fatty meal can reduce the effects of high fat intake on blood vessel function. It is known that food with high fat can transiently raise fat and triglycerides levels of the blood. Recent research showed that the function of the endothelium (inner lining of blood vessels) could temporarily be impaired by a rich meal.

Another study suggested that moderate exercise can blunt these effects in both thin and obese middle-aged men. 20 men ate a rich meal including whipped cream, chocolate and a 80 g of fat under different conditions. In one condition, the men were asked to walk for 90 minutes on the treadmill the day before meal while there was no exercise in the other condition.

Men who exercised before the meal had their post-meal triglycerides levels risen to lesser degree. Moreover, their blood vessel function was better when there was no exercise. How pre-meal exercise could counter the effects of fatty meal remains unclear. According to researchers, activity may help lower blood fat levels, giving less opportunity for the fat particles to interact with the blood vessel walls.

Researchers also revealed that exercise of shorter duration might also help for the blood vessel function, as it was previously found that 30 minutes of activity could lower post-meal blood fat levels.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Merry Christmas" & "Happy New Year" Heart Attack!

It has found that death rates due to heart disease and other causes are actually higher around Christmas and New Year's Day than other days of the year.

Researchers found that there is a spike in both heart and non-heart related deaths in United States around Christmas and New Year's Day. The spike accounted for 42,039 more deaths than would have been expected. Moreover, most of these patients died on either December 25, 26 or January 1.

Reason for this could not possibly be explained by factors as respiratory diseases, emotional stress or changes in diet or alcohol drinking. Researchers suggested that it might be related to delay in seeking medical care during the holidays. Another possibility is staffing changes during the holidays, including scheduling changes of doctors, nurses, and even health insurance personnel.

The study concluded that the winter season is associated with significant increase in cardiac deaths. Doctors are therefore advised to be aware of this phenomenon and help their patients to minimize risk factors that will trigger heart attack.

Can Magnetic Scan Monitor Cholesterol?

According to a study, a modified magnetic scan can identify whether cholesterol-lowering statin drug are actually unblocking the clogged arteries.

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan has been used to monitor blocked arteries. However, the results can only be seen after more than one year. The improved version of MRI by Hopkins team has a better sensitivity with extra coil rings being placed around the chest of the 29 patients in the study. An antenna was also inserted through the nose and down to the oesophagus of each patient to amplify the signal. After six months of statin treatment, the modified MRI scan could actually show thinning of atherosclerotic plaque.

No doubt statins can reduce plaque formation by as much as 40 percent and death rate by 30 percent, but to some people, it can cause serious side effects such as muscle pain or even heart damage. The modified MRI scans could help determine whether benefits outweigh risks early in the course of statin treatment.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sudden Death Might Be Reduced By Primary Care Physicians

The best way to reduce the rate of sudden death is to place automated defibrillators (AEDs) into the hands of bystanders, whether they are trained or not. This is the common belief that prevails among people.

Nevertheless, a trial conducted by researchers had proved otherwise. The study showed that public access to and intervention with AEDs on average could save merely one life in a community over a three-year period with a cost of providing 800 volunteers with ready access to AEDs.

The rate of sudden death was reduced by only 5 percent, even after AEDs were given to all heart attack survivors.

On the other hand, there is evidence showing that primary care physicians can reduce sudden death by nearly 30 percent. This is done through advising their patients to quit smoking, adopt a regular exercise program, eat fish high in omega-3 oil, and prescribing for them appropriate medicines for hypertension and heart failure.

Sudden Adult Death Syndrome

The number of adults who collapsed and die suddenly without any explanation could be greater than that recorded officially, according to a study conducted by British Heart Foundation (BHF).

This study involved 692 white people aged 16 to 64 years who had no prior cardiac disease, but on whom postmortem examination found either a heart-related or no identifiable cause of death. The researchers found that most died from heart-related causes with 4.1 percent of the cases could not find any cause.

It was estimated that each year, 3,500 apparently healthy adults die suddenly from cardiac or unexplained causes, and for about 150 of these deaths, no cause could be identified. Many of these cases might be due to electrical abnormalities of the heart of which some may be inherited.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What Is The Health Costs Of Obesity?

The cost of dealing with obesity and related disorders accounts for 2 percent of the national health expenditure in France and Australia, more than 3 percent in Japan, and 4 percent in the Netherlands. In 2003, United States spent US$96.7 billion on obesity problems.

It is known that obesity is a risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis, which are major reasons for obesity healthcare costs. For each unit increase in BMI (body mass index), there will be a 2.3 percent increase in cost.

Studies had shown that about 6 percent of people with a healthy weight are unable to work, but 10 percent of obese people are unable to work.

Obese patients are also more likely to require medication for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pain relief, asthma and other illnesses than people with normal weight. Prescription drug costs and more hospital stays account for much of the healthcare spending on obesity-related problems.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Elderly May Find This Therapeutic Walk Beneficial!

Walking is used to be a popular and beneficial exercise for old folks. Now, research has found that it is even better to walk on cobblestone mat, a synthetic mat embedded with smooth stones.

A total of 108 physically inactive adults with an average age of 77.5 years were divided into 2 groups with different walking conditions: cobblestone mat walking condition or regular walking condition. The outcomes of balance, physical performance, and blood pressure were compared among these two groups after walking 3 times a week for 16 weeks.

It was shown that participants who walked on the cobblestone mat had greater improved physical function and blood pressure than those who were put on conventional walking. The former also had a improved health-related quality of life.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, therefore, older adults may find this new way of walking useful in reduction of cardiovascular risk.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Does Heart Surgery Benefit Elderly With Diabetes?

It has been known that revascularization (that is, surgery or angioplasty) to restore blood flow to the heart muscle can benefit angina (heart-related chest pain) in elderly patients with symptomatic coronary artery disease (CAD).

A recent study, conducted on elderly patients over a period of 4 years, reported that diabetic patients benefited similarly as non-diabetics from revascularization in terms of survival rate although they had a worse outcome than non-diabetics in terms of hypertension, risk factors and cardiovascular events of heart failure and heart attacks.

Therefore, diabetic patients should be given the choice of revascularization to improve their symptomatic and overall outcomes.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Heart Surgery In Octogenarians

Age should be a consideration when predicting postoperative outcomes. Therefore, heart surgery patients in their 80s cannot be compared to youngers in terms of postoperative outcomes.

This was the findings of a study conducted by a community hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA on the outcomes of 522 octogenarians and 7,204 non-octogenarians who underwent coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) or valve surgery between 1993 and 2001.

Octogenarians have a higher risk of death by 72 percent, neurological complications by 51 percent, and are more likely to undergo re-operation to treat bleeding by 49 percent.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Different Method To Measure Overweight In Metabolic Syndrome

Body mass index (BMI) is no doubt a good way to measure overweight. In 1947, however, it is found that being overweight was not the only factor that determined the risk of diabetes or heart disease. It was also important where the fat was deposited in the body.

According to studies, fat deposited around the tummy (abdominal fat) is more important as a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease than fat that is deposited elsewhere, for instance, the hips or the legs.

For two persons with exactly the same amount of fat in their bodies, the person who has more fat around the middle is at greater risk than the person who has more fat elsewhere.

For this reason, most definitions of the metabolic syndrome use the waist circumference instead of body mass index.