Sunday, December 30, 2007

Can Heart Be Protected By Food Rich In Copper?

Do ailing hearts need copper? Yes, this is the finding of a animal study conducted by the University of Louisville Medical Center in the United States and published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

The researchers fed two groups of mice with foods rich in copper. Group A was fed three times more than the usual recommended dietary intake of copper, while Group B was given a normal dosage. Then, a condition of cardiac hypertrophy was triggered and developed into heart disease in all the mice. Heart failure followed after eight weeks in Group B.

Surprisingly, the hearts of the mice in Group A returned to their normal size despite the cardiac stimulation, after their dietary copper dosage was increased.

Cardiac hypertrophy occurs when the heart becomes enlarged as a result of disease or high blood pressure. It will cause the muscles to be thickened and so the supply of blood to the heart is obstructed. The researchers concluded that diets high in copper could help such heart muscle conditions. However, whether it will work on human beings will require further controlled human research.

Dietary copper helps maintain bone health, reduces tissue damage caused by free radicals, protects nerves and keeps the thyroid gland functioning normally. The daily recommended dietary copper intake is 900 microgrammes (mcg) with a maximum limit of 10,000 mcg a day for adults. For example, half a cup of roasted cashews contains about 80 mcg of dietary copper while 100 g of cooked oysters contains 200 mcg.

Nevertheless, consuming more than the recommended daily copper intake limit can result in diarrhoea, discolouration of the skin, stomach pain, lack of concentration and depression.

Some cardiologists also against the fact that a single supplement (mineral or vitamin) such as copper can act as a cure-all for ailments of the heart. Whether you believe or not, a well-balanced diet is still the key to a healthy life.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chronic Diseases Diagnosed: US vs. Europe

When we talk about the social impact of ageing population, we simply cannot avoid the topic of chronic diseases as these two are closely related. Chronic diseases include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. will cause the older population a great deal of their fortune just for the medical expenses.

A new study, conducted by researchers at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and published online on October 1, 2007 by Health Affairs, revealed that Americans over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic illnesses than their European counterparts.

The findings also indicated that patients in the United States are also more likely to get medical treatment for these costly diseases. This would make US health care 100 to 150 billion dollars (70 to 105 billion Euros) more expensive than in Europe annually.

According to the study, Americans are more susceptible to chronic diseases because of two reasons:
  • Obese Americans are nearly two times more than obese Europeans.
  • There are more current or former cigarette smokers in the US population than in Europe.
The researchers used the 2004 data on the prevalence and treatment of diseases among adults of age 50 and above and compared those in United States and those in the 10 European countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

There are 33.1 percent of older Americans are obese, compared with 17.1 percent of Europeans. For smoking, there are 53 percent of Americans are former or current smokers, compared with 43 percent of Europeans.

In 2004, US healthcare spending for an individual averaged 6,120 dollars, which was about twice that in the Netherlands, Germany and France. If the US could bring its obesity rates in line with Europe's, it could simply save more than 100 billion dollars a year in health care costs.

However, the researchers were not clear about the reasons for the higher disease prevalence in US. It may be due to the fact that Americans are actually sicker than Europeans, or it is possible that more aggressive diagnosis and pre-treatment of chronic diseases in US raises disease prevalence rates.

On the other hand, the researchers believe that more intensive screening has made the rate of diagnosed cancer to be higher (more than double) in the US than that of Europe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cells That May Repair Heart Attack Damage!

Heart attack is a serious disease that may end up with death instantly if medical assistance is not provided in time. Even if the patients survived, they may have shorter life span. Pass data showed that approximately 15 per cent of heart attack patients may die within two to three years of sudden death due to the development of ventricular arrhythmias. Arrhythmia is an irregularity in the heart's natural rhythm.

A group of scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany reported on Dec 5, 2007 in the journal Nature that transplanting genetically engineered cells into the heart may help protect heart attack survivors from later developing life-threatening heart rhythm problems.

In the study, the scientists transplanted living mouse embryonic heart cells into cardiac tissue of mice with heart attack-like damage, making the animals resistant to later arrhythmias

According to the researchers, a protein known as connexin43 made by these transplanted embryonic heart cells improved electrical connections to other heart cells. As a result, the transplanted heart cells became activated during normal heart contractions. But for ethical reasons, human embryonic heart cells could not be used for transplantation in people. As such, genetically engineered skeletal muscle cells were used to make this protein. By transplanting these cells into the mouse heart, the same restorative result was achieved as with the transplanted embryonic heart cells.

Hopefully, the new approach, with some refinement, could help people who suffer heart attacks in the near future.

Monday, December 24, 2007

How Governments Can Help Combat Chronic Diseases?

In the recent WHO (World Health Organization) meeting held in Singapore during November 2007, ways to improve the prevention and control of chronic diseases were explored.

'It is easier to walk or ride a bicycle if there are green areas and bicycle paths in a city; it is easier to eat healthy food if we have healthy foods to choose from, if they are easy to find, affordable and promoted as desirable.' This was the statement made by Mr Shigeru Omi, WHO's regional director.

In his opinion, he believes that all risk factors for diseases can be drastically reduced by government through legislation, policy and regulation, and by industry through appropriate use of nutrition knowledge, food technology and marketing techniques.

He also stressed that it is cheaper to prevent problems than to treat them, but he admitted that this is a problem that many low and middle income countries face. Nevertheless, some countries were praised for their efforts in getting citizens to live healthier lives.

For example, obesity and traffic accidents are lower in the Netherlands than in many European countries because cycling is popular, both as recreation and transportation. Promotion and commitment to healthy diets had earned praise for Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand, 'fruits in school' programme was launched in all primary schools in 2005.

In Singapore, the effort in fighting obesity has achieved and sustained reduction in obesity rates over a number of years. The key causes for disability in Singapore were chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, anxiety and depression and cancer. As such, Singapore has launched the nationwide subsidized health screening for people of 50 years old and above for high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes. Government also allowed people to use 'Medisave' to pay for treatment for chronic ailments. This year will be the first year for the programme and it is expected that some 90,000 patients will draw S$15 million from their Medisave.

In order to help more people have their problems diagnosed early, screening programmes will be stepped up by the government.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How To Eat Healthily During This Festive Season?

Eggnog, log cakes, turkey, ham and many festive treats will keep popping up in front of you whenever you go during this coming Christmas and New Year.

Most of us just cannot resist 'good and delicious' foods, especially those only available once a year. Too much of these 'good' food will not only make us gain weight, but also lead us to health problems such as heartburn and indigestion. One should not forget the fact that eating rich food over time can increase the risk of weight gain and other diet-related conditions such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. So, the best is to exercise restraint.

This does not mean that we should totally ignore all these festive foods but instead, we should eat healthily. But, how can we do it?

Here are some useful eating tips suggested by dietitians.

One dietitian suggests having a sugared drink or light snack before going out for meal as this can stave off hungers and prevent overeating. When you are at the buffer table, choose low-fat and low-sugar dishes that include lean meats without the skin, fruit and vegetables. If you must take ham, just have one serving (2 thin slices). Excessive salt intake should be avoided as this may lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).

Indigestion and gastric pains due to overeating are not uncommon problems during the festive period. So eat slowly, and chew your food well and do not forget to use small plates to cut down on the portions of food you consume.

Another dietitian advises people to stop eating several hours before bedtime because lying down too soon after eating increases the likelihood of heartburn. After a heavy meal, one should try restore balance to his or her diet by having smaller meals or light snacks of fruit for the next one of two meals.

If you want to prepare meals at home, then take note of the followings:

  • Steam, grill or boil food instead of frying it.
  • Remove the skin from poultry.
  • Add vegetables to meat dishes.
  • Use less salt and seasoning, and replace with herbs, spices and homemade stock.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How To Get People Exercising?

"You have to exercise in order to stay healthy!"

Have you ever been advised by friends, relatives or doctors? But frankly, how many of you will take this statement seriously and actually exercise regularly?

Now, there is a way to help you exercise on a regular basis!

A study of sedentary adults of age 55 and above revealed that telephone calls, whether from a person or a computer, may help motivate people to get some exercise. The study was published in the journal Health Psychology and was conducted by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

218 healthy but sedentary adults were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups:

Group 1 - received periodic phone calls from a health counsellor to check on their exercise progress.
Group 2 - received similar calls from an automated phone system.
Group 3 - was a 'control' group that was offered weekly health education classes.

Participants in both group 1 and 2 first met with a health educator who helped them devise an exercise plan. They then received phone calls to monitor their progress and to assist them overcome any obstacles to stay active. The automated system used in group 2 was designed to be as 'human-friendly' as possible. Each study participant was called by name, and the system asked questions about exercise progress for participants to respond by phone keypad.

The initial aim of the study was to get people exercising for 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week). And what the researchers got after one year were:

- people in group 1 managed to exercise an average of 178 minutes per week.
- people in group 2 exercised an average of 157 minutes per week.

The results were very encouraging and suggested that automated phone systems might offer a more cost-efficient way to reach sedentary Americans than systems that rely on human callers. Organizations capable of running such phone-based programs include local colleges, health insurance companies, health clinics, American Heart Association, etc.

If people can have a good habit of exercising at least 150 minutes a week, together with adopting healthy diet, then it will definitely help in preventing heart disease and other related medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol level, etc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Can Garlic Benefit Cardiovascular System?

For centuries, garlic has been believed in the field of alternative medicine that it could benefit human beings: from its anti-bacterial and antifungal properties, to its positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

Why garlic has such a valuable health benefits, you may ask? Recently, a group of US researchers figured out the reason behind this: it boosts human body's own production of a compound that relaxes blood vessels, increases blood flow, and prevents blood clots and oxidative damage. The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the new research, the key is the chemical messenger (hydrogen sulphide or H2S) that is produced when Allicin and similar biologically active components are metabolized. The messenger is essential at low levels for cellular signing, that appears to relax blood vessels, enhancing blood flow.

In laboratory, the researchers at the University of Alabama first extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added minute amounts of red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulphide.

Various experiments also showed that the key chemical reaction took place mainly at the membrane of the red blood cells, although a fraction of H2S was also produced inside the cells. The team also added a section of rat aorta (a heart blood vessel) to a solution containing organic polysulphides and found that the vessel began to relax as it produced H2S.

This perhaps may also explain why many studies showed garlic supplements could prevent the progress of cardiovascular disease, yet some showed that there was no benefit in taking such supplements.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is Cholesterol Tied To Stroke Or Heart Disease?

A group of researchers reported in the Lancet medical journal that "lower total cholesterol was associated with lower death rates from coronary artery disease (also called ischemic heart disease) among men and women of all ages studied."

Being a leading cause of worldwide death, coronary artery disease is caused by fatty deposits that clog arteries. The deposits build up in the arteries, which supply the heart with blood, will narrow the arteries and reduce the blood flow to the heart. This can lead to heart attack and other conditions.

The researchers' initial aim for their study was to establish whether high cholesterol raises the risk of stroke but what they found at the end of their research was that "lower cholesterol levels were not linked to reduced stroke deaths."

Definitive previous research established that drugs called statins, which lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol (also called LDL or 'bad cholesterol) substantially reduce stroke risk. However, based on the researchers' analysis of 61 previous studies involving almost 900,000 adults, conducted mostly in western Europe and North America, people with lower total blood cholesterol levels had a lower heart disease death rate.

The study tracked on people who aged between 40 and 89, and found that about 34,000 of them died of heart disease and 12,000 died of a stroke. The study, nevertheless, did not separate those died of ischemic stroke (caused by blocked arteries) from haemorrhagic stroke (caused by a burst blood vessel).

Surprisingly, the study could not establish any relationship between total cholesterol levels and risk of stroke death, especially at older ages and among people with higher blood pressures.

The researchers could not really understand what is going on. And they stressed that they need to know more about cholesterol and more about stroke sub-types to find out the reasons behind this. In the meantime, they do not want people already on a statin thinking that they should stop taking the drug because if their cholesterol gets lower, then they are at a higher risk of stroke. That is absolutely not the case.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Does Cholesterol Relate To Fats In Food?

Cholesterol is either formed in our bodies by our livers or acquired from foods like eggs, seafood, meats, organ meats and animal products. If we have too much cholesterol in our body (or more precisely, bad cholesterol), we will be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other diseases.

Then, what are fats? In general, there are 4 types of fats, namely saturated, mono-unsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats.

The unsaturated fats increase our HDL (high density lipoproteins or the 'good' cholesterol) and decrease our LDL (low density lipoproteins or the 'bad' cholesterol). Trans fats do just the opposite: reduce HDL and raise LDL, and saturated fats are known to raise both HDL and LDL.

Mono-unsaturated fats are found in olives; olive oil; canola oil; peanut oil; cashews, almonds, peanuts and most other nuts; avocados, while poly-unsaturated fat is available in corn, soybean, safflower and cottonseed oils; fish.

Saturated fats can be found in foods like animal fat, animal skin, animal products such as butter, and dairy products. Trans fats are formed when vegetable oil goes through a process known as hydrogenation. Therefore, products that have 'partially hydrogenated' or 'hydrogenated' vegetable oil printed in their ingredient list do contain trans fats.

It is not easy to find a meal without fats when we dine out, especially at fast-food outlets. But we must understand one fact: we do need a certain amount of fats for absorption of vitamins as well as other daily functions. Since unsaturated fats are healthier, our meals should comprise most of this kind of fats. On the other hand, we should cut down the amount of saturated fats and trans fats and they should take up only 10 per cent of our daily caloric intake.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can Psoriasis Lead To Heart Disease?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin ailment characterized by circumscribed red patches covered with white scales. In Singapore, it is estimated that about 1 in 100 people has psoriasis.

The National Skin Centre (NSC) in Singapore treats about 2,300 new psoriasis patients every year. The disease is currently treated as a skin condition using oral medicine or phototherapy. But now, the doctors suspect that psoriasis is associated with metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome? Different health organizations may have different definitions for metabolic syndrome. In general, it refers to a cluster of conditions that occur together, including large waistline, hypertension (high blood pressure), raised insulin levels, excess body weight and high cholesterol levels. Any one of the above conditions can lead one to serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Therefore, a person with metabolic syndrome could have a even higher risk of getting these diseases.

Psoriasis patients can feel extremely embarrassing and distressing because such disease can lead to isolation from the society. In addition, they still have to worry about the serious disease that may happen upon them.

In order to find out the link between psoriasis and metabolic syndrome, the doctors at NSC will test about 250 psoriasis patients to determine how common metabolic syndrome is among them. The study costs about S$20,000, which is funded by the National Medical Research Council, and will take about 1 year to complete.

If any link is found during the study, then all psoriasis patients will be given a blood test. The doctors do hope that they can give them the most appropriate treatment to cover all grounds instead of treating them basing only on the skin condition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Women Having Preterm Infants At Higher Risk Of Heart Disease Later In Life!

Women who gave birth to a preterm infant are found to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease after many decades. This was revealed by a study published in the current issue of journal Epidemiology.

A research team from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania examined data on 446 women with a mean age of 80 years, who took part in an aging and health study. The following findings were derived:

  • 6 percent of them had given birth to a preterm infant an average of some 57 years earlier,
  • 9 percent of them had had a term infant weighing less than 2,500 gms,
  • 4 percent of them had had an infant that was both preterm and of low birth weight.

After adjusting factors such as use of heart-protecting statin drugs and age, the researchers found that women who had had a preterm infant were more than twice likely to have cardiovascular disease than those women who had not. For women who delivered infants that were both preterm and of low birth weight, the chance of having cardiovascular disease was greater than threefold.

The researchers admitted that more work is still needed to understand the mechanisms that may create such link. But with such possibility in hand, women with preterm infants were advised to seek early screening and lifestyle changes so as to improve their cardiovascular health.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

US Obese Teens Are Future Victims Of Heart Disease!

By 2035, there will be a double digit increases in cases of heart disease and heart-disease related deaths because of the prevailing high rate of obesity among US teenagers. This was revealed in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 6, 2007.

The researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and Columbia University Medical Center used computer modelling and projected that up to 37 percent of men and 44 percent of women who will be 35 in the year 2020 will be obese, based on the numbers of teenagers who were overweight in 2000.

In comparison with previous generations, these young adults will have more heart attacks, more chest pain and more premature deaths before the age of 50. By 2035, the number of people with heart disease is estimated to increase by 16 percent over today's levels. That is an additional 100,000 cases. According to projection, the increase in obesity-related heart disease deaths could shoot up by as much as 19 percent.

Based on the data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are some 9 million US adolescents are overweight. In fact, the childhood obesity rates have tripled since the 1970s, and studies show that about 80 percent of overweight adolescents become obese adults. We all know that we tend to gain weight as we age, and overweight adolescents will tend to gain more than others later on.

The results are not surprising but the sheer magnitude of the impact of adolescent obesity has definitely made it a public health priority. The findings also suggested that aggressive medical treatment using traditional blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs would only reduce but not eliminate the projected cardiac complications.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Broken Heart Can End One's Life!

Writers love to use "broken heart" to describe some of their characters who fail in their love affairs in romantic novels. But that does not actually mean that the character with a broken heart will actually die of heart disease.

But after you have read the results of a research conducted by University College London on the 9,000 British civil servants, you would probably change your perspective: one is possible to die of a "broken heart".

The study, as reported in the Archive of Internal Medicine, found that stress and anxiety of hostile, angry relationships can actually raise the risk of developing heart disease. The negative intimate relationships could influence a person's heart condition. In other words, the findings showed that coronary heart disease is associated with negative aspects of close relationship.

The selected civil servants were asked to complete questionnaires about negative aspects of their relationships with a spouse or close friend between 1985 and 1988 or between 1989 and 1990. Questions such as whether people had emotional support, a chance to talk with someone about problems or whether they could count on a partner or close friend for something as simple as ride to the grocery store were included in the study.

The entire research spanned over a period of 12 years. It was found that people, who reported that arguments and other types of conflict were common, had a 34 percent greater risk of heart attacks or chest pain.

Many of the researches done before aimed to find out the "protective effect" - more social connections can lead to a healthier life. In comparison, only few studies have actually investigated how close relationships or marriages affect health like the one mentioned here.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Risk of Hypertension For People Exposed To Airplane Noise!

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a risk factor for heart disease and it is commonly linked to high salt intake, high-fat diet, high cholesterol level, obesity, or kidney failure. But if you stay near airport, you may need to monitor your blood pressure regularly because the noise pollution may put you at higher risk of hypertension.

A recent research from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm reported in the medical journal Epidemiology that among more than 2,000 men followed for a decade, those who lived in areas with the greatest noise from a nearby airport had a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

The researchers suspect that for some of these individuals, the constant noise of planes create chronic stress that may interfere with their ability to think, relax or sleep. This could in turn raise their blood pressure.

2,027 men from 4 municipalities surrounding the Stockholm Arlanda airport who were free from high blood pressure at the study's outset were selected for the study. Government air traffic data was used to estimate the aircraft-noise exposure, and the new diagnoses of high blood pressure were tracked by the researchers over a period of 10 years.

20 percent of these men who were exposed to the highest average levels of airplane noise, were found to be 19 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than their counterparts with lower-level noise exposure. The researchers also considered factors such as men's age, weight, income and exercise habits, but none of these changed the link between aircraft noise and blood pressure.

The researchers is still not 100 percent confident that airplane noise is directly responsible for the higher blood pressure. But, the current study along with past research do show that there is an association between noise exposure and high blood pressure.

Nevertheless, a large European study involving multiple airports is underway and hopefully it may provide a more definitive answer later on.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Explanation On Lifestyle Changes Will Help Reduce Heart Disease Risks!

We all are aware that our existing "unhealthy lifestyle" is the main culprit that bring us diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke, etc. But how many of us will treat this piece of advice seriously and are willing to make a change in our lifestyle right away?

A recent report, published in the US medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine on November 26, 2007, showed that regular explanation by doctors to their patients about the need for lifestyle changes to help reduce heart disease risks do have a noticeable positive impact on reducing the patients' cholesterol level.

The study was carried out at Canada's McGill University in Montreal to examine more than 2,600 patients who are at high risk of a heart attack, including some with diabetes or pre-existing heart problems.

The findings indicated that the existing anti-cholesterol treatments were more successful when patients were regularly advised by their doctors about how to reduce their heart risks with a change to a healthier lifestyle, such as by taking exercise.

For example, an overweight 43-year-old man who smoked, with high cholesterol and hypertension was calculated to have a heart-health level equivalent to that of a 51-year-old, according to the study. But if he followed all the guidelines he gets from his doctors for his treatment, he could reduce this age index to the equivalent of a healthy 42-year-old man.

Perhaps, we should listen more to our doctors from now on if we want to live longer with a healthy heart!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Duration Of Your Sleep Could Determine Your Lifespan!

When we talk about heart disease prevention, we always stress on the importance of healthy diet and regular exercise. But now, we should also watch the number of hours we sleep during the night.

British researchers from the University College London Medical School in London conducted a study on 10,380 participants between 35 and 55 years of age, which found that people who sleep too little or too much could be at higher risk of mortality. The report was published in the United States in the December 1, 2007 issue of "SLEEP", the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC.

A decrease in sleep duration for people sleeping 6, 7 or 8 hours would have a 110 percent higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, an increase in sleep duration for people who sleep 7 or 8 hours would have a 110 percent higher risk of non-cardiovascular mortality.

The mortality rates were found to be lower for participants who initially slept 5 or 6 hours or less but then extended their hours of sleep. Meanwhile, higher levels of mortality for those participants who slept more than 8 hours a day. For this group of people, sleep restriction should probably be considered.

Based on the findings from the study, sleeping consistently 7 or 8 hours per night is considered optimal for health, in terms of prevention.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Exercise May Reverse The Damage Caused By Heart Failure!

Not many people like to exercise. But whether you like it or not, it should be part of your lifestyle if you want to prevent heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and many other diseases.

Two recent studies, presented on November 7, 2007 at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida, revealed that moderate exercise can help heart failure patients reverse some of the muscular damage (a hallmark of the condition).

According to the researchers of the University of Leipzig in Germany, regular exercise could promote the growth of new cells and blood vessels in muscles that may have become weak and shrunken as a result heart failure, a condition that cause the heart's inability to pump enough blood to the body's organs.

During the 6 months of trial, 50 men with an average age of 56 were divided into two groups: 25 men took part in the exercise experiment while 25 men who were taken as "control group" did no exercise. The group with daily exercise had their level of progenitor cells in the muscle tissue sharply raised but the levels of progenitor cells in the men from the "control group" stayed the same.

Progenitor cells make up a pool of immature cells found in skeletal muscle that can divide into various mature cells as needed for muscle repair. Heart failure patients normally have 50 percent fewer of these cells than healthy people.

The number of progenitor cells became almost normal with the help of exercise. The cells started to divide again and they began to differentiate into myocytes (muscle cells). This is exactly what the heart failure patient’s need - replacement of muscle cells.

The second study in men in their 60s with severe heart failure showed that exercise can also help with the damage to blood vessels that occur in patients with the condition. After 12 weeks of exercise training, the tissue samples and blood tests showed significantly higher levels of immature cells that were morphing into endolethial cells. The density of capillaries or tiny blood vessels also increased 17 percent over the course of the trial.

This shows that whether one has moderate or severe heart failure, exercise therapy will certainly help, and the benefits come from both the regeneration of muscle cells and the formation of blood vessels.

The researchers, however, do not sure whether physical activity can also induce similar changes in the heart muscle.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A High-fat Diet Could Not Only Harm Your Heart But Also Affect Your Body Clock!

High-fat diets are definitely bad for your heart. Now, a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism on November 6, 2007 further indicated that they can also upset one's body clock by starting a chain reaction that interferes with many metabolic functions.

Body clock, or sometimes known as circadian rhythms, is the internal mechanisms that schedule periodic bodily functions and activities. The internal 24-hour clock is a feature common to plants, animals and humans. More information about body clock can be found at

The researchers believed that timing and metabolism evolved together and become almost a conjoined system. So, if the balance is disturbed, unfavourable effects may just occur. What they did in the study was to use 2 groups of mice: one on a regular diet while the other on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 6 weeks.

After 2 weeks, the mice on the high-fat diet with 45 percent of their calories in the form of fat, showed a change in their normal pattern of activity-eating and rest-sleep rhythms. They began to eat during their typical rest or sleep period. The mice on regular diet, however, did not show this behavior at all.

Observations showed that the mice are eating more at regular meals and they actually shift their eating habits so that all excess food intake occurs during their normal rest period.

Besides behavioral changes, it was also found that levels of certain messenger molecules produced by genes that regulate circadian rhythms were depressed in the brain, liver and fat tissues of the mice on the high-fat diet.

As suggested by the study, the functioning of the body's internal 24-hour clock, which regulates our sleep/wake cycle and the timing of hunger pangs, is closely tied to the rhythms of certain metabolic processes. The saturated fat presented in the high-fat diet disrupt the body's clock or circadian rhythms by setting up a vicious circle that throws off the timing of certain metabolic processes thus increasing the risk for obesity and diabetes. This may subsequently increase the risk of heart disease.