Friday, May 29, 2009

Can Fish Oil Benefit Heart?

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in such wild oily fish as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids could benefit heart as it could raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol, lowers harmful fats known as triglycerides and slow the growth of plaque that tend to clog arteries.

According to the recommendation by the American Heart Association, adults should take fish at least twice a week, and people with heart disease should consume 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid a day.

However, a recent large study conducted in Germany seemed to get a rather surprising finding. Researchers from the University of Heidelberg reported that fish oil capsules did not offer added benefit to heart attack patients who are already taking the right medications to prevent future problems. Their results were presented on March 30, 2009 at an American College of Cardiology conference.

In the study, more than 3,800 people who had suffered a heart attack in the previous 2 weeks were given 1-gram daily dose of a prescription version of highly purified omega-3 fatty acid or dummy capsules. About 90 percent of these people were already receiving all the necessary medications prescribed by their doctors to prevent a second attack, including aspirin, anti-clotting and cholesterol drugs.

The prescription version used in the study is a highly purified and standardized form, and is different from what many consumers buy off the shelf. They are sold as Omacor and Lovaza in the United States and as Zodin in Europe,

After a year, the researchers found no difference in both groups of patients, whether they took fish oil or dummy capsules. The researchers also found that 2 percent had suffered sudden cardiac death, 4 percent had another heart attack and fewer than 2 percent had suffered a stroke in both groups of patients.

The researchers argued that there is nothing much can be done to further reduce the risk for heart attack patients, who have already received good care from their doctors (given all necessary medications). Nevertheless, this does not mean that fish oil is of no value. In the first place, the study did not address whether fish oil could help prevent heart disease.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can Diabetes Be Prevented and Even Cured?

Type-2 diabetes is usually caused by overweight or obesity. Being a diabetic, he or she is at a much higher risk of getting high blood pressure, kidney failure, and even heart disease.

According to the statistics released by the diabetes association, nearly 57 million people in the United States are pre-diabetic and 18 million have been diagnosed with diabetes. Meanwhile, there are almost 6 million Americans, who have diabetes, but they are not aware of it. About 90 to 95 percent of diabetics are classified as Type-2 diabetes, which is closely related to obesity.

Generally, when a person is diagnosed as pre-diabetic, he or she would not really bother because technically, he or she would not be classified as diabetic just because of a slightly higher than normal blood sugar level.

A 55-year-old woman Jane (not her real name) in Dallas was diagnosed as pre-diabetic by her doctor who advised her to lose 3 kilograms through changing her lifestyle and diet. Nevertheless, this did not really alarm her even her sister had died of diabetes.

9 months later, she was confirmed having Type-2 diabetes. By then, she was shock and took the advice from her doctor seriously. On a regular basis, she exercised and her weight had slimmed down. More importantly, her blood sugar level fell back to normal and healthy range without taking any diabetes medications.

In fact, the medical community is expressing its interest in diabetics like Jane who manage to get their blood sugar under control, either escaping the need for drugs or improving enough to keep away from the medication. The task force from American Diabetes Association will focus on this group of patients to see if they can be considered cured.

The future is definitely not promising with one study had estimated that 1 of every 3 children born in the United States in the year of 2000 will eventually develop diabetes. On the other hand, a diabetes prevention study had revealed that daily exercise for 30 minutes and a 5 to 10 percent loss in body weight could actually reduce the risk of getting diabetes by nearly 60 percent and it is more effective than medicine in delaying its onset.

Though some health experts do admit diabetes could be prevented with diet and exercise, they also stressed that this is a one-way road and there is no turning back! Other doctors caution that for some diabetics, lowering of blood sugar may be temporary. If they later on experience stress, weight gain or any other factors, their blood sugar would surely be push back to the unhealthy level.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Can Heart Cells Be Replenished?

On the issue of whether a person’s heart cells can be replaced, most cardiologists believed that the cells are not replaceable. The recently released results of a Swedish study might well change their perspectives!

Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institute showed that some of the human body’s cells are renewed each week while others are never replaced. Their findings, published on April 3, 2009 in the United States journal Science, confirmed that heart cells are replenished throughout life.

According to this group of researchers, the human cells undergo continual and slow replacement. For a 20-year-old person, one percent of the heart cells are renewed every year. However, the rate of renewal gradually declines over the years and it will reach 0.5 percent when this person reaches 75 years old.

People lose heart cells naturally with most of them are actually replaced. Heart can therefore be viewed as a patchwork of cells that have been there from birth and cells that have been formed later in life.

However, in the event of heart attack or heart disease, millions of cells will probably be lost. When such mishaps do occur, the very slow rate of renewal means that most heart cells can never be replaced.

In the study, the researchers used a unique method to determine how old the cells were. During the Cold War, nuclear tests produced a sharp increase in atmospheric concentrations of radioactive carbon-14, which is stored in the body's cells. As its levels have been varied over the past decades, they serve as an indicator of when the cells are formed.

The new findings no doubt can help doctors or health experts to find out new treatment methods to repair damaged heart cells caused by cardiac arrest or heart disease. On the other hand, such discovery would also motivate scientists to conduct further research into methods of stimulating the renewal mechanism.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Ventricular Reconstruction Effective for Heart Failure Patients?

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body’s needs, and it often occurs after tissue is damaged by a heart attack. Generally, a person can develop heart failure because of myocardial infarction and other forms of ischemic heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), valvular heart disease and cardiomyopathy. About 5 million people in the United States are affected by heart failure.

When the heart fails, it will try to compensate for the damage by getting larger, but in the meantime, it will also pump much less efficiently. Ventricular reconstruction is an operation that is designed to help patients with heart failure. It involves folding the scarred portion of a damaged heart in on itself to get it to beat more effectively.

However, in a so-called STICH trial, doctors from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina found that such operation provides no real benefit to most patients. Basing on work carried out at 96 medical centers in 23 countries, the findings were presented on March 29, 2009 at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

During the STICH trial, doctors compared what happened to the 1,000 volunteers, who all got heart bypass operations, and half of them also got ventricular reconstruction. The results showed that ventricular reconstruction neither lowered the death rate or the risk of going back to the hospital nor improved the quality of life after 4 years.

No doubt, many patients have a lot fewer symptoms with the operation, but some patients could have the similar improvement with good medical treatment involving drugs. In fact, a patient will save an average of US$14,595 in the hospital costs, and the patient will spend one half hour less in the operating room.

Nevertheless, the operation is seldom carried out in the United States. In fact, only 3,000 to 5,000 such operations have been done worldwide in the last 10 years.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is Silent Heart Attack Common?

The American Heart Association had declared heart disease as the number one killer in the United States. In general, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, as well as those who are overweight or obese are at a high risk of getting heart disease.

According to a new study, the so-called silent heart attacks may be far more common than previously thought. Each year, there are nearly 200,000 Americans suffering such an attack without even realizing it.

In a paper published on April 20, 2009 in PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed publication of the Public Library of Science, the researchers from Duke University Medical Center reported that the unrecognized myocardial infarction (UMI) could be difficult to detect, if it occurred in the distant past, and it often goes unnoticed by the victim. It is, nevertheless, associated with a high risk of sudden death. They also pointed out that no one has yet fully understood how often these heart attacks occur and what they mean, in terms of prognosis.

The new study had led to the belief that the subset of heart attacks, known as non-Q-wave UMIs, is fairly common, at least among people with suspected coronary artery disease.

Doctors usually depend on specific alterations of an electrocardiogram (EKG) called a Q-wave that signals damage of heart tissue so that they could detect heart attacks, which happened in the distant past. However, many UMIs do not result in Q-waves on an EKG, leading to a previously unknown number of silent heart attacks.

In the study, the Duke researchers used a technique known as delayed enhancement cardiovascular magnetic resonance (DE-CMR) to examine 185 patients, who were suspected of having coronary artery disease but who had no record of any heart attacks.

These patients were studied for 2 years and it was found that 35 percent of them had evidence of a heart attack, and that non-Q-wave UMIs were 3 times more likely than Q-wave attacks. Furthermore, those who suffered non-Q-wave attacks had 17 times higher chance of dying of heart attacks than those with no heart damage.

The researchers also suggested that if patients with UMIs happen to be identified, they could have been treated in a similar manner as those patients who were known to have heart disease.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How is the Development of Fighting Heart Disease So Far?

During the last weekend of March 2009, heart specialists around the world gathered and met in Orlando, Florida for the 58th annual convention of the American College of Cardiology.

In the convention, these heart disease experts discussed major developments in fighting heart disease. The results of 31 clinical trials, which were divided into 6 sessions, were learned. Meanwhile, issues surrounding health care reform were also examined by a panel of economists and cardiologists.

In one session, the experts examined the results from the famous Jupiter trial, which were released during the late 2008. The trial revealed that Crestor, the world’s most popular anti-cholesterol medicine could actually lower the risk of heart disease by 44 percent.

In studying nearly 20,000 men and women aged 50 and above, the Jupiter trial found that controlled use of Crestor could reduce the combined risk of arterial revascularization, stroke and death from cardiovascular causes among patients who currently do not have a high risk of developing heart disease.

What interests the panels of experts is whether the results could be applied to millions of people without a high risk of cardiovascular disease but with elevated levels of C-reactive protein, which is a sign of artery inflammation.

There were 3 cardiologists who presented their analysis after examining on the data from Jupiter trial. Such trial is indeed an important one with so much data. In the meantime, the results of a survey of the organization’s 28,000 members on the Jupiter trial’s significance were also presented at the convention.

Another session looked at the results of the so-called STICH trial. This was a study carried out in 15 countries with an aim to determining what treatment or combinations of treatments works best for heart failure. Statistics does show that heart failure affects some 5 million Americans, mostly because of heart attack, hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes. The main purpose of the STICH trial was to assess the effectiveness of early surgery, as compared with other medical treatments, and then later surgical treatment if necessary.

The implications of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall study, which investigated the build-up of coronary artery calcium and the impact of Omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease, were discussed.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Overeating During Festive Season Could Be Bad For Health!

After a heavy Christmas dinner, it is not uncommon for one to take another slice of log cake or fruitcake and then followed by a can or two of soft drink. This is no big deal, right? After all, it is Christmas and people are supposed to eat, drink and be happy!

However, do you know that overindulging in food during festive season could be bad for our health? Why is that so?

Food and drink taken during festive season are usually high in fat, sugar and calories. People could have easily taken a significant amount of calories without even realizing it. This might cause a person to add about 2 kgs to 3 kgs of extra weight.

People will put on weight when the amount of calories consumed consistently exceeds the calories utilized. For example, when a person takes in an excess of 250 calories each day (this could easily found in 5 pieces of chocolate chip cookies or a slice of fruitcake) for 2 weeks, his or her weight might just be raised by half a kilogram.

The excess calories would not only make one’s waistline expanded but also cause problems like gastric discomfort or indigestion. More importantly, this could worsen chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood cholesterol.

People may argue that these chronic health problems would develop only after many years of being overweight or obese. Nevertheless, patients already diagnosed with diabetes, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure often find their conditions worsen after a period of overeating. Bear in mind that these conditions could eventually lead to development of heart disease if they are not managed appropriately.

According to doctors, for people having pre-diabetes, which is a state when blood sugar is slightly elevated but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, a sudden weight gain and overindulgence in high calorie food would push them into full-blown diabetes.