Friday, February 26, 2010

Can Heartbreak Really Raise Heart Disease Risk?

Heartbreak, as defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, means crushing grief, anguish, or distress.

When a person loses his or her loved one, heartbreak or broken heart can occur. The losing of loved one can be through dead, divorce, breakup, being rejected or any other means. Many people are not aware that they actually have a broken heart as it takes time for them to fully acknowledge the emotional or physical loss.

Australian researchers revealed on September 15, 2009 that people with broken heart because of losing loved one are 6 times more likely to suffer heart attack. When blood flow to the muscle of the heart is impaired, heart attack might occur.

A Heartbreak Foundation study of physical changes suffered immediately after a profound loss found that grieving people were at a much higher risk of getting medical problems related to heart disease. The researchers discovered that the grieving people had higher blood pressure, increased heart rate, changes to immune system and clotting that would raise the risk of heart attack.

Half of the 160 people participated in the study lose a partner or child. Their risk of heart attack was found to increase 6-fold. The risk reduced after 6 months even for people as young as 30 years old. The risk, however, leveled off after 2 years.

It is believed that a sudden flood of stress hormones is behind the grief-induced heartache. Such condition has been found to be more likely to affect women in earlier studies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why You Should Skip Your Snack During Nighttime?

Many people may have the habit of eating snacks during nighttime but it seems that this is probably not a good choice. It seems that such behavior might have even worse consequences than just indigestion.

In a study in mice conducted by researchers from Northwestern University in Illinois, mice fed during daytime (when they normally would be sleeping) gained more weight than those fed at night. The weight gain of these day-fed mice was 7.8 percent more than that of the night-fed mice. All these mice were fed identical amounts of food and exercised the same amount. Their findings appeared on September 4, 2009 in the International Journal of Obesity.

The researchers pointed out that the body weight could greatly be affected by simply changing the time of feeding. For example, mice fed a high-fat diet only during the dark would weigh very much less than those mice normally fed less during the light.

Overweight and obesity have been the concern of many health experts because these conditions might bring about other health hazards like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and even heart disease. The findings might help educate people modify their eating habits so as to avoid gaining weight without even knowing why.

For instance, it is possible to change the timing of meals and snacks, which could mean eating more in the daytime and cutting back on the late-night ice cream or other desserts.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is There A Link Between Thigh Size and Heart Disease?

There is, as shown by earlier studies, a clear link between heart disease and obesity or overweight. But a recent study had shown that there is a link between heart disease and thigh size.

Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital reported on September 4, 2009 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that women and men with thigh size smaller than 60 cm (23.6 inches) were at a higher risk of premature death and heart disease.

They examined the data for 1,436 men and 1,380 women whose body measurements were taken in Denmark in the late 1980s. Over the next 12 years, more than 400 participants died and another 540 were found to suffer from either cardiovascular or heart disease. Men contributed to a larger portion of the deaths with a ratio of roughly 2 to 1.

Comparing to those with the 60 cm thighs, people with the thinnest thighs were more than 3 times likelier to die, and more than twice as likely to have heart problems. Survivors without any heart problems had significantly thicker thighs with other risk factors for heart disease like obesity, high cholesterol and smoking were taken into consideration.

The researchers concluded that there is a threshold effect for thigh circumference: if the thigh circumference were smaller than 60 cm, the risk of premature death would be increased greatly. On the other hand, for men and women with ham-like upper legs, bigger thighs do not seem to offer them any additional benefit.

With the new findings, the Danish researchers proposed that thigh size could be used as an indicator of cardiac risk, in additional to body mass index (BMI) and waist-and-hip ratio. Nevertheless, they felt that further research is still necessary.

Nevertheless, not all health experts would agree on the argument that thigh circumference could be used as a diagnostic tool. For example, there was a commentary also published in the BMJ expressed doubts that thigh circumference would be clinically useful.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Babies of Obese Mother At Risk of Heart Disease!

Obese or overweight women during their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with congenital heart defects, which include obstructive defects on the right side of the heart and defects in the tissue separating the heart’s 2 upper chambers.

As reported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies of those obese or overweight women were 18 percent more likely to develop congenital heart disease, and this could rise to as high as 30 percent if the mothers were severely obese. The findings of the study were published on October 1, 2009 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Being a kind of defect in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels, congenital heart disease, occurs before birth. It is not only the most common types of birth defect but also the leading causes of illness, death and medical expenditures. It might produce symptoms at birth or during childhood. Sometimes, the symptoms might not appear until adulthood.

The researchers from CDC looked at the health of 6,440 infants with and 5,673 infants without congenital heart defects. The mothers of these infants were interviewed as part of the CDC’s National Birth Defects Prevention Study.

BMI (body mass index) was used to define overweight and obesity. Value between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, between 30 and 34.9 is moderately obese, and value of 35 and above is severe obesity. It was found that 10 out of 25 kinds of heart defects were linked to obesity while 5 out of 10 were associated with women who were overweight before pregnancy.

Important factors like maternal age and race-ethnicity were accounted for in the study. The researchers also excluded mothers who had diabetes before pregnancy, which is a strong risk factor for heart defects.

Meanwhile, the CDC strongly recommends that overweight women should consult and work with their doctors so as to have a healthy weight before pregnancy.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Can Chocolate Really Prevent Heart Disease?

If you were a chocolate lover, you would definitely be very happy to know that “chocolate could help you prevent heart disease”. But many of you will probably ask: “ Are you sure?”

This is understandable because many studies have already linked eating chocolate to overweight, obesity, diabetes, and many medical disorders. And most importantly, all of these disorders are known risk factors for heart disease.

On the other hand, there were also studies that reported chocolate is good for the health. For example, earlier research had shown a strong link between cocoa-based confections and lowered blood pressure or improvement in blood flow. Others had found that chocolate reduced heart disease related death rate in healthy older men and post-menopausal women.

In the September 2009’s issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine, scientists from both the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston reported that heart attack survivors who eat chocolate 2 or more times a week cut their risk of dying from heart disease by about 3 times than those who have never tasted chocolate. They also pointed out that smaller quantities of chocolate consumption would have lesser protection but are still better than none.

This new study is believed to be the first to show that consumption of chocolate could help cut the risk of death for a person who has suffered acute myocardial infarction (or what is commonly known as a heart attack). The results held true for men and women, and across all the age groups included in the study, after taking into account of other factors such as alcohol consumption, obesity, and smoking that might have affected the outcome.

In the study, the scientists followed up with 1,169 non-diabetic men and women, who were between 45 and 70 years old, in Stockholm County during the early 1990s from the time they were hospitalized with their first heart attack. Before leaving the hospital, the participants were asked on their eating habits over the previous year, including how much chocolate they ate on a regular basis.

The scientists stressed that the benefit was solely due to antioxidants in cocoa (material that produces chocolate) but not sweets in general. It has been known that antioxidants are compounds that can protect against free radicals. Free radicals, which are molecules accumulating in the human body over time, could damage cells and are believed to be responsible to cause heart disease, cancer and the ageing process.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Will Dairy Prolong or Shorten Life?

Most people would have the impression that consumption of high volume of dairy products would have a higher chance of getting heart disease. This is because dairy products are always considered as sources of artery-clogging cholesterol.

A study by researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research argued that calcium-rich dairy products consumed during childhood might in some cases prolong one’s life. The findings were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on July 28, 2009.

The study, which took a long period of 65 years following a 1930’s survey of more than 1,300 families in England and Scotland, showed that diet that was high in milk, cheese and butter did not actually lead to a higher rate of cardiovascular disease. Their report also indicated that children with the largest intake of calcium from dairy enjoyed a lower death rate from strokes.

It is believed among some experts that heart disease risk factors start from childhood. Some of them even argued that diet rich in high fat content dairy products during childhood would contribute to heart disease later in life. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show whether dairy consumption at early ages would help or hurt.

A total of 4,374 people (in more than 1,300 families), who participated as children in the late 1930s’ study of food consumption, were followed up. By 2005, it was found that 34 percent of them (or 1,468 individuals) had died, of which 378 from coronary heart disease and 121 from strokes.

The researchers could not find any evidence showing relationship between intake of dairy products and either of the 2 causes of death. Instead, they discovered that children consuming calcium-rich milk and milk-derived products had a lower rate of death by stroke. Moreover, they also found that children having diets rich in dairy or calcium were linked to lower all-cause mortality in adulthood.

Nevertheless, the researchers did suggest that further studies are necessary to confirm the findings that might result partly because of other factors like income levels and occupation.