Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Are The Causes of Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a medical condition in which a pregnant woman, who has previously had normal blood pressure, develops hypertension (high blood pressure) and has significantly high amount of protein in her urine. If this condition is not treated, it could lead to serious and even fatal complications for both the mother and the baby.

When one has preeclampsia, the only cure is delivery of baby. However, if this woman were diagnosed with the condition too early in the pregnancy, she and her doctor would face a dilemma. The baby needs more time to mature but the mother needs to have delivery to avoid serious complications to her and her baby.

Even if the mother and the baby survive, the mother could later have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Meanwhile, the baby is often born prematurely and can suffer complications later in life.

Researchers from Britain's Cambridge and Nottingham Universities announced that they have discovered a mechanism that raises blood pressure in preeclampsia and argued that their work might help the search for new drugs for hypertension. They also believed that they had deciphered the first step in the main process that controls blood pressure: release of a hormone known as angiotensin, from its source protein, angiotensinogen. Their findings were published in the journal ‘Nature’ in October 2010.

Drugs currently used to treat high blood pressure include ACE inhibitors that block the production of angiotensin or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), which prevents angiotensin from taking effect in the body once it is released. These drugs work well for standard hypertension but the pregnant women could not take these drugs because they are potentially dangerous to the developing baby.

The study, primarily focused on preeclampsia, also opened new leads for future research into the causes of hypertension in general. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension itself is the biggest risk factor for causes of death worldwide. Hypertension is also a risk factor for heart disease.

The cost of treating pregnant women with preeclampsia is estimated to be $45 billion a year in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. An estimated 75,000 women in developing countries die of it each year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do You Want Your Heart Disease Risk Doubled?

While cigarette smoking can induce numerous medical disorders to smokers themselves, people who are exposed to smokers’ tobacco smoke are also at a high risk of getting similar medical disorders. One of the disorders is heart disease, one of the leading killers in the world.

Researchers from the University College London reported that people who are around smokers and breathe in a lot of smoke are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who are exposed to lower levels of secondhand smoke. Their study, which covered more than 13,000 people in England and Scotland, was published on June 29, 2010 in the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’.

A saliva test was used to measure the amount of secondhand smoke people have been exposed to and the participants were followed for an average of 8 years, keeping track of who developed heart disease and who died.

It was found that 32 out of about 1,500 people who had never smoked but were exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke died of heart disease. In comparison, only 15 out of about 1,000 people who never smoked but with low exposure. Their analysis, which was restricted to never-smokers only, showed that high secondhand smoke exposure was linked to more than a 2-fold increased risk of dying from heart disease.

High level of exposure, according to the definition set by the researchers, would be equivalent to living with a smoker and exposed to secondhand smoke almost every day.

This is definitely not the first study to reveal such association. In a 10-year study published in 1997 in the journal ‘Circulation’, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that women who never smoked but regularly exposed to other peoples’ smoking in home or work had their risk of heart disease almost doubled.

More than 32,000 healthy women who never lighted up a cigarette were tracked. These women, aged between 36 and 61 when the study began, suffered 152 heart attacks, 25 of them fatal.

In order to prevent heart disease, smokers are urged to give up this unhealthy and selfish habit for the sake of their loved ones. Meanwhile, people staying with smokers should strive to help them quit smoking so as to lower the risk of heart disease for all in the house.