Saturday, February 24, 2018

Would Coffee Raise Atrial Fibrillation Risk?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac disorder, which occurs when the normal rhythmic pumping of the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) break down. Instead of a normal heartbeat, the atria pulse or fibrillate at a fast or irregular rate. AF can cause dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It increases a person's risk of stroke and heart failure. Individuals with AF have 6 times the risk of stroke and twice the risk of all-cause mortality compared to those without AF.

Lifestyle like physical activity and diet may play a role in affecting the risk of developing AF. Studies have shown that people with AF may reduce the symptoms if they have right diet. Certain heart-healthy foods like fish, fruits and vegetables may help maintain some control over the heart's rhythms. Some foods that raises the blood pressure or heart rate are certainly bad for the heart and should be avoided. These include foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar. Eating too much of these foods can more likely to trigger events such as heart attacks.

Patients with AF are often told to avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol. But the science on caffeine as a trigger for AF is somewhat mixed. Older research suggests there is a link while newer studies do not. Caffeine can be found in widely consumed beverages like coffee, tea and soda.

Researchers from University of Minnesota School of Public Health reported in Journal 'Circulation' that higher alcohol intake is consistently related with an increased AF risk, while moderate intake of alcohol and caffeine seem to have no effect. Their findings were published online September 11, 2010.

Consumption of alcohol and caffeine was not significantly associated with AF risk, as revealed in the findings that were published online November 24, 2010 in the journal 'The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition'.

The other systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies, which was published online September 5, 2013 in Journal 'Heart' by BMJ, indicated that caffeine does not increase the risk of AF. In fact, low-dose caffeine may even have a protective effect.

In 2014, researchers from State Key Laboratory of Cardiovascular Disease, Beijing, China suggested that habitual caffeine intake is unlikely to increase AF risk. Their findings, which were published online January 6, 2014, argued that habitual caffeine consumption may actually reduce AF risk. The research involves analysis of 6 prospective cohort studies that included 228,465 participants. 3 of these studies were done in the US, 2 in Sweden, and 1 in Denmark.

Even though the study suggested that there is a protective effect of caffeine against AF, it is not recommended to use caffeine to treat AF on this basis. The results do reassure AF patients to continue to enjoy a cup or 2 of coffee every day without worry.

Nevertheless, one should note that too much caffeine could raise the blood pressure and heart rate that might trigger episodes of AF. So, stick to no more than 2 or 3 cups a day, or switch to decaf, or do both.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Heart Disease Prevention - How Is Gut Bacteria Linked To Heart Disease?

Trillions of bacteria and other microbes live in the gut. These microbes are mostly friendly, and they break down toxins, crowd out invaders, manufacture certain vitamins and amino acids and train the immune system. However, some of them are not so friendly and are influencing heart health in previously unseen ways. Click the following link to find out more!

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Do Foods Play Important Role In Managing Hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is not only a chronic disease by itself but also a risk factor for many other medical disorders including heart disease and stroke. While hypertension is not curable, it can be controlled with medication as well as adoption of healthy lifestyle. 

Foods do play an important role in managing hypertension. For the past 3 decades, research has been conducted to search for the best dietary recommendations for hypertension, but in reality, the vast majority of dietary recommendations are very similar to healthy diet recommendations in general.

There are 3 things that people with hypertension should avoid. First of all, they should reduce or simply not drink alcohol since drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Although studies have shown that low levels of alcohol intake could have protective effects on the heart, research has also clearly indicated that consuming alcohol is unhealthy for people who already have hypertension.

If one really wants to drink, he or she should limit the alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink for women. A drink is a 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.

People love tasty foods, which unfortunately, are often packed with high salt. Salt or more precisely sodium intake is another thing for which hypertensive people should watch out. Too much sodium consumption is bad for the heart regardless of one's blood pressure status. Besides table salt, most of the sodium in the diets comes from packaged and processed foods. Hence, eating less of these foods can reduce sodium intake, lower blood pressure or preventing hypertension from developing in the first place. As suggested by most health organizations, limit for sodium intake is no more than 2,300 mg a day, and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially for those with hypertension.

Saturated fats are bad for the health, especially for people with hypertension because it raises blood cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension. Foods like beef, lamb, pork, butter and poultry with skin are all high in saturated fats, and they should be consumed as little as possible.

If one wants a more structured eating plan to manage blood pressure, perhaps he or she can consider a program called DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Its basic rules include replacing foods high in total and saturated fat with fish, poultry, seeds and nuts, eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and staying away from processed foods.

Besides diet, patients with hypertension should also exercise regularly, stop smoking, reduce stress, lose some weight if they were overweight. More importantly, do not skip medications.