Heart Beat: November 2011
HALF OF AFIB PATIENTS CLAIM NOT TO KNOW ABOUT HIGHER STROKE RISK
An American Heart Association (AHA) survey found that half the people who have atrial fibrillation (AFib) either deny or don’t know they have a higher risk for stroke. AFib is a condition characterized by a quivering or erratic heartbeat, and it affects about 2.7 million Americans. In the survey, about two-thirds of the respondents recalled their doctors talking with them about their stroke risk. And of those, 21 percent reported that their physicians said they had no higher stroke risk. One of the goals of the AHA is to raise awareness of the significantly higher stroke risk for patients with AFib and to educate AFib patients about the importance of stroke prevention through medications adherence, surgical procedures or cardiac devices if necessary, and lifestyle adjustments, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS BUNCHED TOGETHER PACK A WALLOP AGAINST DIABETES
By themselves, regular exercise, a balanced diet and managing your blood sugar are strongly associated with lowering your odds of developing diabetes. But a recent study suggests that together, such factors are additive and can significantly reduce your diabetes risk. The study, in the Sept. 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the aforementioned lifestyle changes, as well as not smoking, using alcohol in moderation and maintaining an optimal body weight, all had a dramatic impact on diabetes risk. Researchers found that each additional lifestyle factor was associated with an additional 31 percent lower risk for diabetes among men and a 39 percent lower risk among women. The study involved nearly 115,000 men and about 92,000 women. Researchers say that with every heart-healthy step you take, you reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
NO LINK FOUND BETWEEN MENOPAUSE AND FATAL HEART ATTACK RISK
A recent study contradicts a long-held belief that women face a significant spike in cardiovascular death risk after menopause. The research, published in the Sept. 1 issue of the British Medical Journal, found that there is no great shift toward higher fatal heart attack rates after menopause. The thinking had been that the reduction in estrogen in post-menopausal women removed some form of cardiovascular protection in women after menopause. But researchers believe that the reason more women have serious heart attacks after menopause may be due to the simple realities of aging—that the heart and arteries are getting older, just like other organs and tissues in the body. Researchers suggest that special attention should be paid to heart health in women throughout their lives and not just after menopause.
APPLES AND PEARS MAY HELP PROTECT AGAINST STROKE
There may be more truth in the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” than we ever imagined. A Dutch study published in the Sept. 15 online edition of the journal Stroke found that consuming apples and pears may help lower your stroke risk. Researchers believe the white flesh of such fruits contains a phytochemical called quercetin that may help protect against stroke. Researchers also noted, however, that it’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables because different colored foods, such as green leafy vegetables and orange citrus fruits, also contain other important phytochemicals and flavonoids. Other physicians familiar with the study noted that one reason for the stroke risk reduction could be due to a generally healthier lifestyle among people who eat apples and other fruits on a regular basis.
EXPOSURE TO AIR POLLUTION MAY ACCELERATE HEART ATTACKS
A study published in the Sept. 10 online issue of BMJ found that exposure to air pollution is associated with a higher risk of heart attacks within one to six hours of exposure. But researchers also noted that these were heart attacks that were likely to occur anyway, based on the patients’ health profiles in the study. While the exact link between air pollution and heart health hasn’t been determined, scientists believe that heavy air pollution increases inflammation in the body, which can contribute to heart attacks. The research reinforces the importance of limiting exposure to car exhaust and other pollution, especially if you are at risk for a heart attack.