Heart Beat April 2011 Issue

Heart Beat: April 2011


Middle-aged women could significantly reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease just by lowering their blood pressure, according to a report in the January issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers found that high systolic blood pressure is a "powerful" risk factor for cardiovascular complications in middle-aged and older women. The proportion of potentially reversible and preventable heart disease is about 36 percent in women, but only 24 percent in men, as measured by a 24-hour systolic blood pressure-monitoring device. The study, which included investigators in 11 countries, followed more than 9,000 adults for more than 11 years. Of the risk factors including high systolic pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, high systolic pressure was considered the most important. Researchers found that women who lowered their systolic pressure by 15 mm Hg, experienced an increased benefit in quality of life, and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by around 40 percent. Hypertension remains a health care challenge, even as statistics show a decrease in cardiovascular events and cardiovascular-related mortality. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented a report in February noting a decline in heart disease mortality and a noticeable drop in the percentage of patients with high levels of LDL cholesterol. But the prevalence of high blood pressure, particularly among older adults, continues to climb, the report said.


A recent study found that obesity, independent of other cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking, is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) death. Study results, published online Feb. 14 in the journal Heart, found that men with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above have a 60 percent increased risk for fatal CHD events. Researchers used data collected in the large West of Scotland Prevention Study. BMI is determined using a formula that includes your height and weight. Researchers suggested that, in the absence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other traditional risk factors, obesity could contribute to higher levels of inflammation in the body, which could, over time, damage the heart. They also suggested that obesity may lead to structural changes in the heart itself and raise the risk of dangerous arrhythmias.


Studies continue to show that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are associated with cardiovascular risks and should be used with care. A new multi-year analysis of 31 trials and more than 116,000 patients taking naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil), diclofenac (Votaren), celecoxib (Celebrex), etoricoxib (Arcoxia), lumiracoxib (Prexige) and rofecoxib (Vioxx) was published online Jan. 11 in BMJ (British Medical Journal). Researchers found an increase in heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death in patients taking all of these NSAIDs. Rofecoxib was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after other studies raised concerns about cardiotoxicity. Of all the drugs studied, naproxen appeared to be the least harmful, though researchers suggested that physicians use care in recommending any NSAID to a patient considered at high or even moderate risk of cardiovascular events.


You may think youíre making a smart heart-health choice by opting for diet soda instead of the sugary alternative, but new research indicates that even diet sodas may pose a particular risk for cardiovascular events. A study presented at the 2011 American Stroke Associationís Stroke Conference in February found that diet soda drinkers were at a significantly higher risk for stroke and heart attack than people who didnít drink any type of soda at all. High sodium content in diet sodas was largely to blame for the heightened risk, according to the research team, based at the University of Miami. Researchers said that diet sodas and other foods high in sodium should be avoided or consumed in limited amounts, particularly by people who have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors.