Heart Beat June 2011 Issue

Heart Beat: June 2011

NON-CARDIAC SURGERY PATIENTS NEED HEART ATTACK MONITORING

Patients who undergo non-cardiac surgery can be at a heightened risk for heart attacks in the first few days after their operations, but careful monitoring can reduce those patientsí short-term mortality risks. Those are the recommendations from a study published in the April 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers noted that about 200 million adults have surgery every year around the world, and that aggressive monitoring of those patients could help significantly cut the mortality rate among this patient group. Of particular concern are the asymptomatic heart attacks in the days immediately after surgery. Patients may be especially susceptible because they are often still on heavy medications that may blunt the pain and other symptoms typically associated with a heart attack. Surgery contributes in several ways to conditions that can trigger heart attacks, such as inflammation and the activation of coagulation and platelets. Researchers suggested that careful attention should be paid to factors such as perioperative blood pressure control and statin and aspirin therapies.

ANTIOXIDANTS IN PECANS MAY HELP PROTECT THE HEART

Pecans may hold a key to better heart health and disease prevention, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers found that pecans contain different forms of the antioxidant vitamin E, that help lower the levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the bloodstream by as much as 33 percent. LDL is associated with inflammation in the arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular problems. The study found that a pecan-enriched diet lowered total cholesterol levels by 11.3 percent. Keep in mind, though, that one ounce of pecans (about 20 pecan halves) contains about 195 calories, so use moderation when snacking on them or using them in a salad or other dish.

LIVING AT A HIGH ALTITUDE MAY REDUCE HEART DISEASE RISK

People living at high altitudes may have lower chance of dying from ischemic heart disease, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Researchers believe that the lower oxygen levels at altitude trigger the activity of certain genes that affect heart muscle function. The genes may also help the body produce new blood vessels to increase the number of pathways for blood to reach the heart. However, researchers also noted that living above 4,900 feet was detrimental to those suffering from chronic pulmonary disease. Individuals with impaired breathing and gas exchange may develop or worsen pulmonary hypertension or hypoxia, a condition in which the body or part of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.

COMBINATION ACE INHIBITOR THERAPY COULD HARM KIDNEY HEALTH

Elderly patients prescribed combination angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) had a higher risk of kidney failure and death according to a study published March 21 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The study included 32,312 participants, age 65 and older, and sought to determine the safety of combination therapy of ACE inhibitors and ARBs in the clinical setting, as some randomized trials indicate an increased risk of kidney failure. Randomized trials may over or underestimate the risk of adverse events, possibly because of inclusion of healthier patients, using higher drug doses, and increased monitoring for early side effects. Researchers compared patients receiving both drugs together with patients who received only one of the drugs. They found a higher risk of adverse events such as high creatinine levels, end-stage renal disease and death in people taking combination therapy.

VITAMIN D LEVELS LINKED WITH VASCULAR HEALTH

Low levels of vitamin D, even in generally healthy people, is linked with stiffer blood vessels and an inability of blood vessels to relax, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in April. The study of 544 participants also found that those individuals who increased their vitamin D levels improved their vascular health and helped lower their blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about your vitamin D levels and whether you should be taking a supplement.