Heart Beat January 2012 Issue

Heart Beat: January 2012

PROFESSIONAL DENTAL CLEANINGS MAY REDUCE HEART RISKS
Regular teeth cleanings by a dentist or dental hygienist can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in November, 2011. The study included more than 100,000 adults, none of whom had a history of heart attack or stroke at the start of the study. Half of the participants had regular dental cleanings (at least twice in two years) and about half had a professional teeth cleaning one time or not at all in two years. After following the study participants for seven-years, researchers found that those participants who had the dental cleanings had a 24-percent lower risk of heart attack and 13 percent lower risk of stroke than those without that level of dental attention. Researchers believe that professional teeth cleaning reduces inflammation-causing bacterial growth that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

TREATING CARDIAC RISK FACTORS MAY HELP WITH ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION
Lifestyle modifications and the use of statins to treat high cholesterol may help men struggling with erectile dysfunction (ED). An analysis of six studies involving more than 700 men, published in the Sept. 12, 2011 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, found that improvement of cardiovascular risk factors was associated with a statistically significant improvement in sexual function. The improvement was true for men taking ED medications and those not using such drugs, though the improvements were more significant among patients using ED medications. ED shares several modifiable risk factors with atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, smoking, obesity and metabolic syndrome. Researchers found that men who use ED medications, and who take statins to help lower their LDL cholesterol levels, also experience a greater response to their ED drugs.

PNEUMONIA THE MOST COMMON INFECTION AFTER HEART SURGERY
A study of more than 5,000 heart surgery patients found that the most common infection after the operation is pneumonia, and not a deep infection at the site of the incision. The research, presented at the November 2011 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, also found that most infections occur about two weeks after surgery, not one week as previously thought. Researchers found that 42 percent of all major infections occurred after hospital discharge. Several risk factors appeared to raise the risk of developing infection, including congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic lung disease, corticosteroid use prior to surgery, length of stay in the hospital and length of cardiopulmonary bypass time. If you have the opportunity, talk with your doctor about precautions you can take to prevent pneumonia and other infections, as well as what steps the medical team will take to help ensure your safety.

EXERCISE IMPROVES WALKING ABILITY MORE THAN STENTS FOR PAD PATIENTS
A supervised exercise program, along with optimal medical care, can improve walking performance better than stent revascularization in patients with proximal peripheral artery disease (PAD). Proximal PAD refers to blockages in arteries near the abdomen, as opposed to distal PAD, which refers to narrowed arteries in the legs and feet. A study published online Nov. 16, 2011 in the journal Circulation found that patients who walked for at least one hour, three times a week, for 26 weeks, performed better on a treadmill walking test than patients who underwent stenting to open up narrowed arteries. Patients also took the antiplatelet medication cilostazol (Pletal).

CHOCOLATE LINKED TO LOWER STROKE RISK
Your risk of stroke may be reduced if you indulge your love of chocolate, according to a Swedish study published in the Oct. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In recent years, chocolate has been shown to have antioxidant properties that, among other benefits, can help suppress the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Dark chocolate, which has more antioxidants than other types of chocolate, is also linked to lower blood pressure. Researchers note that dark chocolate is the preferred variety, because it usually has less sugar and more antioxidants.