Heart Beat: November 2012
SLEEP APNEA RAISE CARDIOVASCULAR MORTALITY RISK IN OLDER ADULTS
If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can significantly raise the risk of cardiovascular mortality—especially from stroke and heart failure—in older adults. However, the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can greatly reduce the risk. Those are the findings of a large observational study published recently in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The link between OSA and cardiovascular mortality has been well established in younger patients, but the extent of the risk hadn’t been as well documented in older adults. This study involved 939 patients with OSA, age 65 and older. CPAP use of at least four hours a night was considered good adherence. If you’ve tried CPAP in the past and not been happy with the results or the equipment, talk with your doctor about new, more comfortable masks that work better for you. If you’re unsure if you have OSA, ask your partner if you gasp or snore at night or tell your doctor if you fall asleep easily during the day.
A LITTLE CHOCOLATE MAY HELP CUT THE RISK OF STROKE IN MEN
Eating just a few bites of chocolate each week was associated with a lower risk of stroke, according to a study of more than 37,000 men, published recently in the online edition of the journal Neurology. The Swedish study found that men who consumed the equivalent of a third of a cup of chocolate chips per week had a lower risk of stroke than men who ate no chocolate. Those eating the highest amount of chocolate had a 17-percent lower stroke risk than men who consumed no chocolate. Researchers believe the protective benefit may stem from the flavonoids in chocolate that have antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, while dark chocolate has been seen as having the highest health benefits, researchers noted that the vast majority of chocolate consumed during the study was milk chocolate. Obviously, because chocolate contains sugar and calories, it must consumed in moderation, as to not contribute to weight gain or higher blood glucose levels, which could raise the risk of diabetes.
PAINKILLERS SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH CAUTION AFTER HEART ATTACK
The long-term risk of dying or having a second heart attack may be much higher among heart attack survivors who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen and prescription drugs such as Celebrex (celecoxib). A study published in a recent edition of the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that the risk of dying from any cause within one year of a first heart attack was 59 percent higher in survivors who took NSAIDs, and 63 percent higher after five years, compared with survivors who took no NSAIDs. The risk of having a second heart attack was 30 percent higher after one year and 41 percent higher after five years. There appeared to be no difference in risk among men and women. Researchers say the findings should have doctors re-evaluating their treatment of heart attack survivors and should result in limited use of over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs in this group of patients. Alternative pain management methods should be investigated by patients and their physicians.
STUDIES SHOW BLOOD PRESSURE-LOWERING PROPERTIES OF SOME FOODS
In studies presented recently at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions, foods such as low-fat yogurt, sesame/rice-bran oils, and low-calorie cranberry juice were associated with keeping blood pressure down. Rice-bran oil was also shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and boost HDL cholesterol. Researchers noted that the findings reinforce the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which focus on fruits, vegetables, oils containing unsaturated fats, and other low-fat foods. The cranberry juice study, though small, reaffirmed the health benefits of cranberries, which are rich in potassium and antioxidants. Yogurt can be an effective way to get dairy and its benefits, such as calcium, into your diet. But yogurt is often sold with added sweeteners, so read labels carefully and consider adding fresh fruit to unsweetened yogurt.