Heart Beat April 2012 Issue

Heart Beat: April 2012

MORE DOCTORS ADVISING PATIENTS TO EXERCISE THAN A DECADE AGO
If your physicians are pushing you to get more exercise, they’re not alone. In the past decade, the percentage of doctors advising their patients to become more physically active has grown considerably. Researchers determined that in 2000, about 22 percent of U.S. doctors advised their patients to exercise more. By 2010, that number rose to more than 34 percent. The percentages went up across the board, regardless of the patient’s condition, but in cardiovascular care, for example, the starting percentage was already higher than for other medical concerns. In 2000, about 34 percent of doctors advised patients with high blood pressure to exercise more, with that number climbing to more than 44 percent in 2010. Researchers believe that the increased pressure to exercise largely stems from a rise in obesity levels and a focus by doctors to get their overweight and obese patients started on a path toward sustained weight loss.

YOUR PET MAY BE KEEPING YOUR HEART A LITTLE HEALTHIER
Pet owners with chronic diseases appear to have healthier hearts than similar individuals living without an animal companion. In a study of almost 200 Japanese people, researchers found that those who had pets had greater heart rate variability than those who didn’t. Heart rate variability refers to the heart’s ability to respond to different requirements, such as beating fast during exercise or stressful conditions, and slowing once the stress or activity subsides. The ability to change rates quickly is usually a sign of a healthy heart muscle. The study, published online Jan. 24 in the American Journal of Cardiology, did not indicate exactly why pet owners seem to have greater heart rate variability, though researchers suspect that this study underscores previous research linking pets with stress reduction. Researchers noted that the type of pet had no effect on the results.

COMBINATION PILL APPROVED FOR DIABETES TREATMENT
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a combination pill containing the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor linagliptin and metformin hydrochloride (Jentadueto), for the treatment of adults with type 2 diabetes. This combination pill provides a single-tablet option that is taken twice daily. It may be used alone or in combination with another commonly used diabetes drug, a sulfonylurea. Most patients with diabetes require more than one medication to help get their blood glucose levels in the healthy range. Linaglitpin was approved by the FDA in 2011, either as a stand-alone drug or in combination with other medications.

FITNESS AND WEIGHT LOSS INDEPENDENTLY LINKED TO HEART HEALTH RISKS
Regular exercise that improves your fitness level, but doesn’t lead to much weight loss may still be doing your heart good. Research published in the Feb. 6 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that improving your current fitness level and weight loss are both independently associated with a lower risk of developing hypertension, metabolic syndrome and high cholesterol. Researchers found that while the combination of weight loss and improved fitness should be the goal, each aspect contributes to lower heart risks.

DETAILED FAMILY HISTORY IMPROVES HEART RISK ASSESSMENT
Providing information about your family’s medical history is a key part of determining your risk for certain conditions, particularly heart disease. But now a recent study has actually quantified just how important it is to share a detailed portrait of your family’s cardiovascular history with your physician. The study, published in the Feb. 21 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, found that, compared to practices that just use traditional risk assessment criteria, those that included a systematic collection of family medical data identified an additional five percent of patients as being at high cardiovascular risk. If you’re unsure about your family’s medical history, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health, make an effort to contact other relatives or anyone else you can to find out such things as the ages at which parents or siblings had heart attacks or were diagnosed with heart disease, whether they smoked, at what age they experienced a stroke, and whether they were treated for hypertension and other heart-related conditions.