Heart Beat: June 2012
TAI CHI MAY HELP IMPROVE ARTERIAL HEALTH AND MUSCLE STRENGTH
Older adults who practice Tai Chi demonstrated greater arterial compliance and greater muscle strength than non-practitioners, in a study published online in the April issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Arterial compliance refers to the elasticity of large arteries, such as the thoracic aorta. Previous research has found that arterial stiffness, in which an artery fails to rebound or change in response to pressure changes, is closely associated with cardiovascular disease. Other studies have also shown that Tai Chi practitioners have greater cardiopulmonary function than non-practitioners. Tai Chi is an increasingly popular Chinese mind/body exercise that has become widely recommended among older adults for its gentle, but deliberate motions, and its positive effects on blood pressure, muscle strength, balance, stress reduction and overall health.
BONE MARROW STEM CELLS SHOW PROMISE FOR REPAIRING HEART TISSUE
Stem cells harvested from your own bone marrow and injected into your heart may one day be a cornerstone of heart tissue repair. Encouraging research, presented at the American College of Cardiology conference earlier this year, found that individuals who had their own bone marrow’s stem cells injected into their hearts improved the function of the left ventricle—the heart’s main pumping chamber. The stem cells were harvested from the patients’ hips. Researchers also found that certain types of bone marrow stem cells were associated with the largest improvements in left ventricular function. These particular stem cells should be studied further, the researchers advised. The use of stem cells for heart treatment in a wide clinical setting is still years away, but major clinical trials are ongoing.
CORONARY STENTS NOT HARMFUL TO PATIENTS WITH METAL ALLERGIES
If you have a skin hypersensitivity to nickel or other metal components found in coronary stents, new research suggests that you’re not at an increased risk for a heart attack, restenosis or death if you receive these stents. Stents are placed in the arteries of the heart when blockages in those arteries become so severe, they threaten to cut off or significantly reduce blood flow to the heart muscle. In the study, patients with a history of skin allergies to nickel and other metals, had coronary stents implanted. Their rate of heart attack and death during the next four years was no different when compared to a similar group of stent patients who were not allergic. Patients with skin hypersensitivity also experienced a similar rate of revascularizations (subsequent stent implants in arteries starting to close again) as patients without the allergies. The study was published in the April 16 issue of Circuation: Cardiovascular Interventions.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS PATIENTS FACE RISKS WHEN STATIN USE HALTED
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes if they discontinue their use of statin therapy, according a study published in the April issue of Arthritis Care & Research. RA is a chronic disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and their surrounding tissue. RA patients are already at a higher risk for heart disease than the general population. In the study, statin discontinuation was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease and 79 percent increased risk for death from all causes. If you have been prescribed a statin, you should consult with your doctor if you have side effects or are concerned about taking the medication long term. You should never stop any medication on your own.
EATING LOW- OR NON-FAT DAIRY FOODS MAY LOWER STROKE RISKS
In a large study analyzing stroke risk and the consumption of full-fat and low-fat dairy products, researchers found that individuals who consume only non-fat or low-fat dairy products are about 12 percent less likely to have a stroke, compared to people who eat whole or full-fat dairy goods. High-fat foods contribute to atherosclerosis, a significant risk factor for stroke. Researchers noted that low- and non-fat dairy products contain the same levels of vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients as whole dairy items.