Heart Beat July 2012 Issue

Heart Beat: July 2012

LEISURE-TIME EXERCISE REDUCES CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE MORTALITY

Increasing your physical activity during leisure time may help significantly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to an Italian study presented in May at the European Meeting of Hypertension and Cardiovascular Protection. Study subjects who spent most of their leisure time in sedentary activities, such as reading or watching TV, were three times more likely to develop CVD as those who spent more of their time (about 60 minutes a day, five days a week) in moderate to intense physical activity, such as running, swimming, heavy gardening. Researchers say the study underscores the importance of increasing the amount of physical activity you engage in during the week, and reducing the amount of time you spend in sedentary activities.

BIODEGRADABLE STENTS MAY BE SAFE FOR LONG-TERM TREATMENT

The first fully biodegradable coronary artery stent proved to be safe in humans, according to a 10-year study, published online April 16 in the journal Circulation. Currently, biodegradable stents are used only in leg arteries to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD). It’s not yet approved for patients in the U.S., though it is used in nine European Union countries to treat PAD. No countries have approved the stent, which was developed by Japanese researchers, for use in coronary arteries. Unlike metal stents that carry the risk of in-stent blood clots forming, biodegradable stents that dissolve over a period of a couple of years carry a much lower risk of new clots forming in that artery.

TAKING VITAMIN D IN WINTER MAY LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

When the weather starts to turn cold this winter, think about taking vitamin D supplements (or boosting your current supplement dose) to help lower your blood pressure if you have vitamin D insufficiency. A small study presented at the European Meeting of Hypertension and Cardiovascular Protection in May found that vitamin D-deficient patients who took vitamin D supplements for 20 weeks saw improvements in their systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Reductions in vitamin D levels are common in the winter, as people tend to get significantly less sunlight exposure, which is one of the main ways individuals boost the amount of vitamin D in their bodies. Vitamin D levels can be checked with a simple blood test. You should discuss with your doctor whether you need a supplement, as your winter-time levels may be fine without any help.

YOUR STROKE RISK IS HIGHER IF SIBLING HAD A STROKE

If your brother or sister had a stroke your risk of having one also is significantly higher. A study reported in the April 10 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, found that your odds of having a stroke are 60 percent higher if you have a sibling who had a stroke. This research underscores the importance of sharing family stroke history with your doctor and paying close attention to other stroke risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet. Researchers noted that while genetics may play a huge role in stroke risk, part of the explanation for this study’s findings may be due to a similarity in lifestyles among family members.

TESTOSTERONE SUPPLEMENTS MAY HELP HEART FAILURE PATIENTS

Heart failure patients, who find it difficult to exercise and often struggle with a shortness of breath, may find relief by taking testosterone supplements, according to research published in the April issue of the journal Circulation. Studies found that testosterone supplements helped individuals with stable heart failure breathe better and exercise more. Exercise capacity increased, which allowed the patients to exercise longer and with greater intensity. Researchers also found that none of the men in the study developed signs of prostate disease or cardiovascular events. A large clinical trial on the use of testosterone therapy is still needed, but researchers are encouraged that testosterone supplements may one day be among the most common therapies for patients diagnosed with heart failure. While this is not a signal to go out and buy supplements, it may be time to consult with your physician about testosterone therapy and whether you’d be a good candidate.