Heart Beat: August 2012
HEART PALPITATIONS MAY PREDICT ONSET OF ATRIAL FIBRILLATION
While hypertension remains one of the strongest risk factors for atrial fibrillation (AF), palpitations also appear be a strong predictor for AF, too, according a study reported in a recent issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Researchers found that men who experienced “frequent” palpitations faced a 91 percent greater risk of AF and women a 62 percent higher risk than those who did not have palpitations. The study also reaffirmed hypertension as a major risk factor for AF for men and women. Researchers say their findings emphasize the importance of greater blood pressure control, as well as the need to take palpitations seriously and have patients who experience palpitations undergo prolonged electrocardiogram monitoring. If you experience palpitations, you should report them to your doctor, explaining how often you have them, what you’re doing when they start, how long they last and what, if anything, helps them subside.
STUDY HELPS MAKE A CASE FOR SMOKING-CESSATION DRUG
After the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) last year published a report suggesting that the smoking-cessation drug varenicline (Chantix) was associated with a higher “risk of adverse cardiovascular events,” various researchers questioned the way the CMAJ study was conducted. Now, a study published May 4, 2012 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) finds that there is “no clinically or statistically significant increase in serious adverse cardiovascular events associated with using varenicline.” Researchers analyzed the findings of 22 trials involving more than 9,200 participants, and determined that the difference in risk between those on varenicline and those on placebo was 0.27 percent or about one quarter of one percent. They believe the conclusion of the CMAJ study was inconsistent with the small differences within the trials analyzed. Though it can have other potentially serious side effects, varenicline has been seen as a breakthrough in smoking cessation treatment by many smokers who struggled to quit before trying the drug. If you are trying to quit smoking, talk about varenicline with your doctor to see if it’s the right option for you.
BENEFITS OF GASTRIC BYPASS LINGER YEARS AFTER SURGERY
Obese individuals who undergo gastric bypass surgery may experience reduced levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, c-reactive protein and eight other risk factors for at least seven years after the procedure, according to a study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) in June. Researchers say the study is the first to examine the gastric bypass surgery’s sustained cardiac benefits across so many risk factors. Gastric bypass surgery is a two-part operation. The first part involves the stapling the stomach so it is separated into a smaller upper section called the “pouch” and the larger lower section, which will not receive food you are eating. The second part of the procedure involves the connection of a section of small intestine to the pouch. Because food particles will go directly from the stomach to the small intestine, fewer calories will be absorbed. With a smaller stomach area and the direct route to the small intestines, gastric bypass patients should start to lose weight soon after the operation. Older adults may be eligible for the surgery, but your doctor could tell you whether you would be a good candidate. The study found that one in four patients who were on statins prior to the surgery were able to discontinue them because of improved cholesterol levels.
DIET PLUS EXERCISE IS MOST EFFECTIVE IN REDUCING CARDIOMETABOLIC RISK
Obese, older adults can reduce their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by losing weight through diet alone. But they’ll see even greater benefits if they add exercise to their weekly routine. A study presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in June noted that diet-induced weight loss and frequent exercise nearly doubled the improvement of insulin sensitivity compared with just dieting alone. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood glucose, large waist circumference, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. Improving insulin sensitivity helps the body reduce glucose levels in the bloodstream.