Heart Beat December 2013 Issue

Heart Beat: December 2013

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that unhealthy lifestyle traits such as smoking and obesity should be treated as aggressively as other heart disease risk factors, such as hypertension and high cholesterol. In a report published in the journal Circulation, an AHA panel notes that the key for individuals and their doctors is to focus on prevention, and not just treatment of a condition that has already developed. The challenge is that some of these unhealthy behaviors can’t be measured in the same way as blood pressure. “We’re talking about a paradigm shift from only treating biomarkers—physical indicators of a person’s risk for heart disease—to helping people change unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, unhealthy body weight, poor diet quality and lack of physical activity,” says Bonnie Spring, PhD, lead author of the AHA statement and a professor of preventive medicine and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University.

Stents to help keep narrowed arteries open are sometimes coated with a medication that helps prevent the growth of smooth muscle over the mesh stent. The placement of a stent in a blood vessel triggers this muscle growth, and without the medication, the artery’s walls may thicken, thus narrowing the passageway for blood again. But these types of drugs don’t always prevent another problem—the formation of blood clots inside the blood vessel with the stent. That’s because the medication on the stent can also interfere with the healthy repair of the lining of the blood vessel, called the endothelium. But a new compound, called a CTP synthase inhibitor, may help solve that problem. In animal studies, published in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, the experimental compound successfully blocked the growth of smooth muscle without interfering with the repair of the endothelium. Researchers are hopeful that one day, the CTP synthase inhibitor will be available for human trials.

A recent analysis of 13 studies involving more than 130,000 people found that individuals who exercise at least four hours a week in their leisure time have a 19-percent lower risk of high blood pressure, compared with those who don’t exercise much. The results of the research were published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. Three hours of leisure-time exercise equated to an 11-percent reduction in hypertension risk. Interestingly, people who are physically active as part of their jobs did not experience a reduced risk of high blood pressure. Leisure-time exercise, which may include brisk walking or jogging, tennis and other activities, may help keep off extra pounds and improve blood flow, thus helping to keep blood pressure from climbing. Researchers noted that four or more hours of exercise a week won’t prevent hypertension, and that physical activity needs to be accompanied by a healthy diet, adequate sleep and medication adherence.

Research investigating the heart risks associated with calcium supplementation has turned up a mixed bag of results, with some studies showing high calcium intake leads to a higher heart attack risk, while other studies find a much weaker association. But at the recent American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) 2013 Annual Meeting, two new studies were presented, both of which supported the belief that calcium supplementation did not confer a higher heart attack risk. One study focused solely on men, a group that is often underrepresented in calcium studies, and it showed no relationship between calcium intake and cardiovascular mortality. The other study was an update on similar research on women and calcium intake, and it reached similar conclusions. Researchers did stress that reaching daily caclium intake goals should be done through diet as much as possible, and that supplementation shouldn’t go over recommended guidelines. In 2010, the ASBMR established that daily calcium intake through diet and supplements, if needed, shouldn’t exceed 1,000 to 1,200 mg, unless otherwise directed by a physician.


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