Heart Beat: February 2014
National Committee Relaxes Blood Pressure Targets
The long-awaited Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC-8) guidelines on the management of adult hypertension were released at the end of 2013, and they contained some signficant changes from previous guidelines. For example, adults age 60 and older should be treated to get their blood pressure levels down to 150/90 mm Hg or lower. Individuals younger than 60 should strive for a target blood pressure of 140/90 or lower. Thatís the same target for patients 18 years or older who have chronic kidney disease or diabetes. The JNC-8 guidelines also addressed racial differences in blood pressure treatment. For nonblack patients with hypertension, initial treatment should be a thiazide-type diuretic, a calcium channel blocker (CCB), an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB). Patients from the general black population should have a thiazide-type diuretic or a CCB. Adults with chronic kidney disease should include an ACE inhibitor or ARB as part of their treatment, according to the guidelines. The authors of the guidelines stress that if a patient is doing well and is below those target levels, there is no reason to change the treatment plan. One of the reasons why the changes were made was that many patients were taking multiple medications to try to meet lower targets, without solid evidence that those lower numbers save lives.
Too Much Black Licorice May Trigger Abnormal Heart Rhythms
If your Valentineís Day treats include some black licorice, remember to approach all the chewy goodness with moderation. Research shows that if you consume multiple two-ounce bags of black licorice daily, you may be raising your risk of an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Researchers found that black licorice has a naturally occurring ingredient called glycyrrhizin that causes the kidneys to release potassium from the body. However, a deficiency in potassium can lead to arrhythmis and other heart-related problems. Potassium is a mineral that is essential for healthy and normal heart activity. If you have been eating black licorice and find yourself feeling an abnormal heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating the black licorice and contact your health care provider.
Greater Anxiety Levels Linked to Higher Stroke Risk
The more you experience anxiety in your life, the more likely you are to have a stroke, according to recent research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.Researchers linked anxiety and stroke independent of other variables, such as depression. The 22-year study included more than 6,000 participants, who responded to regular blood tests, physical exams, questionnaires to gauge anxiety and depression, and other screenings. Researchers acknowledged that everyone has feelings of worry and anxiety. But they suggest that chronic anxiety or elevated levels of anxiety over time may be dangerous to the bodyís vasculature. A higher heart rate and blood pressure may also explain the strong anxiety-stroke link. People with anxiety also tend to be more likely to smoke and be sedentary. All of these factors may contribute to an anxious personís greater stroke risk. Anxiety is characterized by feelings of unusal worry, tension, stress or nervousness.
Study Shows Heart Safe with Common Smoking Cessation Therapies
Three widely used therapies used by smokers to quit cigarettes were found to pose no threat to heart health. The three therapies in the study included nicotine replacement gum and patches, nicotine addiction treatment varenicline (Chantix), and the antidepressant bupropion (Zyban). Results of the study were published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Researchers found that nicotine replacement products were sometimes associated with abnormal or faster heart rhythms, but that rhythm changes were usually the result of people continuing to smoke while also using the products. Bupropion was shown to actually protect users against heart attacks. Researchers say their findings should ease any concerns of smokers that cessation therapies might be risky. Instead they stress the significant heart-healthy benefits of quitting smoking.