Heart Beat: March 2014
Ace Inhibitors or Arbs May help Lower Atrial Fibrillation Risk
The use of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) was associated with a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) in patients with high blood pressure, according to a large study published recently in the European Heart Journal. The study, which included more than 48,000 hypertensive patients. found that compared with other anti-hypertensive medications, such as beta blockers and diuretics, ACE inhibitors and ARBs were especially beneficial. Patients in the study used only one type of anti-hypertensive medication. The patients were also free of conditions such as heart failure, ischemic heart disease and diabetes. Those conditions predispose a person to AF. Because the study was a retrospective analysis of patient records, researchers said they couldn’t confirm that ACE inhibitors and ARBs actively protected against AF. Previous studies that explored whether the two drug classes actually affected AF risk have shown mixed results. AF is a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat out of synchronization with the lower chambers.
Study Underscores Heart-Healthy Benefits of Moderate Weight Loss
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that modest weight loss during a two-year period helped overweight or obese women reduce their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. In the study, women who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight improved in almost every measure of their cardiometabolic health risks, including LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, glucose and inflammation markers. Women who had the highest risks at the start of the study experienced their greatest benefits from weight loss. The key, researchers, said, was to sustain the weight loss over a long period of time. Individuals who actively try to lose weight often see positive results in the first six months, before rebounding and putting the weight back on in subsequent months. Women who can keep the weight off for at least two years are more likely to see longer-term health benefits and may be more likely to be engaged in healthier habits. Menopause can be a significant contributor to weight gain and an obstacle in taking weight off. People looking for assistance in weight loss are encouraged to talk with their doctors about gaining the help of dietitians, who can help create meal plans based on the health concerns of an individual.
A Handful of Nuts a Day May Add Years to Your Life
People who eat about an ounce of nuts a day face a 20-percent lower risk of dying from any cause during a 30-year period than those who don’t eat many nuts at all. In a three-decade study of about 119,000 Americans, researchers found that regular nut consumption was associated with a 29-percent lower risk of dying of heart disease and an 11-percent lower risk of dying of cancer. Researchers, who published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, also noted that individuals who eat nuts on a regular basis also tend to be slimmer, eat more fruits and vegetables, and be non-smokers. The type of nut eaten had little effect on the results, as Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts were all associated with healthy outcomes. Individuals, especially those with high blood pressure or hypertension risk factors, should avoid salted nuts, however, and instead eat nuts without salt or other flavorings.
Type of Carotid Artery Stents Makes Little Difference in Outcomes
Researchers found similar low rates of patient complications and death among the three most commonly used stents to restore blood flow in the carotid arteries. The findings, published in JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, suggest that doctors should use their best judgment in selecting a carotid artery stenting system for the patient, based on the vascular anatomy and other considerations of the individual. Many studies have compared the safety and effectiveness of coronary stents for the heart, but this marks the first such comparison of carotid stents.