Heart Beat: October 2015
Insufficient sleep may raise your nighttime blood pressure
Getting too few hours of sleep a night can affect your mood, energy level, and, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology conference earlier this year, it can also raise your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression. In the study, partcipants had their blood pressure monitored throughout the 16-day trial. The results showed that the study participants who got only four hours of sleep a night had an average nighttime blood pressure of 115/64 mmHg, compared to 105/57 mmHg for the subjects who received nine hours of sleep each night. Nighttime heart rates also increased among the group who slept only four hours each night. In this study, the participants were healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 36. But researchers suggest that for older people who already have high blood pressure, this nighttime surge should be a real concern. If you have hypertension, even if it’s generally well-controlled with medications and lifestyle, you should take note of how many hours of sleep you get each night. If you consistently get less than seven hours of sleep per night, you should tell your doctor. This is true even if you don’t have high blood pressure. There may be causes, such as obstructive sleep apnea, that are interfering with your sleep. It may be that you simply need to adjust your bedtime routine, go to sleep earlier, avoid caffeine, or exercise more to help you sleep better. Knowing that poor sleep raises your blood pressure at night should also prompt a conversation with your doctor to determine whether you should adjust the time you take your blood pressure-lowering medications.
Another study reinforces chocolate’s heart-friendly benefits
The idea that chocolate consumption is good for the heart has been around for several years. Multiple studies have found that small amounts of dark chocolate or cocoa may help lower the risk of heart disease. Most recently, a study out of the United Kingdom echoes those same findings. An analysis of more than 155,000 participants found that those who ate the most chocolate had an 11 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cardiovascular related death, compared with those who ate no chocolate. The highest-consumption group also had a 23 percent lower risk of stroke. The study findings, published in the journal Heart, were interesting because the group that ate the most chocolate ate both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The researchers suggest that the heart-healthy benefits of chocolate may include more than just the flavonoids in dark chocolate. They may include other compounds, possibly related to the milk constituents in milk chocolate, such as calcium and certain fatty acids. Another intriguing result was that the non-chocolate-eating group had the highest mean body mass index and the highest percent of participants with diabetes, as well as the highest percentage of participants who were the most inactive. Participants who consumed the most chocolate also tended to have less energy intake from protein and alcohol, and more from fats and carbohydrates. Researchers were quick to point out that there is still no clearcut cause-and-effect explanation for how chocolate may protect the heart. But they do suggest that in moderation, and with an understanding that chocolate can be high in sugar and calories, chocolate may have a place in a heart-healthy diet.
FDA approves third-generation sapien transcatheter heart valve
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the third-generation Sapien transcatheter heart valve to treat patients with aortic stenosis. The valve, produced by Edwards Lifesciences, can be delivered to the heart with a catheter and can replace an aortic valve that has become too stiff to open sufficiently and allow blood to leave the heart and enter the aorta. Researchers say this latest valve improves upon the previous Sapien transcatheter aortic valves in several ways. For example, the new valves contain a different outer material that is designed to better reduce paravalvular leakage. Paravalvular leakage refers to a small leak between the upper and lower chambers of the heart just outside the valve. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement is for patients who are unable to undergo open aortic valve replacement surgery or are considered high risk for surgery.