Heart Beat November 2015 Issue

Heart Beat: November 2015

Study: Ablation Helps Keep Atrial Fibrillation Patients Symptom Free

An analysis of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) found some encouraging news for those considering surgical ablation. Research published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery found that about 80 percent of AF patients treated with surgical ablation were free from the abnormal heart rhythm (or arrhythmia), though some individuals continued to need antiarrhythmic drugs to help prevent symptoms. But nearly two-thirds of AF patients no longer need antiarrhythmic medications to be symptom free. The ablation procedure evaluated in the analysis was the Cox-Maze IV procedure. In the original Cox-Maze procedure, doctors made small incisions in the heart to create a “maze” of scar tissue that blocked the erratic electrical impulses in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) and restored a normal heartbeat. The procedure has been modifed, so that now, the Cox-Maze IV procedure uses radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation to deaden tiny sections of heart tissue instead of small incisions to create scars. If you have AF, the electrical activity that normally helps the heart beat in a steady rhythm becomes irregular. As a result, the atria quiver and move in an inconsistent manner. Blood is no longer pumped efficiently throughout the heart and out to the arteries, so clots can form. AF is a major risk factor for stroke, because a clot that forms in the heart due to the arrhythmia can break loose and become lodged in an artery of the brain or in a carotid artery that supplies blood to the brain. The Cox-Maze procedure is usually recommended when other interventions to control AF have failed. While there is no guarantee that this minimally invasive surgery will terminate the arrhythmia, you should talk with your doctor about whether you are a good candidate for the procedure.

Southern-Style Cooking May Raise Your Heart Attack Risk

A traditional Southern diet­—one that includes foods such as fried chicken, gravy-smothered liver, buttered rolls, sugar-sweetened drinks and processed meats, such as bacon and ham—may satisfy your taste buds, but it’s not what your heart would want on the menu. A new study says individuals who regularly follow a Southern dietary pattern face a 58 percent higher risk of heart disease, compared to those who don’t eat that way very often. In the nearly six-year study, researchers found that no other dietary pattern was associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Previous studies have also linked a Southern diet with a greater stroke risk. Researchers, who published their findings in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, recommend that if you tend to follow a Southern diet, start to make gradual changes to your eating style. Substitute grilled or baked chicken for fried chicken. Eat more plant-based foods, and reduce your intake of sodium, saturated fats, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

High Triglycerides, LDL May Interfere with Vitamin E Absorption

A small study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides may help keep vitamin E in the bloodstream, rather than being absorbed into tissue that needs it. The study also suggests that measuring only blood levels of vitamin E may present a distorted picture of an individual’s true vitamin E level. The researchers also suggest that previous methods of estimating vitamin E levels in tissue were flawed. Vitamin E is important in preserving the health of your cells, certain organs, and immune system. Vitamin E that circulates in the bloodstream protects LDL and HDL cholesterol molecules from oxidation, but if it’s not reaching tissue throughout the body, a person’s health may suffer. The researchers suggest that you talk with your healthcare provider about whether a vitamin E supplement would be helpful or whether your diet contains adequate amounts of vitamin E. Good food sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts (especially almonds, though peanuts and hazelnuts are also good sources), and green vegetables, including spinach and broccoli. Vitamin E is often added to breakfast cereals, juices and other products. Most adults should try to consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily. An ounce of almonds has between six and seven milligrams. The findings should also serve as yet another reason to get your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides under control.

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