Heart Beat: May 2015
Including more veggies, less meat in your diet may lower heart risks
You don’t necessarily have to go 100-percent vegetarian with your diet to see substantially lower risks of dying from heart disease or stroke, according to a large European study presented at a recent American Heart Association conference on prevention and healthy lifestyles. Researchers found that a diet that inluded a higher proportion of plant-based foods compared to animal-based foods lowered the risk of death from heart disease or stroke by about 20 percent. A “pro-vegetarian” diet doesn’t focus on specific nutrients, but instead seeks to obtain a more nutritionally balanced eating plan by consuming more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less meat. Researchers suggested that rather than avoid meat altogether, non-vegetarians might compromise by substituting vegetables for meat at more meals. Explore options such as vegetarian chili, as a way of reducing the meat in your diet. If you do include meat in your regular eating plan, be sure to pick the leanest cuts of beef, and eat chicken without the skin. Also, work more fish into your diet as a healthy alternative to beef or pork.
Stress, depression combine to raise serious risk for heart patients
High levels of stress and deep depression may raise a heart patient’s risk of heart attack or death by 48 percent, according to a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Researchers describe the combination of depression and stress as a “psychosocial perfect storm,” and suggest that behavior interventions should be considered to help heart patients manage these conditions. Many previous studies have focused on how depression or stress individually affect heart health. But this study highlights the very serious impact depression can have when it is coupled with stress. It’s not uncommon for heart patients to deal with conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress. But unless physicians specifically ask about a patient’s emotional outlook, these conditions often go untreated. It’s important to share feelings of hopelessness, worry or stress with your doctor, and discuss ways to reduce these potentially harmful conditions. Your doctor may recommend that you see a mental health specialist. Be open to the idea of getting assistance in managing the emotional challenges that come with heart disease.
Vitamin D good for bones, not so much for blood pressure control
Vitamin D supplementation can be helpful for individuals at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. It also plays an important role in supporting healthy cell growth and muscle function, while also boosting the immune system and helping to reduce inflammation. But a study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that vitamin D supplementation is ineffective for lowering blood pressure. Research published five years ago suggested that vitamin D may play a small role in blood pressure control. But this most recent analysis of dozens of clinical trials finds that vitamin D has no significant effect on blood pressure. The researchers noted, however, that healthy vitamin D levels may contribute to cardiovascular health in ways other than blood pressure. These include the health of your artery walls and how well your blood clots.
Long-term weight loss may help reduce atrial fibrillation episodes
In a study of more than 300 overweight people with atrial fibrillation (afib), researchers found that a program of healthy eating and exercise led to sustained weight loss and a reduction in afib episodes. The study, published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that participants who lost at least 10 percent of their weight experienced a significantly greater decrease in afib episodes compared to study participants who lost less than three percent of their weight. Researchers also noted that individuals whose weight fluctuated at least six percent during the year-long study were about twice as likely to experience afib reoccurence. While afib can develop in a person regardless of weight, this study suggests that overweight and obese afib patients who can lose weight and keep it off may help control their heart rhythm problem.