Heart Beat July 2015 Issue

Heart Beat: July 2015


Hip Muscle Strengthening May Help Ease PAin Caused By Pad

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) can make walking even short distances a painful experience. PAD occurs when the smaller arteries in the legs become narrowed, reducing blood flow to muscles and tissue. Poor circulation leads to muscle pain when walking. But a new study presented at the 2015 American Heart Association’s Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology/Peripheral Vascular Disease Scientific Sessions suggests that specific muscle-strengthening exercises can help ease calf pain caused by PAD. Researchers found that individuals with weakness in their hip flexor muscles rely more on their calf muscles when they walk. This puts unnecessary strain on the calf muscles, which are already compromised due to narrowed arteries. Hip flexors are located at the front of the thigh and help lift the legs by pulling up with every step. In the study, PAD patients tended to rely more on their ankle flexors, the muscles in the calves that help push off the ground with each step. When those patients participated in training to strengthen their hip flexors, many of them were able to walk farther without pain. Hip flexor exercises include straight leg lifts while lying on your back (keeping one leg bent while the raised leg is straight). You can also help strengthen the hip flexors by raising a knee toward your chest while seated. Talk with a physical therapist or cardiac rehabilitation specialist about these and other exercises you can do.

Obesity raises the risk of bleeding problems when taking warfarin

Obese patients who take the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin) to help prevent blood clots have a much greater risk of a major bleed that requires hospitalization than nonobese patients, according to a recent study presented at the 2015 American Heart Association’s Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology/Peripheral Vascular Disease Scientific Sessions. Warfarin is a blood thinner which raises the risk of bleeding anywhere in the body. The most serious bleeding problems occur in the gut or the brain. But even a minor accident—a small cut or bruise—can lead to excessive bleeding. In the study, obese patients had an 84 percent higher risk of serious bleeding events than nonobese patients. Researchers noted that obese patients tend to require a higher dose of warfarin, which could contribute to the greater bleeding risk. Obese patients who can lose weight may lower their bleeding risks if they are on warfarin. But anyone who takes warfarin, regardless of their weight, should discuss the risks and benefits of the medication with their doctors.

Decreased grip strength may predict heart attack, stroke risks

A lack of muscle strength is associated with a wide range of long-term health problems, including cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular conditions. And now a study published in a recent issue of The Lancet finds that poor hand-grip strength is a strong predictor of all-cause mortality. Researchers in Canada found that low grip strength was significantly linked to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The link between grip strength and cardiovascular problems was similar for men and women, and it cut across all socioeconomic backgrounds. Poor muscle strength has been associated with higher mortality risks because it leads to increased disability. However, these recent findings suggest that muscle weakness also may be a good marker of underlying aging processes that contribute to poor cardiovascular health.

Study: Falls Not a Major Risk For Seniors on Antihypertensive Drugs

Among older adults, falls and the risks of fractures are a major health concern. For seniors taking blood pressure-lowering medications, there is always a concern that if blood pressure drops too dramatically, fainting and falling could result. But a recent study published in Hypertension found that the use of antihypertensives may not be as strong an indicator of fall risk as previously thought. The study found that neither high nor standard doses of antihypertensives were linked to fall. In fact, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers were actually associated with a reduced fall risk. Researchers suggest that patients and their doctors work together carefully to make sure safe, but effective antihypertensive doses are administered.

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