Heart Beat: November 2017
Statins Cut Coronary Heart Disease Death Risk in Men Without Other Risk Factors
In a study of men with very high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, but no other heart disease risk factors, the use of pravastatin was found to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by about 28 percent. Researchers studied patients for an average of 20 years. Pravastatin is a relatively mild statin. In the study, patients took 40 milligrams of pravastatin daily. The researchers noted that their study was the first to quantify the effects of statin use on patients with high LDL levels, but who were otherwise healthy. The researchers suggest that their findings support a more aggressive approach to treating younger patients with elevated LDL levels. Some doctors are reluctant to put younger adults with high LDL levels on statins if they have no other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of heart disease. Researchers suggest that even modest reductions in LDL levels can lead to a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular-related mortality. They say their findings underscore guidelines that support statin therapy for people with LDL levels at or above 190 mg/dL. The study was published in the journal Circulation.
Study: Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea Raises Blood Glucose, Blood Pressure
Going even just a few nights without treating your obstructive sleep apnea puts you at risk for higher levels of blood glucose (sugar) and higher blood pressure. This common sleep disorder can also contribute to higher levels of stress hormones in your system. These are the results of a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Researchers say the study underscores the importance of using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat sleep apnea. CPAP uses a machine that pumps air through a hose to a mask worn over the nose and mouth. There are a variety of CPAP models, some with smaller, sleeker facemasks than the equipment commonly used in recent years. Some people with CPAP swear by its effectiveness, while others have trouble getting used to the sound made by the bedside air pump and the mask itself. CPAP forces air through your airways to keep your breathing consistent. With sleep apnea, you stop breathing temporarily throughout the night as the tissue in the back of your throat relaxes and blocks or partially blocks your airways until you gasp for air. The sleep disruption associated with sleep apnea has long been associated with many unhealthy metabolic changes in the body. Changes in blood pressure, energy level, stress, and blood glucose levels are among the most obvious and serious concerns. This small study, which tested the blood of 31 sleep apnea patients many times throughout the night for two nights, was among the first to show how quickly markers in your bloodstream can be affected by untreated sleep apnea.
Being Tall May Put You at a Higher Risk of Developing Blood Clots in Your Veins
The taller you are, the greater your risk of having a venous thromboembolism—a blood clot that forms in a vein. In a Swedish study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, the risk of venous thromboembolism for men shorter than five feet three inches dropped 65 percent compared to men taller than 6 feet two inches. Researchers also looked at the venous thromboembolism risks associated with women who were pregnant for the first time. The study found that for women 5 feet one inch or shorter the risk dropped 69 percent compared to women 6 feet or taller. The study didn’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between height and blood clot risk. However, researchers suggest that gravity may play a role. There is more gravitational pressure in the legs of taller people. That can work against the upward flow of blood through the veins to the heart. The study, which included more than 2 million siblings, did not account for certain lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking and exercise. Still, researchers suggest that tall men and women be aware that they may have a heightened venous thromboembolism risk and make healthy lifestyle choices. Venous thromboembolism affects as many as 600,000 Americans annually. It’s the third leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Among the main causes of venous thromboembolism are surgery, a sedentary lifestyle, cancer and hospitalization. Obesity, smoking and a family history of venous thromboembolism are also serious risk factors.