Heart Beat: December 2017
Researchers Think They Know Why Watching Too Much TV Is Sometimes Deadly
Watching television seems like a harmless enough activity, but the more hours of TV you watch on a regular basis, the higher your risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and other causes. Of course, the TV itself is not at fault; it’s the prolonged sitting that’s dangerous. In June, English researchers reported in Atherosclerosis that at least 15 percent of the risk can likely be attributed to inflammation. They followed nearly 8,500 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). The participants, who had an average age of 65, reported their TV viewing habits and physical activity, and answered questions about smoking, depression and chronic illnesses. More than 29 percent said they watched TV more than six hours a day. These people were more likely to be female, smoke, have low activity levels, be depressed, have chronic illnesses, and be disabled. Frequent TV watchers were also more likely to be obese than those who watched less TV. Over a four-year period, 370 study participants died, 78 from heart disease. When looking at risk factors, high levels of the inflammatory markers fibrinogen and C-reactive protein accounted for more than 15 percent of the association between sedentary TV watching and death. Adding in other risk factors made no difference. The researchers also found that taking active breaks during prolonged periods of sitting reduced this risk.
New AHA Guidelines Suggest Meditation Might Lower Cardiovascular Risk
Despite our best efforts to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke remain two of our nation’s leading killers. That’s why researchers continue to seek inexpensive, nonmedical ways to lower cardiovascular risk. One avenue of interest is meditation. These forms of mental practice are used to improve concentration, increase happiness and enhance a sense of “living in the present.” Multiple forms of meditation have been studied for their potential effects on stress, smoking cessation, blood pressure, insulin, blood vessel health, and prevention of a first or subsequent heart attack. In September 2017, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement in its journal listing the results of more than 400 studies on meditation and cardiovascular disease or its risk factors. Because the studies varied widely in their methodologies and goals, the writers were not able to firmly establish or rule out benefit. However, they found the studies suggest that meditation has a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk reduction. Due to the low costs and low risks associated with this intervention, they felt meditation is an appropriate avenue to pursue, with the understanding that American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guideline-directed interventions remain the first line of protection against cardiovascular disease.
Second Diabetes Drug Found to Protect Against Heart Attack and Stroke
Patients with type 2 diabetes are at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease and suffering a fatal or nonfatal heart attack or stroke, losing a leg to amputation, developing kidney failure or becoming blind, often at an early age. Anti-diabetes medications help normalize blood sugar levels with the hopes of preventing or delaying the growth of atherosclerosis in the arteries. But after a patient with type 2 diabetes is diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, only two drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event or death. The first drug, empagliflozin (Jardiance), received FDA approval for cardiovascular risk reduction in December 2016 after clinical trials showed it improved survival in these patients, then in August 2017, the FDA announced that it approved a second drug—liraglutide (Victoza)—for patients with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease after a large clinical trial showed it lowered the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death in these patients by 13 percent. Liraglutide is injected once daily though a pre-filled pen; empagliflozin is a daily pill. Both can be used with insulin.