Heart Beat: February 2017
24-Hour Monitoring May Detect Previously Undiscovered Hypertension
You may have your blood pressure taken in your doctor’s office and have a healthy reading. But a little earlier or later in the day, your blood pressure may be into hypertension territory. A recently published study that used 24-hour blood pressure monitoring found that it’s not uncommon for otherwise healthy adults to experience what is basically the opposite of the “white coat effect.” That’s a phenomenon in which people who normally have low or well-controlled blood pressure experience a spike in their blood pressure when they have a doctor’s appointment. In this study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers found that the reverse is often true. About 15 percent of the patients studied had “masked hypertension,” which means that in the doctor’s office the blood pressure was normal, but in daily activities, the 24-hour monitor picked up elevated blood pressures. If you have risk factors for high blood pressure, such as advancing age, diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and a family history of hypertension, you should discuss the option of 24-hour blood pressure monitoring if you’ve already demonstrated what may be masked hypertension in your doctor’s office.
A Healthy Lifestyle May Help Overcome Genetic Disposition Toward Heart Disease
If you have a high genetic risk of coronary artery disease, you may be able to reduce that risk if you adhere to a heart-healthy lifestyle. A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a healthy lifestyle could cut your risk of a heart attack in half if you have a high genetic risk for a coronary event. A high genetic risk, coupled with an unfavorable lifestyle, means your 10-year heart risk is about 11 percent. By adhering to a lifestyle that includes no smoking (currently), no obesity, regular exercise, and a healthy diet you may be able to cut that risk to about 5 percent, according to the study. Individuals with a strong family history of heart disease may be discouraged about their future heart health. But researchers are hopeful that these findings will encourage those people to adopt behaviors and make choices that will lower their long-term heart risks. The researchers also note that good genetics can also be offset by an unhealthy lifestyle. So given that lifestyle is a heart risk factor you can control, unlike your family history, you’re better off making the effort to manage your weight, quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, and exercise daily.
Boosting Dietary Magnesium Intake May Help Reduce Heart, Stroke Risks
A diet rich in magnesium may help cut your risks of stroke, heart failure, type 2 diabetes and all-cause mortality. Those are the results of an analysis of more than 40 studies involving more than 1 million people around the world. The research was published in BMC Medicine and included studies from 1999 through 2015. The research was based on food questionaires filled out by study participants, so the analysis couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between magnesium and lower heart and stroke risks. However, magnesium has long been known as a mineral crucial to cardiovascular health. It helps blood vessels relax and is important for healthy muscle and nerve function, including the function of the heart muscle itself. Magnesium is also involved in the regulation of blood glucose and insulin sensitivity. Good dietary sources of magnesium include spinach, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Better Cholesterol Control Seen in Individuals Not Taking Statins; Diet May Be Key
While statins continue to be an important weapon in the fight against high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, a healthier diet makes an important difference, too. In fact, recent research found that the sharpest drops in LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of blood fat) are being seen in people not on statin therapy. Researchers conducting the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey believe that one of the main contributing factors to this improved lipid outlook is the removal of trans-fatty acids from many food products and restaurant offerings. The research, published in JAMA Cardiology, showed noticeable improvements during the past 15 years, especially in average triglyceride levels. The researchers also believe that recent interest in triglycerides and cardiovascular health may be prompting changes in eating and lifestyle choices for many people.