Heart Beat July 2019 Issue

In The News: July 2019

Sleeping Pills May Increase Need for Blood Pressure Medication

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If you use sleeping pills and have hypertension, you may find it increasingly difficult to control your blood pressure. A study of older adults found an association between regular use of sleeping pills and the need for more antihypertension medication. Researchers enrolled 752 participants between 2008 and 2010 and followed them through 2012 and 2013. At the start of the study, 37 percent of the participants said they slept poorly, and 16.5 percent used sleeping pills on a regular basis. The mean number of antihypertension drugs used was 1.8. During the study, almost 20.7 percent of the participants increased the number of blood pressure medications they took. As reported online March 25, 2019, in Geriatrics & Gerontology International, the researchers found no connection between difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and change in the use of blood pressure medication. However, they did find consistent use of sleeping pills was connected to higher risk of needing to add additional antihypertension medications to control blood pressure.

Reducing or Eliminating Alcohol May Help Control Atrial Fibrillation

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The first randomized, controlled clinical study of its kind has confirmed the long-suspected connection between the irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation (A-fib) and regular alcohol use. Researchers found that stopping or greatly reducing alcohol consumption significantly reduced the severity of A-fib or the frequency with which the arrhythmia occurred. The trial enrolled 140 patients, mostly men, with A-fib who consumed a minimum of 10 drinks a week. Half were told to drink no alcohol for six months, and half continued their normal alcohol use. Only 61 percent of the abstinence group actually quit drinking entirely, but 86 percent were able to cut their alcohol use by more than 70 percent from an average of 17 drinks per week to an average of two. As reported at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Sessions in March 2019, those who significantly reduced their alcohol intake or quit drinking cut A-fib recurrences in half and were twice as likely to eliminate A-fib entirely.

Double Trouble: No Breakfast, Late Dinner

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After suffering a serious heart attack, eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper may save your life-particularly if you eat dinner early in the evening or at least two hours before bedtime. A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology on April 17, 2019, found that people who skip breakfast and eat dinner near bedtime have a much higher risk of a poor outcome after a major heart attack (ST-segment myocardial infarction, or STEMI). The study involved 113 patients ages 49 to 71, who were asked about their eating habits when admitted to the ICU. Nearly 60 percent said they skipped breakfast, 51 percent said they ate dinner late and 41 percent said they did both. In the 30 days after their heart attack, 5.3 percent died, 17.7 percent had a second heart attack or chest pain and 23 percent had the composite endpoint of chest pain, heart attack and death. The researchers concluded that those who skipped breakfast and ate dinner late had four or five times the risk of death, another heart attack or chest pain within 30 days of hospital discharge.

How Much Exercise You Need to Offset the Dangers of Sitting

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The price we pay for sitting more than six hours a day is increased risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death. In fact, the longer you sit, the greater your risk. Physical activity can reverse this risk, but just how much is needed to benefit has been unclear. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on April 22, 2019, found that replacing one hour of sitting with one hour of vigorous activity slightly lowered the risk of all-cause death and substantially lowered the risk of cardiovascular death among those who sat six or fewer hours a day. Substituting moderate for vigorous activity had no effect. Among those who sat eight or more hours a day, however, trading one hour of any kind of activity for one hour of sitting was beneficial.

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