You need a healthier heart, and the new year is a great time to start good habits. Using home blood pressure monitors, reducing stress, meditation, healthy diets, lowering cholesterol - these are just some of the tactics you can implement today and continue throughout the year.
An analysis of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) found some encouraging news for those considering surgical ablation. Research published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery found that about 80 percent of AF patients treated with surgical ablation were free from the abnormal heart rhythm (or arrhythmia), though some individuals continued to need antiarrhythmic drugs to help prevent symptoms. But nearly two-thirds of AF patients no longer need antiarrhythmic medications to be symptom free. The ablation procedure evaluated in the analysis was the Cox-Maze IV procedure. In the original Cox-Maze procedure, doctors made small incisions in the heart to create a maze of scar tissue that blocked the erratic electrical impulses in the hearts upper chambers (atria) and restored a normal heartbeat.
At my last checkup, my triglyceride levels had gone up significantly. Ive been taking a statin for about two years, and its keeping my LDL numbers under control. Shouldnt the statin help keep my triglycerides down, too? What are the risks of high triglycerides, and what can I do to manage them better?
Two new cholesterol-lowering drugs may do more than provide alternatives for people who have serious side effects from statins. PCSK9 inhibitors may also help bring back specific targets in cholesterol treatment guidelines.When the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association developed new cholesterol guidelines with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2013, the changes included the eliminiation of specific targets for LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.
For many years, one of the cornerstones of heart-healthy dietary advice was to avoid high-cholesterol foods. It seemed logical: Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can clog the arteries with dangerous plaque. High cholesterol is linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease.But it seems the science wasnt there to support the villification of high-cholesterol foods. Research indicates that our cholesterol profiles are much more related to genetic factors than diet. So earlier this year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) announced that cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.
Calcium deposits in the arteries of your heart (coronary arteries) are often viewed as precursors to heart disease and a higher risk of heart attack because they can narrow the blood vessels. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) density screenings, though somewhat controversial and not appropriate for all patients, are sometimes used by doctors to assess an individuals risk for cardiovascular disease. But a recent Cleveland Clinic study suggests that greater coronary calcification may have at least one benefit. In the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that patients on aggressive statin therapy tended to see a reduction in arterial plaque volume while also experiencing greater calcification of that plaque.
Statins are designed to do one thing: lower your unhealthy LDL cholesterol. And by doing so, statins can help lower your risk of having a heart attack.Recent research also suggests that statin therapy can help lower your risk of heart failure hospitalization by 10 percent. A study published in the European Heart Journal found that four years of statin therapy significantly reduced the number of patients hospitalized for heart failure. Researchers suggested that the reduced risk is probably due to statin-related reductions in heart disease risk.
Long-term use of the anti-clotting drug warfarin (Coumadin) and an antiplatelet medication, such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix), may raise the risk of dementia in people with atrial fibrillation (AF). A study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions suggests that the threat may be due to abnormal effects on blood circulation in the brain caused by improper warfarin dosing. Patients who take warfarin to prevent blood clot formation must undergo frequent testing to make sure the medication isnt making their blood clot too quickly or too slowly. Researchers say that its not uncommon for warfarin patients to be outside the ideal clotting range as much as 40 percent of the time. They also suggest that over the years, the cumulative effects of that unhealthy circulation could lead to dementia. One contributing factor could be overmedication caused by a combination of warfarin and antiplatelet therapy. If you have AF and youre taking warfarin and antiplatelet medications, talk with your doctor about whether you could reduce your medication intake.
Given the importance of controlling cholesterol to help prevent heart disease (or slow the progression of heart disease), any encouraging developments in medical therapy are welcome news. That goes for a recent study that found adding the drug ezetimibe to simvastatin helps lower the risk of future cardiovascular events better than simvastatin alone.
If you have heart disease or a risk factor such as high cholesterol, you may have banned eggs from your diet. But its perfectly okay to eat eggs, so long as you consume the yolks in moderation.
An hour of moderate-intensity exercise or half an hour of vigorous-intensity exercise each day may lower your risk of heart failure by as much as 46 percent, according to a study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure. Swedish researchers studied more than 39,000 adults who didnt have heart failure at the studys start in 1997. The researchers monitored the participants exercise patterns and leisure activities for about 15 years. Those who exercised more had a significantly lower risk of developing heart failure. Individuals with heart failure, on average, face a 30 to 50 percent risk of death within five years of their diagnosis. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart becomes weak and can no longer effectively pump blood throughout the body. The connection between exercise and heart failure hasnt been studied extensively, but there is no question that regular exercise is an important component of heart health. If you have questions about starting an exercise program, talk with your doctor about activities that are safe for you. If you have had a heart attack, which is a risk factor for heart failure, participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program to learn about exercise, nutrition, and other lifestyle changes necessary for optimal heart health.
If youve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may find yourself focused on getting those numbers down into the healthy ranges. And while thats an appropriate response, your treatment plan for hypertension or high cholesterol should take into consideration all the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). That means paying attention to your blood glucose levels, weight, physical activity level, smoking, alcohol use, and even stress.