Heart Beat: March 2017


High Pain Tolerance Could Mask Mild Heart Attack Symptoms

Silent or mild heart attacks may go unnoticed in people with a high tolerance for pain, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association. This can put these individuals at a higher risk for poor recoveries. A silent heart attack is one without overwhelming chest pain or pressure, and without other obvious symptoms, such as shortness of breath, breaking into a cold sweat, nausea and pain in the arms, jaw or back. It’s unknown exactly why some heart attacks don’t include traditional chest pain among their symptoms. Norwegian researchers suggested that a high pain tolerance might be one reason why mild heart attack signs are ignored. The researchers tested the pain tolerance of more than 4,000 adults. Each participant placed a hand in ice-cold water for as long as possible (up to two minutes). Researchers used electrocardiogram results and hospital records to determine whether each participant had ever had a recognized or unrecognized heart attack or had no heart attack history. Those with an urecognized or silent heart attack endured the cold test significantly longer and were less likely to quit the test than those with a recognized heart attack. If you believe you have a high or low tolerance for pain, as well as heart attack risk factors, discuss these issues with your doctor. If you have a high pain tolerance, ask about clues to be aware of that a mild heart attack is happening or that one may have already occurred. Sometimes a silent heart attack, or more than one such event, can lead to heart failure without your knowing it. Some of the first signs of heart failure include shortness of breath and swelling in the legs.

Analysis: Regular Intake of Omega-3s May Help Reduce Heart Disease Risk

The American Heart Association has long recommended the consumption of one gram daily of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to help lower the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). That advice was recently supported by an analysis of several randomized controlled trials. Researchers found that regular consumption of DHA and EPA, two types of omega-3 fatty acids, was associated with a lower risk of CHD. The association was even stronger among people with high triglycerides or high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with heart disease and higher risks of heart attack and stroke. Researchers noted that about one in four Americans has elevated levels of triglycerides or LDL cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in dietary sources, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and other fatty fish. Omega-3s are also available in supplement form. Researchers said that getting these nutrients in supplements or dietary sources is a reasonable strategy to help lower your risk of CHD. If you want to take fish oil or other types of omega-3 supplements, look for natural fish oil pills that contain EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil contains a different type of omega-3 fatty acid, known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). But ALA does not appear to have the same health benefits as EPA and DHA. The research was recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Study: Alcohol Abuse Raises Risk of Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Atrial Fibrillation

While moderate alcohol consumption may afford some heart-health benefits, excessive drinking appears to increase the risks of developing atrial fibrillation (AF), heart failure, and heart attack to the same degree as type 2 diabetes. Those were the findings of a large study published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In the study, researchers suggest that alcohol abuse should be considered a cardiovascular risk factor, such as obesity, smoking and type 2 diabetes. The study found that even among people without traditional risk factors, alcohol abuse was associated with a higher risk of poor cardiac outcomes. The researchers also raise questions about just how protective light or moderate drinking is when it comes to the heart. If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start. If you do drink, make sure you limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks daily for a man. You may want to cut back from those recommended limits, especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease. If you drink more than that, you should definitely reduce your intake. If you are having trouble reducing your alcohol consumption, talk with your doctor or with a counselor who helps individuals deal with alcohol abuse.


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