But Benefits May Outweigh Risks
Cardiac imaging procedures such as catheterizations and nuclear scans may increase radiation exposure as well as long-term cancer risk, finds a research study from McGill University Health Center. In a study of over 80,000 patients who had suffered a heart attack between April 1996 and March 2006, those who had undergone an imaging procedure with low-dose radiation appeared to have an increased cancer risk especially in the abdomen, pelvis, and chest areas. The researchers suggest that doctors should consider the possibilities before having patients undergo unnecessary imaging tests and procedures. In many cases, however, the benefits of the procedures for preventing further cardiac complications outweigh the potential cancer risks.
Decreases Heart Size
Obesity is a risk factor for many types of heart problems, including atrial fibrillation, and cardiovascular disease leading to heart attack or stroke. Obese people often have signs of structural changes to the heart, including excess muscle mass in the left ventricle and enlargement of the right ventricular cavity – both conditions linked to heart failure. A new study which followed 400 patients after gastric bypass surgery finds that, with weight loss, the heart appeared to “remodel” itself, reducing the excess mass and decreasing the size of the ventricular cavity, thus decreasing the stress on the heart. The participants also had lowered blood pressure and heart rate and improved cholesterol levels, also decreasing the risk of a cardiovascular issue.
Alcohol Affects the Heart
With all of the holiday parties scheduled this season, it is easy to overdo it when it comes to alcohol consumption. A Cleveland Clinic cardiologist warns that too many nights of heavy drinking can lead to “holiday heart syndrome”, or episodes of atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation, even in those without a known history of heart disease. Dr. Curtis Rimmerman warns in the Heart Advisor Newsletter that if such an episode lasts for longer than five minutes and if you have never experienced rapid heart beating before, you should see a doctor. He also warns heart patients to talk to their physicians about additional medication during holiday festivities. Dr. Rimmerman also reminds us that excess salt intake can also increase blood pressure and affects circulation.
Allopurinol for Angina
A study at Dundee University of 65 patients on allopurinol found they could exercise 25 percent longer before experiencing angina, chest pains due to oxygen-carrying blood not getting to the heart. Allopurinol is used to treat gout, which occurs when uric acid cannot be broken down. It crystallizes and builds up in the joints, manifesting as inflammatory arthritis. The drug may inhibit an enzyme called xanthine oxidase, decreasing the amount of energy the heart uses per beat. Professor Peter Weissberg of the Bristish Heart Foundation, said "What is exciting is that it looks as if allopurinol may work by protecting the heart from oxygen starvation. If that is the case, then it raises the possibility that it could help the heart in other situations as well, such as after a heart attack."
Clean Teeth, Clean Health
"All this study found is that slobs have a higher risk of heart disease: slobs eat crap and don't exercise (and don't brush their teeth)"
- Crenobula in the comments
Brushing your teeth won't just keep the dentist away, but also cardiac doctors too. A new published research has found that those who have poor oral hygiene have an increased risk of heart disease, compared to those who brush their teeth twice a day. Professor Richard Watt from University College London analyzed data from over 11,000 adults who participated in the Scottish Healthy Survey. The research shows that participants who didn't frequently brush their teeth had a 70 percent increased risk of heart disease, compared to those who have a good oral hygiene routine. Professor Watt adds that, "Further experimental studies will be needed to confirm whether the observed association between oral health behavior and cardio vascular disease is in fact causal or merely a risk marker."
Wireless Safer for Patients
Defibrillators deliver a jolt of electricity to the heart to interrupt a potentially fatal heart rhythm and restore normal beating. Current devices require that an electrical sensing wire be threaded through a blood vessel into the heart, but that could be changing soon. Dr. Gust H. Bardy, of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research in Seattle, and other researchers report that initial trials of a new wireless defibrillator were successful, although more testing is required for FDA approval. Wired defibrillators pose a risk because the wires could puncture the heart during implantation or fracture while in place. The new version delivers the electrical jolt with a sensor implanted under the skin near the chest bone and a power unit placed under the skin on the side of the chest.
Tech and Health
Apple's recent patent shows a heart rate monitor embedded into an iPhone. The heart sensor-like technology will be able to seamlessly identify the user by his/her heart beat and even able to detect their mood. You probably know by now that everyone has different fingerprints. But did you know that each individual also has a unique heartbeat? Apple taps into this biometric technology so that the iPhone can simply authenticate the user as you as you pick up the phone, rather than requiring passwords or complicated face or fingerprint scans. By monitoring your heartbeats, the device will also be able to tell how you're feeling, what you've been eating and if you've just come back from a jog.
An Unintended Effect
Women who use bupropion during early pregnancy may have an increased risk of having a baby with a particular type of heart defect. Bupropion is used in the antidepressant medication Wellbutrin as well as the smoking cessation drug Zyban. Researchers from the CDC found that the risk of a left outflow defect, which affects the flow of blood from the heart’s left chamber to the rest of the body, occurred in 2 out of every 1000 infants born to women who used bupropion during the first trimester. Prior studies have indicated that the use of other antidepressants during pregnancy, such as Prozac and Zoloft, also increased the risk of birth defects. Dr. Jennita Reefhuis, senior epidemiologist at the CDC, asks women to discuss the risks with their physician before discontinuing meds.