A biotechnology company in France has developed a new stem cell treatment for heart attack victims who would otherwise need to wait for a transplant. CellProthera, which is based in Mulhouse in eastern France, is currently halfway through clinical trials with 50 patients and says the new treatment could be available by 2026, all being well. The pioneering treatment uses stem cells from a patient’s own body to repair their heart. During an extremely promising first stage trial, patients with very bad hearts were injected with stem cells. Their hearts were seen to start repairing themselves and most were able to live lives similar to those before they fell sick. CellProthera spokeswoman Paula Lee told The Connexion: “They are all people who have had severe heart attacks, which have damaged the heart muscles.” If all goes to plan, CellProthera’s second-stage trials will end in mid-2023, followed by a third stage on a wider patient pool, with full approval for use in 2026. Approximately 80,000 people in France suffer from heart attacks each year, with 12,000 resulting in immediate death. Another 10% pass away within an hour of the attack, while 15% of survivors die within a year. CellProthera aims to assist the approximately 30% of individuals who survive the initial heart attack but have weakened heart muscle due to oxygen deprivation during the attack. Without treatment, this often leads to death within five years. “We cannot say yet what the cost per patient will be but it will be much cheaper than a heart transplant,” added Lee. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Following on from our post last week on what to expect during a physical examination, today’s blog will explain some of the laboratory and screening tests you may also undergo. Now it’s important to note that there are no standard laboratory or screening tests during a physical exam, so what you are advised to have will depend on your physician and health history. Laboratory tests during a physical exam The main laboratory tests you are likely to undergo during a physical exam are: – Complete blood count (CBC) – A CBC is a blood test that helps evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of conditions, including anemia, infection and leukemia. – Chemistry panel – A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) will include an electrolyte panel (which measures levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate), kidney function tests, liver function tests and also measures glucose and calcium. – Blood glucose – To look for signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes. – Urinalysis – Using a sample of your urine, this test can detect a range of conditions, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. – Fecalysis – A stool sample test (fecalysis) can detect certain conditions affecting your digestive tract, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrient absorption and even cancer. Screening tests during a physical exam In addition to the laboratory tests outlined above, you may also undergo the following screening tests: For women: – Mammogram – A screening test for breast cancer, usually recommended for women 40 and over – Pap smear – A screening test for cervical cancer, usually recommended for women 21 and older For men: – Prostate exam – A digital rectal exam is the most common method used for physically checking your prostate, while a PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood – both of which can flag early signs of prostate cancer. – Testicular exam – A physical exam that checks both testicles for signs of abnormality, including lumps, changes in size, and tenderness. – Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screening – This simple ultrasound looks for a bulge or swelling in the aorta, and is usually recommended for men 65 and over, as they are most at risk. Both men and women: – Cholesterol test – Also called a ‘lipid panel’, this checks your cholesterol levels to see if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke. – Osteoporosis - A bone density scan can help reveal potential issues relating to weak bones. – Hepatitis – Everyone should be tested for hepatitis C at least once to find out if they have ever been infected with the virus. – Colorectal – A colonoscopy is usually used to check for colorectal cancer and other abnormalities in your colon. If you are a smoker, or have a family history of certain conditions, your physician may also recommend further tests in addition to those above. * Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay
Artificial sweeteners are often the go-to choice for people wishing to lose weight, but new research suggests they may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the study, the results of which are published in the BMJ, artificial sweeteners are associated with a 9 percent higher risk of any type of cardiovascular disease event and an 18 percent increased chance of stroke. “Our results indicate that these food additives, consumed daily by millions of people and present in thousands of foods and beverages, should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar,” the study authors wrote in The BMJ. Moreover, different sweeteners carried different risk. For example, aspartame, sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, was tied to a 17 percent increased risk of stroke. Acesulfame potassium, sold under the brand names Sweet One and Sunett, was linked to a 40 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. For the study, more than 100,000 adults (mostly female) were followed for around a decade, making it the largest to date to investigate cardiovascular health problems associated with sugar substitutes. At the start of the study, none of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes — and none of them were diagnosed with these conditions during the first two years of follow-up. *Image by designfoto from Pixabay
Only 20% of American adults have 'optimal' heart health, new research reveals. According to the study by the American Heart Association (AHA), the US population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health. This is based on AHA's Life’s Essential 8™ cardiovascular health scoring, its updated metrics to measure heart and brain health. The AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring includes: diet physical activity nicotine exposure sleep health body weight blood lipids blood glucos blood pressure With sleep being the newest addition. For the AHA study, researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2013 to 2018. This data included non-pregnant, non-institutionalized individuals between two and 79 years old who did not have cardiovascular disease. All participants had an overall cardiovascular health (CVH) score calculated for them ranging from 0 to 100, as well as a score for diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure – all using AHA definitions. The results revealed that among the more than 23,400 American adults and children without cardiovascular disease (CVD), overall cardiovascular health was not ideal. Indeed, the research showed roughly 80% of people scored at a low or moderate level. Mitchell Weinberg, MD, chair of cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, the AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring is both valuable and patient friendly for determining CVH. “Possessing one number that crystallizes a person’s current health status enables that individual to comprehend the need for change and target a single numeric goal,” he said. *Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay
Kids who are physically active stand a greater chance of remaining mentally sharp for decades, new research suggests. The finding adds to the weight of evidence in favour of kids being physically active, such as the associated bone and muscle development benefits and reduced risk of diabetes and heart attack. The study by researchers in Australia followed 1,200 people for 30 years. It uncovered a link between childhood fitness and mental performance in middle age. Commencing in 1985, the study assessed the heart and lung fitness, power, and endurance, and measured for waist-to-hip ratio of children between the ages of 7 and 15 at the time. More than 30 years later, those with the highest fitness scores and lower waist-to-hip ratios as kids tended to score better in tests of their thinking skills. Interestingly, while physical exercise was associated with higher scores in things like processing speed and attention, it had no impact on memory. Michele Callisaya, PhD, a study co-author and associate professor from the National Centre for Healthy Ageing at Peninsula Health and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said: “This might be because the cognitive functions of processing speed and attention start to decline in midlife. Memory generally starts to decline later.” The results of the study are published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. *Image by Tri Le from Pixabay
People who suffer with stress and anxiety could realise heart health benefits through regular exercise, new research has found. According to the study by res earchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, regular physical activity among individuals with depression or anxiety had nearly double the cardiovascular benefit than in people without such diagnoses. The study found that, people who accomplished the recommended amount of physical activity per week – 150 minutes, according to he American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association – were 17 per cent less likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event than those who exercised less. However, of those who achieved the recommended amount of physical activity per week, individuals with anxiety or depression had a 22 per cent risk reduction versus a 10 per cent among those without either condition. The analysis included more than 50,000 patients in the Massachusetts General Brigham Biobank database. Just over 4,000 of the patients analyzed had suffered a major cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, chest pain caused by a blocked artery, or underwent a procedure to open a blocked artery in the heart. Commenting on the study's findings, Michael Emery, MD, who is the co-director of the Sports Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and was not involved in the study, said: “Exercise is medicine both physically and psychologically, and these factors interplay such that when you are more physically healthy your psychological state is more robust, and when you are mentally more healthy your physical state is improved.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Scientists have developed a method that could make automating the prediction of heart attacks a reality. The Artificial Intelligence-enabled tool, which was developed by scientists at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, uses an algorithm to measure people's levels of coronary plaque buildup. It then predicts how likely the person is to have a heart attack based on the amount and composition of their plaque. The tool, described in The Lancet Digital Health, performs its analyzes on medical tests called coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA), which take 3D images of the heart and coronary arteries. Until now though, there hasn't been a fast or automated way to analyze the CTA images. Plaque buildup can lead to arteries narrowing, which makes it more difficult for blood to get to the heart, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack. "Coronary plaque is often not measured because there is not a fully automated way to do it," said Damini Dey, PhD, director of the quantitative image analysis lab in the Biomedical Imaging Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai and senior author of the study. "When it is measured, it takes an expert at least 25 to 30 minutes, but now we can use this program to quantify plaque from CTA images in five to six seconds." Having been trained by the scientists, the AI tool accurately predicted which patients would experience a heart attack in five years based on the plaque seen in their CTA images. "More studies are needed, but it's possible we may be able to predict if and how soon a person is likely to have a heart attack based on the amount and composition of the plaque imaged with this standard test," said Dey. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay
The impact of heavily processed foods on your health has been widely acknowledged for some time. But now new research shows just how potentially dangerous consuming such food products can be for people who have already had a heart attack or stroke. According to the research by the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention of the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, consuming ultra-processed foods (UPFs) increases the risk of a second — and more likely fatal — heart attack or stroke for people who already have cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, the research shows that UPFs are associated with a two-thirds increased risk of a second heart attack or stroke, this time fatal, compared with people who eat these types of foods less frequently. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the probability of people who frequently eat UPFs of dying from any cause was 40% higher. Examples of UPFs include soft drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, reconstituted meat products, and pre-prepared frozen dishes. Worryingly, many adult Americans' diets comprise high levels of UPFs, as much as 60% in some cases. The study is published in the European Heart Journal. *Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says nearly half of American adults are living with high blood pressure (hypertension). Left untreated, this hypertension can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Individuals with hypertension are often advised to reduce their salt intake, as doing so can help reduce blood pressure levels. Now, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University has decided to investigate the health effects of herbs and spices, particularly whether they can benefit people with hypertension. The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to look at the effect of longer-term consumption of herbs and spices on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They found that a higher level of herbs and spices in food reduced 24-hour blood pressure readings. The findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Speaking to Medical News Today, Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Indeed, the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices in an average Western diet were surprising to me. “We [already know] about the effects of many lifestyle factors, especially dietary factors, that can increase blood pressure — such as sodium, alcohol, and caffeine — and others that can decrease blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, […] weight loss, physical activity, and some vitamins, including folate and vitamin D when intake is low, but the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices are new!” *Image by monicore from Pixabay
A new home kit that can be used to restart someone’s heart following a heart attack could reduce the number of deaths in France from cardiac arrest by 50,000 each year. Paris-based Lifeaz has seen demand for its defibrillators for the home and office soar in the first seven months since its launch. The firm hopes its machines, which deliver electric shocks to the heart, will help prevent heart attack deaths in France by enabling people to restart a heart in the crucial first four minutes of an attack. Célia Rich, the firm’s chief training adviser, said: “In places like Seattle in the United States, where there are lots of defibrillators, the chances of surviving a big heart attack are 60% to 70%, while in France they are just 5%." Lifeaz’s founder, Johann Kalchman, previously worked for a business specialising in pacemakers. This is where he became enlightened about the need to improve heart attack victims’ chances in France. It’s estimated that 80% of heart attacks occur at home, but a lack of first aid training and fear of intervening mean people often wait the 10 to 15 minutes it takes for emergency services to arrive without helping. “Our machines are designed to make things as easy as possible,” said Ms Rich. “Once they are opened, you push a button to choose between French or English and then just follow the voice instructions and pictures. “After the shock treatment, it guides people on how to give cardiac massage until the victim recovers consciousness.” The defibrillators are designed and made in France and individuals can buy them for €990, or rent them for €29.90 per month. The price is slightly higher for businesses, but includes staff training. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay
For stroke patients, receiving treatment as soon as possible is vital. The shorter time between the stroke and treatment, the less chance there is of serious damage to the patient’s brain. That’s why fast diagnosis of a stroke is so important for the patient’s overall prognosis. But vascular neurologists, the clinicians most called upon to check stroke patients, are often in short supply and high demand. As a result, they cannot always see every suspected stroke patient as quickly as perhaps liked. The answer has been to utilise telemedicine and this is something neurologists have been doing for more than three decades. By taking advantage of audio-visual platforms, neurologists can assess suspected stroke patients quickly. If the patient is displaying signs of a stroke, they can be given life-saving treatment, consisting of administering tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot-dissolving drug first developed for treating heart attacks, which was then fine-tuned for strokes in the early 1990s. The success of tPA, however, lies in administering it as quickly as possible, to counter the effect of blood loss to the brain. A 2016 study highlights the impact of telehealth for stroke patients. According to Kaiser Permanente’s study, involving more than 2,500 patients treated for stroke symptoms between 2013 and 2015 in its 14-hospital network in southern California, a 75% increase was witnessed in the timely use of tPA after a telehealth consult. Patients receiving a telehealth consult were given a diagnostic imaging test 12 minutes sooner than those who didn’t, and tPA was administered 11 minutes sooner. Overall, the door-to-needle time was reduced to less than an hour. *Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
It’s a well-known fact that sleep is of utmost importance to health. Specifically, it’s been shown that a lack of high-quality sleep negatively impacts our resilience, productivity and performance. Furthermore, long-term chronic sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Now, new research suggests that irregular sleeping patterns may contribute to the risk of cardiovascular problems. The study was carried out by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, who analysed data from 1,992 patients in their 60s and 70s with no cardiovascular problems at baseline. They found that those who had the most irregular sleep patterns (defined as 2 hours or more difference in sleep duration each night) had a twofold plus increased risk of cardiovascular disease than patients with one hour or less difference in sleep duration. Importantly, even after adjusting for other risk factors, patients with irregular sleep patterns remained at significant risk of cardiovascular events. Publishing their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers said: “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability and that this can have an important effect on heart health.” Do you get enough sleep each night? Is your sleeping pattern pretty irregular? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember, getting enough high-quality sleep is extremely important and beneficial to your health.
While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests. For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon. Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication. Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits. The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.” According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either: 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.
New research suggests cancer patients are at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the general population. According to the study, the results of which are published in the European Heart Journal, more than one in 10 cancer survivors die from heart and blood vessel problems, rather than their initial illness. Among the 3,234,256 cancer patients studied for the research, 38% died from cancer, while 11% died from cardiovascular diseases. Among the deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 76% were due to heart disease. The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was also highest in the first year after a patient’s cancer diagnosis and among patients younger than 35. Among those cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 55 and who went on to survive their illness, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was more than 10 times higher than that for the general population. Meanwhile, patients with breast, prostate or bladder cancer were most likely to die from heart disease – but this is simply because these are the most common types of cancer. It is still unclear as to why cancer patients have a seemingly higher risk of heart disease, but their treatment itself or lifestyle factors, such as being overweight, drinking too much and not exercising, could be to blame, experts say.
People who take daily blood pressure medication should take it just before bedtime to get the most out of it, researchers say. Writing in the European Heart Journal, the researchers say that while it may sound like a very simple tip, it’s one that could save lives. The reason why taking such medication at bedtime is more beneficial is because our body clocks alter the way our bodies respond to it. At night, our blood pressure is typically lower than it is during the day. However, if for some reason our blood pressure does not dip and remains consistently high, our chances of having a stroke or heart attack significantly increase. The study found that patients who took their daily blood pressure medication before bedtime had significantly lower average blood pressure both at night and during the day than those who took their medication in the morning. Their blood pressure also dipped more at night. Lead researcher Prof Ramon Hermida, from the University of Vigo in Spain, said doctors should consider recommending their patients take their daily blood pressure medication at night going forward – especially as it’s “totally cost-free. It might save a lot of lives. “Current guidelines on the treatment of hypertension do not recommend any preferred treatment time. Morning ingestion has been the most common recommendation by physicians based on the misleading goal of reducing morning blood pressure levels. “The results of this study show that patients who routinely take their anti-hypertensive medication at bedtime, as opposed to when they wake up, have better-controlled blood pressure and, most importantly, a significantly decreased risk of death or illness from heart and blood vessel problems.” The next step is to determine whether the findings of the study apply to different brands of blood pressure medication. Lifestyle factors that have an impact on blood pressure: Smoking Drinking too much alcohol Being overweight Not doing enough exercise Eating too much salt
Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of hypertension, a new study has found. Furthermore, the more sever the gum disease, the greater a person’s risk of high blood pressure. The research by University College London's Eastman Dental Institute – the findings of which appear in the journal Cardiovascular Research – shows people with periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease) have a higher risk of hypertension. Hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affects 32% of all American adults, and as many as 47.2% of people aged over 30 have some form of gum disease, which is why the new research is so intriguing. While the two conditions may appear to be completely unrelated, the new research shows otherwise. And when you consider that high blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death worldwide, affecting up to 45% of adults, the findings of the study could result in much more attention being paid to combatting gum disease going forward. Specifically, the research revealed an association between moderate-to-severe periodontitis and a 22% higher risk of hypertension, Moreover, severe periodontitis was linked to a 49% higher risk of hypertension. Speaking about the findings of their research, senior author Prof. Francesco D'Aiuto, from the University College London Eastman Dental Institute in the United Kingdom, said: “Previous research suggests a connection between periodontitis and hypertension and that dental treatment might improve blood pressure, but to date, the findings are inconclusive. “Hypertension could be the driver of heart attack and stroke in patients with periodontitis,” he added.
Cancer has surpassed cardiovascular disease as the biggest killer of middle-aged people in higher-income nations, a study suggests. Globally, stroke and heart problems are the leading causes of death among this age group. But the findings of this latest research led by a team from Canada's McMaster University shows that middle-aged people in rich nations are 2.5 times more likely to die of cancer than cardiovascular disease. In contrast, people in poor countries are three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The study, published in The Lancet, is drawn from a global research program, the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE) study, involving 160,000 people from 21 different countries. While cardiovascular disease accounted for more than 40% of deaths in middle- and low-income countries, it only accounted for less than a quarter in richer nations. The researchers say this could be due to people living in richer countries receiving more medication and support. Speaking about the findings of the research, Gilles Dagenais, a professor at Quebec’s Laval University in Canada who co-led the work, said: “Our report found cancer to be the second most common cause of death globally in 2017, accounting for 26% of all deaths. But as (heart disease) rates continue to fall, cancer could likely become the leading cause of death worldwide, within just a few decades.”
A pill that contains four different medicines and is designed to be taken daily could dramatically reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes, a new study has found. The polypill – which is the generic term used to describe a medication that contains multiple active pharmaceutical ingredients – contains aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin and two drugs to reduce blood pressure. For the study, researchers from Iran and the UK studied around 6,800 people from more than 100 villages in Iran. Half were given the polypill and advice on how to improve their health through lifestyle changes and the other half were just given the lifestyle changes advice. After five years, the group taking the polypill had experienced 202 cardiovascular events, while the group that had just been given the advice had experienced 301 cardiovascular events. In other words, the group taking the polypill had experienced around a third less cardiovascular events. The researchers say the pill costs just pennies a day, but could have a huge impact, especially in poorer countries where doctors have fewer options available to them. Stroke and coronary heart disease are the top two causes of death worldwide, killing more than 15 million people each year. Obesity, smoking and doing little exercise are all risk factors associated with an unhealthy heart. Based on the findings of the study, if 35 people were all given the polypill daily, it would prevent one of them developing a major heart problem within 5 years. “Given the polypill's affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world's leading cause of death,” said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran. The findings of the research are published in The Lancet.
Postmenopausal women who have more fat on their legs and thighs have less risk of stroke or heart disease than their peers who carry fat around their stomach, a new study has found. As a result of the research, the findings of which appear in the European Heart Journal, scientists say women should aim to be more “pear-shaped” than “apple-shaped”. For the research, scientists followed 2,600 women with BMIs of between 187 and 25 for 18 years. The scientists found that the women who were apple-shaped i.e. had fat around their stomachs were more than three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than the women who were pear-shaped i.e. had fat on their legs and thighs. It’s already known that fat stored in the visceral region (around the abdominal organs) can increase a person’s chances of developing type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems, but the exact reasons why remain unknown. Further research is needed. The advice for women (and men) is to reduce the amount of fat they have stored around their stomachs. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study uncovers an interesting link between where fat is stored and your risk of heart attack and stroke, but can't tell us why it exists. “Future research to uncover how the distribution of body fat is related to these diseases could reveal important new ways to prevent and treat the world's biggest killer.”
We are frequently warned about the health consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle. But new research reveals that not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy. The study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons found that sitting in front of a TV (known as ‘leisure-time sitting’) was associated with a greater risk of heart disease and death. In fact, study participants who watched four or more hours of TV a day were found to have a 50% greater risk of cardiovascular events and death compared to those who watched less than two hours a day. However, the study also found that participants who sat for long periods at work had the same level of risk as those who sat the least, suggesting the type of sitting really does have an impact. Furthermore, the study also revealed that even the most avid TV watchers could reverse the effects of their longer sedentary periods with moderate to rigorous exercise. For example, individuals who watched TV for four hours or more each day, and undertook 150 minutes or more exercise a week, had no increased risk of stroke, heart attack or death. Speaking about the findings of the study, Keith M. Diaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently. The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”
Scientists have developed a heart patch from millions of living, beating stem cells that could help heal heart attack damage. Grown in a lab from a sample of a patient’s own stem cells, the patches are sewn on to the heart and subsequently turn into healthy, working muscle. After three days, the patches start to beat, and after one month, they mimic mature heart tissue. They also release chemicals that stimulate the repair and regeneration of existing heart cells. Tests involving rabbits showed that the patches appear safe and led to an improvement in the function of the heart following a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a clogged artery leads to the flow of oxygen blood to the heart muscle being disrupted. This causes the heart to be starved of oxygen and vital nutrients, resulting in its pumping power being damaged. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the patches could one day provide an off-the-shelf treatment for patients who have experienced a heart attack. Clinical trials involving humans are set to begin within two years. Speaking about the patches, Researcher Dr Richard Jabbour said: “One day, we hope to add heart patches to the treatments that doctors can routinely offer people after a heart attack. “We could prescribe one of these patches alongside medicines for someone with heart failure, which you could take from a shelf and implant straight in to a person.”
Normally, in people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – a condition that causes portions of the heart to get bigger without any obvious cause – the only way to see the structural changes in the heart is after a person has died. The condition is the number one cause of sudden cardiac death in young individuals. But a new scan technique could pick up signs that a person is at risk of suddenly dying from a hidden heart condition while they are still alive. Researchers from Oxford University developed the new technique, which uses microscopic imaging, to check for muscle fibre disarray. This is when abnormal fibre patterns occur in the heart, not allowing heartbeats to spread evenly across its muscle fibres, which can lead to potentially deadly heart rhythms. For the study – the findings of which are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology – the researchers scanned 50 patients with HCM and 30 healthy people. They were able to see disarray in the HCM patients’ muscle fibres – something that had never been witnessed before in living subjects. The scan technique, known as diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging, has, up until now, normally only been used on the brain, but scientific advances mean that it can now be used on the heart too. Dr Rina Ariga, study author and cardiologist at University of Oxford, said: “We're hopeful that this new scan will improve the way we identify high-risk patients, so that they can receive an implantable cardioverter defibrillator early to prevent sudden death.” Footballer Fabrice Muamba is one of the most famous people to be affected by HCM. He almost died after collapsing during a match in the UK. In fact, Muamba was technically dead for a staggering 78 minutes before regaining consciousness. At the time of the incident, Muamba was 23 years old and in his prime as an athlete.
Previous claims that one or two alcoholic drinks a day doesn’t do any harm and could actually be protective are now in significant jeopardy following the publication of a large genetic study in The Lancet. According to the UK and Chinese researchers who followed 500,000 Chinese people over a 10-year period, the findings of the study are the best evidence yet on the direct effects of alcohol. While the negative health implications of heavy drinking are understood, the impact of consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis has remained unclear. The researchers, from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, found that: drinking one to two alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 10-15% drinking four alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 35% For the purposes of the study, one drink was defined as either: a small glass of wine a bottle of beer a single measure of spirits In other words, even light-to-moderate drinking can increase blood pressure and a person’s chances of having a stroke. Prof David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said drinking alcohol on a daily basis gives the “opposite effect of taking a statin” (drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels). The bottom line, according to Prof Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, is the “claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects is not borne out”.
Our daily diets are bigger killers than smoking and account for one in five deaths around the world. In other words, the food you eat could be sending you to an early grave. But which diets are the worst? Well, according to an influential study in The Lancet, salt – whether it be in bread, processed meals or soy sauce – shortens the most lives. The Global Burden of Disease Study used estimates of different countries’ eating habits to determine which diets were shortening the most lives. Here are the three most dangerous diets: Too much salt - three million deaths Too few whole grains - three million deaths Too little fruit - two million deaths Low levels of seeds, nuts, vegetables, fibre and omega-3 from seafood were the other major killers. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound.” Salt is such a big problem because it significantly increases a person’s blood pressure, which in turn increases their chances of heart attacks and strokes. Around 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease, highlighting why diets containing too much salt are such a problem.
A new cholesterol-lowering drug could offer hope for both people who are unable to take statins due to the side effects and for people who statins are ineffective. An international study suggests the drug, called bempedoic acid, helps lower cholesterol in people who continue to have high levels despite taking statins. It is thought that it can also be used for people who are unable to take statins because of the associated side-effects. Publishing their research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers say they have asked UK and US drug regulators to consider approving the pill for widespread use. Bempedoic acid works by blocking an enzyme in the body that is used to produce cholesterol. For the study, over 1,000 people with cardiovascular disease or a genetic cholesterol condition were given bempedoic acid in addition to their usual cholesterol-lowering medication. About 700 other study participants were given a placebo. After just three months, the group taking bempedoic acid had 17% less bad cholesterol than the group receiving the dummy medication. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Kausik Ray, from Imperial College London, said: “Bempedoic acid could be another addition to the arsenal of cholesterol lowering treatments available to patients. “What we have is a new class of drug that could be given to patients who are already taking statins and could help them further reduce their cholesterol levels and thus potentially cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes.” Bad cholesterol remains one of the main risk factors for heart attacks and strokes across the world.
People who have a heart attack sometimes experience heart muscle damage. As a result, many live with heart failure and may require a heart transplant in the future. But what if there was a way for human hearts to heal themselves? Scientists say an exotic fish could perhaps hold clues to making such an occurrence a reality. The Mexican tetra fish, which lives in freshwater, can, quite amazingly, repair its own heart. Popular with aquarium owners because of its unique coloring, the tetra fish has many different species, most of which can heal their own hearts following damage. To understand how the tetra fish do this, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford in the UK travelled to the Pachón cave in Mexico to study a tetra subspecies, the “blind cave tetra”. This remarkable fish has not only lost its ability to see, but also its color. Moreover, it can no longer regenerate heart tissue. By studying the blind cave tetra alongside other species of tetra, the team of researchers was able to create genetic profiles for both, allowing them to better understand what gives the tetra its amazing heart regeneration abilities. The team, led by Dr. Mathilda Mommersteeg, an associate professor at the University of Oxford, identified three separate genomes relevant to the tetra’s self-healing. Further analysis revealed two genes, lrrc10 and caveolin, were far more active in the river tetras. “A real challenge until now was comparing heart damage and repair in fish with what we see in humans. But, by looking at river fish and cave fish side by side, we've been able to pick apart the genes responsible for heart regeneration,” said Dr. Mommersteeg. Going forward, the research team hopes it may be possible to develop a way for heart attack patients to repair their own heart tissue.
Strength training exercises benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, new research suggests. The survey of more than 4,000 American adults found that static exercise, like lifting weights, is more effective at reducing the risk of heart disease than cardiovascular exercise. Specifically, while undertaking both static and dynamic exercise was associated with a 30% to 70% reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, the link was strongest for younger individuals who did static exercises. Nevertheless, any amount of exercise brings benefits and doing both static and dynamic types is still better than focussing on just one kind, the researchers from St. George's University in St. George's, Grenada said. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Maia P. Smith, assistant professor at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.” Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend that American adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every week. The same guidelines also stipulate that said activity should be spread across the week and not completed in just one or two days. Are you doing enough physical activity each week? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
Do you take supplements containing omega-3 fish oil in the belief they are helping to protect your heart? A new study suggests you could be wasting your money. Researchers from Cochrane analysed trials involving more than 100,000 people and discovered little proof that omega-3 supplements prevented heart disease. In fact, they say the chance of getting any benefits from such supplements is one in 1,000. However, despite this, the researchers still maintain that eating oily fish as part of a healthy diet is beneficial. Indeed, NHS guidelines state that people should try to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which, ideally, should be oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna. This is so they get enough “good” fats. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University, said: “There was a period where people who had suffered a heart attack were prescribed these on the NHS. This stopped some years ago. “Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I'd advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead.” Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.” Nevertheless, Dr Carrie Ruxton from the UK’s Health and Food Supplements Information Service said supplements containing omega-3 can still play an important role for people who don’t eat oily fish – especially as omega-3 also benefits the brain, eyes and immune function.
Doctors should take a person’s marital status into account when assessing their risk of heart attack and stroke, a major study has found. For the study, researchers at Keele University analysed numerous trials involving more than two million people. They found that individuals who were never married, divorced or widowed were 42% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. They were also 42% more likely to die from heart disease and 55% more likely to die from a stroke. Risk factors such as age, sex, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes are usually associated with cardiovascular disease. However, the findings of the new study suggest marital status should also be added to the list. Senior author, Mamas Mamas, Professor of Cardiology at Keele University, in England, said: “Our work suggests that marital status should be considered in patients with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and should be used alongside more traditional cardiac risk factors to identify those patients that may be at higher risk for future cardiovascular events”. The researchers say the reason marriage could have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease is because of the additional emotional and social support that’s afforded by having a spouse. People with long-term partners are more likely to have symptoms spotted earlier and encouraged to seek medical advice as a result.
Have you ever encountered someone who calls themself ‘fat but fit’? It’s not uncommon to meet people who are clearly overweight, yet not perturbed by their situation because they consider themselves to be fit and healthy. However, a large study conducted in America has found that women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke tracked the health of some 90,257 women in the US over a 30-year period. They found that women who were overweight or obese, but had none of the typical cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes, were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their normal weight and metabolically healthy peers. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Matthias Schulze, who led it, said: "Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events.” The study also found women who were of normal weight, but metabolically unhealthy, were over two-times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women."
People who regularly drink more than the UK’s recommended alcohol guidelines risk taking years off their lives, a major new report has found. According to the study of some 600,000 drinkers, having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person's life by between one and two years. People who regularly consume more than 18 alcoholic drinks every week could lose four to five years of their lives. UK government guidelines, which were last updated in January 2016, recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week (equivalent to 6 pints of average strength beer). Previously, the guidelines advised 21 units for men and 14 units for women each week. The authors of the Lancet study say their findings support the UK government’s revised guidelines. Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true. "Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke."
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
Diabetes has long been split into two types: type 1 and type 2. But new research suggests it could actually be five different diseases and treatment could be tailored to tackle each form. Researchers in Sweden and Finland say the more complicated diabetes picture they’ve uncovered could lead to a new era of personalised medicine being ushered in. Affecting approximately one in 11 people around the world, diabetes doesn’t just play havoc with blood sugar levels, but also increases the risk of stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and limb amputation. Type 1 diabetes, which affects around 10% of sufferers in the UK, is a disease of the immune system that attacks the body’s insulin factories, leading to there being a shortage of the hormone to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is associated with poor lifestyle choices and obesity, which affect the way in which insulin works. For the study, the researchers analysed blood samples from 14,775 patients. They found that people could be separated into five distinct diabetes clusters. Talking to the BBC, Prof Leif Groop, one of the researchers, said: "This is extremely important, we're taking a real step towards precision medicine. "In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better."
New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that waist-to-hip ratio is a better heart attack predictor than body mass index (BMI), with so-called “apple shape” women at greater risk than their male counterparts. According to the research from the George Institute for Global Health, waist-to-hip ratio is an 18% better heart attack predictor than BMI in women and 6% in men. However, the research also found that BMI was linked to heart disease risk in both sexes. For the research, the team from the George Institute in Oxford interviewed nearly 500,000 UK adults aged 40 to 69. They found women who had bigger waists relative to their hips are at more risk of heart attacks than men with similar body shapes. Speaking about the findings of the research, Ashleigh Doggett, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Considering the large amount of UK participants, this is a very interesting study which highlights that obesity remains a risk factor for heart attacks in both men and women. "Interestingly, it suggests that those of us who are 'apple' as opposed to 'pear' shape, especially women, may be at higher risk of a heart attack.” The researchers say their findings suggest the differences in the way men and women store fat may affect their risk of heart disease. While more research is needed, these findings do support the notion that being “apple shape” (having proportionally more fat around the abdomen) is more hazardous for your health than being “pear shape” (having proportionally more fat stored around the hips. The full findings of the research can be found in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers at an Oxford hospital have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that can accurately diagnose heart and lung scans. The new AI could lead to more people being diagnosed earlier and prevent patients being sent home when they are still at risk of having a heart attack. It’s though the system will save the NHS billions of pounds by enabling various diseases to be detected much earlier. The heart disease technology will be available to NHS hospitals for free this summer. Currently, cardiologists use a person’s heartbeat to tell if there is a problem. However, even the most experienced doctors get it wrong in one in five cases. This leads to a patient being sent home when they are still at risk of a heart attack or undergoing an unnecessary operation. The AI system can pick up details on the scans that doctors cannot see, resulting in a more accurate diagnosis. So far, the system has been tested in clinical trials and the results aren’t expected to appear in a peer-reviewed journal until later this year. However, one of the system’s developers has said the data shows it greatly outperformed his fellow specialists. The government's healthcare tsar, Sir John Bell, has indicated that AI could "save the NHS". "There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50%. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS," he said.
Calcium is well-known for its role in promoting healthy bones, but a new study suggests it could also be beneficial for heart health too. Cardiac arrest, or heart attack, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today. In fact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately 350,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests (SCAs) occur in America every year. Furthermore, almost 90% of people who experience SCA die as a result. The primary cause of SCA is coronary heart disease. However, around 50% of women and 70% of men who die from SCA have no medical history of heart disease, suggesting other significant risk factors are at play. For the study, researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, CA, analysed data from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study. They found that the risk of SCA was increased by 2.3-fold for people who had the lowest blood calcium levels (under 8.95 milligrams per deciliter). More importantly, this risk remained after confounding factors, including demographics, cardiovascular risk factors and medication use, were accounted for. Dr. Hon-Chi Lee, of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, said: “This is the first report to show that low serum calcium levels measured close in time to the index event are independently associated with an increased risk of SCA in the general population”.
A sudden chest pain often leads to people fearing the worst, which is why many, quite rightly, seek medical help right away. But two-thirds of the time, patients with chest pains will not actually have experienced a heart attack. Nevertheless, these patients still need to be assessed and given the all-clear before being sent home. Then there are the patients who have actually had a heart attack. While a heart trace, called an ECG, can quickly identify major heart attacks, it is not that good at highlighting smaller ones, which can also be life-threatening. At present, patients with a clear ECG and chest pain are then given a heart-attack blood test, called troponin. However, this needs to be repeated three hours later to check for signs of heart muscle damage. Now, a new instant blood test could change the way suspected heart attack patients are treated. The cMyC test can rule out or confirm a heart attack in less than 20 minutes, meaning well patients can be sent home quicker, while heart attack victims can get the treatment they need faster. Troponin and cMyC blood tests were carried out on nearly 2,000 people admitted to hospitals in Switzerland, Italy and Spain with acute chest pain. The cMyC test was found to be better at giving patients the all-clear within the first three hours of presenting with chest pain. According a team from King's College London, the cMyC test could be rolled out on the NHS within five years. Dr Tom Kaier, one of the lead researchers at St Thomas' Hospital, London, said: "Our research shows that the new test has the potential to reassure many thousands more patients with a single test, improving their experience and freeing up valuable hospital beds in A&E departments and wards across the country." [Related reading: What is Coronary Angioplasty?]
A study by Public Health England looking at the heart health of the nation has found that thousands of men face early death at the hands of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to the analysis of 1.2 million people, one in 10 British men has a heart age that’s a decade older than their actual age. Heart disease is the main cause of death among men and the second among women. Public Health England says that 7,400 people will die from heart disease or stroke this month alone. However, most of these deaths are preventable and Public Health England says that just a few small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact. One of the suggestions made was for over 50s to get their blood pressure regularly checked as high blood pressure can be an early sign of a potentially life-threatening condition. Public Health England’s head of cardiovascular disease, Jamie Waterall, urged people not to only start considering their heart health later in life. "Addressing our risk of heart disease and stroke should not be left until we are older", he said. How to improve your heart health: Give up smoking Get active Manage your weight Eat more fibre Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day Cut down on saturated fat Cut down on salt Drink less alcohol
A trial involving an anti-inflammatory drug could represent the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of heart attacks and strokes since statins were introduced to help lower cholesterol, its authors say. The study of 10,000 patients found that anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab reduced the risk of a patient who had already had a heart attack having another one in the future. The four-year trial saw patients receive high doses of statins as well as either canakinumab or a placebo. Those who received canakinumab were found to be 15% less likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event than their counterparts who received the placebo. Furthermore, cancer deaths were also halved in patients who received canakinumab. The results, which have been referred to as “exciting” by the British Heart Foundation, are thought to be down to the effect of the anti-inflammatory drug on unchecked inflammation within the heart’s arteries. Presenting their results at the European Society of Cardiology meeting, held in Barcelona, Spain, the research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, led by the study's lead author Dr Paul Ridker, said the study represented "a milestone in a long journey". "For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk. "This has far-reaching implications." It is thought the trial could now lead to new types of treatment for heart attacks and strokes being developed.
People who are overweight or obese, despite appearing medically healthy, are still at increased risk of heart disease, experts warn. The notion that people can be ‘fat but fit’ is being challenged by research published in the European Heart Journal. According to the researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, who studied health data relating to more than half a million people in 10 European countries, weight is still a heart disease risk factor even if someone has normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The study found that people who appeared healthy, with healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar readings, were still 28% more likely to develop heart disease than individuals with health bodyweights. Even more at risk were people who were overweight or obese and had high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Dr Ioanna Tzoulaki, from Imperial's School of Public Health, said: "I think there is no longer this concept of healthy obese. "If anything, our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as 'healthy' haven't yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile. "That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event, such as a heart attack”. So the advice if you want to maintain a healthy heart is to watch your weight, even if you think you are fit.