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”.
Around 620,000 people in the UK are living with a faulty gene which places them at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease or sudden death, a charity has warned. To make matters even worse, most of them are totally unaware. According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the number of people with the faulty gene hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is 100,000 higher than originally thought and could be even higher still in reality. Every week in the UK, approximately 12 seemingly healthy individuals aged 35 or under suffer a sudden cardiac arrest with no explanation. The cause is predominantly undiagnosed heart conditions. The prevalence of inherited conditions is becoming better known, however, the charity warned that as yet undiscovered faulty genes and under-diagnoses mean the real scale is inevitably unknown. A child of someone who has an inherited heart condition has a 50% chance of inheriting it themselves too. Nevertheless, research has helped to uncover many of the faulty genes that cause inherited heart conditions and structured genetic testing services have been developed as a result. However, the medical director of the BHF, Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, said that more research is urgently needed. "If undetected and untreated, inherited heart conditions can be deadly and they continue to devastate families, often by taking away loved ones without warning. "We urgently need to fund more research to better understand these heart conditions, make more discoveries, develop new treatments and save more lives."
A new study has found that men are much more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest than women. In fact, around one in nine men will have their heart stop suddenly before the age of 70, compared to around one in 30 women. The study researchers said that by the age of 45, men have almost an 11% lifetime risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Women of the same age have just a 3% risk. According to Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, approximately 450,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest each year, and most never have any of the usual symptoms associated with a heart problem. He explained that because heart disease tends to develop earlier in men than in women, more serious screening for risk factors in the male population needs to be undertaken. Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are all major cardiac arrest risk factors. "Know your numbers, especially your blood pressure, but also know your cholesterol or whether you have diabetes," said Dr. Lloyd-Jones. "At 50, men should also have a baseline electrocardiogram, which might reveal heart problems," he added. For the study, Dr. Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues analysed data on more than 5,200 men and women between the ages of 28 and 62 who took part in the long-running Framingham Heart Study.