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.
We recently wrote about how avoiding five specific bad habits can significantly extend your life. Now, a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ adds further weight to the argument for eating less salt and being healthier. According to the meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomised trials, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure – even in individuals who are not yet at risk of hypertension-related conditions. This is important because heart disease is the number one global killer and high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease. Furthermore, hypertension is also the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, highlighting how potentially beneficial a low slat diet could be for many people. Interestingly, the research found that the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the benefit to blood pressure. At present, U.S. government guidelines advise Americans to not consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, the vast majority of U.S. adults are eating more sodium than they should -- average of more than 3,400 mg each day. One of the biggest problems is the amount of salt that is contained in manufactured foods, which is usually added to enhance flavour, texture and colour, as well as improve longevity. So even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker at every mealtime, you could still be consuming too much. It’s good to get into the habit of checking the foods you buy to see how much they all contain. After all, just a small reduction could significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of early mortality. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Feng He, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial.”
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.”
A major study has found that the UK has a big obesity problem, and that there are severe health implications for people who are even just a little overweight. According to the research, which was funded by healthcare firm Novo Nordisk, individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30-35 were 70% more likely to develop heart failure than their healthy weight peers (18.5-25 BMI). Furthermore, the study of 2.8 million adults also showed that people who were even slightly overweight were twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The study, which is due to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, also revealed: The risk of Type 2 diabetes for people with a BMI of 35-40 was almost nine times higher People with severe obesity (BMI of 40-45) were 12 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes People with severe obesity also had triple the risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, and dyslipidaemia (elevated levels of total or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol) A BMI of 40-45 was also linked with a 50% higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause Speaking about the findings of the study, Public Health England said “sustained action” was needed to tackle obesity.
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.
While many people will be using the start of the New Year to kick-start certain lifestyle changes in an attempt to become “healthier”, there are some who might think it’s too late based on their age. However, a new study has revealed that it’s often not too late for many who want to improve their fitness. In fact, with exercise, even individuals who are into their late middle age can reduce or even reverse the risk of heart failure caused by years of sedentary living. But there’s a slight catch – it requires at least two years of aerobic exercise four to five days a week. According to the study, which was published in the journal Circulation, individuals aged 45-64 who followed an aerobic exercise routine for two years showed an 18% improvement in their maximum oxygen intake while exercising and a more than 25% improvement in "plasticity" in the left ventricular muscle of the heart, compared to their counterparts who didn’t follow such an exercise regime. The take-home message of the research is that exercise needs to be part of a person’s daily routine, like teeth brushing. Dr Richard Siow, vice-dean for the faculty of life sciences and medicine at King's College London, said: "I think that's a very important take-home message for those of us who may have a doom and gloom view there's nothing we can do about it. Yes there is, we can start by getting off the couch to have a more active lifestyle."
Researchers from Oxford University have discovered a potential “goldmine” for new drugs in one of the unlikeliest places – ticks. They found that proteins contained in the parasites’ saliva are excellent at stopping inflammation of the heart, which can cause myocarditis and lead to heart failure. Ticks are remarkably good at biting and feeding without being detected. This allows them to stay attached to animals and humans for up to 10 days while they feed on their blood. The reason tick bites don’t cause any pain or inflammation is because proteins in their saliva neutralise chemicals called chemokines in the host. It’s now thought that ticks could be used to help treat other conditions, such as stroke and arthritis. Prof Shoumo Bhattacharya, BHF professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford, who led the research, said: "Myocarditis is a devastating disease, for which there are currently very few treatments. "With this latest research, we hope to be able to take inspiration from the tick's anti-inflammatory strategy and design a life-saving therapy for this dangerous heart condition.” Traditionally, tick saliva was obtained by milking the tiny parasites using tubes. Nowadays, though, tick saliva proteins can be grown in yeast from synthetic genes, which allows large amounts to be produced. It should be noted that all of the current research has only been carried out in a laboratory, so it will be several years before any trials are conducted with humans.
People with non-O blood could be at greater risk of stroke and heart attack, research suggests. Scientists say it's because A, B and AB blood contains higher levels of a blood-clotting protein. The research, which was presented at the 4th World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, analysed studies involving 1.3m people. It found that people 15 in 1,000 people with non-O blood suffered a heart attack, compared to 14 in 1,000 people with O blood. While these figures don't sound that startling at first, when applied to a whole population the numbers become more important. It is hoped that the findings will help doctors better identify who is at risk of developing heart disease. However, Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings would not have a large impact on the current advice issued by the charity. "Most of a person's risk estimation is determined by age, genetics (family history and ethnicity) and other modifiable risk factors including diet, weight, level of physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. "People with a non-O blood group type - AO, BO and AB - need to take the same steps as anyone wanting to reduce their CVD risk." So regardless of your blood type, the advice remains the same: improve your diet, weight, level of physical activity and don't smoke. In addition, manage blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes too. There's nothing you can do about your blood group, but you can make positive lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.