General Cardiovascular Health Information
Alcohol Consumption and the Heart
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with cardiovascular diseases such as cardiomyopathy, hypertension, arrhythmias, and stroke.
Aspirin After a Heart Attack
Studies show that heart attack patients who took aspirin when their symptoms began, and then daily for one month, significantly lowered their risk of dying and of having another heart attack or stroke.
Aspirin During a Heart Attack
Up to 10,000 more people would survive heart attacks if they would chew one 325 milligram aspirin tablet when they first had chest pain or other sign of a heart attack. Patients should be given aspirin during the first hour - during pre-hospital transport or in the Emergency Room - if a heart attack is suspected.
C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
The C-Reactive Protein test (CRP) is a blood test that may be a better indicator of heart attack risk than tests for cholesterol.
Cardiovascular disease is a disease of the heart and blood vessels and is the nation's leading killer, claiming 939,610 lives in 2000. The personal, social, and economic impacts of cardiovascular disease are significant. In 2000, the economic impact was estimated to be almost $290 billion. Knowing the risk factors for heart disease and heart failure and adopting life-long heart-healthy practices can improve heart health.
Cloning and Transplants
Researchers say they've taken a major step toward cloning pigs whose hearts, lungs and kidneys could be safely transplanted into humans. Such organs would save the lives of thousands of critically ill people who cannot get transplants because of the shortage of human organs. Scientists say they produced four piglets without one of two genes that lead to the massive rejections that have plagued efforts at xenotransplantation - the process of replacing human organs with animal organs.
Dine at the Dinner Table Only
If you eat in front of the TV, then every time you nestle in with the remote control, it's a cue to eat. Instead, designate an eating spot for all meals and snacks.
Exercising When Obese
If you're obese, check with your physician before initiating any exercise program. Search for a low impact aerobic program as a starter.
Fat Free vs. Calorie Free
Just because a product is fat free, doesn't mean it is calorie free. In fact, fat free or reduced fat products can have as many, if not more, calories per serving than regular products. So, yes, you do need to watch your fat intake. But remember that calories count, too.
Food Labels to Reveal Artery-Clogging Trans Fat
Trans fat hasn't gotten the attention its infamous cousin, saturated fat, earned through warnings and labels. That's about to change: After 10 years of debate, the government is requiring food labels to reveal exact levels of the artery clogger.
Trans fat is in numerous products, from meats and dairy products to pastries. The most common source is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, where liquid oil is turned into a solid to protect against spoiling and maintain long-term flavor.
Garlic and Heart Disease
Garlic helps fight heart disease. It contains sulfur compounds, which scientists suspect inhibit the formation of artery-clogging blood clots. It may reduce both elevated blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Roasting transforms garlic into an almost buttery substance that makes a great fat-free spread for bread or addition to dips. To roast, wrap a garlic head in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 40 minutes.
Heart Reshapes After Injury
Using the male chromosome as a marker, researchers studying eight cross-gender heart transplants from New York Medical College have discovered that the body can actively reshape the heart after injury.
High Sodium Foods
High sodium foods include:
Canned soup, canned vegetables, canned tomato products, canned tuna/salmon, ham, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, olives, pickles, sauerkraut, instant mixes, garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt, soy sauce, processed foods, lunch meat, cheese
Ibuprofen vs. Aspirin
The popular pain reliever ibuprofen blocks the heart-protecting effects of aspirin when taken at the same time. Regular aspirin can be taken two hours before or after ibuprofen. Enteric-coated aspirin, which is released more slowly into the blood, could be taken at bedtime without a conflict.
Inflammation May Cause Heart Attacks
In what doctors are calling a revolutionary departure from long-held beliefs about the causes of heart attacks, there is new emphasis on low-grade inflammation in various parts of the body as triggering such events.
While medical experts have for years focused on cholesterol and clogged arteries, research indicates that inflammation may just as often be the cause of heart attacks, and in fact half of all heart attack victims have normal or even low levels of cholesterol.
New research shows that people with high levels of C-reactive protein - an indicator of inflammation - have twice the risk of heart attack than those with elevated cholesterol.
In response to the findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is drawing up new recommendations that will likely urge doctors to test most middle-aged Americans for inflammation, as well as cholesterol, as a prevention for heart attack.
Inflammation Twice as Bad as Cholesterol
Despite their seemingly healthy cholesterol levels, new research shows many people are at high risk of heart attacks because of painless inflammation in the bloodstream.
The inflammation comes from many sources and triggers heart attacks by weakening the walls of blood vessels, making fatty buildups burst. A large study concludes it is twice as likely as high cholesterol to trigger heart attacks.
Inflammation can be measured with a test that checks for C-reactive protein, or CRP, a chemical necessary for fighting injury and infection. The test typically costs between $25 and $50.
Diet and exercise can lower CRP dramatically. Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins also reduce CRP, as do aspirin and some other medicines.
Mini-Meals for Weight Loss
Having smaller, more frequent meals can prevent you from getting ravenously hungry and overeating. On average, weight loss winners eat five times a day.
New MRI Technique for CAD
A new type of imaging technique using an MRI device can detect most diseased coronary arteries, potentially sparing many heart patients a more invasive, expensive and uncomfortable test, the angiogram.
Nuts Cut Sudden Death Risk in Men
Men who eat nuts regularly have roughly half the risk of sudden cardiac death as those who don't consume the food.
Nuts contain unsaturated fats that aren't as hard on the arteries as their saturated siblings. Some nuts have other cardiac benefits. Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to boost cardiovascular health and which may prevent heart rhythm anomalies. They can also be a good source of nutrients such as vitamin E and magnesium.
Nuts for Nuts
Have you stopped snacking on nuts because you've heard they're too fatty, caloric, and salty? Well, take heart. Recent studies have shown that nuts can help prevent coronary disease. They're rich in unsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, folic acid, and other B vitamins. And walnuts are especially rich in heart-healthy oil. So dig in, but choose the unsalted variety and, as with any food, enjoy them in moderation.
OTCs and Sodium
Some OTC drugs have large amounts of sodium in them. Always read the labels for over-the-counter drugs. When in doubt, ask a pharmacist, or your health care provider, if the drug is one you can use.
The beds might not get made, but you still must make time for exercise. That's how you keep weight off, you make exercise part of your daily schedule.
Reducing Dietary Sodium - Breads and Cereals
Breads, Cereals, Rice and Pasta Group:
- Read the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare the sodium content of cereals.
- Snack foods are typically high in sodium.
- There are lots of reduced sodium or no-salt-added snacks available.
Reducing Dietary Sodium - Fats and Sweets
Fats, Oils and Sweets: As a general rule salad dressings and condiments are high in sodium.
Reducing Dietary Sodium - Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit and Vegetable Groups:
- To keep the sodium content down try seasoning vegetables without salt.
- Herbs and spices can provide a tasteful alternative.
- Canned vegetables are higher in sodium than fresh or frozen.
- Try the low-sodium or "no-salt added" versions.
- Plain frozen vegetables contain less salt than those frozen with sauces.
- Canned vegetable juices are high in sodium, select reduced sodium versions.
Reducing Dietary Sodium - Meats
- Processed luncheon meats are high in sodium. Select lower sodium luncheon meats.
- Choose unsalted nuts.
- Most canned soups are very high in sodium.
- Reduced-sodium soups are available; however, they still contain substantial sodium.
- Many frozen dinners, convenience foods, combination dishes, and packaged mixes are also high in sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare the sodium content of these foods.
Reducing Dietary Sodium - Milk
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group:
- Cheeses vary in sodium content, but tend to be higher in sodium than milk or yogurt.
- Processed cheeses, cheese foods, and cheese spreads contain more sodium than natural cheese.
- Reduced sodium cheeses are available.
People with kidney problems, or who are taking medicines, should check with their health care provider before using "salt substitutes." Potassium chloride is found in many salt substitutes. Too much potassium can be harmful to some people.
Sodium = Na
Read the labels when you buy packaged foods. Look for different sodium compounds that are added to foods. Watch for the words on labels that identify sodium ingredients. These include "sodium" and sodium's symbol, "Na" which is a capital "N" with a small "a."
Tea Reduces Heart Disease
Studies show tea can help prevent cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Tea antioxidants, called polyphenols, may be 100 times as effective as vitamin C and 25 times as effective as vitamin E.
Treatment May Help Body Grow Bypasses
Medication that prompts the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) may one day help the body produce its own bypasses around clogged heart or leg arteries.
Whole Grains, Older Women and Heart Health
Older women who eat the right amount of whole grains cut their risk of a fatal heart attack significantly. At ages 55 - 69, women who eat whole grains for at least three of their daily carbohydrate servings were found to be in better heart health during the next 10 years. Whole grain breads, crackers and cereals - made from grains that have not been stripped of their bran and germ - protect against heart disease and diabetes. It's unclear which part of the whole grain - the fiber, the vitamin E, the folate, the magnesium or some of the health-protective phytochemicals - provides the health benefits. Read labels carefully. Look for "whole-grain" or "whole-wheat flour" as the first or second ingredient.
Women and Heart Disease
By increasing the intake of folate and Vitamin B6, you may also prevent heart disease. Women with the highest intake of folate (545 micrograms or more per day) and Vitamin B6 (4.6 mg or more per day) were 45% less likely to develop coronary artery disease than women with the lowest intake of folate (less than 190 mg per day) and Vitamin B6 (less than 1.1 mg per day). The main source of both vitamins is a multivitamin supplement and many cold breakfast cereals that are fortified with both nutrients.
When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, the excess can become trapped in the walls of your arteries. By building up there, the cholesterol helps to cause hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. And atherosclerosis causes most heart attacks by slowing or even blocking the flow of blood to the heart. When this happens, the heart gets less oxygen than it needs. This weakens the heart muscle, and chest pain (angina) may occur. If a blood clot forms in the narrowed artery, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or even death can result.
Carbs and Heart Disease
Researchers think that a diet heavy on sugar-refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, low-fiber cereals and white rice) upsets levels of good and bad cholesterol and interferes with the body's ability to use insulin. Healthful carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, get the green light.
Cholesterol Build Up
Cholesterol build-up happens very slowly; you are not even aware of it. If you lower your high blood cholesterol level, you can slow, stop, or even reverse the build-up and lower your likelihood of death from heart disease.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs cholesterol, which it uses to make many hormones and vitamin D. Cholesterol also aids in fat digestion. Your body makes enough cholesterol to meet its needs. You can also get cholesterol from the foods you eat. Only foods from an animal source such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy foods contain cholesterol.
Choosing Between Butter and Margarine
If dry toast just isn't appealing, you may wonder which spread is healthier: butter or margarine. Margarine wins, according to the American Dietetic Association. That's because it has no cholesterol and less saturated fat than its dairy cousin. And for the healthiest spread, the group says to choose margarine in a tub over the stick variety.
Eat More Beans
Beans and other legumes contain pectin which surrounds cholesterol and escorts it from the body.
Fruit Helps Lower Cholesterol
Fruit contains pectin that helps lower cholesterol. The best fruits to eat to battle high cholesterol are grapefruit, oranges and apples.
Many people who try nutrition therapy for increased cholesterol levels notice a change in their condition within a few weeks and only need two or three visits.
Potential Cholesterol Fighters
The following substances are potential weapons against high cholesterol: tea, lemongrass oil, spirulina, barley, oats, rice bran and activated charcoal.
Supplements to Decrease Cholesterol
The following supplements that have shown the most promise in lowering cholesterol: niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E and calcium.
Switch to Olive Oil
Olive oil, nuts, avocados, canola oil and peanut oil are high in monounsaturated fat which helps lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Types of Fats
Types of fats include:
- Polyunsaturated fat (10% of calories) - corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil
- Monounsaturated fat (10-15% of calories) - olive oil, peanut oil, canola (rapeseed) oil
- Saturated fat (less than 10% of calories) - butter, cream, whole milk, ice cream, cheese, meat marbling, coconut, palm kernel oil, palm oil, hydrogenated fat, cocoa butter
African and Hispanic Americans
African and Hispanic Americans have a much higher rate of hypertension. People of these ethnic groups need to be more diligent in getting their blood pressure taken on a frequent basis.
Alcohol and Hypertension
People with hypertension (high blood pressure) should limit their alcohol intake to two drinks or fewer per day. Alcohol consumption raises blood pressure.
Avoid Isometrics if Hypertensive
Hypertensive people should avoid isometric exercises like weight-lifting which can cause blood pressure to soar. Try aerobic exercises like walking and swimming instead.
Blood Pressure Machines
Only your doctor or other health care provider can tell you if you have high blood pressure. There are machines in stores and malls, but they SHOULD NOT substitute for the advice of a qualified professional.
Blood Pressure Measurement
As blood flows from the heart out to the blood vessels, it creates pressure against the blood vessel walls. Your blood pressure reading is a measure of this pressure. A health care provider may use a device called a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff, to take this measurement. The test is short and painless. When that reading goes above a certain point, it is called high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Normal Range
Because hypertension is so common, everyone should have his or her blood pressure tested once a year. Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers. The upper number, the systolic, is indicative of the pressure in your arteries while your heart is pumping. The lower number, diastolic, is indicative of the pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest. The average blood pressure reading for adults is 120/80, but a slightly higher or lower reading (for either number) may not be a problem. If blood pressure goes above 140/90, a doctor may recommend some form of treatment.
Compare Food Labels
Read the Nutrition Facts on food labels to compare the amount of sodium in products. Look for the sodium content in milligrams and the Percent Daily Value. Aim for foods that are less than five percent of the Daily Value of sodium.
Cut Down on Sodium
A diet low in sodium (salt) can help ease high blood pressure. Keep your sodium intake under 2,400 milligrams per day. Read food labels for sodium content!
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Positive people have lower blood pressures than negative people. Keep a positive attitude to ease your hypertension.
High Blood Pressure
If a doctor tells you have high blood pressure, or hypertension, you may be surprised. High blood pressure does not cause symptoms. You can have it even though you feel fine. But high blood pressure is a serious condition that affects as many as 50 million Americans. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and other health problems.
Marriage and Hypertension
The longer two people are married, the more similar their blood pressures become. If you have a high blood pressure reading, have your spouse's blood pressure checked, also.
New Blood Pressure Standards
New federal guidelines released May 14, 2003 say blood pressure levels once thought normal are actually high enough to signal "prehypertension" - putting those people at risk for high blood pressure later in life.
Normal Blood Pressure:
- Systolic - less than 120
- Diastolic - less than 80
- In otherwise healthy individuals: none
- In individuals with other diseases such as previous heart attack, diabetes, kidney disease, certain other diseases: none
- Systolic - 120-139
- Diastolic - 80-89
- In otherwise healthy individuals: none
- In individuals with other diseases such as previous heart attack, diabetes, kidney disease, certain other diseases: medically treat diseases
Stage one hypertension:
- Systolic - 140-160
- Diastolic - 90-100
- In otherwise healthy individuals: diuretics for most, possibly other drugs
- In individuals with other diseases such as previous heart attack, diabetes, kidney disease, certain other diseases: multiple medications
Stage two hypertension:
- Systolic - more than 160
- Diastolic - more than 100
- In otherwise healthy individuals: two-drug combo, usually one is a diuretic
- In individuals with other diseases such as previous heart attack, diabetes, kidney disease, certain other diseases: multiple medications
Obesity and Hypertension
Obese people are three times more likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure) than people of normal weight. Losing even a few pounds can make a significant difference.
Pets and Hypertension
Interaction with pets helps lower blood pressure, so take a dog or cat and call me in the morning :-)
Reducing Sodium When Eating Out
Measures to reduce dietary sodium when eating out include:
- Ask how foods are prepared. Ask that they be prepared without added salt, MSG, or salt-containing ingredients. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate requests.
- Know the terms that indicate high sodium content: pickled, cured, soy sauce, broth.
- Move the salt shaker away.
- Limit condiments, such as mustard, catsup, pickles, and sauces with salt-containing ingredients.
- Choose fruits or vegetables instead of salty snack foods.
Treatment of Mild Hypertension
With mild hypertension, a doctor may suggest exercise, weight loss and the reduction of salt (sodium) and alcohol intake. In some cases, these steps alone will reduce blood pressure to acceptable levels. There are also many medications available to treat high blood pressure.
Smoking and Heart Disease
Smoking and Home
If you are like many new nonsmokers, the most difficult place to resist the urge to smoke is the most familiar - home. The activities most closely associated with smoking urges are eating, partying, and drinking. And, not surprisingly, most urges occur when a smoker is present.
A list of typical "urge to smoke" triggers:
- Working under pressure
- Feeling blue
- Talking on the telephone
- Having a drink
- Watching television
- Driving your car
- Finishing a meal
- Playing cards
- Drinking coffee
- Watching someone else smoke