Monday, April 12, 2010

American College of Sports Medicine promotes sporting event for cardiac rehab patients

The American College of Sports Medicine will feature Olympic-style competition for cardiovascular rehabilitation patients at the World Heart Games, to be held May 14 and 15 in Decatur, Ga.

Events such as table tennis, golf and bocce ball will be designed to be challenging, but safe (and monitored) for those who are recovering cardiac patients or people with cardiovascular risk factors.

“Cardiac patients often see themselves in a diminished light, with concerns about how cardiac or pulmonary problems likely will permanently limit physical aspects of their lives and lead to more life-threatening events,” said Dr. F. Stuart Sanders, chair of the organizing committee for the event. “In contrast ... we have seen these games transform patients’ outlooks, generating excitement and confidence about how much they might achieve.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Start walking to fight heart disease

Today--April 7--is National 'Start Walking' Day. Did you know that physical inactivity doubles your risk of heart disease? And that you can reduce your risk by adding regular activity to your day? And that something as simple as 30 minutes of walking can make a difference?

What difference can it make? Walking can lower your blood pressure, raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol, help you lose weight, help you manage (or reduce your risk of) diabetes, improve your mood, and keep you strong and fit.

The American Council on Exercise will help you get started, by providing a free, personalized online walking plan. Looking for someplace that's great for a walk? Check out this collection of walking paths.

Bring sneakers to work and make it a point to get up and walk for a half hour every day. Set an example for colleagues, or, heck, bring them along! (Or, suggest a walking program to the person responsible for employee health programs.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heart disease affects gorillas, too

Cardiovascular disease is not just killing humans. Progressive heart ailments--aneurisms, valve disease, cardiomyopathy--are killing gorillas in American zoos. More than 40 percent of adult gorilla deaths are from heart disease, the Washington Post has reported.

It's not the same disease in both primates. Veterinarian Suzan Murray told United Press International that heart disease in gorillas is different from heart disease in humans. Gorillas develop a hardening of the heart muscle, called fibrosing cardiomyopathy, that has few symptoms.

"We've seen over the past 20, 30 years that as these big silverbacks get older, they have heart problems," Dr. Mark Stetter, director of animal health for Disney's Animal Programs, told the Orlando Sentinel in a story about research underway at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sweet news: Chocolate reduces blood pressure, risk for heart disease

Eating chocolate appears to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure, German researchers have found. They're talking about a "moderate" consumption that replaces other high-density snacks in your diet.

The researchers analyzed diet and health habits for 19,357 people, from age 35 to 65, over 10 years. Those who ate the most chocolate (7.5 grams, or 0.3 ounces, per day) had lower blood pressure and were 39 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who ate the least amount of chocolate (1.7 grams or .06 ounces, per day.)

"To put that in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate increased their chocolate intake by 6 grams a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about 10 years," study leader Dr. Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, said in a news release from the European Heart Journal.

What gives chocolate its blood pressure-lowering powers?

Apparently, the high flavanol content of cocoa. Flavanols are a type of antioxidant, and chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa, such as dark chocolate, contain more flavanols. Fruits and vegetables also contain flavanols.

"Flavanols appear to be the substances in cocoa that are responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels," Buijsse told WebMD. "Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen; this may contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves platelet function, making the blood less sticky."

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to travel (safely!) to high altitudes if you have heart disease

So you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Will your heart hold up?

Doctors are hearing variations of this question more frequently as people (including those with previous heart problems) make travel plans that involve altitude. Giving an accurate answer depends on elevation, rate of ascent and acclimitazation and exercise intensity--along with a patient's age, genetics and physical conditioning.

Altitude travel can tax the cardiopulmonary system, with significant changes typically beginning at about 8,200 feet, say researchers writing for the American Heart Journal. The heart has to work harder, in an environment of reduced oxygen, with the body releasing more epinephrine and an increased pulmonary artery pressure.

The researchers are from Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital and Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. They recommend:

* Limiting your workload or exercise time to about 80 to 90 percent of what you can do comfortably at sea level.

* Raising your sleeping altitude gradually, especially if a prolonged trek is planned.

* A moderate degree of physical conditioning at sea level before exercise at altitude.

* Alcohol consumption should be minimized and proper hydration should be maintained to keep blood viscosity and volume within normal parameters.

They say doctors should consider an exercise treadmill test for any men or women over age 40. They say people with recent unstable cadiovascular conditions should refrain from high altitudes, but people who exercise at sea level without symptoms can make plans for a trip at altitude "as long as they are vigilant regarding their heart rate and blood pressure and they decrease the total intensity and duration of their exercise (at altitude.)"

Friday, March 26, 2010

Healthy Eats: Lentil Tortillas

The Heart-Smart Diabetes Kitchen shares this "Lentil Tortillas" recipe for those of us who like salsa, cilantro and jalapeno.

3/4 cup (4 ounces) dried brown lentils

2 cups water

1/2 cup salsa verde, divided

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

canola oil cooking spray

8 corn tortillas, warmed

1 medium jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced fat Mexican blend cheese or mozzarella

2 cups loosely packed shredded lettuce

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1. Bring lentils and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat; reduce heat, cover tightly and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer, place in a small bowl and add 1/4 cup salsa verde, 1 tablespoon canola oil and cumin. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup salsa verde and 1 tablespoon canola oil.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange tortillas on the baking sheet and spoon equal amounts of lentil mixtures on tortillas. Using the back of a spoon, spread mixture to edges of tortillas. Top with jalapeno, cilantro and cheese. Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

3. Place on four dinner plates and top with lettuce, sour cream and remaining salsa verde.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cheers! More studies confirm moderate drinking is good for the heart

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is better for your heart health than abstaining altogether, report two major studies in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The studies confirm previous work showing that alcohol, in moderation, can be good for the heart. They do not change the medical consensus that heavy drinking is bad for health in general. American Heart Association guidelines say that if you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

"This would not change our current guidelines, which provide an upper limit and not a lower limit, no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women," Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told HealthDay.

His study found a lower rate of deaths from cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke among light and moderate drinkers than among people who never drank or quit. Whether they drank beer, wine or liquor did not matter. "Indeed, the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality was among those who drink moderately," Mukamal told HealthDay. "That benefit is clearly eliminated in people who drank above that level."

The second report in the journal comes out of Italy, where researchers compared alcohol consuption and death rates among drinkers and nondrinkers who had cardiovascular disease. They, too, found that moderate alcohol intake had a protective effect. "Moderate" meant 5 to 10 grams of alcohol per day. A typical drink contains about 13.7 grams of alcohol.