Tag Archives: heart disease

Exercise improves mood for those with chronic illnesses

Reuters reports patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and back pain improve their mood by working out on a regular basis, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Continue reading

Patients’ own stem cells used to reverse heart damage

A story on research involving the use of stem cells to repair damaged hearts received a significant amount of coverage, particular on all of the network news broadcasts, where it received more coverage, with regard to time, than any other story on the broadcasts the entire week.. Continue reading

Some NSAIDs potentially dangerous for heart attack survivors

When heart attack survivors or those with heart disease take certain pain relievers it puts them at higher risk for heart attack or death according to a new study in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association. Continue reading

POM, Vitamin Water, and SoBe Have Made Misleading Claims According to Experts

It has a sleek, curvy bottle, features the juice from an exotic fruit and has a catchy name, but according to both government and consumer agencies, POM Wonderful is a drink that’s not as wonderful as its manufacturer claims. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently issued a complaint against the makers of POM Wonderful 100 Percent Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements, accusing the company of making “false and unsubstantiated claims” in its advertisements that these products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. Here are the details from ABC News:

POM Wonderful is just the most recent drink to feature dubious nutritional claims, and experts say while these drinks may offer some health benefits, consumers should be wary of products that make promises that sound too good to be true.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit consumer group, praised the FTC’s actions and called out POM Wonderful’s makers for using shoddy science to back up the disease-fighting abilities of its products.

“We looked at the POM studies, and some don’t meet the criteria of a high school science fair,” said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs at the center. “One study has no control group and another study involved 10 people.”

Silverglade said POM Wonderful does not adhere to guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Administration.

“The FDA has specific regulations since 1993 that require companies to get pre-market approval before making such claims,” he said. “Had POM’s research actually been credible, the company could have followed the law and petitioned the FDA for approval of the disease prevention claims.”

In response to the complaint, POM Wonderful called the FTC’s allegations “unwarranted” and said it stands by the research, which, it says, supports the benefits of its products.

“We do not make claims that our products act as drugs. What we do, rather, is communicate, through advertising, the promising science relating to pomegranates,” the company said on its website. “Consumers and their health providers have a right to know about this research and its results.”

Nutritionists say POM juice does offer health benefits, but not to the extent the company claims.

“It’s really good, high anti-oxidant juice,” said Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “It’s not easy to get pomegranates, so it’s a good source.”

But he added that when a product’s advertisements claims to have proof of some benefit, consumers should be wary of it.

“Proof is a loaded word and a difficult one to use when talking about scientific literature,” he said.

“There’s information out there on POM juice that’s promising, but no studies that confirm a cause-effect relationship,” said Stacey Nelson, manager of clinical nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Makers of Vitaminwater Sued for Misleading Claims

Vitaminwater, a flavored water made by Coca-Cola’s Glaceau subsidiary, also recently came under fire for its nutritional claims.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a class-action lawsuit last year against Coca-Cola over Vitaminwater’s use of terms such as “defense,” “rescue,” “energy,” and “endurance” in its advertisements, as well as for saying the product can lower the risk of eye disease, boost immunity and improve joint health.

Silverglade said Vitaminwater’s claims are not as deceitful as POM’s, but they are still inaccurate.

“They make a number of health-related claims concerning certain vitamins and minerals in the product that are half-truths, and half-truths are misleading under the law,” Silverglade said.

Nelson said Vitaminwater does contain some vitamins and minerals, and these vitamins and minerals have health benefits, but that doesn’t mean drinking Vitaminwater will provide those benefits.

“They’re taking information about some of the ingredients that are there in tiny doses and running to the end zone and creating a whole claim,” Nelson said.

In fact, there’s a cheaper — and perhaps more effective — way to get the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals.

“Is it any different than taking a multivitamin with water? No. A vitamin may even give you more nutrients,” said Ayoob.

Ayoob and Nelson both added that Vitaminwater, with the exception of Vitaminwater Zero, has a lot of sugar and calories.

The Coca-Cola company called the lawsuit “ludicrous.”

“Consumers can readily see the nutrition facts panels on every bottle of Glaceau Vitaminwater, which show what’s in our product and what’s not,” the company wrote in a statement. “The success of Glaceau Vitaminwater is due in large part to consumers looking for a product like this to help support their healthy, active and on-the-go lifestyle.”

Coca-Cola sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.” A judge ruled against the beverage giant this past summer.

SoBe Beverages Settled Over False Claims in 2005

Five years ago, SoBe Beverages agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the state of Connecticut. The state accused the company of falsely stating that its drinks protected consumers from colds and offered other healthy advantages.

SoBe, owned by PepsiCo, said it would no longer make the claims and agreed to pay more than $200,000 to the state.

Consumers Should Be Wary

“Always ask questions. Ask a doctor, ask a dietician,” said Nelson. “Go to the FDA site or go to a medically proven site to find out more about a claim.”

Experts stress that drinks like POM and Vitaminwater, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Perhaps most importantly, consumers should realize that they’re not going to improve their health by drinking a certain kind of juice.

“There are no ‘magic bullets’ out there,” said Ayoob. “Mother Nature doesn’t work like that.”

Hostile, Competitive Types May Be Harming Their Hearts

An Italian study finds that a hostile personality type is linked to a thickening of neck artery wall — which may be associated with an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. Here are the details from a report in HealthDay News:

Hostile people, especially those who are manipulative and aggressive, may be paying a price in terms of heart health, a new study finds.

These types of people showed a thickening in the walls of their neck arteries tied to a 40 percent higher risk of having the artery narrow. And that could boost their risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke, the researchers concluded.

“The public is often worried about stress, but sometime it’s how our personalities interact with stress that can have an effect on health,” noted Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association and chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He was not involved in the study.

“Knowledge is the first step to making behavior change,” he added. “If there are things that we know, in terms of stress and antagonism, it may help change people’s behavior if they know it’s related to vascular risk.”

The report appears in the journal Hypertension.

For the study, a research team led by Angelina Sutin, a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, collected data on more than 5,600 people in four villages in Sardinia, Italy.

The researchers found that those who had high scores for antagonistic traits had more thickening of the neck (carotid) arteries, compared with more agreeable people.

Thickness of carotid artery walls is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, the researchers note.

After three years, people who scored higher on antagonism or low on agreeableness, particularly those who were manipulative and quick to anger, continued to have thickening of their artery walls. These traits were also predictive of greater of arterial thickening, Sutin’s group found.

People who scored in the lowest 10 percent of agreeableness and had the highest levels of antagonism had about a 40 percent heightened risk for thickened arterial walls, they add.

In a journal news release, Sutin said that “people who tend to be competitive and more willing to fight for their own self-interest have thicker arterial walls, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Sutin said in a statement.

“Agreeable people tend to be trusting, straightforward and show concern for others, while people who score high on antagonism tend to be distrustful, skeptical and at the extreme cynical, manipulative, self-centered, arrogant and quick to express anger,” she added.

In general, men had more thickening of the artery walls than women. But among women who were antagonistic, the risk quickly caught up with that of men. “Whereas women with agreeable traits had much thinner arterial walls than men with agreeable traits, antagonism had a much stronger association with arterial thickness in women,” Sutin said.

Usually, thickening of the artery walls is a sign of age; however, young people with antagonistic traits already had thickening of the artery wall, she added.

This finding remained consistent even after lifestyle factors such as smoking were taken into account, the researchers noted.

The findings — consistent with research in more urban regions — may apply to others in the world, whether they live in smaller towns or cosmopolitan areas, Sutin said. “This may not be unique to Italians.”

Commenting on the study, Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine said that “the active, toxic, ingredient in the infamous ‘Type A’ personality profile is hostility.”

Angry people do tend to be less healthy, he said. “The burgeoning field of psycho-immunology reveals the multiple and powerful pathways by which our emotional state influences hormones and neurotransmitter levels, in turn influencing the functioning of our immune and nervous systems – and perhaps everything else,” Katz said.

The independent effect of chronic anger appeared to be as strong as that of other key risk factors, such as high blood pressure, although this was a study of association, not cause and effect, Katz noted.

“We have ample reason to conclude that chronic anger is bad for us,” he said. “Now the challenge: in a world of many irritations and stressors, how do we [make] chronic anger and hostility go away? That many benefits would ensue if we met this challenge — for both [people’s] carotid arteries and society — seems abundantly clear.”

Mediterranean diet also helps existing heart disease

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet can help heart patients stay healthy, new research from Greece shows. The Mediterranean diet, which I recommend in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, vegetable and olive oils, no-fat dairy products, legumes, whole grains, and fish, and has been shown to help shield people from heart disease and also ward off certain cancers.

But less information is available on whether the Mediterranean diet might be helpful for people who already have heart disease.

According to a report in Reuters Health, to investigate this, Chrysohoou and her team looked at 1,000 patients who had suffered heart attacks or severe chest pain while at rest or with only light exertion. They rated each patient on a scale of 0 to 55 based on how closely their eating matched the Mediterranean ideal.

Nearly half of the patients experienced a second heart-related event within two years after their original hospital discharge.

But patients with the most Mediterranean-style diets were at 31 percent lower risk of suffering another heart attack or experiencing chest pain during the first month after they were discharged from the hospital.

They were only half as likely as those with the least Mediterranean eating habits to have another heart-related event within a year, and nearly 40 percent less likely to experience repeat heart problems within two years.

For every additional point on the 55-point Mediterranean Diet Score, a person’s risk of having another heart-related event over the next two years fell by 12 percent, the researchers found.

Patients with the most Mediterranean diets were also the least likely to experience reductions in the ability of the heart’s main pumping chamber to work at full capacity, as well as harmful structural changes to the heart known as cardiac remodeling.

When the researchers looked at different components of the Mediterranean diet separately, they found that vegetables and salad and nuts were the only foods that cut risk; people who ate vegetables and salad or nuts daily or weekly were at 20 percent lower risk of repeat heart problems within two years of their initial hospitalization compared to people who ate these foods monthly or less often.

Based on the findings, Chrysohoou and her team conclude, strategies to reduce mortality and illness due to heart disease should include a “diet that contains the favorable characteristics of the Mediterranean diet.”

So, not only should those without heart disease consider the Mediterranean diet (to prevent heart disease), but those with heart disease should also consider it (to significantly reduce the risk for a (another) heart attack or heart-related event)

New Study Says, “Check blood pressure at home, not MD’s office!”

Think you need to go to the doctor’s office to check your blood pressure? Think again. For years I’ve had my patients monitor their blood pressure at home. I do NOT rely solely upon blood pressure readings in the office. Now comes a new study saying the best way to predict your risk of stroke or heart attack due to high blood pressure is through systematic monitoring at home rather than periodic checks in the doctor’s office.

Here are more details from Reuters Health: “With home blood pressure monitoring you get a greater number of measurements and there is no white-coat effect,” lead author Dr. Teemu Niiranen told Reuters Health, speaking of the tendency for anxiety to drive up blood pressure. “At home the patient is more relaxed and this seems to provide blood pressure values that reflect the patient’s true blood pressure better.”

Writing in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, Niiranen and colleagues at Finland’s National Institute of Health and Welfare concluded that home-measured blood pressure is a better predictor of heart disease-related problems than office-measured blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, and nearly one in three Americans have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2006 it contributed to the deaths of 326,000 Americans.

The researchers used data on more than 2,000 Finns, 45 to 74 years old, gathered between 2000 and 2001. Participants agreed to be interviewed, undergo medical exams and monitor their blood pressure at home on well-calibrated monitoring devices.

At follow-up nearly 7 years later, 162 participants reported at least 1 non-fatal heart disease-related event such as a heart attack, stroke, or hospitalization due to heart failure. Among the 2,081 participants, 37 heart disease-related deaths were reported.

After analyzing the data, the Niiranen group concluded that the best predictor of heart attacks, strokes, and related deaths was home blood pressure monitoring.

The home blood pressure readings, because there were more of them and they weren’t affected by the “white coat effect,” were more accurate, the authors found.

The home blood pressure monitor used in the study – Omron’s HEM-722c, comparable to the HEM-712c in the U.S. — costs about $70. Niiranen said 60 percent of Finnish patients with high blood pressure have home monitors.

While the study was done in Finland, Niiranen said there’s no reason to believe these results would not also apply to the populations in other countries.

The study could not determine whether home monitoring could save lives, however, since it was only observational, Niiranen said.

Dark chocolate Easter eggs good for your heart?

Easter eggs and other chocolate may be good for you – at least in small quantities and preferably if it’s dark chocolate – according to research that shows just one small square of chocolate a day can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. The study is published online in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers in Germany followed 19,357 people, aged between 35 and 65, for at least ten years, and found that those who ate the most amount of chocolate – an average of 7.5 grams a day – had lower blood pressure and a 39% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who ate the least amount of chocolate – an average of 1.7 grams a day.

The difference between the two groups amounts to six grams of chocolate: the equivalent of less than one small square of a 100g bar.

For those who believe in the Easter bunny (or at least in what he is believed to bring), good news awaits.
Just one small square of chocolate a day might help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease.
After analyzing the diet and health habits of 19,357 people, aged 35 to 65, for at least 10 years, German researchers found that those who ate the most chocolate (an average of 7.5 grams, or 0.3 ounces, a day) had lower blood pressure and were 39 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who ate the least amount of chocolate (an average of 1.7 grams, or 0.06 ounces, a day).
“To put that in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate [of whom 219 per 10,000 had a heart attack or stroke] increased their chocolate intake by 6 grams [0.2 ounces] 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, which published the findings online Tuesday.
“If the 39 percent lower risk is generalized to the general population, the number of avoidable heart attacks and strokes could be higher because the absolute risk in the general population is higher,” he said.
Six grams of chocolate is equivalent to about one small square of a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bar, the researchers said.
But Buijsse cautioned that eating chocolate shouldn’t increase a person’s overall intake of calories or reduce the consumption of healthy foods.
“Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense foods, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable,” he said.

According to a report by HealthDay News, “To put that in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate [of whom 219 per 10,000 had a heart attack or stroke] increased their chocolate intake by 6 grams [0.2 ounces] 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.

“If the 39 percent lower risk is generalized to the general population, the number of avoidable heart attacks and strokes could be higher because the absolute risk in the general population is higher,” he said.

Six grams of chocolate is equivalent to about one small square of a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bar, the researchers said.

But Buijsse cautioned that eating chocolate shouldn’t increase a person’s overall intake of calories or reduce the consumption of healthy foods.

“Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense foods, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable,” he said.

But, for this Easter weekend, my prescription is a little bit of dark chocolate. Consider it doing your heart a bit of good — in more ways than one.

Have a blessed Easter everyone.

Eating Processed Meat Riskier Than Red Meat

Here’s some surprising information from the Harvard School of public health. It’s an old news, new news story. First a reiteration of some old news: Eating processed meat such as bacon, salami, hot dogs, or lunch meats is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.

But, this old news becomes even more convincing since this particular report is based upon an analysis of 20 studies including more than 1.2 million adults.

However, the new news is that the increased risk of heart disease and diabetes does NOT come from eating UNPROCESSED red meat, such as steak, lamb or pork. How about that for a shocker!?

The risk comes from eating PROCESSED meats.

The researchers theorize that the higher sodium and nitrate levels in processed meats are the main reason for the increased heart and diabetes risk.

The researchers defined the term “processed meat” as meaning “any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting or with the addition of chemical preservatives.”

They defined “red meat” as unprocessed meats such as beef, hamburger, lamb, and pork.

As most of you know, conventional wisdom has dictated that fat from red meat is a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a number of types of cancer.

The term “processed meat” refers to any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting or with the addition of chemical preservatives. The researchers defined “red meat” as unprocessed meats such as beef, hamburger, lamb and pork.
“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should avoid eating too much processed meats — for example, hot dogs, bacon, sausage or processed deli meats,” said lead researcher Renata Micha, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Based on our findings, eating up to one serving per week would be associated with relatively small risk.”

“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should avoid eating too much processed meats — for example, hot dogs, bacon, sausage or processed deli meats,” lead researcher Renata Micha, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Business Week in an interview. “Based on our findings, eating up to one serving per week would be associated with relatively small risk.”

“This suggests that salt and other preservatives, rather than fats, probably explain the higher risk for heart attacks and diabetes seen with processed meats,” Micha said.

The researchers found that people who ate unprocessed red meat did not significantly increase their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes. However, eating processed meat was linked to an increased risk for the two conditions. In fact, for every 50-gram (1.8-ounce) serving, the risk for heart disease jumped 42 percent and the risk for diabetes increased 19 percent.

Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian, clinical nutritionist, and exercise physiologist interviewed by Business Week said, “Both red and processed meat and other foods, such as butter and cheese, that are high in saturated fat have been linked to chronic disease.” She added, “People should limit consumption of them as well.”

“Going low- or no-fat with dairy products helps lower our intake of saturated fat,” she said.

“Choosing healthy protein sources — such as white-meat poultry, low-mercury fish, soy, nuts and beans — and focusing on moving in the direction of a more plant-based diet will help us all live longer, healthier lives.

The findings were presented at the Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention Joint Conference in San Francisco.

The caveat is that many findings presented at meetings never make it into the peer-reviewed and published medical literature. So, we’ll have to wait and see if these data and this report of published.

However, given the source (the Harvard School of Public Health), I think I’m comfortable continuing in my recommendation to patients to eat as little processed meat product as possible.

Vitamin D Linked to Lower Heart Risk

According to new research, vitamin D supplements may not only help your bones, they may help protect your heart. A new review of research on vitamin D and calcium supplements shows that people who take moderate to high doses of vitamin D have a lower risk of heart disease — while calcium supplements seemed to have little effect on heart disease risk. Here’s the full report from WebMD:

Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to exposure to sunlight but is also commonly found in fortified dairy products and supplements. It is already known to play a critical role in calcium absorption and bone health, but a growing number of studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation may also lower the risk of heart disease.

Researchers say vitamin D and calcium deficiency is a common problem among the elderly throughout the world. In the United States, the Institute of Medicine recommends vitamin D supplements at a dose of 400 to 600 International Units (IU) per day and calcium at a dose of 1,200 milligrams per day for adults over age 50.

But recent research suggests that significantly higher doses of vitamin D may be required to reap the maximum health benefits of vitamin D supplements.

To help clarify the role of vitamin D and calcium in heart disease risk, researchers analyzed 17 studies published between 1966 and 2009 on vitamin D and calcium supplementation and heart disease. The results appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers found six studies (five of which involved people on dialysis and one which included the general population) showed a consistent reduction in heart-related deaths among people who took vitamin D supplements. But four studies of initially healthy individuals found no differences in development of heart disease between those who received calcium supplements and those who did not.

A second analysis of eight studies showed a slight, but statistically insignificant 10% reduction in heart disease risk among those who took moderate to high doses of vitamin D supplements. No such reduction in heart disease risk was found among those who took calcium or a combination of calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Researchers say very few studies have specifically investigated the effect of vitamin D supplements alone or in combination with calcium on heart disease risk in healthy people.

But evidence to date “suggests that vitamin D supplementation at moderate to high doses may have beneficial effects on reducing the risk for CVD [heart disease], whereas calcium supplementation seems to have no apparent effect,” write researcher Lu Wang, MD, PhD of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and colleagues.

They say more research is “urgently needed” to better explain the role of vitamin D in preventing heart disease.

The data should not be interpreted to mean that calcium supplements are harmful.  Although calcium had only a neutral effect on heart health in the current analysis, calcium is known to be important for bone health. Calcium intake remains below recommended levels for a large portion of the U.S. population.

Herbals and Heart Health

The folks at Natural Standard recently sent out a notice of a significant review in the cardiology literature on the potential interactions between herbs and heart medications. A news release on the study can be found here. This new analysis suggests that herbal supplements, such as Ginkgo biloba and garlic, may cause dangerous interactions when combined with heart medications.

Some examples of herbs and their adverse effect on heart disease management include:

  • St. John’s wort, which is typically used to treat depression, anxiety and sleep disorders among other problems, reduces the effectiveness of medications contributing to recurrences of arrhythmia, high blood pressure or increase in blood cholesterol levels and risk for future heart problems.
  • Ginkgo biloba, which is supposedly used to improve circulation or sharpen the mind, increases bleeding risk in those taking warfarin or aspirin.
  • Garlic, which supposedly helps boost the immune system and is commonly used for its cholesterol and blood pressure lowering properties, can also increase the risk of bleeding among those taking warfarin.

The authors searched PubMed and Medline databases for articles about herbs and heart disease that were published in 1966-2008. They identified nearly 30 herbal products that could cause harmful effects and should not be taken with heart medications, including those that lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, regulate cholesterol and stabilize heart rhythms.

Bleeding was among the most common interactions that were reported. The authors found that alfalfa, angelica (dong quai), bilberry, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, ginkgo and khella may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin®). The researchers also identified herbs (such as capsicum, ginseng, licorice, St. John’s wort and yohimbine) that may increase blood pressure.

Grapefruit juice may also cause dangerous interactions. The fruit inhibits an important enzyme that helps break down drugs. As a result, grapefruit may increase the amount of medication in the body to toxic levels.

According to the researchers, grapefruit juice may increase the effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), blood pressure-lowering drugs (calcium-channel blockers) and cyclosporine (a drug that reduces the risk of transplant rejection).

“There is a clear need for better public and physician understanding of herbal products through health education, early detection and management of herbal toxicities, scientific scrutiny of their use, and research on their safety and effectiveness,” the authors concluded in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“These herbs have been used for centuries—well before today’s cardiovascular medications—and while they may have beneficial effects these need to be studied scientifically to better define their usefulness and, more importantly, identify their potential for harm when taken with medications that have proven benefit for patients with cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr. Jahangir, one of the authors of the study.

“Patients, physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare providers need to know about the potential harm these herbs can have.”

In addition to greater public education about the risks of using herbal products, patients and clinicians need to actively discuss the use of over-the-counter medications, supplements and herbal products in addition to prescription medications.

Dr. Jahanigir also urges the scientific community to commit to conducting studies to test manufacturers’ claims and study the impact of these compounds on heart disease management. He reports no conflict of interest.

Obviously, like conventional drugs, herbs and supplements may cause side effects and interact with other therapies and you should never take natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) with prescription or even OTC drugs without checking with your physician or pharmacist.

You can read more herbs and natural medicines in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook:

  • You can read about and order the book here.
  • You can read the Table of Contents here.
  • You can read a sample chapter here.

Scientists link BPA in plastics to heart disease

#mce_temp_url#With disagreement over baby bottle chemical (bisphenol A), what’s a parent to do?

Reuters Health in London is reporting that exposure to a chemical found in plastic containers is linked to heart disease. Scientists researching bisphenol A, known as BPA, have just confirmed earlier findings casting suspicion on BPA and adding to pressure to ban its use in bottles and food packaging — not only for those containers of food or drink for infants and children, but also adults.

British and U.S. researchers studied the effects of the chemical bisphenol A using data from a U.S. government national nutrition survey in 2006 and found that high levels of it in urine samples were associated with heart disease.

Bisphenol A, known as BPA, is widely used in plastics and has been a growing concern for scientists in countries such as Britain, Canada and the United States, where food and drug regulators are examining its safety.

David Melzer, professor of epidemiology and public health at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England, who led the study, said the research confirmed earlier findings of a link between BPA and heart problems.

The analysis also confirmed that BPA plays a role in diabetes and some forms of liver disease, said Melzer’s team, who studied data on 1,493 people aged 18 to 74.

“Our latest analysis largely confirms the first analysis, and excludes the possibility that the original report was a statistical blip,” they said in a statement.

BPA, used to stiffen plastic bottles and line cans, belongs to a class of compounds sometimes called endocrine disruptors.

The U.S. Endocrine Society called last June for better studies into BPA and presented research showing the chemical can affect the hearts of women and permanently damage the DNA of mice.

“The risks associated with exposure to BPA may be small, but they are relevant to very large numbers of people. This information is important since it provides a great opportunity for intervention to reduce the risks,” said Exeter’s Tamara Galloway, who worked on the study published by the Public Library of Science online science journal PLoS One.

U.S. environmental health advocacy groups are urging a federal ban on BPA.

“There’s enough research to take definitive action on this chemical to reduce exposures in people and the environment,” Dr. Anila Jacob of the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization, said in a telephone interview.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering whether any action needs to be taken. And I would expect them to express a more cautionary tone in the future. There’s just too much evidence now to not do so.

U.S. government toxicologists at the National Institutes of Health concluded in 2008 that BPA presents concern for harmful effects on development of the prostate and brain and for behavioral changes in fetuses, infants and children.

Canada’s government plans to outlaw plastic baby bottles made with BPA. The charity Breast Cancer UK last month urged the British government to do the same because they said there was “compelling” evidence linking the chemical to breast cancer risk.

Experts estimate BPA is detectable in the bodies of more than 90 percent of U.S. and European populations. It is one of the world’s highest production volume chemicals, with more than 2.2 million tonnes produced annually.

My advice to my patients is to avoid, as much as possible, containers with BPA — and certainly not to heat or microwave items in BPA containers. Also, for parents I advise that they not feed their children using plastics containing BPA.

For now, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Here are a couple of my past blogs on BPA:

The Ten Commandments of Preventive Medicine – Part 6 – Alcohol

In my latest book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I teach people how to utilize these ten essentials that are necessary to live a happy and highly healthy life. Under The Essential of Self-Care, teach what I call “The 10 Commandments of Preventive Medicine. Here’s the sixth installment of this ten-part series. Continue reading

The Ten Commandments of Preventive Medicine – Part 2 – Obesity

In my newest book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I teach people how to utilize the ten essentials that are necessary to live a happy and highly healthy life. Under The Essential of Self-Care, I’ve developed a list of what I call “The 10 Commandments of Preventive Medicine.”  Here’s the second installment of this ten-part series.

More information: Continue reading

Women who want to live longer need to become more optimistic

In my new book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, (available about 9/1//09I discuss how “toxic attitudes” can lead to disease, dysfuntion, and disorder. Now, a new study shows how optimism, at least in females, can lead to improved health and longevity.

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Federal investigators uncover major problems with chelation study

I’ve written about chelation for many years. In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I conclude, “Evidence against (chelation’s) effectiveness in heart disease is so clear, its continued use raises serious ethical questions. The therapy is very expensive and can be very lucrative for providers. Nevertheless, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine decided to do a very large study to try to establish once, and for all, whether chelation works or not.

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Obese teens show signs of heart disease. What can you do?

Bloomberg News reports that “teenagers and young adults who are obese . . . show signs of damaged heart arteries that may lead to heart attacks, strokes, and shortened lives,” according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. If you child or teen is overweight or obese, what does this mean for he or she, and what can you do?

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Vibrate yourself to a leaner, healthier you

Reuters Health is reporting  that vibrating exercise platforms, which are increasingly found in commercial gyms in Europe and elsewhere, may indeed help people lose a particularly harmful deep “hidden” fat that surrounds the abdominal organs and is linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

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Study indicates inexpensive polypill pill may significantly reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. Should you consider it?

On the March 30th edition of the ABC World News, Charles Gibson reported, “Some of the country’s leading heart doctors heard results” yesterday at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) conference “about … just one pill that could revolutionize the way heart disease is treated. This pill combines five commonly used medications, and new findings show it to be safe and effective.” Should you get your doctor to prescribe this to you?

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Are multivitamins helpful or harmful when it comes to preventing chronic diseases?

According to the LA Times, “a spate of high-profile studies published in the last few years shows that a variety of popular supplements — including calcium, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E — don’t do anything to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or a variety of cancers.” And, the New York Times is reporting, “In the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life.” But what about multivitamins? Are they helpful or harmful

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What a woman’s heart needs, at every age

Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the US. While 8 million women have it,  you can take specific steps to protect your heart starting at an early age. What’s more, a new study shows that in recent years the overall heart disease risk for Americans – especially women – h=asn’t continued the healthy downward trend it showed in previous decades. Here are some tips for women of all ages.

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Green tea protects against heart disease

Reuters has published a story about Greek researchers who say a few cups of green tea each day may help prevent heart disease. The study, published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, showed further evidence of the potential health benefits from a brew already linked to a reduced risk of a range of cancers and other conditions.

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“The Russert Effect”: Docs Report Surge in Appointments

ABC News is reporting a phenomena that family physicians around the country are reporting to me: Tim Russert’s death Friday from sudden cardiac arrest may have hit a nerve deeper than sadness.

Russert’s death may have lead some to fear for their own seemingly healthy bodies, or the health of a loved one – and doctors are seeing the effects. Calls are up dramatically for exams for middle aged men. Continue reading

Erectile Dysfunction an Indicator of Men’s Health

HealthDay News is reporting a story saying that erectile dysfunction could be an indicator of testosterone deficiency and the metabolic syndrome, a set of factors that may indicate an increased risk of heart and vascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

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Whole body vibration may do muscles, bones good

 

Reuters Health is reporting an article in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports in which researchers detail the evidence for and against so-called whole body vibration training. WBV involves standing on a platform that sends mild vibratory impulses through the feet and into the rest of the body. Continue reading

Red Yeast Rice (Chinese Supplement) May Cut Heart Risk

ABC News is reporting a study showing Chinese red yeast rice extract reduced the risk of repeat heart attacks by nearly one half. The researchers tested red yeast rice extract pills versus a placebo on nearly 5000 Chinese heart attack patients who were followed for 5 years. Continue reading

CBS Report Casts Doubt On Routine Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are, of course, a staple of a lot of people’s lives. But a report from CBS News suggests that some are not only unnecessary, but could be dangerous.

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Dueling Studies on Diabetes and “Tight Control” of Blood Sugar

Reuters is reporting the American Diabetes Association featuring dueling studies on the question of whether intensive blood sugar lowering in diabetics provides health benefits. (see also the coverage on WebMD)

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