People who suffer from sleep apnea are at a higher risk for heart disease, according to the results of a study released by the American Heart Association. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where the individual experiences an interruption in his or her breathing during sleep.
This condition affects approximately 24 percent of men and nine percent of women. Snoring is one symptom, but people who have sleep apnea may also experience drowsiness during the day, a lack of quality sleep and a choking or gasping sensation when they wake up. Headaches in the morning may also be a sign of sleep apnea.
The study followed a total of 4,422 participants (1,927 men and 2,495 women) over a 8 1/2 year period. When the study started, all of them were screened and had healthy hearts.
The male study subjects who had sleep apnea had a 58 percent higher risk of developing heart failure Their risk of having heart attack was 68 percent higher than for men who didn’t have the sleep issue. The female participants who had sleep apnea were not at a higher risk for coronary events, though.
When sleep apnea has been diagnosed, a patient may be advised to try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. It introduces pressurized air into the individual’s airway on a constant basis through a face mask that is worn during sleep. While this option is an effective way to deal with sleep apnea, it is not very comfortable.
Surgical treatment is a more expensive option for sleep apnea patients, but it can very effective in dealing with this health issue. A Maxillomandibular Advancement is performed to move the top and bottom jaw forward and help keep airways open during sleep.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a psychological disorder characterized by excessive worry about everyday events. People living with it experience a level of discomfort that is out of proportion for the cause of concern. If you have been diagnosed with GAD, you are in good company; over six million people in the United States have it. You also may be at a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.
Patients with stable Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), where the symptoms of chest pain are relieved within 10 minutes with rest and/or medications, and GAD are more likely to have a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or a stroke.
Why are anxiety disorders and cardiovascular disease related? People with anxiety issues are less likely to be taking good care of themselves. They are less likely to be eating or sleeping well, and they are more likely to be smokers. Individuals with anxiety issues are also less likely to be exercising regularly. All of these factors increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
Stress also plays a role in a person’s risk of developing heart disease, and someone living with GAD is experiencing a higher level of stress than a person who doesn’t have the disorder. As a result, he or she may have higher blood pressure, as well as an increased heart rate. Both of these factors contribute to heart issues.
For study conducted by the San Francisco VA Medical Center, researchers decided to focus on 1,015 participants who had been diagnosed with CAD for over five years. The study subjects underwent psychological testing to determine whether they had GAD.
The results of the study fond that 9.6 of the study subjects who had GAD had a cardiac event, compared with 6.6 of the participants who did not have this psychological issue. GAD can be treated with anti-anxiety medications and psychotherapy. If you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder or are concerned about a loved one, see your family doctor for a referral to a professional who can provide a diagnosis and suggest at treatment plan.
All you World Cup soccer fans (and those who love them) take note: getting heavily involved following the action on the field can lead to heart attack. A study conducted during the last World Cup competition found that rates for heart attacks doubled during the competition.
According to Dr. Gal Dubnov, chief of sports medicine at Sheba Medical Center, the problem stems from a combination of lack of physical activity and eating more snack foods during the tournament. Getting stressed out because your team isn’t doing well or celebrating because it is may be bad for your heart.
The results of a survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine shared details about the number of heart attacks experienced by World Cup viewers in Germany in 2006. During the tournament when the German national team was on the field, heart attack rates more than tripled for men. Female soccer fans were 1.8 times more likely to have cardiac issues. Most of the heart attacks noted in the study took place within two hours of the game.
Interestingly enough, only about half of the people who had a heart attack after watching soccer had a history of heart disease.
What conclusions can we draw from these results? If you have a history of heart issues, take some time to relax and do make a point of eating a heart-healthy diet and getting some exercise while the tournament is going on. If your heart condition is severe, you may need to refrain from watching the games. In any case, there will be enough people coaching from their living rooms that you should try to just watch the action unfold without getting too involved in it. (The players and coaches on the field can’t hear you, anyway.)
Could something as simple as taking a vitamin lower or even eliminate your risk of heart disease? The results of two research studies indicate that the answer is “Yes.”
In the first study, researchers followed 9,400 patients for a year. The participants had low Vitamin D levels at the beginning of the 12-month period. By the end of the study, 47 percent of the group who had increased their Vitamin D levels had also lowered their risk of heart disease.
The second study was much larger in scale, with 31,000 patients participating. They were divided into three groups for tracking purposes. In each of the groups, the patients who increased their levels of Vitamin D to 43 nanograms/mL of blood had lower rates for the following health conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
A “normal” level of Vitamin D in the blood was considered 30 nanograms/mL. Now, researchers have discovered that this level is too low. Heidi May, Ph.D., a cardiovascular clinical epidemiologist at Murray, Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, the study’s author, stated, “Giving physicians a higher level to look for gives them one more tool in identifying patients at-risk and offering them better treatment.”
A person who is concerned about his or her Vitamin D levels can see their doctor for a blood test to measure the current level. If the results show the levels are low, Vitamin D supplements can be taken. Since Vitamin D is also known as the “Sunshine Vitamin,” increasing time spent out of doors can give the levels a boost. Sunscreen should always be worn before going outside, especially during times when the sun’s rays are at their most intense. This is between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is positioned directly overhead in the sky.
If you are one of the 21 million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, your doctor’s advice about how to reduce the risk of heart disease may be ineffective. It may even make it more likely that you will have cardiac issues, according to the results of a study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.
Complications of Diabetes
Patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes have unusually high levels of sugar in their bodies, which can lead to a number of health problems. Diabetes can cause a number health complications, including:
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Diabetic retinopathy, which causes blindness
- Eating disorders
- Erectile dysfunction
- Eye problems (glaucoma and cataracts)
- Foot ulcers or infections
- Kidney failure
- Skin infections
The most common cause of death for people with Type 2 diabetes is heart attack. Even though people with diabetes only account for nine percent of the population in the U.S., between 25-33 percent of people who experience a heart attack are diabetic.
Treating Diabetes to Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Since having high blood sugar levels increases the likelihood of having a heart attack, doctors have advised patients with diabetes to be vigilant about controlling their blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, this measure on its own did not reduce the risk of heart disease, since patients with diabetes tend to have other health issues that contribute to the risk of heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels
Lowering Blood Pressure
A group of participants in a study conducted by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Memphis were given medication to bring their blood pressure down to a normal level (a systolic pressure of no more than 120). The results of the study indicated that patients were at risk for having blood pressure that was too low, as well as elevated potassium levels, which can lead to kidney failure. The study also found that the patients who were instructed to bring their blood pressure down increased their risk of heart attack and stroke by a whopping 50 percent.
People who have been laid off from their job have a lot of things to worry about, and the results of a 2006 study conducted by a group of epidemiologists at Yale University found that when older workers join the ranks of the unemployed, their risk of heart attack and serious stroke doubled. Chronic stress is to blame for the health issues, as well as unhealthy lifestyle choices that can result when someone is faced with a layoff.
Stress resulting from a negative life event, such as a job loss, can trigger a heart attack in some people. Chemicals released into the body when it is under acute stress are to blame in that situation. Worry about financial issues in the short term and whether the individual will be able to find work again can cause the person to experience chest pain and other symptoms associated with a heart attack.
Smoking and Job Loss Related
A person who has recently lost his or her job may be more likely to smoke or to take up the habit again. They see this activity as a way to reduce stress, when the opposite is true. People who smoke report feeling more stressed out than non-smokers.
When people who try to quit smoking report feeling stressful, they may not realize that the jittery feelings they are experiencing are due to nicotine withdrawal. If they give in to the craving and light up again, they are getting a “hit” of nicotine and other chemicals that they need to feel normal. This doesn’t do anything to provide the smoker with relief from the stressors in his or her life, though.
Layoffs Lead to Poor Health Decisions
Unemployment, and the financial pressures associated with it, can also lead to other decisions that can affect heart health. If funds are limited, a person may be eating processed foods more often as a way to cut back on grocery bills, as opposed to choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats as part of their diet.
A gym membership may be canceled as a cost-cutting measure in times of unemployment. Getting regular exercise can be a great stress reliever. If keeping a gym membership is too costly when going through a job loss, then substitute going for a brisk walk instead or look into community fitness programs that may be available at a lower cost.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions about your health this year to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke? If you are like many people, you decided that today you were going to take charge and make sweeping changes. Sugar, fat and salt are the enemy, and would no longer pass your lips. You would be going to the gym, if not every day, at least several times a week.
Um, hmm…..How long did you last? Probably not too long. We really don’t like change, and it takes time for changes, even positive ones, to become a long-term habit. Rather than try to make several changes at once, a better idea is to start by making some adjustments to your lifestyle.
One thing you can do that will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke is to cut back on your salt intake. Even making a small change can pay off in improved health. According to the results of a study published in the online version of the New England Journal of Medicine, reducing salt intake by about a half teaspoon per day can help to prevent heart attacks. As many as 100,000 heart attacks and 92,000 untimely deaths can be prevented annually by simply not automatically reaching for the salt shaker on the table and reducing the amount of processed foods we eat.
Would you make a point of not adding salt to your food if it meant you could lower your risk of heart attack and stroke? Would you read labels on packaged foods to choose ones that have a lower sodium content? These are simple steps that you can start right now to improve your health. Once they become ingrained habits instead of something you have to think about, then you can add another small change, like making a point of eating an additional serving of fruits and vegetables every day, to continue on your journey to better health.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente have discovered that patients who took a combination of two drugs were able to reduce their risk of serious heart attack and stroke by a whopping 60 percent. The problem with this approach to prevention was getting the study participants to take the medication regularly.
The idea for the study was to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels simultaneously for the 170,000 participants. All of the people who took the combination of lovastatin for cholesterol and lisinopril for blood pressure were California residents and members of Kaiser Permanente’s managed care programs.
Just over 47,000 of the participants failed to take the medication regularly as directed. The patients who took the drug at least 50 percent of the time numbered approximately 21,000. Next on the list for Kaiser? A follow-up program to increase compliance rates.