Some recent research articles seem to warn people not to exercise too long or too hard, but the overwhelming scientific and epidemiological evidence is that vigorous exercise strengthens a healthy heart and helps to prevent heart disease. Elite endurance athletes who exercise long hours each day outlive their less-active peers, as do Tour de France cyclists. However, three studies raise the possibility that extreme exercise such as running a marathon could possibly increase risk for heart problems, particularly in people who are not adequately trained for their events.
High blood pressure (greater than 130/90 before you go to bed at night) markedly increases risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and premature death. Almost 50 percent of North American adults have high blood pressure, and it causes more than 80,000 U.S. deaths each year. A plant-based diet can help to prevent and treat high blood pressure because it contains lots of soluble fiber.
Being overweight is associated with having larger plaques in the arteries leading to the heart and a marked increase and progression of these arterial plaques that cause heart attacks, even if a person does not have the risk factors that predict increased risk for diabetes and heart attacks.
On November 10, 2018, heart specialists presented the latest recommendations for preventing heart attacks from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association: Treat all of their patients with recommendations for heart-attack-preventing lifestyle changes, and Treat all patients with significant heart attack risk factors with medications that lower blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol.
Virtually all doctors agree that stents can save lives if used within three hours of the start of a heart attack. However, there is no good evidence that stents prevent heart attacks in people who have chest pain during exercise. The ORBITA study showed that in patients with medically-treated heart pain and severe heart artery blockage, stents did not increase exercise time more than a placebo procedure.
Several recent studies show that high levels of HDL cholesterol are not always associated with preventing heart attacks. Today, doctors depend far more on the results of your LDL cholesterol test and how much plaque you have in your arteries.
Paul D. Thompson, M.D., an accomplished competitive international marathon runner as well as a respected cardiologist, has written an editorial on two studies that show how important regular vigorous exercise is to prolong lives and prevent heart attacks and strokes. The results of these studies should stimulate every able-bodied person to try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day for as long as they can.
If your routine blood tests show that you have high triglycerides (greater than 150 mg/dl), this usually means that you are at high risk for diabetes and all of its side effects, including heart attacks. Your doctor measures blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol to predict your susceptibility to suffering a heart attack, but triglycerides are just as important in predicting your risk for a heart attack, diabetes and premature death.
The evidence is overwhelming that statin drugs do help to lower cholesterol and to reduce risk for heart attacks. However, a new study confirms that statins interfere with the ability to exercise and to compete in sports, even in patients who report no symptoms.
Studies this month show that neither taking omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in fish oil pills nor eating fish reduce the risk for heart attacks, September 16, 2016). A review of studies in the world's scientific literature agrees that taking fish oil pills does not prevent heart attacks.
Having a high (>100 mg/dL) bad LDL cholesterol or a low (<40) good HDL cholesterol has long been associated with increased risk for heart attacks. However, new studies show that you can form plaques and be at risk for a heart attack even if your bad LDL cholesterol is as low as 50.
An article written by two highly-respected physicians and an investigative reporter concludes that, "Emerging evidence shows that insulin resistance is the most important predictor of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes" .
Having high blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol predicts increased risk for heart attacks, but contrary to what we thought in the past, having high levels of "good" HDL cholesterol does not necessarily predict protection from heart disease. A recent report from the Copenhagen General Population Study shows that having either low or high levels of HDL cholesterol also predicts increased risk for infections such as gastroenteritis and bacterial pneumonia.
The American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and nine other heart health groups now agree that you have high blood pressure if your blood pressure is above 130/80, not 140/90 as the previous guidelines recommended.
For many years HDL cholesterol has been called "good" because it carries plaque-forming particles from your arteries and bloodstream back to your liver where they can be removed from your body. An exciting new study shows that regular HDL cholesterol may not be very effective in doing this, but another form called Nascent HDL carries these protein-fats much more quickly to your liver to be removed from your circulation.
A recent study suggests that stents placed in arteries leading to the heart have not been shown to cure chest pain (Lancet, Nov 2, 2017). Placing stents in people who have heart pain from narrowed arteries and giving them medication is not more effective in relieving pain than just giving them medication and no stents. Stents do help to prevent the heart muscle from dying when put in place within the first few hours after the start of a heart attack.
A recent study shows that stable angina patients who exercise are less likely to die from heart attacks. Stable angina means that you may or may not have chest discomfort or pain at rest, but pain occurs or worsens when you exert yourself.
"You Can Exercise Yourself to Death, Says New Study" was the headline in The New York Post on October 17, 2017. Headlines like that are likely to discourage people from exercising and thus to shorten their lives.
A new study surveyed more than 4,000 adults ages 40 to 54 about their breakfast habits and then checked them for heart attack risk factors. The researchers found that people who eat a large percentage of their total daily calories for breakfast have the fewest heart attack risk factors, while those who skip breakfast are more likely to have plaques in their arteries and other heart attack risk factors.
Most heart attacks are caused by lifestyle factors, not by genes, and the prevention of heart attacks depends far more on what you do now than what you did earlier in your life. It is an incredible tragedy that many physicians prescribe statin drugs to prevent heart attacks without also explaining the importance of lifestyle changes.
In the biggest advance in knowledge about the prevention of heart attacks since the discovery of statins, researchers at Harvard Medical School have shown that blocking inflammation helps to prevent heart attacks and cancers.
The majority of heart attacks are caused by unhealthful lifestyles, not by genetic defects. Statins remain the major choice of preventative drug, but everyone should realize that many studies show that lifestyle changes are probably more effective than statins in preventing heart attacks.
Two recent breakthrough studies give the best explanation yet of how exercise helps to prevent heart attacks. Competitive older endurance athletes may have more plaques in their arteries than non-exercisers, but they have the type of plaques that are far less likely to break off and cause heart attacks.
Moderate drinking does not appear to prevent heart attacks. An analysis of 45 studies of relationships between heart attacks and alcohol consumption reports that the studies that associated moderate drinking with reduced heart attack rates are flawed.
Millions of people take over-the-counter NSAID pain medicines when they have a headache, fever, chills, joint pain or various other aches and pains. A new study shows that NSAIDs are associated with increased risk for heart attacks.
Several recent articles provide new data on which foods are associated with both your health and your longevity., including a major statistical analysis of the association between diet quality and rates of death from the cardiometabolic diseases (heart disease, strokes and type II diabetes).
Most researchers believe that exercise helps to strengthen the heart and protect it from disease, but about twenty years ago, doctors noted that some men over 80 who competed in cross country ski races longer than 100 kilometers (60 miles) were at increased risk for an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation.
Today's aspirin is a manufactured copy of the salicylic acid from willow bark plus acytl chloride (acetylsalicylic acid). The bark of willow trees has been used medicinally for more than 5000 years. Doctors have known for more than 200 years that salicylates in plants can prevent clotting
Many people who take statin drugs complain of muscle pain and muscle damage. A new study associates this statin-induced muscle pain with low blood levels of vitamin D (Atherosclerosis, 11/22/2016). An eight–week randomized, double–blind crossover trial of a statin drug (simvastatin, 20 mg/day) on 120 patients who had previously complained of muscle pain from...