Subscribe to Dr. Mirkin's free FITNESS & HEALTH NEWSLETTER      

How Your Diet Affects Your Blood Pressure

Extensive recent research shows that high blood pressure is associated with having specific harmful bacteria in your colon, and that reducing harmful colon bacteria and increasing healthful ones can help to control high blood pressure. You can do this primarily by eating an anti-inflammatory diet, as well as by exercising regularly, losing excess weight, and avoiding smoke and alcohol.

High-Plant, Low-Salt Diet to Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure affects 108 million adults, increasing risk for heart attacks, the leading cause of death in the United States. A Harvard study of 412 adults found that a low-salt version of the DASH diet dramatically lowered both high blood pressure and markers of heart muscle damage in just four weeks

Exercisers Have More Stable Plaques

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.

Irregular Heartbeats in Lifelong Exercisers

Many studies show that a lifetime of vigorous exercise makes the heart stronger and healthier and does not harm it. However, a few studies that got a lot of media attention suggested that chronic intense exercise can damage the heart to cause irregular heartbeats. Now a new study of elite lifetime endurance athletes has found no evidence of irregular heartbeats from damage to the right ventricular heart chamber

NSAIDs and Heart Attack Risk

An analysis of 7,743 people suffering from osteoarthritis found that those who took NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) were at 41 percent increased risk for suffering heart attacks, heart failure and strokes, compared to arthritis patients who did not take NSAIDs.

New Guidelines on Aspirin for Heart Attack Prevention

Daily aspirin can help to prevent heart attacks, but the United States Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that: adults 60 years and older should not take aspirin to help prevent a first heart attack, and those 40-59 years old who are at high risk for heart disease should take aspirin only on their doctor’s recommendation

Breakfast Skippers Have More Plaques

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.

Omega-3’s from Fish and Plants Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

People who had higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids at the time of a heart attack were far less likely to die or to have repeat heart attacks within three years, compared to those who had lower levels. The sources of omega-3s in the 944 heart attack patients in this study included both fish and plants.

Belly Fat Predicts a Heart Attack

You are at high risk for a premature death if you can pinch more than three inches in your belly. Even people who are not overweight are at high risk for a heart attack and diabetes if they store most of their fat in the belly instead of in the buttocks, hips and thighs.

Protein Loading May Increase Risk for Heart Attacks

Athletes in sports requiring great strength who eat a very-high protein diet increase their risk for dying at a young age of heart attacks, even though protein loading does not grow larger muscles.

Inappropriate Stents

A final report on the official outcomes of the ISCHEMIA Studies was recently published. It suggests that most people with clogged arteries do as well with medication and lifestyle changes as they do after undergoing invasive procedures to reopen their blood vessels such as stents, balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery

Stabilizing Plaques with Exercise and Possibly Statins

Heart attacks are not caused by plaques making arteries too narrow. They are caused by plaques suddenly breaking off from the inner lining of a heart artery, followed by bleeding, and then a clot forms that completely blocks all blood flow to a part of the heart muscle.

Heart Attacks and Cancers Share the Same Risk Factors

People who have had heart attacks are also at high risk for certain cancers because the same lifestyle factors increase risk for both and appear to be far more important than genetics in determining your likelihood to suffer both conditions.

Both Low and High HDL Can Predict Harm

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.

Stents and Bypass Surgery Not More Effective than Lifestyle Changes and Medication for Stable Heart Disease

The $100 million ISCHEMIA Trial showed that after four years, surgical treatments (stents or coronary artery bypass surgery) were not more effective than lifestyle changes and medication in preventing heart attacks deaths in patients with stable heart disease.

Statin Drugs and Muscle Pain

At last we have a reasonable explanation why statins can cause some people to suffer skeletal muscle pain and damage, but do not cause heart muscle damage.

When to Take Your Blood Pressure

Knowing when to take your blood pressure can help you predict your likelihood of suffering a heart attack. We know that having high blood pressure markedly increases your risk for heart attacks. Blood pressure is usually lowest just before you go to bed at night and when you first wake up in the morning.

Swollen Feet and Ankles

Your leg muscles function like a second heart to pump fluid from your legs to your heart. When your leg muscles relax, the veins near them fill up with blood. When your leg muscles contract, they compress the veins and squeeze blood up toward your heart.

Treat High Blood Pressure with Lifestyle Changes

Very aggressive control of high blood pressure helps to prevent heart attacks, strokes and premature death far more effectively than less stringent control. You cannot cure high blood pressure with drugs, you can only control it as long as you continue to take the drugs. Most of the time, your blood pressure cannot be controlled with just one drug and most people end up with three or more drugs to treat their high blood pressure.

Muscle Pain While Taking Statins for High Cholesterol

More than one hundred million North Americans have taken statin drugs that help to save lives by lowering cholesterol and preventing heart attacks. Ten to 20 percent of people who take statins have been reported to have suffered muscle pain, but a recent study from the UK claims to show that statins are no more likely than a placebo to cause muscle pain.

Irregular Heartbeats in Older Athletes and Exercisers

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.

Plaques are Reversible

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.

High Blood Pressure Increases Risk for Dementia

A study of 7063 people, average age 58.9 years, found that those who had high blood pressure had significantly lower memory and recognition test scores than the people with normal blood pressure. In four years of follow-up, they found that better control of high blood pressure during the study period helped to reduce the loss of mental function.

Irregular Heartbeats in Senior Athletes and Exercisers

Fit people are less likely to suffer a particular form of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, and a regular exercise program reduces a person's chances of developing atrial fibrillation Extreme endurance exercisers such as bicycle racers, cross country skiers and long-distance runners who compete into their 40s and beyond may be at increased risk for atrial fibrillation

Heart-Healthy Diet

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).

Weak Heart Muscle Associated with Weak Skeletal Muscles

As you age, you can expect to suffer from sarcopenia (loss of muscle size and strength). The smaller the muscles in the arms, legs and trunk, the smaller and weaker the upper and lower chambers of their heart. Having a smaller and weaker heart muscle puts a person closer to heart failure.

Beta Blocker Side Effects

Research shows that some beta blockers and diuretics that are prescribed to control high blood pressure can cause high blood sugar levels, weight gain, tiredness and impotence

Bad Colon Bacteria May Cause Heart Attacks

A strong new study shows that with aging, there is an increase in the types of harmful colon bacteria that produce amines, specifically TMAO (trimethylamine oxide), that damage arteries to increase risk for heart attacks, strokes and cell damage throughout your body.

Vigorous Exercise Won’t Hurt a Healthy Heart

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.

Angina: Chest Pain During Exercise

If you have pain in your chest, jaw, arm, or neck when you exercise, you could have angina, which is pain caused by reduced blood flow through narrowed arteries leading to your heart. You should check with a doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms of angina can also include feeling lightheaded, over-tired, short of breath or nauseated