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

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.

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.

Stable Plaques: Why Exercisers Have Fewer Heart Attacks?

A study of 21,758 men, average age 51.7 years, followed for an average 10.4 years, showed that men who exercised the most have more plaques in their arteries, but do not suffer more heart attacks or deaths than those with less heart artery calcification.

Excess Weight Linked to Larger Plaques

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.

Muscle Pain from Statins

Up to 75 percent of people who are prescribed statins stop taking them within two years, and 65 percent of those patients reported that they stopped because of side effects, primarily muscle pain.

LDL Cholesterol Can Be Too Low

A study of more than 100,000 healthy Chinese citizens followed for nine years showed that having very low levels of LDL cholesterol (<70 mg/dl) is associated with increased risk for bleeding into the brain, and the lower the LDL, the greater the risk (Neurology, July 2, 2019). Normal blood levels of LDL cholesterol are...

NSAIDs May Increase Heart Attack Risk

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.

The Hidden Cause of Many Heart Attacks

More than 40 percent of people who have had heart attacks are diabetic and these patients are the ones who are most likely to die from their heart attacks (Lancet, 2002; 359: 2140-44). Three tests are commonly used to diagnose diabetes: fasting blood sugar, blood sugar level two hours after eating, and HbA1c, a measurement of how much sugar is attached to cells.

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

Statin Side Effects

Statins are widely used to help prevent heart attacks, but a new study shows that the same process that causes this class of drugs to reduce heart attack risk can also increase memory loss, muscle problems, joint pains and diabetes (American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, July 29, 2015). Progression to a Heart Attack Susceptibility...

Atrial Fibrillation: Irregular Heartbeats

Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular heartbeat. It occurs in 1.5 to 2 percent of the general population and risk increases with age. It affects 10 percent of 75-year-olds and 20 percent of those over 85, because aging increases the risk factors for atrial fibrillation such as blocked arteries, high blood pressure or...

High HDL Cholesterol May Not Protect You from a Heart Attack

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.

How Diet Can Lower High Blood Pressure

Changes in diet should be the first strategy for anyone with high blood pressure, but most people will need to make drastic changes in their eating habits to succeed. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have shown why the DASH diet lowers high blood pressure to normal in more than 80 percent of...

High Calcium Artery Score Doesn’t Always Mean High Risk for a Heart Attack

Since heart attacks are usually caused by plaques breaking off from the inner linings of arteries leading to the heart, doctors use a test called Coronary Artery Calcium Score (CAC) to predict which people have the largest plaques and therefore are at high risk for suffering heart attacks that cause one out of four deaths in North America.

How Soluble Fiber Helps to Prevent Heart Attacks

Forty percent of deaths in the United States are from heart disease, which kills more than 400,000 people each year. Soluble fiber (from beans, oats, peas, barley, nuts, fruits and vegetables) reduces high blood levels of Low-Density Cholesterol (LDL), one of the strongest predictors of heart attack risk

Check Your Own Blood Pressure

You can’t depend completely on blood pressure measurements done only in a doctor’s office because being active, having “white coat syndrome,” (feeling nervous or stressed), or an improper hurried measurement can raise blood pressure considerably. In one study, systolic blood pressure was 7.3 mm Hg higher in a doctor’s office than when measured more precisely in a research setting.

Exercise and Plaques

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.

High-Plant Diet Lowers Blood Pressure

More than 90 percent of North Americans will develop high blood pressure. A new study shows that a diet high in potassium appears to protect teenagers from high blood pressure in adulthood, while a low-salt diet has no effect (JAMA Pediatr, June 2015;169(6):560-568). A high-potassium and low-salt diet is achieved by eating mostly plants,...

Daily Aspirin May Not Save Lives

Aspirin has been shown to help prevent a second heart attack in people who have already had a heart attack. However, aspirin also causes bleeding that can kill a person, so researchers wanted to find out if the heart-attack-preventing effects of aspirin would be offset by the complications of bleeding that aspirin can cause.

Deceptive Headlines about Exercise and Heart Attacks

"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.

Gluten Lowers Cholesterol

Before you jump on the bandwagon of avoiding gluten, consider its benefits as well as potential problems. People who are gluten-intolerant should avoid wheat, barley, rye and probably oats (because of potential cross-contamination). Your doctor can do tests to see whether you are one of the small minority who need to avoid gluten. Otherwise, consider a study from the University of Toronto which showed that a high-gluten diet helps to lower oxidized LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and uric acid.

How Low Should Your Cholesterol Be?

Having high blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol (>100 mg/dL) is associated with increased risk for heart attacks and premature death, and is the single most important predictor of forming plaques in your arteries. Many experts recommend lowering elevated LDL levels to 70 mg/dL in people who are at increased risk for heart attacks.

High Blood Pressure and Colon Bacteria

The CARDIA Study shows that having certain types of bacteria in your colon is associated with having high blood pressure, and that you can lower blood pressure by improving the proportion of healthful to unhealthful bacteria in your colon. Lifestyle changes may be more important than drugs in treating high blood pressure.

Cholesterol Absorbed from Food

Having high blood levels of cholesterol increaes your chances of getting a heart attack, but your blood cholesterol level is influenced far more by how many calories you eat than by how much cholesterol is in the food you eat.

Why HDL Cholesterol is “Good”

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.

Diet to Lower Cholesterol

It takes only two weeks for a diet to lower cholesterol as much as it is going to do. You lower cholesterol by replacing saturated fats from animals with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats from plants, and by restricting refined carbohydrates found in bakery products, pastas and sugar-added foods and drinks. Many doctors think that it...

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

Heart Attack Prevention Guidelines

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.

Yogurt or Cheese Instead of Milk Reduces Heart Attack Risk

A recent Danish study followed 54,903 healthy men and women, 50-64 years old, for 16 years. Those who ate primarily fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt were significantly less likely to suffer heart attacks than those who drank milk.

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).