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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.

Systolic or Diastolic Blood Pressure

You have two blood pressures: the systolic that measures blood pressure when your heart contracts, and the much lower diastolic reading that measures the pressure when your heart relaxes. When your heart contracts, it pushes a huge amount of blood forward to your arteries. Your arteries are supposed to act like balloons and expand to accept the blood and prevent your blood pressure from rising too high.

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.

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.

Recovery Heart Rate

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that one of the best tests to predict your risk for having a heart attack is your Recovery Heart Rate. Recovery heart rate is a measure of fitness and a slow recovery from exercise means that you are out of shape. The study really shows...

Statin Guidelines Flawed

The American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) proposed guidelines for prescribing statin drugs to prevent heart attacks. The old rule was to prescribe statins whenever a person's bad LDL cholesterol is greater than 100 mg/dL

Predict Your Heart Attack Risk

Heart attacks are usually caused by an unhealthful lifestyle and are prevented far more effectively by lifestyle changes than by drugs. A healthful lifestyle can prevent more than 80 percent of heart attacks

Alcohol and 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.

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,...

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.

Questions About Stents

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Metabolic Syndrome Predicts Heart Attacks and Diabetes

A huge study from Korea confirms that people with Metabolic Syndrome are at increased risk for heart attacks, and that when they correct some or all of the components of Metabolic Syndrome, their risk for a heart attack goes down dramatically.

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.

Stents and Bypass Surgery

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.

High Resting Heart Rate Unsafe

A resting heart rate greater than 80 beats per minute is a strong predictor for future heart attacks, diabetes and even cancer. From 1974 to 2002, 53,322 healthy people were followed at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Those with a resting heart rate lower than 60 beats per minute were far less likely to suffer heart attacks or to die than those with a resting heart rate greater than 80 beats per minute

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.

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.

Exercise Helps People with Heart Disease

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.

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...

Reducing Alcohol Intake May Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

Contrary to what you may have heard previously, it now appears that any amount of alcohol can be harmful. Researchers reviewed more than 50 studies involving more than 260,000 people and concluded that reducing alcohol consumption helps to prevent heart attacks, whether a person is a light, moderate or heavy drinker

Can Your Cholesterol be Too Low?

Almost everyone agrees that having total blood cholesterol levels above 250 is likely to shorten your life and markedly increases your chances of suffering a heart attack, unless you have a very high HDL (which is good). Other studies also show that people with very low cholesterol are at increased risk for cancer of the stomach, esophagus, liver and colon, but it looks like the incubating cancers cause the low cholesterol, rather than a low cholesterol causing the cancers.

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.

DASH (High-Plant) Diet for Heart Health, Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention/Control

Reports from Harvard School of Public Health shows that a diet rich in plants lowers high blood pressure (1,2). It's called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.) Other studies show that similar eating patterns lower cholesterol, help to control diabetes and cause weight loss in people who are overweight.

Cholesterol Guidelines

The current cholesterol guidelines recommend that everyone should have a blood level of the bad LDL cholesterol below 100. If you live in Canada, divide the American number by 40.

Angioplasty’s Questionable Results

Angioplasty may not boost survival for heart disease patients. A 15-year follow-up shows that those who have had angioplasties do not live longer than those who received just medication. This supports other studies that have shown that some angioplasties should not have been done