Headline hitting research from the EHJ
Quick and easy blood test for gut bacteria can predict accurately risk of death and heart problems in heart attack patients
The bacteria that inhabit our gut digest food and produce metabolites that can have a marked effect on the heart and blood vessels. Researchers have found that measuring the levels of a molecule called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) that is produced by the gut bacteria from components of red meat, eggs and dairy products in blood could give them a quick and reliable way of assessing the risk of death and other major heart problems in patients who arrive in hospital emergency departments with chest pains.
World’s largest study shows effects of long-term exposure to air pollution and traffic noise on blood pressure
Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to a greater incidence of high blood pressure, according to the largest study to investigate the effects of both air pollution and traffic noise by following over 41,000 people in five different countries for five to nine years.
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Cancer overtakes heart disease as the main cause of death in 12 European countries
Although diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease, CVD) kill more people worldwide than anything else, with 17.3 million deaths globally, cancer has now overtaken CVD as the main cause of death in 12 European countries.
New data on the burden of CVD in Europe for 2016 shows that in the European region (defined as the 53 member states of the World Health Organisation) CVD caused more than four million deaths each year, 45% of all deaths. However, success in preventing and treating the disease has led to large decreases in CVD in a number of countries.
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How much you weigh as a teenager is linked to your risk of heart failure in early middle age
Research that followed more than 1.6 million Swedish men from adolescence onwards between 1968 and 2005 has shown that those who were overweight as teenagers were more likely to develop heart failure in early middle age.
Surprisingly, the increased risk of heart failure was found in men who were within the normal body weight range (a body mass index of 18.5 to 25) in adolescence, with an increased risk starting in those with a BMI of 20 and rising steeply to a nearly ten-fold increased risk in those who were very obese, with a BMI of 35 or over.
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A ‘Mediterranean’ diet is linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with heart disease, but a ‘Western’ diet is not associated with an increased risk
A “Mediterranean” diet, high in fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods, is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke in people who already have heart disease, according to a study of over 15,000 people in 39 countries around the world. The research also showed that eating greater amounts of healthy food was more important for these people than avoiding unhealthy foods, such as refined grains, sweets, desserts, sugared drinks and deep-fried food – a “Western” diet.
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Happiness can break your heart too
Takotsubo syndrome (TTS) is known as “broken heart syndrome” and is characterised by a sudden temporary weakening of the heart muscles that causes the left ventricle of the heart to balloon out at the bottom while the neck remains narrow, creating a shape resembling a Japanese octopus trap, from which it gets its name. Since this relatively rare condition was first described in 1990, evidence has suggested that it is typically triggered by episodes of severe emotional distress, such as grief, anger or fear, with patients developing chest pains and breathlessness. It can lead to heart attacks and death.
Now, for the first time, researchers have systematically analysed data from the largest group of patients diagnosed with TTS worldwide, and found that some patients have developed the condition after a happy or joyful event; they have named it “happy heart syndrome”.
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Cardiologists use 3D printing to personalise treatment for heart disease
University of Melbourne doctors and engineers are using supercomputers to create 3D models from patients with heart disease, with photos from a camera thinner than a human hair. The images, gathered during a routine angiogram, are fed into a supercomputer. Within 24 hours, a model of a person’s artery is 3D printed. This gives cardiologists crucial information about the behaviour of blood flow and the precise structure of the artery from the inside.
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Negative news stories about statins are linked to people discontinuing treatment and an increase in heart attacks and early death
Researchers in Denmark have found that negative news stories about statins are linked to some people choosing to discontinue their statin treatment, which, in consequence, is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and dying from heart disease. The study shows that for every negative nationwide news story about the cholesterol-lowering group of medicines, there was a nine percent increased risk of people deciding to stop taking statins within six months of first being prescribed the drug.
New research suggests not all trans fatty acids are bad for you
New evidence suggests that low levels of trans fatty acids (TFAs) may not be as harmful to human health as previously thought, even if industrially produced, and may even be beneficial if they occur naturally in foods such as dairy and meat products.
New cardiovascular disease death rates show stark inequalities between European countries
Although deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) are declining in most of Europe, there are large inequalities between European countries, with higher death rates seen in Eastern Europe. These high death rates correspond to the lower life expectancy also found in these countries, indicating the impact of CVD on inequalities in longevity throughout Europe.
Normalization of testosterone level after testosterone replacement therapy could decrease risk of cardiovascular events and mortality in men
Patients with low testosterone levels who have then gone on to have testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) could be at lower risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.
Get up for your heart health and move for your waistline
More time spent standing rather than sitting could improve your blood sugar, fats in the blood and cholesterol levels, according to a new study. The study also shows that replacing time spent sitting with time walking could have additional benefits for your waistline and body mass index (BMI).
Experts call for ‘all hands on deck’ to tackle global burden of non-communicable disease
A group of some of the world’s top doctors and scientists working in cardiology and preventive medicine have issued a call to action to tackle the global problem of deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart problems, diabetes and cancer, through healthy lifestyle initiatives.
Endurance athletes should be tested for potentially fatal heart condition while exercising rather than at rest
Some athletes who take part in endurance exercise such as marathon running, endurance triathlons or alpine cycling can develop irregularities in their heartbeats that can, occasionally, lead to their sudden death.
Digoxin increases the risk of death in patients with heart problems, according to the largest study of the evidence so far
There is conflicting evidence about whether digoxin, a drug that has been used worldwide for centuries to treat heart disease, might contribute to an increase in deaths in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) or congestive heart failure (CHF). Now, the largest review of all the evidence to date shows that it is associated with an increased risk of death in these patients, particularly in those being treated for AF.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease increases the risk of sudden cardiac death
People suffering from the common lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), have an increased risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD). When compared with people of the same age and sex who do not have the disease, those with COPD have a 34% increased risk of SCD overall, but their risk almost doubles more than five years after first being diagnosed with COPD. In COPD patients who have frequent exacerbations (sudden worsening of their symptoms, such as shortness of breath and cough), the risk of SCD increases more than three-fold after five years.
Statins reduce hospital admission for heart failure
Heart failure is costly, mainly due to frequent and prolonged admissions to hospital, and the condition is associated with a poor prognosis. Researchers from the University of Glasgow showed in a collaborative meta-analysis of 17 statin trials including over 100,000 patients, that statin treatment led to a 10 percent significant reduction in hospital admission for heart failure over an average of 4 years treatment.
Blood sugar levels in heart failure patients predict risk of early death, hospitalisations and diabetes
New research suggests that people who arrive at hospital emergency departments with acute heart failure should have their blood sugar levels checked on arrival. This simple and inexpensive measure could identify patients at high risk of early death, further hospitalisations, or the development of more health problems, such as diabetes.
Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is linked to reduced risk of heart failure
Evidence already exists for the beneficial effects of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on the risk of developing a number of heart conditions; however, the role it plays in the risk of developing heart failure has been under-researched with conflicting results.
Outbursts of anger linked to greater risk of heart attacks and strokes
Outbursts of anger may trigger heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems in the two hours immediately afterwards, according to the first study to systematically evaluate previous research into the link between the extreme emotion and all cardiovascular outcomes.
Passive smoking causes irreversible damage to children’s arteries
Exposure to passive smoking in childhood causes irreversible damage to the structure of children’s arteries, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal. The thickening of the arteries’ walls associated with being exposed to parents’ smoke, means that these children will be at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life. The researchers from Tasmania, Australia and Finland say that exposure to both parents smoking in childhood adds an extra 3.3 years to the age of blood vessels when the children reach adulthood.
Fit teenagers are less likely to have heart attacks in later life
Researchers in Sweden have found an association between a person’s fitness as a teenager and their risk of heart attack in later life. In a study of nearly 750,000 men, they found that the more aerobically fit men were in late adolescence, the less likely they were to have a heart attack 30 or 40 years later.
Warfarin increases risk of stroke among atrial fibrillation patients in first 30 days of use
Patients with atrial fibrillation – an irregular and often abnormally fast heartbeat – have nearly double the risk of suffering a stroke in the first 30 days after starting to take the anti-clotting drug warfarin compared to non-users, according to a study of over 70,000 patients.