May 23, 2011

Noninvasive Mitral Valve Repair May Not be Getting a Fair Shot

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:00 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

MitraClip Mitral Valve Repair System.

from the Abbott website

MedPage Today reported promising results in a study yesterday involving noninvasive mitral valve repair.  Some clinicians feel the results could be much better if the patient population were different.

A new device called the MitraClip is getting significant publicity after initial results of the Everest II study were recently released.  The MitraClip is a small prosthesis used to treat severe Mitral Regurgitation (a condition in which too much blood is going through the mitral valve in the wrong direction).  This noninvasive repair process  invloves implanting the clip onto the mitral valve of the heart by a simple needlestick in the groin.

The procedure is very similar to a heart catheterization for placing stents in which a wire is guided up through a blood vessel into the heart.  According to the manufacturer’s website (Abbott), “The Guide Catheter is inserted into the femoral vein at the groin and provides access to the mitral valve. The Clip is used to grasp and fasten together the valve leaflets.”  Once the clip is holding the mitral valve together in the middle, the valve is no longer able to allow so much blood to flow backwards.  There is still plenty of flow forward around the clip.

The new study Everest II which is testing this device in up to 47 sites throughout the US and Canada has reported that “quality of life, and rates of re-hospitalization for heart failure improved significantly in the MitraClip-treated patients at one year” according to MedPage Today’s article.  This was determined only after they compared “high-risk” surgical candidates.  According to Bob Baeten, PA-C, at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, the new methodology for testing this device may be preventing it from getting better results.  He states, “We’re testing this on the sickest of the sick rather than the patients who could recover easily from surgery.  It’s the patients who get turned down for surgery that are tested with the MitraClip.  These people are already very ill which is why they were turned down for surgery in the first place.”

It should be noted that the MitraClip has been approved and used commercially in Europe for 3 years now.  The device is still seeking approval here in the U.S.  The only way an American citizen can obtain this noninvasive mitral valve repair currently is by entering into a study at participating study locations.

For more information about heart catheterization procedures and recovering from heart surgery, check out the book What To Do When You Have Heart Disease at

May 5, 2011

Red Wine May Be Good For Your Heart but Is It Beneficial Inside Stents?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:50 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

This image shows a red wine glass.

Image via Wikipedia

A new study is currently testing “red wine” stents in animals.

As far as eye-catching research goes, this one certainly has attracted some attention.  A new study of lab rats showed that a component of red wine used during angioplasty reduced the chances of plaque buildup.  Red wine has a high concentration of polyphenols which have been shown in past studies to reduce plaque buildup, thin the blood and promote positive vessel regrowth.

All of the good effects of red wine are hopefully going to be included in a new type of drug-eluting stent for humans in the near future.  The rat studies have been promising thus far.  Unlike other drug-eluting stents, the red wine polyphenols prevent re-blockage while also promoting healing.  The ability to heal safely without blocking the vessel is key to making the red wine stents successful.

March 17, 2011

Stents or Bypass? New Study Says They Are Equal One Year Later

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:34 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Three coronary artery bypass grafts, a LIMA to...

Image via Wikipedia

WebMD took a closer look at a new study comparing the benefits of stenting vs. bypass.

Well-informed patients with heart disease will certainly find this new WebMD article interesting.  Patients who undergo Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) frequently ask the question, “Why did I have to get bypass instead of stents?”  Alternately, people with stents frequently wonder how they dodged the bullet by avoiding bypass.  Many more people may be dodging the bullet in the future thanks to this new study and the continual improvement in stenting procedures.

Several years ago, the decision for bypass was made whenever someone had more than 3 blocked arteries OR a significant blockage in the heart’s main artery (called the left main).  In the study, a group of 1800 patients who traditionally might have all gone on to bypass surgery were split into 2 groups: approximately half went ahead with bypass while the other half underwent stenting instead.  The results showed the 2 groups felt similar improvement after 1 year. In addition, the rate of heart attacks or death were about the same for both groups after one year.

There were some differences noted though when you look closely. People who got stents felt better much quicker and had a faster recovery than those who had bypass.  On the other hand, people with stents were more likely to need another stenting procedure within the first year.  Also, people who had daily or weekly chest pain prior to their procedure felt more relief of their chest pain with bypass surgery by 6 months out.

While this study may lead to more stents and fewer open heart surgeries, it won’t be making bypass extinct anytime soon.  Many patients dread the idea of bypass surgery but if you have 3 or more blocked arteries AND you get chest pain at least once a week, bypass will still be highly recommended.

Read more about the study at WebMD’s article which is listed below:

February 28, 2011

Could Night Sweats and Hot Flashes be a Sign of Heart Disease?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , at 8:10 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Filomena Scalise

A new study is giving menopausal women something to be concerned about.  Apparently women in menopause who get night sweats are more likely to have heart disease than those who sleep comfortably through the night.

This new study out of the Netherlands shows that these women with night sweats have a “moderately” increased risk of heart disease. The study was published in a journal called Menopause last month.  Interestingly, another study this month has shown that early hot flashes are a good sign in terms of cardiovascular disease.  Women who had hot flashes early in menopause were less likely to have heart disease than those who got them later in life.

Hot flashes are caused by the blood vessels dilating which causes more blood to rush to the face (this is also known as flushing).  Flushing has been suggested in the past as a good thing because it shows the blood vessels are flexible and working well.  It is possible that women who get hot flashes early on in menopause have better blood vessel function than those who get them late in menopause.

January 26, 2011

Family History Almost Doubles Risk of Future Heart Attack

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:08 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

image by dream designs

Cardiologists worldwide have known for many years that family history is important when considering risk factors for heart attack.

A new study called INTERHEART now gives that risk a number…and it’s higher than many had expected!  After reviewing the cases of more than 12,000 patients, the INTERHEART researchers have found that a patient’s risk of heart attack nearly doubles if they had one parent with a history of a heart attack.

The increased risk held true even when they looked at genetic markers for heart attack.  Despite carrying genetic markers for heart attacks, some patients may never have a heart attack.  Of all the patients in the study who did carry the gene for heart attacks, people with a family history were much more likely to have a heart attack themselves.

Essentially this study proves that the medical community needs to be more aggressive in treating patients with a significant family history of heart attacks.  Currently the risk assessment guidelines do NOT include family history.  The guidelines need to be updated but until then patients need to be proactive in getting the best heart care possible.

January 16, 2011

Absorbable Stents…The Wave of the Future?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:37 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Stents for peripheral vessels

Image via Wikipedia

Europe approved the first bioabsorbable stent this week giving cardiac patients hope for a future without the need for Plavix or Effient.

Ever since stents became widely popular over 20 years ago the art of stent placement has been evolving.  Stents are tiny wire-mesh tubes placed over a blockage in an artery of the heart.  Initially bare metal stents were used but they were prone to inflammation and further bloackages within several years in some cases.  Eventually drug coated or drug eluting stents were developed which lowered the rate of reblockage as long as the patient takes aspirin and either Plavix or Effient.  Without Plavix or Effient, patients with drug coated stents are more likely to have a heart attack related to blockages within their stent.

The concept of stenting a heart artery at this point in time is not perfect.  Europe hopes to bring it closer to perfection with the latest in stent technology.  A bioabsorbable stent will soon be available for implanting in the general public of Europe. This new absorbable stent is absorbed by the artery wall and thereby nearly vanishes within years.  The stent has been shown in studies to be at least one-third absorbed within 2 years.  A stent that vanishes means patients will no longer be required to take Plavix or Effient.

Patients in the US may be able to enroll in a global trial using the new absorbable stents later this year.  Don’t expect to see them going mainstream here anytime in the next few years though.  Large-scale studies need to be completed long before a technology such as this can be FDA-approved in the US.

January 2, 2011

Fried Fish Shown To Increase Strokes In The South

Posted in Heart disease tips, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , at 1:31 am by keepyourhearthealthy

Eating fish is healthy for your body, right?  Think again. 

A new study is showing that people in the southern United States who consumed more fish weekly were actually more likely to have a stroke.  How could that be possible given that all the major health organizations (such as the American Heart Association) have recommended at least 2 servings of fish per week in order to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke?  Most people have overlooked the fine print though.  Southerners who ate more fish were found to be eating the wrong kind of fish altogether!  They tended to eat fried fish instead of the healthy baked or grilled omega-3 filled fish.  Frying fish removes it of it’s healthy nutrients and adds unhealthy fat from the frying oil.

In order to eat a healthy diet, fish is highly recommended for the fact that it contains omega-3 fatty acids.  This is pretty much the BIGGEST reason fish is considered healthy.  See this previous article about why Omega-3’s are important and what foods have them.  Some types of fish contain a lot of omega-3’s while others have very little.    Salmon, tuna, halibut and anchovy are examples of fish that have the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids. 

While grilled salmon may be offered at places like Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, it is not the most popular item on the menu.  Their specialty is fried white fish which is high calorie and very high in the bad fats.  One piece of battered white fish at Long John Silver’s has 16 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat and 4.5 grams of the really bad for you trans fats.  What tiny amount of omega-3’s are left over after the frying process cannot possibly cancel out the amount of bad fats found in the fried white fish.  So think twice before you feel good about eating a piece of fish for dinner.  It has to be a healthy piece of fish like grilled salmon or tuna in order to get the desired health benefits.  Check out this super-easy recipe for salmon if you’re looking for a healthy meal.

December 29, 2010

Less Sleep Means Harder Time Losing Weight

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 2:31 am by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Filomena Scalise

Sleep can be elusive for people who maintain a busy life.  It’s well-known that getting less sleep is bad for your body.  A new study now proves that less sleep also sabotages your diet.

The latest study which has grabbed the media’s attention shows that people need to sleep more if they want to lose weight.  When comparing patients who slept more than 8 hours a night versus those who slept less than 6 hours a night, the people who slept more lost 55% more body fat!!  Scientists believe the cause for such a discrepancy is related to hormones.  When the body does not get enough sleep, certain hormones are increased which can make a person feel more hungry and retain more fat.

It seems the moral of this story proves what your mom always told you…go to bed early and get a good night of sleep!  It can help you lose more weight and feel better all at the same time.

December 13, 2010

Muscle Cramps May Continue For Years After Stopping Cholesterol Medicine in Some Patients

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:06 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by graur razvan ionut

A new study has identified the reason why some patients have severe muscle cramps with statins.

Approximately 5% of patients who take statins find themselves weak and achy all over within a few days to several months after starting the medicine.  Statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, simvastatin, pravastatin and lovastatin are used to treat high cholesterol.  They are also frequently given to anyone with blockages in their arteries.

When muscle aches develop in a person taking cholesterol medicine, the first step is to stop the medicine and try something else.   Usually the aches and pains go away within a few weeks.  Unfortunately, some people continue to have symptoms for even a year after quitting the medicine! This new study that was just reported shows why these unlucky people have worse symptoms than everyone else.  Some of them have been found to make antibodies against a substance called HMG-CoA.  Muscle that is injured tends to have more HMG-CoA therefore more muscle damage occurs in people with antibodies against it.

It sounds like the cycle might go something like this:

  1. a person begins taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol
  2. statin increases HMG-CoA in the body
  3. antibodies attack and injure the muscles with high HMG-CoA
  4. statin is stopped but injured muscles continue to have high HMG-CoA
  5. antibodies continuously attack the muscles

The cycle does not stop until immunosuppressive drugs are given to tell the body to stop attacking itself.  You might say that in these small, select cases people develop an autoimmune disease only after receiving statin medicines.  This study has become a very important step in the process of avoiding these terrible reactions altogether in the future.  Labs might eventually be able to test people  for the HMG-CoA antibody before they are given a statin so everyone would be able to rest easy in the decision to treat high cholesterol with or without statins.

December 3, 2010

A Link Between Pregnancy and Heart Disease

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:03 am by keepyourhearthealthy


photo by Suat Eman

I can think of 2 things that we pray never occur together medically: pregnancy and heart attacks.  Apparently most women’s bodies agree.

Sadly, heart attacks can happen while a woman is pregnant but it tends to be rare.  Now a new study is showing that women who have multiple miscarriages are also at a much higher risk of heart attacks as they get older.  This study is not saying that miscarriages cause heart attacks. The most likely problem is an underlying medical disorder such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol which increases the chance of miscarriage as well as heart attacks.

Any woman who has more than one miscarriage should consider seeing a primary physician for risk factor assessment.  Obstetricians see pregnant patients on a regular basis and screen for diabetes in addition to high blood pressure.  However, they do not often check cholesterol or ask about heart disease symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain with exertion.

You can see the full article regarding the link between miscarriages and heart disease at the following link:

Miscarriages increases the risk of heart disease in women

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