March 10, 2011

More Genetic Markers Implicated in Heart Disease

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:44 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

This image shows the coding region in a segmen...

Image via Wikipedia

Another 18 heart disease genes have reportedly been discovered…but are we any closer to a cure for the number one killer?

Despite the fact that 30 genes have now been implicated in the progression of plaque buildup in the heart arteries, scientists are estimating that we are only about 10% of the way there.  Of all the heart attacks which appear to be inherited, the genetic markers discovered thus far explain only about 10%.  What seems even more confusing is that some of these markers are common in the general population as well.

Some of the researchers feel they have made significant progress while others seem frustrated by the lack of knowledge after many years of research.  According to’s article yesterday,  Dr Hugh Watkins  from the University of Oxford said,  “In terms of identifying risk, I don’t think these new discoveries add that much. There are still a large number of CAD genes out there yet to be discovered, but I would think their effects will all be small. This is bad news in terms of developing a test for heart-disease risk, as each culprit gene is responsible for only a very small incremental risk.”


March 9, 2011

Ways to Protect Your Teen From Sudden Death

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:20 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

A heart with a white EKG peak superimposed & s...

Image via Wikipedia

The tragic deaths of 2 young athletes has brought media attention back to the problem of Cardiac Arrest.

A 16 year-old track athlete in Florida and a 17 year-old basketball player in Michigan both passed away within the last week after strenuous activity.  Most people are shocked when they hear about these types of unexpected deaths.  Parents, teachers and coaches have no reason to suspect that a young, athletic student could have a serious heart problem leading to sudden death.  Even though it affects only about 1 out of every 250,000 young athletes, even that one tragic loss is too much for the loved ones left behind.

What can be done to prevent sudden death in teenagers? Traditionally, screening for heart problems that can lead to sudden death begins with questions about family history and concerning symptoms.  Some heart problems are genetic so expect your doctor to be concerned if anyone in your family has ever died suddenly.  Some people also may not realize they are having symptoms of a heart condition until it is too late.

In addition to questions about family history and symptoms, having an EKG test can be a useful tool for detecting heart trouble.  An EKG is a painless test that takes just a few minutes to obtain.  Unfortunately, a recent study out of Israel has discouraged mandatory screening with an EKG.  As a parent and a cardiac care provider, I will still encourage the voluntary testing with an EKG.  I firmly believe that everyone should be proactive when it comes to their health (and your kid’s health too!).

The first step in being proactive is to fill out a screening questionnaire and bring it to your teen’s pediatrician.  For the most part, your pediatrician will only need to address questions marked as “Yes.”  Next you can request that your teen get an EKG (electrocardiogram).  Your pediatrician will read the results of the EKG immediately and recommend further cardiac evaluation if needed.

If you are unable to obtain an EKG from a doctor’s office, there are several programs which provide free EKGs for high school students.

  1. Chicago
  2. Maryland
  3. North Carolina
  4. Tampa

If you need to find one in your area, use a search engine (google, yahoo, bing, etc.) to search for “high school heart screening” in your state.  You may not find anything within your vicinity right away.  Consider asking your school administrators if they could host a heart screening event.

Another way you can protect your teen’s life is to make sure that all of the sporting arenas they play at have AED’s (Automatic External Defibrillators).  When a person collapses and the pads are placed on their chest, AED’s provide life-saving electric shocks while waiting for an ambulance.

March 3, 2011

Staying optimistic may keep your heart healthy, study says –

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , at 2:00 pm by keepyourhearthealthy



Optimism may be more important than you think!  This new article from USA Today reports on a new study that shows a positive attitude goes a long way…15 years in fact!  Heart disease patients are 30% more likely to survive 15 years if they are optimistic.  Check out the full article at the following link:

Staying optimistic may keep your heart healthy, study says –

How to Find Out if You Are Eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or Other Healthcare Programs

Posted in Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:37 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

A typical examination room in a doctor's office.

Image via Wikipedia

Healthcare is an expensive yet necessary part of life.  When times are tough, who do you turn to for help?

After getting bills from the doctor, hospital and testing centers you may be left wondering how you can possibly pay for it all.  Whether you had a simple doctor visit for the flu or if you were admitted to the hospital for a heart attack, you’ll probably get lightheaded when you see the bill.  Once you’re over the initial shock, then you need to work out a plan of action.  If you’re lucky enough to have a steady income, the first step is to call the doctor’s office, hospital or testing center who sent you the bill.  Most places will readily offer a payment plan with no interest and very low payments.

If you are currently unemployed or simply unable to pay for your medical bills, you may be eligible for government-funded programs like Medicaid or Medicare. The following website link offers an “Eligibility Wizard” quiz which will help you determine if you qualify for these types of programs:

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.

February 22, 2011

Vein Harvesting May No Longer Be Needed in the Future

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:07 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo from Los Angeles Times news article


According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, researchers have found a way to engineer blood vessels needed for bypass surgery.

Bypass surgery is a complex and intimidating procedure that makes everyone cringe at the thought of having their chest cut open.  What some people may not realize is that smaller procedures are needed prior to bypass.  Other veins or arteries need to be cut out from other parts of the body in order to replace the blocked arteries in the heart.  For patients who require a second bypass or even a third, you start to run out of places to take veins for the heart.  Apparently, as many as 100,000 patients a year are unable to have bypass because they do not have enough suitable veins to put in the heart.

Luckily a new scientific procedure has a found a way to make vessels that are storable and ready-to-go at a moment’s notice. A company called Humacyte, Inc. created the vessels by shaping cadaver smooth muscle cells around a tube and letting the cells create their own collagen network.  After 2 months, a new vessel has formed and they wash away any of the remaining living cells.  What’s left behind is a clean, durable vessel that can be implanted right away or put on the shelf for later use.

Human trials are expected to begin soon using these new artificial vessels.  Animal testing in baboons and dogs have already shown promising results.  Other types of artificial vessels may also be emerging soon but none are close to being available to the public.  It may be another 5 to 10 years but the technology is evolving quickly and bypass patients may have more options soon!

Artificial blood vessels: In the Works –

February 20, 2011

Cardiologists Get Updated Guidelines With Coumadin Alternatives

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:11 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Ambro

An update to the US atrial fibrillation guidelines posted last week has made Pradaxa an official part of the treatment protocol.

When the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology published their new atrial fibrillation guidelines in December, many people were left with more questions than answers.  The updated guidelines did not include the newest drug, Pradaxa, which is the only alternative to Coumadin at this point.  At the time the guidelines were published, the American Heart Association promised they would provide an update to the guidelines to include Pradaxa soon.  As promised, the “update” to the “updated guidelines” is officially out.

What do the guidelines say then about this new Coumadin alternative? The guidelines give Pradaxa one of the highest recommendations possible (called a Class I).  They state specifically that it “is useful as an alternative to warfarin [Coumadin] for the prevention of stroke.”  However, they also say, “patients already taking warfarin [Coumadin] with excellent INR control may have little to gain by switching to dabigatran [Pradaxa].”

These new guidelines provide further assistance to cardiologists and patients who desperately needed an alternative to Coumadin.  Through the support of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, physicians can now prescribe Pradaxa more comfortably for the patients who have trouble taking Coumadin.

February 17, 2011

FDA Approves New Pacemaker That is MRI-Safe

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , at 8:39 pm by keepyourhearthealthy


Since the beginning of pacemakers, getting a metal device in your chest has meant that you can never have a diagnostic MRI again.  Now patients have the option of getting a new MRI-safe pacemaker.

A new pacemaker was unanimously approved by the FDA last week which will change the future of cardiology.  The new Revo MRI pacemaker system is manufactured by Medtronic and is already being implanted in patients throughout the US.  It is the first and only pacemaker system which has been shown in studies to be safe during an MRI.

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a popular diagnostic test which uses very strong magnetic fields to produce images of structures inside the body.  MRI’s are frequently used to view joints, the brain and areas suspected of having cancerous tumors.  Obviously anything which is magnetic would be unsafe for metal objects inside the body.  The magnetic field created during the test creates heat and movement of metal objects.  Some deaths in the past have been reported in patients with pacemakers who underwent an MRI.

The new Revo MRI Surescan Pacing System was tested on 484 patients and found to be perfectly safe during an MRI. There are however, “Conditions of Use” which specify that all parts of the pacemaker must be part of the Revo MRI Surescan system.  This means that the leads as well as the generator have to be implanted from Medtronic’s new system.  You can’t get a “battery change-out” only and expect to undergo an MRI.  The leads would need to be replaced as well.  In addition, this new MRI-safe system also only applies to regular pacemakers.  There are no ICD’s or defibrillators available that are MRI-safe at this time.

Read more about this brand new MRI-safe pacemaker at Medtronic’s website:

February 9, 2011

Important New Information For Pradaxa Patients

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:04 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo from Pradaxa press release

Patients who receive their Pradaxa in a bottle are under a new advisement this week.

Many heart-savvy people have heard about a unique new drug called Pradaxa.  This ground-breaking drug burst into the pharmaceutical market in record time after gaining FDA approval late last year.  Pradaxa is famously known for being unique given that it is the ONLY alternative to Coumadin (warfarin) in terms of preventing strokes for the atrial fibrillation population.

Undoubtedly, thousands of patients have already made the switch from Coumadin to Pradaxa.  What many of these patients may not realize though is that Pradaxa is unique in another important way.  Pradaxa pills sold in a bottle are considered “expired” after only 30 days. The capsules are easily effected by humidity so the manufacturer recommends using all the medication within 30 days of opening the bottle.

A 30-day expiry is very unusual given that the standard expiry for most medications is 1 year.  Some pharmacists have returned their bottles to the manufacturer and requested blister packs instead.  Blister packs are sold in Europe and keep each pill individually wrapped, thus safe from the humidity.

In case you are a new Pradaxa user, it is important that you wait until the last minute to open the bottle.  You should also avoid having more than one bottle open at a time.  If you tend to store your pills in 2 different locations (ie. one at work and one at home), you’ll need a different routine for Pradaxa. The Pradaxa bottle has a special lid which keeps the drug stable so you should avoid putting the capsules in a different bottle. The safest place for the pills is inside the manufacturer’s bottle and the pills still expire within 30 days of opening.

New USDA Dietary Guidelines Criticized by the American Heart Association

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , at 11:13 am by keepyourhearthealthy

image shared from article


By law the US dietary guidelines have to be reviewed and updated every 5 years.  The newest guidelines came out last week with the intent of targeting an obese and hypertensive population.

The USDA guidelines are famous for their food pyramid but they also publish an updated report every 5 years.  This year they advised most Americans to cut the salt out of their diet.  Specifically they recommend reducing sodium intake to less than 2300mg per day OR 1500mg per day if you are, “51 and older,” “African American” or if you “have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.”  The guidelines go on to state that “the 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.”

If you know your dietary numbers, 1500mg of sodium per day is a tough number to stay under.  One typical fast food meal has more than 1500mg of sodium and most restaurant meals are well beyond the sodium limit as well.  The easiest way to stay under 1500mg of sodium in one day is to prepare your food at home and never use the salt shaker.

The American lifestyle makes this sodium goal a daunting task.  Yet the American Heart Association is holding the population to a higher standard and has outright criticized the Guidelines for not being strict enough.  They recommend all Americans should eat less than 1500mg of sodium per day…not just a select population.  Why?  According to the American Heart Association website, “High-sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.”  For those who want to learn more about sodium, the AHA website has a very simple, yet detailed, page dedicated to this diet obstacle: Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride).

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