Non-Invasive C-IMT-Test Helps Screen for Heart Disease in Otherwise Healthy People

CIMT-SCANCardiovascular disease can be a very sneaky disease.  Diet and exercise can help to dramatically reduce one’s risk, but every now and again it can still affect even the healthiest person.  This is why it is vital for even seemingly healthy individuals to stay on top of their cardiovascular health.  Thankfully, there is a simple, non-invasive screening to check for symptoms of heart disease.

The screening is called the Carotid Intima-media Thickness (C-IMT) test that is recommended by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association for people 45 and older, and it is offered right here at the Boone Heart Institute.  C-IMT is performed with a high-resolution B-mode ultrasound transducer.  A small amount of conducting jelly is applied to the skin on your neck, and then the transducer is held over the carotid arteries to capture the image.  This process measures the thickness of the medial and intimal layers of the artery walls and, in turn, their health. Though it may seem strange to screen the carotid artery as opposed to the heart itself, this artery actually provides a very accurate measure of overall arterial health, as the atherosclerotic burden is the same in the carotid as in any other coronary artery.

Checking the thickness of the arterial walls allows Dr. Boone to calculate the “arterial age” of your cardiovascular system.  If your arterial age matches your actual age or is younger, than you have a lower risk for heart disease.  If it is higher, however, then it gives us an idea of your risk level and informs us to take a more aggressive approach in controlling the risk factors associated with the disease.  With therapy, we can slow down and even achieve regression of your arterial age.

If you wish to participate in a C-IMT screening, or simply wish to learn more, contact the Boone Heart Institute to schedule your risk-free consultation today!

Short on Time? Put Down the weights and Go for a Jog to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck.

Aerobic-Exercise-RoutineIf you’re like most people, time is a commodity you don’t give up lightly.  This can often be a difficult thing to overcome for those looking to lose a few lb’s.  In a perfect world, we would all have time to commit to a full hour of training each day to reach our ideal physique.  Unfortunately, we typically have to pick and choose our workout routines to fit our busy schedules.  This begs the question then, as to what is the most effective form of short period exercise for losing weight?  A recent study out of North Carolina just might have the answer you are looking for.

The study followed 119 overweight or obese men and women between 18 – 70 years old over a period of eight months.  The subjects were divided into three groups: one engaged in a vigorous aerobic exercise protocol, the second in a resistance protocol and the third a combination of the two.  Each group exercised three days per week, with the aerobic group going for 45 minutes at 70 – 85% maximum heart rate, the resistance group doing 8 – 12 reps on eight resistance machines targeting all muscle groups, and the combination group doing all of the above.  At the end of the study, each participant was assessed for weight, waist circumference, body composition and cardio fitness.  These figures were then compared to the results from the baseline tests completed at the beginning of the study.

The researchers found that those participating in the aerobic and combination groups lost significantly more weight than those that only did resistance training.  In fact, some of the resistance participants actually gained weight due to the increase in muscle.  Researchers did find that the combination group was able to decrease their measurements and fat percentage, as well as increase their lean muscle, allowing for a larger decrease in body fat percentage.

In essence, if you have the time for it, try to combine aerobic and resistance-based exercise to see the best results.  If you’re crunched for time like most folks however, aerobic exercise is the answer for getting rid of those unwanted lbs in your limited free time, and stay away from resistance alone.  That is, unless you don’t mind bulking up instead of slimming down.  Now hit the gym and get that heart rate up!

Aged Garlic – Bad for Your Breath, Great for Your Heart!

There has been a lot of research in the past that has lent credibility to the healthy affects of garlic on your cardiovascular system.  A new study out of Australia has further strengthened these theories by finding a link between aged garlic extract and the reduction of blood pressure in those with uncontrollable hypertension.

The study tested low (240 mg/day), medium (480 mg/day) and high (960 mg/day) doses of the extract in 79 patients with uncontrollable hypertension.  Those in the study were allowed to continue use of their typical hypertension medication.

After 12 weeks of testing, the researchers found that those taking the medium dosage seemed to benefit the most from the supplement, with an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 11.8 mmHg when compared to those taking a placebo.  To better put that number into perspective, a 10 mmHG reduction in systolic blood pressure is associated with a 16 – 40% reduced-risk of cardiovascular disease.

So if you suffer from or are at risk of hypertension, ask your doctor about aged garlic supplements and tell them about this study.  It won’t replace your hypertension medication, but it will certainly boost the results!

High-Sugar/High-Salt Intake Bad for More Than Just Your Waistline.

dietsWe’ve all been told that diets high in sugar, salt and calories (also known as the “cafeteria diet”) are a quick way to put on weight, and should be avoided whenever possible.  A new study lends credence to this train of thought, indicating that it can also significantly increase one’s risk of metabolic syndrome and even stroke.

The researchers in the Canadian study gave sedentary rats unlimited access to healthy food pellets and water.  They were also offered the same access to a selection of “junk food” items, including cookies, cupcakes and sausage, as well as a sucrose solution that simulated soft drinks.  The rats in the study were at an age about the equivalent of 16 – 22 years old in humans at the time of the study.

Researchers found that, like many humans, the rats tended to prefer the junk food to the healthy options.  They also found that within two months of beginning the study, most of the rats had developed most of the symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol/blood sugar/blood pressure and obesity).  This lead the researchers to believe that there will soon be an increasing number of strokes and heart disease/dementia patients in people in their 30’s and 40’s if current dieting trends remain unchecked.

So next time you reach for that cookie, try to remember that it may be doing more than just going to your hips.  Instead, treat yourself to some fresh fruit or other healthy snack.  You will thank yourself time and again when you start approaching that mid-life crisis.

Lift Weights to Fight Metabolic Syndrome

gym_729-620x349It is nothing new to know that going to the gym to workout is one of the best things you can do for your body.  It helps you lose weight and feel great.  As if that weren’t enough reason to go, a new study suggests that lifting weights can significantly reduce one’s risk of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease.  These risk factors include high triglyceride levels, elevated blood pressure, high glucose levels and reduced levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.  Patients that display at least three out of these five risk factors are considered to have metabolic syndrome.

Researchers analyzed data from the 1999 – 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), where participants were asked if they lifted weights.  Of the 5,618 US adults who qualified for the study, only 8.8% indicated that they did lift weights.  It was also almost twice as common with men than women, and became less frequent with people over 50 years old.

The results of the study showed that, once adjusted for demographic factors, those that lifted weights were 37% less likely to be at risk of metabolic syndrome than those that didn’t.  Additional research has also indicated that increased muscle mass also contributes to lower rates of metabolic syndrome.

Now going to the gym is good for more than just looking good.  So do some squat thrusts, do some chest presses and curl some dumbbells to better your physique, as well as your fight against metabolic syndrome!

Soccer can score a hat trick in treating hypertension

Soccer (AKA football) is the world’s sport for a reason.  It is fun to play, electrifying for fans to watch, and a recent study out of Denmark now indicates it is one of the best things you can do to treat hypertension.  The findings indicate that regularly playing soccer helps to improve fitness, normalize blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.

The study, conducted by three universities in Denmark, followed 33 men between the ages of 33 and 54 with mild to moderate hypertension.  The 33 men were divided into two groups.  One group participated in two one-hour soccer training sessions per week.  The other group simply received typical general practice care for hypertension, including advice on healthy diet and the importance of physical activity.  The study then monitored the effects on maximal oxygen uptake, blood pressure, exercise capacity and body fat of all participants after three months, and then again after six months.

For the soccer group, maximal exercise capacity and maximal oxygen uptake were increased by 10%, body fat mass decreased by an average of two kilos and resting heart rate decreased by 8 bpm.  There were no significant changes in these indicators with the non-soccer playing group.  The soccer group also saw an average drop in blood pressure of 10 mmHg, while the non-soccer group only saw a drop of 5 mmHg. After the six months had passed, 75% of the soccer participants were actually able to return their blood pressure to a very healthy range.

So if you have been diagnosed with or are at risk of hypertension, perhaps it is time to hit the pitch and kick the ball around.  You’ll be doing your heart a favor, and will have way more fun than you might think.

Ladies, Aspirin is Good for your Heart, and a New Study Shows for your Brain Too

Doctors have long promoted the use of low-dose aspirin to those at risk of cardiovascular disease to help minimize that risk.  A new study out of Sweden has found that it may actually have benefits to maintaining mental health in elderly women at high risk of cardiovascular disease as well.

The study followed 681 women with a mean age of 75 in 2000.  A total of 95% of those women were at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, and only 19% were previously taking a low-dose aspirin.

The researchers conducted a cognition test known as a Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) with the women to develop a baseline, and then prescribed half of the group a low-dose aspirin regimen.  Tests were then completed after five years of half the group being on the aspirin regimen and the other half not, and the results were very encouraging.  They showed that the women on the aspirin regimen showed a very minimal decline in their MMSE score (average of -0.05) when compared to those that didn’t take the aspiring (average of -0.95).

The exact reason that aspirin has this effect on the brain is still uncertain, though they believe it to be linked to either increased blood flow to the brain, or an increased production of neuroprotective molecules known as docasanoids.

The researchers still have some fine-tuning to do with the study, but initial results are very encouraging for reducing one’s risk of the always-feared mental decline associated with age.  We look forward to seeing future results from the study, and encourage anyone that feels they are at risk of cardiovascular disease to consult their doctors before beginning a low-dose aspirin regimen.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Cardiologist Away

We’ve all heard the old saying before.  But a recent study out of Columbus, Ohio has found that eating at least one apple per day is better for your heart health than originally thought.  It has found that consuming apples regularly has a marked effect on reducing the amount of a substance linked to the hardening of arteries known as oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein, or LDL.  LDL is widely known as the “bad cholesterol” that is linked to heart disease, and when it becomes oxidized, it is more likely to promote inflammation and cause tissue damage.

The study followed healthy adults between the ages of 40 and 60 who didn’t have a history of eating apples regularly and didn’t take any supplements containing plant-based concentrates.  Of the subjects, 17 took capsules containing 194 milligrams of polyphenols (the amount found in an average apple) per day, 16 ate one of either a large Red or Golden Delicious apple per day, and 18 were given one placebo per day for four weeks.

The results surprised even the researchers.  While the supplements did show a noticeable decrease in oxidized LDL percentages in the blood stream, the consumption of simple apples still had a greater effect, reducing overall oxidized LDL by an average of 40%.  Results also pointed to a marked effect on certain enzymes in saliva, pointing to a possible benefit to dental health as well.

These sort of results are typically unheard of in medical science, especially when it comes to consuming natural foods like apples.  It is certainly a great advancement in the science of heart health, and lends even further credence to that good old saying.  So stock up on apples now, before the pharmacies get wind!

Work Stress Strains the Heart

Nobody likes to be stressed out at work.  It can be simply exhausting.   And as if that wasn’t enough, a new report indicates that it can actually have a physical impact on your cardiovascular health as well. A recent meta-analysis combined the data from 13 similar studies of a combined 198,000 people to find that those who indicated stress in the workplace were at a nearly 25% increased risk of suffering from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).

Factors such as quantity of work, having sufficient time to complete tasks, decision-making freedoms, and overall demand of the job were considered and evaluated against study-specific median scores.  The statistical associations remained consistent, even when results were adjusted to compensate for age, sex and socioeconomic status.  The researchers indicated that lowering stress levels, particularly those related to work, could have a dramatic affect on preventing a person’s risk of CHD.  They also indicated that nutrition, exercise and hereditary factors also play an obvious role in the risk of CHD, and that all factors need to be considered together to gain a better perspective on one’s predisposition to CHD.

If you have ever said something along the lines of “this job will be the death of me,” you may not be too far from the truth.  When your stress levels start to rise, it is important to take a moment to collect yourself and approach the situation with a calm, collected mindset.  This will help to keep those stress levels to a minimum.  There are plenty of other methods you can take to reduce stress levels, including meditation, time management techniques and more, so check them out!  They just might save your life!

Good Nutrition Linked to Cutting Stroke Risk

Everyone knows that a good diet is important to keeping good heart health.  But did you know it can have an impact on your risk of stroke as well?  A recent study found that increasing your dietary intake of soy products, fruits and vegetables has the potential to seriously reduce your risk of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

Though the group that conducted the study did indicate that more data was needed to definitively link certain dietary practices to their impact on stroke risk, initial findings did indicate that those who consumed 3 – 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day demonstrated a statistically lower instance of stroke than those that did not.  The group noted that they estimate 80% of all strokes are completely preventable simply by addressing certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet.  In the study, consumption of fruits, vegetables and soy products demonstrated protective effects against stroke, though variable findings were also observed in the consumption of fish and whole grains.

The group plans to expand their research base to produce more definitive findings, but their initial results are extremely promising to helping to reduce the risk of stroke.  So if you have a history of stroke in your family, it might be time to help yourself to some more fruits and veggies.  You may just be saving your own life in the process!