The Heart

Here you will find a selection of RSS feeds and blog entries

Heart attacks increasingly common in young women

New research finds a worrying trend in the incidence of heart attacks in recent decades. The results indicate that young women are more likely than young men to need hospitalization for heart attacks, as well as to develop other cardiometabolic conditions.
young woman holding her chest
More and more young women develop heart disease, and doctors should pay more attention to women, say the authors of a new study.

Cardiovascular disease — an umbrella term that covers different types of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, stroke, congenital heart defects, and peripheral artery disease causes about 1 in 3 deaths in the United States.

Also, cardiovascular disease accounts for almost 836,546 deaths each year, making it the "leading killer of both women and men" in the U.S.

However, there are sex differences in the prevalence of some cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease — a cardiovascular condition that can ultimately lead to heart attacks.

An established body of research has shown that coronary heart disease is more prevalent among men at any age, which may have led to the common perception that "heart disease is a man's disease."

However, more recent studies have started to point out an "alarming" trend, which is a steady increase in the number of young women who die of coronary heart disease.

Now, new research, presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions meeting in Chicago and subsequently published in the journal Circulation, adds to the mounting evidence that heart attacks are increasingly common among young women.

Dr. Sameer Arora, a cardiology fellow at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, is the lead author of the study.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Heart attacks no longer an old man's disease

Dr. Arora and colleagues examined data on almost 29,000 people aged 35–74 years old who doctors admitted to hospital for acute myocardial infarction between 1995 and 2014.

The researchers found that the proportion of young patients who doctors admitted to the hospital for a heart attack "steadily increased, from 27 [percent] in 1995–1999 to 32 [percent] in 2010–2014."

The study also found that this increase was even more substantial in women. Namely, 21 percent of the heart attack hospital admissions were of young women at the beginning of the study, but this proportion jumped to 31 percent by the end.

Additionally, the research revealed that young women were less likely than young men to receive cardiovascular treatments, such as antiplatelet drugs, beta blockers, coronary angiography, or coronary revascularization.

Finally, young women were at a higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease compared with young men.

The study's lead author comments on the findings, saying, "Cardiac disease is sometimes considered an old man's disease, but the trajectory of heart attacks among young people is going the wrong way [...] It's actually going up for young women."

"This is concerning," continues Dr. Arora. "It tells us we need to focus more attention on this population."

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

A 'wake-up call to male physicians'

Dr. Arora explains why cardiologists and other healthcare professionals need to pay more attention to women's cardiovascular health.

"Traditionally, coronary artery disease is seen as a man's disease, so women who come to the emergency department with chest pain might not be seen as high-risk," he says.

"Also, the presentation of heart attack is different in men and women. Women are more likely to present with atypical symptoms compared to men, and their heart attack is more likely to be missed."

Dr. Ileana L. Piña, a cardiologist and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, also chimes in on the findings.

She says that the results are "another wake-up call to physicians, especially male physicians" to take better care of women's heart health.

"The number one killer of women is not breast cancer or uterine cancer; the number one killer of women is heart disease [...] And, until we pay attention to this, these kinds of figures are going to keep coming up."

Dr. Ileana L. Piña

Dr. Piña, who was not involved in the research, says that traditional gender roles, which continue to prevail, may stop women from looking after their health.

"It's hard when a woman is working two jobs and taking care of the family, too," Dr. Piña says.

"[Women will] do anything for their families, but they often leave themselves for last. We need to teach women to change their health attitude and take care of themselves," she warns.

Continue reading
20 Hits

Vitamin D, fish oil supplements of little benefit to heart health

Two new randomized trials challenge the view that vitamin D and fish oil supplements hold any real benefit in the fight against chronic conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.
man taking fish oil supplements
Do fish oil supplements really protect the heart?

The results of the first and second trial were presented at Scientific Sessions, held by the American Heart Institute (AHA) in Chicago, IL, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Vitamin D and fish oil supplements have lately been the subject of much hype in the medical research community, mass media, and among the general public, due to their alleged benefits in combatting cancer and heart disease.

For example, recent studies in mice found that vitamin D benefits heart cells and suggested that the vitamin may prevent cardiovascular blockages.

Other studies identified persistent links between a lack of vitamin D and the development of breast cancer and bowel cancer.

Experts also believe that omega-3 fatty acids — which are in seafood, some nuts, and seeds — benefit the heart. The AHA, for example, recommend an intake of at least 2 servings of fish every week for optimal cardiovascular health.

As a result, many Americans have turned to omega-3 fish oil supplements to stave off heart disease. A survey carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that almost 19 million Americans are taking fish oil supplements.

But do vitamin D and fish oil supplements really work?

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Vitamin D, fish oil no better than placebo

The two new studies were randomized, placebo-controlled trials led by Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the chief of the division of preventive medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA.

The trials examined the effect of a daily intake of vitamin D and omega-3-containing fish oils on the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

The studies involved almost 26,000 healthy adult participants, 20 percent of whom were African-American. None had a history of heart disease or cancer. The men in the study were at least 50 years old, and the women were at least 55.

Some participants took a daily dosage of 2,000 international units of vitamin D and 1 gram of fish oil.

Other participants received the same dosage of vitamin D plus a placebo, and others took the same daily dosage of fish oil with a placebo. The final group received two dosages of placebos.

Dr. Manson and the team followed the participants for 5 years. By the end of the study period, they had found no overall benefits.

In the first trial, they conclude:

"Supplementation with [omega-3] fatty acids did not result in a lower incidence of major cardiovascular events or cancer than placebo."

In the second trial, they surmise that "Supplementation with vitamin D did not result in a lower incidence of invasive cancer or cardiovascular events than placebo."

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Does fish oil stave off heart attacks?

Dr. Manson and the team did find a link between fish oil and a lower risk of heart attacks, particularly among people who did not eat fish regularly, as well as among African-Americans.

Overall, fish oil supplements reduced the risk of a heart attack by approximately 28 percent. Among African-Americans, fish oil supplements lowered this risk by 77 percent, compared with participants who took only a placebo.

Finally, the researchers found that no supplement involved in the trial led to severe side effects, such as bleeding, excessive calcium, or gastrointestinal problems.

The New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial related to the trials. In it, authors Dr. John F. Keaney and Dr. Clifford J. Rosen warn that the trials' "positive" results regarding fish oil supplementation and heart attack risk "need to be interpreted with caution."

They continue, noting that other large randomized trials of omega-3 fatty acids do not support these findings.

Continue reading
28 Hits

What happens during atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation or A-fib is a condition where the heart has an irregular rhythm. It is caused by a malfunction in the conduction of electricity in the upper chambers or atria of the heart.

A range of conditions that can cause changes in the electrical conduction system of the heart or the muscle around it can contribute to the disorder.

Lifestyle choices, including an inactive lifestyle, smoking, and consuming alcohol in large amounts, can trigger episodes of A-fib.

In this article, we explore the factors that can contribute to triggering A-fib or a person developing the condition.

Heart tissue changes heart tissue
Changes in heart tissue can lead to the abnormal rhythms characteristic of A-fib.

When a person's heart is in its normal sinus rhythm, a signal is sent from a spot in the right atrium, called the sinoatrial (SA) node.

This signal travels down specific conduction pathways and spreads uniformly through the atria first and then the two lower chambers of the heart known as the ventricles.

This process causes the heart to squeeze and pump out blood in a sequence that equates to one heartbeat.

The signal occurs and is conducted through the heart in a stepwise, uniform way so that the heart beats regularly.

In A-fib, the SA node does not work correctly, so the signal to start a heartbeat comes from elsewhere in the atrium.

In this scenario, the signal cannot travel down the usual conduction paths, so it travels all over the heart tissue, chaotically. This causes the heartbeat to be irregular.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Characteristics and conditions A number of factors can increase the risk of having A-fib. It occurs more frequently in men and after they reach the age of 65 years old. Conditions that increase the risk for A-fib include: These factors increase the risk of having A-fib, although people can also experience the irregular rhythms of A-fib without having any them. Triggers In one type of A-fib known as paroxysmal A-fib, the episodes can be very short and come and go. Some lifestyle choices can trigger an episode of this type of A-fib. Possible triggers include: large amounts of caffeine, such as in coffee or energy drinks, especially if a person is unused to it large amounts of alcohol, particularly during binge drinking emotional or situational stress recreational stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine smoking tobacco products A-fib is more likely to happen when a person has an infection, such as pneumonia, and in the days following surgery, especially heart or lung surgery. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Takeaway Changes in electrical signaling in the heart and surrounding tissues that control the heartbeat are at the root of A-fib. Many medical conditions can increase the risk of having A-fib, especially those that involve the heart. Other diseases can also increase the risk, including COPD, hyperthyroidism, and high blood pressure. Triggers can set off episodes of A-fib, including stress and excessive caffeine. If people have concerns about an irregular heartbeat, they should arrange to see their doctor as soon as possible. Q: How do I treat or manage A-fib if the doctor cannot find the cause? A: The treatment for A-fib depends on the type of A-fib you have, not the factors that may be increasing your risk of getting it. If you do have a condition that puts you at increased risk of A-fib, treating that condition may reduce the number of episodes of A-fib you have. Depending on the type of A-fib you have and what your symptoms are, one of two choices of treatment are available. Your doctor will either try to convert back to a regular rhythm or prescribe medications to control the heart rate along with medication to prevent blood clots from forming. Nancy Moyer, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Continue reading
21 Hits

What are the types of atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, that often causes the heart to beat at an abnormally fast rate. Doctors need to determine which type of atrial fibrillation a person has to choose the best treatment option for them.

The three main types of atrial fibrillation (A-fib) are paroxysmal, persistent, and long-term persistent. Doctors also categorize A-fib as either valvular or nonvalvular.

In some cases, A-fib may not cause any symptoms, so a doctor might only discover it when testing for other conditions. In some people, it will present with symptoms. The presence of symptoms is not a factor in the classification of A-fib.

In this article, we discuss the different types of A-fib.

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation arrhythmia
There are several types of A-fib that differ in the length of episode.

A paroxysm is a sudden episode of a disease or symptom.

In paroxysmal A-fib, the irregular rhythm starts suddenly and resolves without treatment within 7 days. The episode may only last a few seconds before it stops on its own.

A person with this type of A-fib will have no noticeable symptoms and may not require treatment to control their heart rhythm. However, a doctor will often prescribe anticoagulation medications to make it harder for the blood to form clots. These drugs may help prevent a stroke.

Episodes occur intermittently at irregular intervals in paroxysmal A-fib.

Approximately half of all cases of A-fib are paroxysmal.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Persistent atrial fibrillation The episodes in persistent A-fib are continuous and last for more than 7 days. While these episodes may resolve without treatment, a person with persistent A-fib often needs to receive medication or undergo a procedure to restore their heart rhythm. They may take medication to slow the heart rate. Usually, a doctor also issues anticoagulants to prevent blood clots. Medications that help control the heart rate include beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. In addition to antiarrhythmic medications, there are several procedures that a doctor may use to restore a regular heartbeat in people with persistent A-fib. These include cardioversion, which involves issuing a small electric shock, and catheter ablation, in which the surgeon destroys the heart tissue that is responsible for the irregular rhythm. Long-term persistent atrial fibrillation This type of A-fib was formerly called permanent A-fib. When medications, cardioversion, catheter ablation, and other methods are unable to convert A-fib back to a normal rhythm, and it seems unlikely that this conversion will be possible, doctors refer to the condition as long-term persistent A-fib. People with this diagnosis will have agreed with their doctor to stop attempting the conversion. However, a doctor might still issue medication to control a person's heart rate and prevent blood clots. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Nonvalvular and valvular A-fib If A-fib is nonvalvular, this means that a heart valve issue, such as mitral stenosis or a replacement valve, is not the cause of the condition. Conversely, in people with valvular A-fib, an issue with a heart valve is responsible for the arrhythmia. Any of the three types of A-fib can be either valvular or nonvalvular. It is vital that doctors determine whether or not the heart valves are responsible for a person's A-fib before deciding on a treatment plan. Newer medications for preventing blood clots are available, but the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them as a safe and effective treatment for nonvalvular A-fib. Takeaway Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia. There are several different types of A-fib, which vary in the length of arrhythmia episodes and in how they respond to treatment. Paroxysmal A-fib lasts for between a few seconds and 7 days, while persistent A-fib lasts for more than 7 days. Long-term persistent A-fib is continuous and does not respond to treatment. Doctors also classify A-fib as valvular or nonvalvular according to whether or not the heart valves are causing the arrhythmia. Q: How do I know which type of A-fib I have? A: Doctors classify A-fib according to how long an episode lasts. Each type of A-fib may or may not cause symptoms, and you might not know that you have this condition if you do not experience any symptoms.If your episodes last for only a few seconds or up to 7 days, the A-fib is paroxysmal. Episodes lasting longer than 7 days indicate persistent A-fib. When A-fib does not respond to attempts to convert it to a regular rhythm, it is called long-term persistent A-fib. Nancy Moyer, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Continue reading
37 Hits

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm, also known as an arrhythmia. Blood flow from the top chambers of the heart to the bottom chambers varies from beat to beat, and the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body efficiently.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between 2.7 and 6.1 million people currently have A-fib.

Age is a key risk factor for developing the disorder. According to the CDC, 9 percent of people over the age of 65 years have A-fib in the U.S., but only two percent under 65 years have it.

The heartbeat usually starts from one spot in the right atrium, the upper-right chamber of the heart. However, people with A-Fib have a heartbeat that triggers from multiple spots, which means both atria and the ventricles, or lower chambers, beat at their own pace.

The arrhythmia may or may not produce symptoms. Recognizing and treating A-Fib early in its development can greatly improve the chances of avoiding complications.

Symptoms chest pain man
Chest pain is a symptom of A-fib, if symptoms occur at all.

A-Fib may not cause any symptoms at all, and, when there are symptoms, they may only occur intermittently.

Often the heart rate is higher than usual with AFib, but this depends on how many signals get from the atria to the ventricle.

Common symptoms include:

palpitations, or the feeling of an irregular heartbeat breathlessness, particularly when lying flat chest pain or pressure low blood pressure dizziness, light-headedness, and fainting

People who do not have symptoms will not be aware of A-fib, so it goes untreated. The first sign of A-fib might be a complication, such as a stroke or heart failure.

Keep a close eye on the symptoms and when they occur or change in severity. Make a note of them for your doctor. This will help them make the diagnosis and decide on the best treatment.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Complications A-fib can cause potentially life-threatening health issues. Blood clots Blood can pool in the atria if the heart is not beating regularly. Blood clots can form in the pools. A segment of a clot, called an embolus, might break off and travel to different parts of the body through the bloodstream and cause blockages. An embolus can restrict blood flow to the kidneys, intestine, spleen, brain, or lungs. A blood clot can be fatal. Stroke A stroke occurs when an embolus blocks an artery in the brain and reduces or stops blood flow to part of the brain. The symptoms of a stroke vary depending on the part of the brain in which it occurs. They can include weakness on one side of the body, confusion, and vision problems, as well as speech and movement difficulties. Stroke is a key cause of disability in the U.S. and the fifth most common cause of death, according to the CDC. Heart failure A-fib can lead to heart failure, especially when the heart rate is high. When the heart rate is irregular, the amount of blood flowing from the atria to the ventricles varies for each heartbeat. The ventricles may therefore not fill up before a heartbeat. The heart fails to pump enough blood to the body, and the amount of blood waiting to circulate the body instead builds up in the lungs and other areas. A-fib can also worsen the symptoms of any underlying heart failure. Cognitive problems A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed people with AFib have a higher long-term risk of cognitive difficulties and dementia that have no link to reduced blood flow in the brain. Risk factors Certain factors increase the risk of developing AFib. These include: Age: The older a person is, the higher the risk of AFib becomes. elderly couple
Age is an important factor in the development of A-fib. Hypertension: Long-term high blood pressure can add strain to the heart and increase the risk of A-fib Pulmonary embolism: A blood clot in the lung increases the risk of A-fib. Heart disease: People with the following conditions have a higher risk of A-fib: Excessive alcohol consumption: Men who have more than two drink a day and women who have more than one drink daily are at increased risk of A-fib . Family members with AFib: A family history of the disease increases the risk of getting it. Other chronic conditions: Other long-term medical problems, including thyroid problems, asthma, diabetes, and obesity, may contribute to the risk of AFib. Sleep apnea: People with this condition, especially when it is severe, have a higher risk of developing AFib. Surgery: A-fib commonly occurs directly after receiving heart surgery. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Prevention Controlling the factors that increase the risk of AFib may help prevent it. Manage the diet: A heart-healthy diet can help prevent AFib and other heart diseases. The DASH diet, which the American Heart Association (AHA) promotes, has shown protective effects on heart health. Abstaining from harmful substances: Tobacco, alcohol, and some illicit drugs, like cocaine, can damage the heart. With or without a diagnosis of A-fib, eliminating tobacco and mood-altering substances and moderating alcohol is vital for protecting the heart. This is also important in a person who already has A-fib. Stress management: Stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate, which makes the heart work harder. Managing stress levels can help to prevent the progression and development of A-fib. Breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can all help reduce stress. Exercise: A physically active lifestyle has profound effects on cardiac health and can help strengthen the heart, reducing the risk of AFib and other heart conditions. Treatment The treatment of A-Fib aims to improve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. For some people, converting the heart back to a normal rhythm is the best option. For others, the doctor deems it better to leave the irregular rhythm in place and prescribe medication to control a high heart rate and prevent the formation of blood clots. In addition to recommending a healthy lifestyle, a doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment depending on symptoms, other conditions they have, and overall health. Medications For AFib, medications are used to control the heart rate, prevent clots from forming. Sometimes medications or a procedure is used to try to restore a regular rhythm. Preventing clots When a doctor thinks the best option is to let someone stay in AFib, they may prescribe anticoagulant medications, or blood-thinners. These medications make it harder for blood to clot. However, stopping bleeding becomes more difficult in a person who takes these medications. The doctor will weigh the risk of developing a clot against the risk of falling and causing a bleed in the brain. Pacemaker
The surgeon might install a pacemaker to moderate heart rhythm. These medications include: warfarin direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs), including rivaroxaban, apixaban, and edoxaban Elderly people with an increased risk of falling often use aspirin but also have a high risk of forming a clot. Aspirin reduces clotting factor but not to the same extent as other medications, so any bleeding is easier to manage. People taking warfarin or other anti-clotting agents should advise any medical professional treating them of their current medications, especially if they will be having a procedure or surgery or have been in an accident. While taking anticoagulants, make sure the doctor knows about any planned or existing pregnancy or any signs of bleeding, such as: very large bruises nausea and light-headedness vomiting blood coughing up blood unusually heavy menstrual flow gums that bleed regularly bloody or black stool blood in the urine sudden back pain that is very severe Take blood thinners exactly as the doctor advises for the best chance of preventing a clotting-related complication and avoiding excessive thinning of the blood. Managing heart rate If the heart rate is high, bringing it down is important to avoid heart failure and reduce the symptoms of A-Fib. Several medications can help by slowing conduction of the signals that tell the heart to beat. These include: beta-blockers, such as propranolol, timolol, and atenolol calcium-channel blockers, such as diltiazem and verapamil digoxin Normalizing heart rhythm Instead of putting a person on blood thinners and heart rate-controlling medicine, doctors may try to return the heart rhythm to normal using medication. This is called chemical or pharmacologic cardioversion. Medications called sodium channel blockers, such as flecainide and quinidine, and potassium channel blockers, such as amiodarone and sotalol, are examples of medications that help to convert A-fib to regular heart rhythm. Procedures When a person does not tolerate A-fib medication needed for someone who has an irregular heart rhythm or doesn't respond to pharmacologic cardioversion, surgical and non-surgical procedures can be used to control the heart rate or try to convert to a regular rhythm to help prevent complications from A-fib. Options for converting A-fib to a regular rhythm include: Electrical cardioversion: The surgeon delivers an electric shock to the heart, which briefly resets the abnormal rhythm to a regular beat. Before carrying out cardioversion, they will often perform an echocardiogram by inserting a scope down the throat to produce an image of the heart to make sure no clots are present in the heart. If they find a clot, a doctor will prescribe anticoagulant medication for several weeks to dissolve it. Cardioversion will then be possible. Catheter ablation: This destroys the tissue that is causing the irregular rhythm, returning the heart to a regular rhythm. The surgeon may need to repeat this procedure if the A-fib returns. The surgeon sometimes destroys the area in which the signals travel between the atria and ventricles. This stops the A-fib, but the heart can no longer send a signal to orchestrate a beat. In these instances, the surgeon will then fit a pacemaker. Surgical ablation: The heart tissue that is causing the irregular rhythm can also be removed in an open-heart surgery called a maze procedure. A surgeon will often carry out this procedure alongside a heart repair. Pacemaker placement: This device instructs the heart to beat regularly. A surgeon will sometimes place a pacemaker in a person with intermittent A-fib that only occurs intermittently. When a doctor feels that another condition is responsible for the A-fib, such as hyperthyroidism or sleep apnea, they will treat the underlying condition alongside the arrhythmia. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Takeaway A-fib is a disorder that causes an irregular heart rhythm. It occurs more often after the age of 65 years and may or may not cause symptoms. The condition can lead to a stroke when blood pools in the heart and forms a clot that travels to the brain. Lifestyle adjustments that can help to prevent A-fib include a heart-healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, and getting regular exercise. There are two treatment options. A doctor might allow an irregular rhythm to continue but control the heart rate and prescribe an anticoagulant to help prevent a stroke. Alternatively, the doctor might try to convert the irregular rhythm back to a regular one with medication or a procedure. Q: If A-Fib does not show symptoms, how can I take steps to stop it before it causes complications? A: The first step is recognizing you have it. Without symptoms, you won’t know you have A-fib unless your doctor finds it while listening to your heart during an examination or while testing for a different health issue. Increase the odds of finding A-fib by regularly visiting your doctor for ongoing or preventative care. Once you have AFib, unless it stops spontaneously on its own, the only way to avoid complications is through appropriate treatment. Nancy Moyer, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Continue reading
42 Hits
Powered by SoftForge.