Category Archives: Heart & Circulation

Should the smoking age be 21? Some legislators say yes


Cigarette thumbBy Jenni Bergal

Nearly a dozen states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

While a growing number of states have turned their attention to marijuana legalization, another proposal has been quietly catching fire among some legislators—raising the legal age to buy cigarettes.

Measures to raise the smoking age to 21 were introduced this year in Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, the District of Columbia and here in Washington state.

This summer, Hawaii became the first state to approve increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21 starting Jan 1. A similar measure passed the California Senate, but stalled in the Assembly. And nearly a dozen other states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

“It really is about good public health,” said Democratic Hawaii state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who sponsored the legislation. “If you can keep individuals from beginning to smoke until they’re at least 21, then you have a much greater chance of them never becoming lifelong smokers.”

Supporters say hiking the legal age to 21 not only will save lives but will cut medical costs for states. But opponents say it would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military. Continue reading


Surge in statin use among very elderly without heart trouble raises doubts


HeartBy Lisa Gillespie

Many doctors are choosing a better-safe-than-sorry approach to heading off heart trouble in very elderly patients.

Inexpensive statin drugs are given to millions of people to reduce cholesterol, even many who do not show signs of heart disease.

But a recent study has found that seniors with no history of heart trouble are now nearly four times more likely – from 9 percent to 34 percent – to get those drugs than they were in 1999.

Here’s the catch: For patients of that age, there is little research showing statins’ preventive heart benefits outweigh possible risks, which can include muscle pain and the onset of diabetes.  There have only been a handful of studies that included the over-79 population, according to a review in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2012. Continue reading


Study supports more aggressive blood pressure treatment


From the National Institutes of Health

NIH study shows intensive blood pressure management may save lives

EKG tracingLower blood pressure target greatly reduces cardiovascular complications and deaths in older adults

More intensive management of high blood pressure, below a commonly recommended blood pressure target, significantly reduces rates of cardiovascular disease, and lowers risk of death in a group of adults 50 years and older with high blood pressure.

This is according to the initial results of a new clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT). Continue reading


New heart procedure boon to patients and hospitals

Dr. Josh Rovin, left, and Dr. Douglas Spriggs, right, perform TAVR procedure at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Florida (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

Dr. Josh Rovin, left, and Dr. Douglas Spriggs, right, perform TAVR procedure at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Florida (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

New Hope Beats For Heart Patients And Hospitals

By Phil Galewitz

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Inch by inch, two doctors working side by side in an operating room guide a long narrow tube through a patient’s femoral artery, from his groin into his beating heart. They often look intently, not down at the 81-year-old patient, but up at a 60-inch monitor above him that’s streaming pictures of his heart made from X-rays and sound waves.

As with other new medical technology, TAVR draws concerns about possible overuse or adoption by hospitals lacking proficiency, which could harm patients and increase health care costs.

The big moment comes 40 minutes into the procedure at Morton Plant Hospital. Dr. Joshua Rovin unfurls from the catheter a metal stent containing a new aortic valve that is made partly out of a pig’s heart and expands to the width of a quarter outside the catheter. The monitor shows it fits well over the old one. Blood flow is normal again.  “This is pretty glorious,” Rovin said.

The surgeon has performed one of the fastest-growing procedures in U.S. heart care known as a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. The operation was approved in the U.S. in late 2011 to help patients too ill or frail for traditional “open-heart” valve surgery. The procedure has rapidly gained doctors’ acceptance, particularly for patients in their 80s and 90s. Continue reading


Heart on a chip


University of California, Berkeley researchers, led by bioengineering professor Kevin Healy, have been able to test heart drugs on human cardiac muscle cells housed in an inch-long silicone device.

The video shows cardiac muscle cells before and after exposure to isoproterenol, a drug used to treat certain heart ailments, including bradycardia (slow heart rate). It’s clear that the cells beat faster after 30 minutes of exposure to isoproterenol.The study’s lead author is Anurag Mathur.

The project is funded through the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening initiative, an interagency collaboration launched by the National Institutes of Health to develop 3-D human tissue chips that model the structure and function of human organs.

“Ultimately, these chips could replace the use of animals to screen drugs for safety,” said Healy.


The Salty Truth: Many Popular Foods With Unhealthy Amounts of Salt – ABC News


pizzaYou may be consuming more salt than you need — and the salt shaker is probably not to blame.

When researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought to shake out how much sodium — a major component of table salt — was in various food items nationwide, they found that the biggest high sodium offenders were pizzas, pastas and meats, nearly 75 percent of which exceeded national sodium thresholds. Additionally, more than half of cold cuts, soups and sandwiches contained more than a healthy amount of sodium.

via The Salty Truth: Many Popular Foods With Unhealthy Amounts of Salt – ABC News.



New Guidelines Call for No Heart Tests for Low-Risk Patients – US News


EKG tracingMany patients who are at low risk for heart problems don’t need to have screening tests such as EKGs and stress tests, a national association of primary care physicians recommends.

The new guideline jibes with research that has suggested the tests are overused in patients who don’t need them.

via New Guidelines Call for No Heart Tests for Low-Risk Patients – US News.


Couch Potatoes Rejoice: Strenuous Exercise May Be Unhealthy – WSJ


potatoA recent study in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that exercising strenuously four to seven days a week conferred an increased risk of vascular disease, compared with two to three days a week of strenuous exercise.

Accompanying the study, published in Circulation’s Feb. 24 edition, is an editorial entitled, “Physical Activity: Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?”

Photo: Courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

via Couch Potatoes Rejoice: Strenuous Exercise May Be Unhealthy – WSJ.


Mediterranean Diet associated with lower heart disease risk


Olives MediterraneanAdults who adhere to a Mediterranean style diet—one that stresses eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, olive oil and moderate consumption of red wine—were 47% less likely to develop heart disease than peers, according to a Greek study.

The diet is more a suggested eating pattern than a strict prescription for food intake. It calls for avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates, and red meat.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

via More Good News on Mediterranean Diet.


The ABCs of heart health


HeartBy: Janet Wright, MD, Executive Director, Million Hearts

Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country.

For some groups, such as African Americans, the burden is even greater.

As a nation, we can—and must—change these numbers.

The good news is that heart disease and stroke can be prevented, and February—American Heart Month—is a great time to refresh your memory on the small but important actions you can take.

The national Million Hearts® initiative is working to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. How can you reduce your risk? One way is to know your ABCS:

A: Ask your health care provider about taking Aspirin. Continue reading


Is your heart doctor out? If so, you may be better off.


Heart monitor tracingBy Jordan Rau

If your cardiologist is away at a conference when you’re having a stabbing feeling in your chest, don’t fret. You may be more likely to live.

study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found frail patients admitted to teaching hospitals with two common types of heart problems were more likely to survive on days when national cardiology conferences were going on.

The researchers also discovered that heart-attack patients who were at higher risk of dying were less likely to undergo angioplasties when conferences were occurring, yet their mortality rates were the same as similar patients admitted at other times.

An angioplasty—in which a doctor unblocks an artery with an inflatable balloon inserted by a small tube—is one of the most common medical procedures for cardiac patients.

The conclusions about teaching hospitals surprised even the authors, who had begun their inquiry anticipating that death would be more common during cardiology meetings because hospital staffs were more short-handed than usual. Finding the opposite, the researchers speculated that for very weak patients, aggressive treatments may exceed the benefits. Continue reading


Health news headlines – October 24th


Silhouettes of U.S. Soldiers at night in Iraq