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Blood Vessel-Clearing Procedure Riskier on Weekends: Study

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THURSDAY, May 11, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Although you often don't have a choice of when you get the heart procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), new research suggests that having it done over the weekend may be more risky.

The study reported that people hospitalized on the weekend for PCI were twice as likely to die as those hospitalized on weekdays.

PCI -- also known as angioplasty -- is a procedure that opens narrowed or blocked blood vessels using a thin tube (catheter). The tube is placed into a blood vessel (usually at the top of the thigh) and carefully guided to the heart. If necessary, a balloon is inflated to open the narrowed or blocked artery. And, a mesh or metal tube called a stent may be left in place to keep the blood vessel open, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The new study included information from nearly 1.3 million PCI procedures done in the United States. The PCIs were done between 2004 and 2013.

Weekend hospital admissions numbered about 12 percent in 2004. By 2013, that number was 21.5 percent, the study found.

  • May 12, 2017
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SOURCE: Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, news release, May 11, 2017

What Harms the Young Heart Also Hurts the Brain Later

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WEDNESDAY, May 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or a smoking habit early in life increases your odds for mental decline during middle age, a new study warns.

"While it is well known that high blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking are associated with poor cognitive [mental] performance in adults, the effects of these risk factors from childhood on midlife cognition were unknown," study lead author Suvi Rovio said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.

"These findings support the need for active monitoring and treatment strategies against cardiovascular risk factors from childhood," said Rovio, a senior scientist at the University of Turku, in Finland.

For the study, Rovio and colleagues analyzed data from thousands of people in Finland who were followed from childhood to adulthood.

The investigators found that high blood pressure and high cholesterol in childhood, the teen years and young adulthood -- as well as smoking in the teens and young adulthood -- were associated with worse midlife mental performance, especially memory and learning.

  • May 10, 2017
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SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, May 1, 2017

Body Cooling May Help Brain After Cardiac Arrest

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WEDNESDAY, May 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Cooling the body may reduce the risk of brain damage for cardiac arrest patients in a coma, a leading group of U.S. neurologists says.

The new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology recommends that families of these patients ask if their loved one qualifies for body cooling.

"People who are in a coma after being resuscitated from cardiac arrest require complex neurologic and medical care, and neurologists can play a key role in improving outcomes by providing body cooling," said guideline committee chair Dr. Romergryko Geocadin.

This guideline recommends that cooling be used more often for patients who qualify, said Geocadin, who is with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

In cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops beating. This means blood and oxygen no longer flow to the brain. The longer the heart goes without beating, the greater the risk of brain damage or death.

  • May 10, 2017
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SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, May 10, 2017

Heart Failure Patients Do Better When Sticking With Same Hospital

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WEDNESDAY, May 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Heart failure patients who are readmitted to the same hospital after their initial treatment are more likely to survive and go home sooner, new Canadian research suggests.

Speedy treatment is critical for sudden events -- such as heart attack or stroke -- which explains why ambulance policies usually require patients to be taken to the closest treatment center even if they were just released from another hospital.

"This makes sense in time-sensitive acute conditions where delays in initial treatment are associated with poorer outcomes -- thus the adage 'time is muscle' for heart attacks and 'time is brain' for strokes," said study leader Dr. Finlay McAlister. He is a professor of general internal medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

But, "heart failure is a chronic condition and continuity of care seems to be more important," McAlister noted in a news release from the American Heart Association.

For the study, researchers examined readmission data on heart failure patients discharged from Canadian hospitals between 2004 and 2013.

  • May 10, 2017
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SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 10, 2017

Just 5 Percent of Daily Salt Gets Added at the Table

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By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 8, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Tossing out the salt shaker may not be enough for your heart health. Most of the salt that Americans consume comes from processed foods and restaurant meals, a new study finds.

In a sampling of 450 U.S. adults, only 10 percent of salt, or sodium, in their diet came from food prepared at home. About half of that was added at the table.

Instead, restaurant meals and store-bought foods -- including crackers, breads and soups -- accounted for 71 percent of salt intake, the study found.

"Care must be taken when food shopping and eating out to steer clear of higher-sodium foods," said lead researcher Lisa Harnack.

For prevent harmful high blood pressure, Americans are advised to limit salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) daily, said Harnack, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. That's the equivalent of one teaspoon.

But, more than eight out of 10 Americans exceed this limit "by a mile," she said.

Food diaries from study participants showed that about 3,500 mg of sodium was consumed a day on average.

  • May 8, 2017
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SOURCES: Lisa Harnack, Dr.PH., professor and director, nutrition coordinating center, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Kathryn Foti, M.P.H., epidemiologist, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; May 8, 2017, <i>Circulation</i>, online

Stretching Eases Pain of Vessel Disease in Legs

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FRIDAY, May 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Stretching can increase blood flow and reduce leg pain in people with peripheral artery disease, according to a small, new study.

"This is a very safe, easy intervention that can be done at home," said study senior author Judy Muller-Delp, a professor of biomedical sciences at Florida State University.

"It has the potential to really improve your tolerance for walking and get you into a walking program," Muller-Delp said in an American Heart Association news release.

Peripheral artery disease affects more than 8.5 million Americans, according to the heart association. A common symptom is painful muscle cramping in the hips, thighs or calves when walking, climbing stairs or exercising. This pain often goes away when you stop exercising.

In this study, 13 people with peripheral artery disease, average age 71, stretched their calf muscle for 30 minutes a day using a splint that flexed the ankle about 15 percent.

  • May 5, 2017
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SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 5, 2017

Health Tip: Coping With Hardening of the Arteries

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(HealthDay News) -- Hardening and narrowing of the arteries -- medically called atherosclerosis -- may require lifestyle changes to protect yourself from heart attack.

Here's how to find support, courtesy of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute:

  • Tell your doctor if you feel depressed, anxious or stressed. If necessary, talk with a mental health professional.
  • Reach out to your local hospital or health department for support and additional information.
  • Discuss needed lifestyle changes with family and friends.
  • Ask loved ones to help you make these changes.
  • May 4, 2017
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-- Diana Kohnle
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Bystander CPR Not Only Saves Lives, It Lessens Disability: Study

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By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 4, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- When someone goes into cardiac arrest, quick action from bystanders can have a long-lasting impact, researchers say.

Not only were the patients more likely to survive, they were also significantly less likely to sustain brain damage or enter a nursing home in the following year, a new study found.

It's well known that cardiac arrest victims have a better shot at surviving if witnesses jump into action, said lead researcher Dr. Kristian Kragholm.

That means performing chest compressions or, if possible, using an automated external defibrillator (AED) -- a layperson-friendly device that can "shock" a stopped heart back into rhythm.

The new study findings, Kragholm noted, show those actions have long-term benefits, too.

"Our study findings underscore the importance of learning how to recognize cardiac arrest, how to do chest compressions, and how to employ an AED," said Kragholm, of Aalborg University Hospital, in Denmark.

  • May 4, 2017
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SOURCES: Kristian Kragholm, M.D., Ph.D., anesthesiology and intensive care medicine, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark; Michael Kurz, M.D., associate professor, emergency medicine, University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine; Zachary Goldberger, M.D., assistant professor, University of Washington Medicine School of Medicine, Seattle, and member, American College of Cardiology, Electrophysiology Section; May 4, 2017, <i>New England Journal of Medicine</i>

Eating Gluten-Free Without a Medical Reason?

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By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 2, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Eating "gluten-free" when there's no medical need to do so won't boost your heart health -- and might even harm it, a new study warns.

Gluten-free diets have soared in popularity in recent years. But, shunning gluten has no heart benefits for people without celiac disease, and it may mean consuming a diet lacking heart-healthy whole grains, according to the quarter-century study.

"For the vast majority of people who can tolerate it, restricting gluten to improve your overall health is likely not to be a beneficial strategy," said study leader Dr. Andrew Chan.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. People with celiac disease -- less than 1 percent of the U.S. population -- have an immune system reaction when they eat gluten, triggering inflammation and intestinal damage. They also have an increased risk of heart disease, but that declines after they begin eating a gluten-free diet, according to background information in the study.

  • May 3, 2017
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SOURCES: Andrew T. Chan, M.D., MPH, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and gastroenterologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Ravi Dave, M.D., professor of medicine, division of cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine; May 2, 2017, <i>BMJ</i>, online

Too Many People Still Ignore Heart Attack Risks: Study

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By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 3, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Sizable numbers of adults with risk factors for heart attack -- such as smoking, obesity or physical inactivity -- aren't inclined to do anything to improve their health, a large, new study finds.

Among those at greatest risk, meaning they having five or more risk factors, almost 1 in 5 did not feel they needed to make any changes, the study revealed.

Researchers can't say exactly why this disconnect exists.

"Our study suggests that the link between risk perceptions and behaviors is complex," said Dr. F. Daniel Ramirez, the study's lead author. He is a research fellow at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Ontario, Canada.

But Ramirez and his co-authors don't think indifference is simply due to a lack of education or appreciation of health consequences.

As study senior author Dr. Benjamin Hibbert explained in an American Heart Association news release, "Effectively convincing people to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyle changes requires a better understanding of what makes them tick."

  • May 3, 2017
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SOURCES: F. Daniel Ramirez, M.D., research fellow, University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ontario, Canada; Vincent Bufalino, M.D., national spokesman, American Heart Association, and president, Advocate Medical Group, Downers Grove, Ill.; Bonnie Spring, Ph.D., professor, preventive medicine, and director, Center for Behavior and Health, Northwest University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; May 3, 2017, news release, and May 2017, <i>Journal of the American Heart Association</i>

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