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Monthly Archives: February 2009

New High Definition CT Scanner set to benefit heart patients


A new high definition Computerised Tomograpghy (CT) scanner has today been commissioned at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, United Kingdom, and is set to bring major benefits for the diagnosis and treatment of heart and cardiac patients.

Consultants at the hospital have welcomed it’s installation, commenting that this is a huge step forward. The new scanner will revolutionsie the imaging and treatment of a vast range of medical conditions that require the increased resolution that high definition scans provide.

HD CT Scanner one of only seven worldwide

This is a medical first for the United Kingdom, as the high definition CT scanner is the only one of it’s kind in the country, and only one of two in Europe, and seven in the entire world just now.

The new scanner manufactured by GE Healthcare, a global leader in imaging and in dose reduction technologies, was announced to the World in June 2008 as the first high definition CT scanner. This machine, known as the LightSpeed CT750 HD has obtained U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) clearance and will set the new standard for the clarity of CT scans, allowing the medical profession access to faster, improved medical imaging. It is claimed that the images produced from the machine can even predict the possibility of a stroke in advance.

Dr Neil Derbyshire, consultant radiologist, interviewed on the BBC South Today News program whilst working with the new machine said “we’re getting beautiful pictures of the arteries in the abdomen, and the arteries down the legs”. He continued “Image quality has improved, particularly in certain areas, for example vascular, imaging of the arteries. One of the features of this scanner .. we soon wish to be developing cardiac work”.

Normal CT scans can be grainy and unclear, but a doctor looking at an HD scan can see much more detail over a wider area. They can even see 3D models of organs, so invasive examinations are not necessary.

HD CT major benefit for cardiac and heart disease patients

This has already resulted in the Royal Berkshire Hospital being able to treat patients that it used to send elsewhere. The machine is capable of providing HD scans and processing up to 7 patients per hour, and is now going to be in constant use 24 hours per day. During the daytime it will be used for routine work, and during the night for emergencies.

The new HD scanner will need to work very hard to justify it’s 2.5 million dollar cost, but it’s already letting doctors see enhanced detail in parts of the body that normal CT scanners cannot cope with.

Doctor Derbyshire added “and the new areas that we hope to start scanning are [certainly] the cardiac work which we have not been able to do before, so we hope to scan two to three hundred patients a year, looking at their coronary arteries, better definition of the brain, and another area that we want to start scanning on is the colon”.

With demand for it’s services set to increase, the hospital have purchased only the second scanner to be made available in the United Kingdom as well, and this additional machine is due to come on line in April 2009.

Overweight people may still be heart healthy


What’s going on?

We are continuously bombarded about our weight, with messages about healthy meal plans, healthy eating food, healthy food recipes, low cholesterol foods and how to lose weight. However a recent US study into nutrition, health and obesity indicates that if you are overweight, it does not necessarily mean that you are not healthy.

This is a surprising conclusion, and seems to contradict the many years of advice we have received from the medical profession, that the risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke all increase when we start to climb up the obesity chart.

Half of people classed as overweight have normal blood pressure

In the first national study on this subject, a research Professor from the University of Michican at Chicago, MaryFran Sowers has discovered that approximately half of people classed as being overweight seem to have blood pressure and cholesterol levels within the healthy normal range.

This may force us to rethink our approach to weight and heart health, as part of Sowers’ findings were that, amazingly, half of the people who weighed in under the obesity threshold were found to have problems with their risk factors for heart health that are normally associated with obesity.

So it would appear that you can look like a million dollars, but be a ticking heart attack time bomb or you can bust the scales but still be relatively healthy, or healthier than has previously been thought. The results show that the traditional stereotypical associations about body size and health can be misleading.

Obesity statistics

Here are the obesity statistics, facts and figures resulting from the research :-

  • 51 percent of overweight American adults (approximately 36 million people) tested normal for blood pressure, and levels of blood cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats) and blood sugar 

 

  • Over 30 percent of adults classed as not just overweight, but obese (approx. 20 million people) also showed healthy readings for the above tests 

 

  • Nearly 25 percent of adults who were not obsese or overweight (about 16 million) had unhealthy levels of at least two of the four health factors.

Sowers’ conclusion makes for interesting reading, as she points out that although it has been previously acknowledged that some thin people can develop heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, whilst some obese people don’t – it’s just the scale of the numbers that is very surprising, and also indicates that up to 16 million Americans who think that they are not at risk of developing heart disease actually are.

Obesity definition – is the system for calculating obesity flawed?

Now, this leads us to the question whether the existing definition of being overweight is still valid or not. The current way of determining if someone is overweight or not is to look at their body mass index (BMI) reading. Unfortunately, this method does not differentiate between bad body fat and healthy muscle tissue. It has recently been pointed out that technically this means that half of the pro Basketball Players in the United States fall into the clinically obese category!

Why is there so much heart disease?


Deaths from heart disease and Stroke wipe out over four hundred thousand Americans, and one hundred and twenty thousand people in the United Kingdom each year! And yet we now know more about the physiology of the heart than ever before.

Why do we still have folks dying prematurely from heart attacks, strokes and blood clots at the ridiculously young age of forty, fifty or even sixty years of age? We have the knowledge and the technology to enable our hearts to keep on pumping blood round our bodies well into our senior years – even up to age ninety or one hundred years old.

The latest studies into the longevity and lifestyles of the oldest people in the world have confirmed that the human heart is perfectly capable of functioning for many more decades than the average age of death from heart related illness in the population would suggest.

Coronary heart disease has been a recognised disease for more than a century, and recent advances in scientific research have produced an enormous number of early diagnoses, drug treatments, natural remedies and surgical procedures that have prevented countless thousands of deaths. However, despite all this progress in the treatment of heart related problems, the incidence of death and diseases of the heart continue to surge relentlessly.

One of the problems is that coronary heart disease develops slowly within the body’s arteries over many years. Most people are uneducated about heart disease and so are unaware of the risk factors. They have received very little education or exposure about this killer disease, as they have grown older and passed through school, college and into adulthood.

Without a clear understanding of ALL the risk factors for heart disease it is impossible to plan on avoiding it. The science tells us that the heart risk factors that contribute to the development of many types of cardiac related problems are cumulative – in other words the more risk factors that you have the greater is the chance that you will develop a serious or life threatening heart condition.

The vitally important message here is that if you focus your heart disease prevention efforts on just one factor, this is not sufficent – you have to focus on all of them. This is often misunderstood by people who seek at all costs to reduce their dietary fat intake, whilst, for example, ignoring the fact that they are physically inactive, and do not take nearly enough aerobic exercise.

Here is a quick review of the major risk factors for developing heart disease :-

  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Blood Cholesterol
  • Inactive Lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

If you examine your lifestyle and make moderate improvements to reduce the above risk factors, this will reduce your overall risk more substantially than an extreme effort to reduce just one or two of the heart health risk factors.

Carotenoids protect your heart health


Carotenoids are the pigments found naturally in many fruits and vegetables that give them the distinctive yellow, orange and scarlet red colouring. Chefs have long utilised this colourful combination to spice up the appearance of their culinary creations. All richly coloured red orange and yellow vegetables contain generous quantities of these natural healing compounds. They are also found in some green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and Kale.

Significantly lower risk of heart disease and cancer

However the chemicals that cause this rich colour to form in carotenoid-rich natural foods such as tomatoes, capsicums, and carrots could save your life, as research has shown that people who eat the most of these types of food have been shown to have significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease and cancer.

Best dietary sources of Carotenoids

Here is a list of the best natural food sources of Carotenoids. These are the foods with the highest quantities and concentrations of the compounds :-


  • Tomatoes
  • Cantaloupe melons
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pumpkin


Body under attack from free radicals

Our bodies are constantly under attack from alien invaders known as free radicals, which are depleted oxygen molecules (missing one electron from the molecule). These can damage the body’s internal cells and DNA structure because they attempt to replace the missing electron from the oxygen molecule by stealing it from a neighbouring healthy body cell. This continual process can damage the cells and contribute to the underlying causes of heart disease and other dread diseases such as cancer, and eye disease such as macular degeneration.

So how can a humble vegetable help to counteract this threat ? Scientific research has proven that the high Carotenoid content of certain vegetables can counteract the damaging effect of the free radicals by assisting with halting the cell damage, and therefore increasing the body’s protection. A significant study conducted at John Hopkins Universaity in Baltimore, MD discovered that smokers who were heart attack victims were found to be less likely to suffer a second heart attack if they had high levels of four particular high carotenoid compounds – beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin.

Carotenoids reduce bad LDL Cholesterol

There are more than 500 different types of Carotenoids, although the majority of common foods contain only about 60 of these. The most critical of these precious compounds are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene and Zexanthin. The way in which these carotenoid rich compounds can help to prevent heart disease and stroke is by preventing the ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol in the blood from attaching itself to the walls of the arteries. This is a major cause of atherosclerosis and hardening of the arteries due to the build up of this arterial plaque. If the LDL cholesterol molecule cannot oxidise, then it cannot stick to the wall of the artery.

Artificial supplements cannot replace natural food based Carotenoids

Artificial food supplements that attempt to reproduce the beneficial effects of naturally occurring Carotenoids are less successful. In fact they may possibly be harmful to health, according to Doctor Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. His advice is that the most effective way to get Carotenoids is from natural foods rather than supplements.