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Monthly Archives: May 2009

New polypill could cut heart disease risk in half

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What is a polypill ?

A polypill is a way of combining a group of drugs that are then presented in a single capsule or tablet, and contains a number of targeted active ingredients. When taken together these have a beneficial effect on the specific medical condition, whilst reducing the number of different individual medicines to be taken.

This technique has been applied to heart disease medicines recently, resulting in a single heart disease ‘super-pill’ which has been named ‘Polycap’. A recent study by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada has shown that taking this medicine could significantly cut the risk of heart attack and stroke in the study group of volunteers aged over 50 years.

What does the Polycap pill contain ?

The pills contain a total of five different types of popular different types of heart disease medications:-




  • Diuretic – helps to lower blood pressure by eliminating sodium from the body by increasing urination
  • Ace Inhibitor – this class of medicine reduces the levels of a type of enzyme that has been shown to increase blood pressure levels
  • Beta Blocker – used to treat high blood pressure by making the heart beat more slowly, and reducing strain on the heart
  • Statin – to lower levels of LDL, or ‘bad’ blood cholesterol and prevent the build up of fatty plaques on the arterial walls
  • Aspirin – proven to have a thinning effect on the blood, and an effective anti-clotting drug

What benefits does the Polycap pill offer to the heart disease patient ?

The main benefits of this new combined pill are likely to be experienced by middle aged people, and are listed below :-

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower levels of harmful cholesterol (LDL)
  • Reduced risk of blood clotting that can result in stroke
  • Lower heart rate
  • A Single pill is easier to take than multiple pills or tablets, and less prone to missed or mis-dosage

The predicted overall effect of the reduction in all the above risk factors leads the experts to conclude that the polypill will cut the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 50 percent.

How much does the heart polypill cost ?

This combined heart disease medication could be very cost effective, at less than two dollars a day per person. Applying some simple economics to the heart disease statistics – in the United Kingdom the cost of high blood pressure and heart attacks is calculated to be 21 billion dollars annually. If this medication was made available to the millions of people in the ‘at-risk’ group for heart disease, the cost would be approximately 9 billion dollars.

When can I get a prescription for the polypill ?

This medicine is likely to be available to everyone within five years, following essential widespread clinical trials to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the drugs when used in combination.

How to Avoid Heart Strain While Exercising

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Exercise is good for your heart health, and can help in the fight to lower your blood pressure and keep your heart fit and healthy. If you’re already exercising regularly, or planning to start sometime soon, you’ll need to know the optimum heart rate for your age and fitness level, what the dangerous exercise levels are, and how to avoid over-exerting yourself and straining your heart.

Physical exercise detoxes the arteries!

Physical exertion can actually act like a detox for the arteries, helping to prevent the accumulation of the fatty plaques that can lead to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease.

Before starting or increasing any program of physical exercise, be sure to consult with your doctor!

However, most people in the United Kingdom and the United States spend a greater proportion of their lives than ever before, either sitting down or doing things that involve little or no physical activity. A recent British survey discovered that the average person now walks a half mile per day, down from nearly three quarters of a mile in 1976. As this is an average, it is likely that some people will walk much longer distances than this whilst others will walk very little at all.

Check out your safe maximum heart rate

There’s never been a better time than now to start doing some extra physical activity. You can find our top ten ‘easy win’ tips to increase your physical activity each day  listed below. If you get into the habit of adopting these handy exercise tips, you will eventually hardly notice them, maybe save yourself some money, and do your heart health some good as well.

Before you start though, be sure to check what your maximum recommended pulse rate should be for your age group, and don’t forget – always consult your doctor before starting any fitness program. The following table lists the recommended maximum exercise pulse rates for all age ranges and fitness levels:

Age (years) Danger pulse Fit max pulse Unfit max pulse
20 200 160 120
30 190 152 114
40 180 144 108
50 170 136 102
60 160 128 96
70 150 120 90
80 140 112 84

Top ten tips for easy exercise and big heart health gains :-

  • Wash your car yourself instead of using the car wash (save some dollars during the credit crunch!)
  • Cut the grass or do an hours worth of gardening
  • Do an hours work around the house – cleaning, polishing or DIY – why pay to join a gym ?
  • Climb the stairs at the office instead of taking the elevator (if you’re at home take a few extra stair climbs each day)
  • Park your car at the end of the lot when you go shopping or to work
  • Go food shopping, carry your groceries, and cook a meal instead of ordering a pizza delivery
  • Pace up and down the room when you’re talking on the phone
  • Take advantage of TV commercial breaks to do some chores around the home
  • Get up at least once per hour and walk around your home or office
  • Don’t send an email – get up and walk to see the person or friend at the other side of the office, or neighbourhood

Pulmonary Hypertension – definition, types and symptoms

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What is Pulmonary Hypertension ?

Any reference to the word pulmonary is associated with the lungs, and this serious heart condition, also known as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), is a type of high blood pressure that occurs less frequently than the more well known form of arterial hypertension, and is uniquely associated with the lungs and the right hand side of the heart. It also affects more women than men – you are up to nine times more likely to develop pulmonary hypertension if you are female.

This form of hypertension is characterised by the familiar problem of arterial blockage, or narrowing, similar to the causes of atherosclerosis. However, pulmonary hypertension affects the very small arteries that are found in the lungs, known as the pulmonary arteries. When the heart beats, the right chamber, or ventricle, is the section of the heart that pumps blood through the lungs. If you are suffering from pulmonary hypertension, the arterial blockages cause raised pressure within the pulmonary arteries that in turn causes resistance to the pumping action of the heart muscle, and hence puts a strain on the organ. As a result of this, the blood pressure is raised, and over time this causes excessive loading of the heart that can ultimately damage it, or even cause complete heart failure. 

There is no cure for this heart disease, but there are treatments that can reduce the symptoms, and possibly prevent the worsening of the condition that otherwise could worsen, and could lead to death.

Different types of pulmonary hypertension

Primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH)

This term is applied to the condition of pulmonary hypertension where there is no obvious cause for the elevated blood pressure found in the lungs. It is also known as unexplained pulmonary hypertension, ideopathic pulmonary hypertension (IPH) or even ideopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH). There may be a genetic root cause for this heart complaint that can only be confirmed by careful medical investigation and diagnosis. However most cases do not reveal a confirmed hereditary link.  

Secondary pulmonary hypertension

Some cases of pulmonary hypertension may develop from another simultaneously occurring medical condition. This more frequent type of pulmonary hypertension is known as secondary pulmonary hypertension, and it is more commonly encountered than idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. There are numerous factors that that may lead to secondary pulmonary hypertension including :

  • Blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, such as emphysema
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Chronic liver disease (cirrhosis)
  • AIDS
  • Lupus
  • Lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes scarring in the tissue between the lungs’ air sacs (interstitium)
  • Left-sided heart failure

Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension

This heart condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Many of the following symptoms develop slowly, and may be difficult to differentiate from other non-related indications. Ultimately though, without appropriate diagnosis and treatment, these symptoms will worsen until the sufferer is forced to seek medical attention :-

  • Chest pain, or feeling of pressure within the chest cavity
  • Breathlessnes (dyspnea), either whilst resting or during physical exertion 
  • Excessive tiredness or fatigue
  • Fainting or feelings of dizziness (syncope)
  • Swollen ankles (edema), legs or abdomen (ascites)
  • Blue coloration of the the skin and lips (cyanosis)
  • Arrythmia – an excessive or irregular heart rate

Risk Factors for Tachycardia

We’ve looked at an introduction to the type of heart arrhythmia where the heart beats excessively fast – known as Tachycardia. This introduction looked at it’s physiology and anatomical symptoms. We’re now going to investigate the various reasons why some people develop the condition, and look at the associated risk factors.

The are two reasons why people develop Tachycardias :-

  • Medical conditions
  • External factors linked to lifestyle choices

Medical conditions linked to Tachycardia

A number of widely differing medical causes may result in you developing a tachycardia. These are listed, but not limited to those described below :-

  • High blood pressure (Hypertension) – this inevitably results in an increased workload, and hence strain on the heart. This can result in an enlarged or weaknened heart that can trigger a tachycardia
  • Atherosclerosis – this is where the arteries become hardened or narrowed due to the dietary build up fatty plaques
  • Heart attack – If you have already suffered from a heart attack, then you have an increased risk of tachycardia
  • Cardiomyopathy - the deterioration of the function of the heart muscle 
  • Damage to the component parts of the heart – for example, heart valves may be damaged, and malfunction due to cardiovascular disease
  • Age – advancing years cause an increased susceptibility to developing an arrhythmia.
  • Genetic related – If you have a family history of heart disease or specifically arrhythmia, this increases the risk of developing tachycardia
  • Hyperthyroidism – excess thyroid hormone secretion from a malfunctioning thyroid gland increases the body’s metabolic rate (like the throttle on an automobile). This can lead to a raised or unpredictable heart rate
  •  Sleep apnea – if you suffer from this this sleep disorder you will regularly stop breathing repeatedly during sleep. This causes a lack of oxygen that can lead to a type of tachycardia known as atrial fibrillation.
  • Chemical imbalance – An imbalance of certain important minerals in your blood, such as potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium can impact upon the normal functioning of the heart’s electrical system, and lead to an irregular or increased heart rate

Dietary and Lifestyle causes of Tachycardia

Apart from the physiological factors mentioned above, external diet, habits and environment can interfere with the heart’s usual ordered rhythm, controlled by the heart’s regular electrical impulses, and can trigger a tachycardia.

For most people, normal quantities of the products listed below do not cause any problems. However, some people may be more likely to suffer a tachycardia than others, for a given amount of the substance concerned. Very high quantities of one or more of these products can also trigger a tachycardia in anyone, whether they have a susceptibility to the condition or not.

  • Prescription medications or drugs
  • Cigarette or Cigar Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Unapproved herbal remedies
  • Dietary additives or supplements
  • Caffeine
  • Illegal narcotics or drugs
  • Chemicals used in the workplace or at home