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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Watching TV could be bad for your heart health


Forty percent of Americans, and a third of British people do not get enough sleep. Without it we are setting ourselves up for future health problems.

Getting adequate sleep is a very important factor in our health and well-being. It is essential for the body to be able to repair and rejuvenate itself. However, increasing sleep deprivation is ocurring among people from the the United States, and the United Kingdom, and this is being linked to serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

One of the major contributing factors to lack of sleep, has surprisingly been unearthed by a recent study into TV viewing habits, and the effect that they have on the sleep patterns of thousands of volunteers.

Half  the population watch TV just prior to going to bed

About half of us Watch TV during the late evening, in the preceding two hours before going to bed. This appears to be one of the main factors in us experiencing reduced quantity and quality of sleep. The problem appears to be linked to the psychology of watching a television program right up until the end of the show, not wishing to miss the end, without prior checks on what time the program was actually due to finish at the start.

This has the effect of delaying the time at which many people go to bed each evening, whilst most people’s waking time is fixed, and governed by work, educational or commuting requirements. The result is that television viewing is stealing sleep time from millions of individuals who end up in ‘sleep deficit’.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that TV viewing is inherently sedentary, so not only is it robbing us of our sleep, it is also depriving us of much needed exercise and other physical or sporting activities.

What is the optimum amount of sleep ?

There is a lot of research about how many hours of sleep we need each day, and studies have shown that 7 hours sleep is the healthiest amount to have. However, if we are regularly getting 5 hours sleep per night or less, then we face a nearly three quarters increased risk of dying from all causes, and double the risk of dying specifically from cardiovascular causes.

What can be done about it ?

well, according to the American organisation – Associated Professional Sleep Society – we should be prepared to give up some of our television viewing time to pay back some sleep time, for the sake of our heart health, and other health related benefits.

Related article – sleep apnea is bad for heart health

New Gel Treatment for Post Heart Attack Recovery

News emerging from the American College of Cardiology may bring real hope for the longer term prognosis for heart attack victims.

Each and every year over a quarter of a million people suffer from a heart attack in the United Kingdom. Despite all our efforts, coronary heart disease remains the biggest killer in Great Britain and the United States.

There is a crucial time period immediately after a heart attack has been suffered, when the heart muscle, deprived of vital oxygen and other nutrients, begins to actually alter it’s physical shape, because it’s normal expansion and contraction operation has been disrupted.

This can lead to serious future heart performance problems in survivors, due to the degradation of the heart muscle’s strength, which in turn can lead to the classic symptoms of heart failure – chest pain, fatigue and breathlessness. Statistics show that up to 4 out of 10 heart attack patients die within 12 months of their attack, many from subsequent heart failure, as a direct result of the heart attack itself. Heart failure is very different from a heart attack – for more detailed information – see this article about heart failure.

Now, a new product has been developed by an Israeli company – BioLine RX –  that could tip the balance back in favour of the victim. This is a type of gel that can be injected into the damaged heart muscle, that is able to provide a supporting structure around the damaged heart tissue.

This reduces the stress on the heart during the recovery period, and can last for a couple of months before it naturally dissolves back into the body, before being removed by the kidneys.

A study conducted by Dr. Jonathan Leor from the Neufeld Cardiac Research Institute in Tel Aviv, has concluded that the new gel treatment offers safety and effectiveness in treating the post-attack recovery and recuperation process. Follow up research shows that 12 months after receiving the ground-breaking new gel treatment many patients had successfully restored a good deal of the heart’s original pre-attack capacity.

Although this new treatment is in it’s early days, it may soon prove to be a welcome new weapon in the never ending fight against devastating heart disease.

Statins, cholesterol and weight gain – case study

A 70 year old patient from the United Kingdom recently asked for a second opinion from another doctor after his own doctor unexpectedly prescribed statin drugs for him.

The man was apparently in good health, relatively fit for his age, and had no family history of heart disease or strokes, so he was puzzled as to why he should need to start taking statin drugs.

The second doctor looked at some of the patient’s vital health related statistics and recorded the following information :-

  • Age 70
  • Height 6 feet 1 inches
  • weight 231 pounds
  • cholesterol 4.6 mmol

What conclusions did he reach about the patient’s health ?

The second doctor agreed that the man was in good health, and had a low cholesterol reading, plus a good family health history too, with none of the primary risk factors for developing heart disease.

However he confirmed the prescription for statins issued by the first doctor due to the man being overweight.

Both doctors had calculated the man’s Body Mass Index (BMI) to be 30.5. An excessive BMI figure is generally accepted to be a fairly good indicator of potential future cardiovascular health problems linked to excess weight and body fat.

The normal reading for BMI in men is between 19 and 25, and a reading greater than 30 is classified as technically obsese. The 2nd doctor recommended that for his height, the man’s ideal weight should be 189 pounds, so he needed to lose 42 pounds !

Reason for taking statins when cholesterol level is not excessive

Most folks only associate statin drugs with one purpose – to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. However, new research published in November 2008, involving over 17,000 volunteers has shown that there are significant benefits to be obtained by taking statins by healthy people with normal cholesterol levels (under 5 mmol).

The study group was divided into 2 sub-groups – one half took a statin drug, whilst the other half were given a dummy pill (or placebo). The health of the entire group was planned to be tracked over the next four years, but the study was halted after 2 years as the results were so astonishing.

It was discovered that the group that had taken the statins suffered only half the rate of hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes as the control group.

The study concluded that statin drugs not only regulate the amount of cholesterol in our bloodstream, but actually reduce the amount of inflammation present in the artery walls. This is a new discovery, and also raises a new question as to why arterial inflammation has more of a contributory factor to developing coronary heart disease than was previously understood.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this study was the discovery that the folks on the dummy pill exhibited similar side effects to the one’s who were taking the actual medication – which totally baffled the scientists.

So, our 70 year old patient was advised to continue to take the statin drug, but also to try and lose some weight, and take more exercise – good advice for most of the rest of us we feel.