Startling reduction in Heart Attack Deaths in Wartime Norway
This is a fascinating case study that brings relevant evidence pertinent to heart disease directly to the forefront. It should serve as a convincing argument about why people suffer from heart attacks, and also act as a guide on how to avoid them, which is the primary reason that the ‘Lower Blood Pressure’ website exists.
The unlikely connection with the quiet, peaceful and prosperous country of Norway is probably an unlikely place to look for heart disease statistics. Nevertheless some valuable data was obtained as a side effect of the occupation of this small nation by the invading army from Nazi Germany in the 1940′s.
Prior to the outbreak of World War 2 the Norwegian population enjoyed a high standard of living, including good nutrition – a relatively rich diet of food and drink compared with many other European countries. Unfortunately, the prosperous citizens of this tiny Scandinavian country also suffered from a high mortality rate from heart attacks and heart disease related illness.
During the occupation years, however, there was a sharp fall in the number of recorded deaths from heart attacks and other diseases of the cardiovascular system. Even more surprising was the observed reduction in the number of instances of blood clotting (thrombosis) in hospital patients recovering from surgery, due to the lack of physical activity during the post-operative sedentary period.
What could be the reason for this reduction in heart disease ?
The simple answer is that during the Nazi occupation of their country, the Norwegian people faced hardships that were previously unknown to them. This consisted of a cumulative series of denials of many of the unhealthy practices that we currently indulge in our daily lives in 2012.
This included the following :-
- Drastic reduction in smoking due to shortage of supply of cigarettes and tobacco
- Forced labor by the occupying army resulting in increased daily physical activity
- Reduced intake of Meat and Dairy Produce – much of this was exported back to Germany
- Massive increase in fish consumption – reliance on locally caught fish due to the shortage of beef, cheese and milk
The result of this forced change of lifestyle was that the majority of the population lost some weight, lowered their blood cholesterol level, became more physically fit, stopped smoking and lowered their blood pressure. Consequently, despite increasing stress levels due to the pressures on daily life imposed by the occupying forces of the invading army, the overall heart health of the people increased !!
As if this wasn’t proof enough, we need to now look at what happened during the years following the end of the War. This is quite shocking. Within two short years, with the abundance of rich foods and tobacco, and despite a reduction in stress levels associated with daily living, the heart attack and stroke death rates were once again back at the pre-war levels.
Despite the glaring and uncontrovertible evidence that was available to the medical authorities from this wartime data, it would not be for another three decades until the world finally woke up to the inescapable correlation between diet, smoking exercise and heart disease.
It should serve as a valuable lesson to us all that we CAN make a difference to our own heart health, once we accept the undeniable facts, and it only takes a relatively short time (within a year or two) to begin to lower our risk of suffering from a heart attack.
Beetroot Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is on the increase, worldwide, and now affects more than a quarter of the world’s mature population. This has been projected to rise to almost one third in fifteen years time. It is responsible for over one hundred thousand deaths in the United Kingdom each year from coronary heart disease and stroke.
Beetroot Juice has key ingredient to lower blood pressure
Now scientists have identified a key natural ally in the battle against hypertension and coronary heart disease causes – beetroot juice.
Drinking 500ml of Beetroot juice each day appears to greatly lower blood pressure, and help to maintain a healthy circulatory system, according to research carried out in the United kingdom by the London School of medicine, by Professor Amrita Ahluwalia. This is due to it’s high concentration of an important beneficial ingredient – Nitrate.
Nitrate can also be found in other foods such as fresh green vegetables, so a smaller quantity of beetroot juice can be supplemented by other qualifying natural healthy foods if desired. The Nitrate is converted by the body into Nitric Acid, and it is the peaking of this compound that has been observed to coincide with the maximum reduction in blood pressure.
Potential for very fast blood pressure reduction
The reason that we’re excited about the potential heart health benfits of beetroot is that this amazing food has the unique ability to lower blood pressure very quickly. In tests conducted on volunteers, blood pressure reduction occurred within just one hour of consuming the beetroot juice, peaked within four hours, and continued to have an effect on blood pressure lowering for up to 24 hours.
So, if you want to help to keep your heart healthy, why not try some of this delicious home made juice? The onion and garlic will thin your blood and help to lower your cholesterol, whilst the watercress will oxygenate your blood. The beetroot will lower your blood pressure and also build up your red blood cell count. It’s a win – win formula!
Heart Beet Juice recipe
Whizz up the following ingredients in a juicer and chill before serving:
- 125 g (4oz) Beetroot
- 125 g (4oz) Watercress
- 125 g (4oz) Red Onion
- 250 g (8oz) Carrot
The above recipe will make 200ml (7fl oz), and contains 167 calories.
Nutritional benefits of beetroot juice recipe:
The key nutritional benefits of the beetroot juice recipe are summarised by the super food compounds listed below, that are found in the recipe:
- Viamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
Enjoy, relax and soak up the heart health giving benefits!
Potassium and Blood Pressure
What is Potassium?
Potassium is a chemical compound, or mineral, which is found naturally occurring in certain foods, and is an important tool in the fight against high blood pressure. It is an important nutrient for maintaining good heart health, as it is necessary for smooth muscle contraction, of which the heart is possibly the most important example. It also assists with other essential body health functions such as kidney and digestive function.
The role of Potassium in the body
Potassium is critical for the normal functioning of the muscles, heart, and nerves. It plays an important role in controlling the activity of the muscles of the heart. Normal blood levels of potassium are critical for maintaining normal heart electrical rhythm. Both low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia) and high blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia) can lead to abnormal heart rhythms (arrythmias).
Natural sources of Potassium
Potassium can be found in many natural foods ranging from fruits, vegetables and legumes, and a diet which contains sufficient potassium can usually be achieved by eating a variety of foods containing potassium. Consequently, potassium deficiency is usually rare in healthy individuals who are eating a balanced diet.
Foods with high sources of potassium
The best dietary sources of potassium are fresh unprocessed foods – meats, fish, fruit and vegetables.
These include whole grains, orange juice, potatoes, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, broccoli, soybeans, brown rice, garlic and apricots, although it is also common in most fruits, vegetables and meats. The most well known potassium food from the above list however, is bananas.
High Potassium Diet Benefits
Diets high in potassium can reduce the risk of hypertension. Dietary intake is the preferred method of maintaining the correct level of potassium in the blood. The recommended daily amount according to the US Institute of Medicine is 4g or 4,000mg, although most Americans consume only half that amount on average, per person, per day.
However Supplements of potassium are not generally recommended for boosting the body’s Potassium levels. Whilst some earlier animal and human research did suggest that potassium supplements could help to lower blood pressure, more recent improved studies suggest that potassium supplements do not improve blood pressure significantly.
Excessive Potassium in the diet
Having too much potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia, and in its mild form is a common condition, causing stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. Extremely high levels of potassium in the blood (severe hyperkalemia) can lead to cardiac arrest and death. Incorrect diagnosis and treatment of severe hyperkalemia results in a mortality rate of about 67%.
The most important clinical effect of hyperkalemia is related to the electrical rhythm of the heart. While mild hyperkalemia usually has a limited effect on the heart, moderate hyperkalemia can produce EKG changes (EKG is an electrical reading of the heart muscles), and severe hyperkalemia can cause suppression of electrical activity of the heart and can cause the heart to stop beating.
Low Potassium or having too little Potassium in the blood is known as hypokalemia. Studies in rats have shown that a potassium deficiency combined with an inadequate level of the vitamin thyamine has produced heart disease in rats. One of the most important uses of potassium is to treat the symptoms of hypokalemia, which include weakness, lack of energy, muscle cramps, stomach disturbances, an irregular heartbeat, and an abnormal EKG (electrocardiogram, a test that measures heart function). Treatment of this condition takes place under the guidance and direction of a physician.
Potassium and High Blood Pressure
Some studies have linked low dietary potassium intake with high blood pressure. The US Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends adequate amounts of potassium in the diet, along with other measures such as dietary calcium and weight loss, to prevent the development of high blood pressure. Similarly, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet emphasizes eating foods rich in fruits, vegetables, and low- or non-fat dairy products to provide high intake of potassium, as well as magnesium and calcium.
Potassium and Stroke
In several population based studies evaluating very large groups of men and women over time, a diet rich in potassium was associated with a reduced risk of stroke. For men, this seems to be particularly relevant for those suffering from high blood pressure and/or those taking diuretics (blood pressure medications that help the kidneys eliminate sodium and water from the body). Potassium supplements, however, do not seem reduce the risk of stroke.
The crucial link between Potassium and Sodium (Salt)
The correct level of potassium in the body unfortunately depends on the body’s sodium intake. This means that excessive salt consumption may deplete the body’s stores of potassium.
Other conditions that can cause potassium deficiency include diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, and use of diuretics. In addition, coffee and alcohol can increase the amount of potassium excreted in the urine. Adequate amounts of magnesium are also needed to maintain normal levels of potassium.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary potassium supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a physician or healthcare provider. This is especially important in the elderly, as they are at high risk for developing hyperkalemia due to decreased kidney function that often occurs in later years. Older people should be careful when taking medication that may further affect potassium levels in the body, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and ACE inhibitors.
Individuals suffering from kidney diseases may suffer adverse health effects from consuming large quantities of dietary potassium. End stage renal failure patients undergoing therapy by renal dialysis must observe strict dietary limits on potassium intake, since the kidneys control potassium excretion, and buildup of blood concentrations of potassium may trigger fatal cardiac arrhythmia. Acute hyperkalemia can be reduced through eating baking soda, or glucose.
Different Types of Heart Disease Medications
What are the different types of heart disease medications?
If you have coronary heart disease (CHD) or are at risk of developing it, your health care professional may prescribe medication to treat your condition, lower your blood cholesterol, or help you to lower your blood
But have you wondered why there are so many different types of heart medication available, and what the differences between them are?
This article briefly lists the main categories and what types of treatment they are used for. It is important to understand that whilst heart medications can reduce the risk of having a first or repeat heart attack, you should always look for the underlying causes, with a view to changing your lifestyle if this is a causative factor. You should also make sure that any medication is taken strictly according to the instructions, as directed by your Physician. Categories of Drugs used to treat CHD include:
- ACE Inhibitors
- Beta Blockers
- Blood Cholesterol Lowering (LDL)
- Calcium Channel Blockers
- Thrombolytic Agents
ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor
This type of drug stops the narrowing of the blood vessels by inhibiting the production of a chemical that causes the condition. This makes it a suitable choice for the control of high blood pressure and also where there has been damage to the heart muscle. Following a heart attack, it may be prescribed to improve the circulation and help the heart to pump blood. It is also used for persons with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs.
An example of this type of drug is Perindopril, which is commonly available under the brand name Aceon.
You can find a review of this medication here: Aceon
This is a commonly available non-prescription medicine that has been shown to lower the risk of a heart attack, especially for patients who have previously suffered from one. It can also assist in keeping the arteries open after heart bypass or similar artery-opening operations such as coronary angioplasty. However Aspirin does have associated risks, and so is not recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent heart attacks in otherwise healthy individuals.
This works by reducing nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This slows down the heart rate, and makes it beat with less contracting force, so blood pressure drops and the heart works less hard. It is used to lower high blood pressure, treat chest pain, and to prevent a repeat heart attack.
An example of this type of drug is Metoprolol, which is commonly available under the brand name Toprol-XL. You can find a review of this medication here: Toprol-XL
Blood cholesterol-lowering (LDL)
There are different types of Blood Cholesterol medicine
lipid- and cholesterol-modifying medicine
- This reduces triglycerides and increases cholesterol carried in high density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood. HDL cholesterol is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because higher concentrations of HDL cholesterol in the blood are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. The decrease in triglycerides is thought to be due in part to reduced release of triglycerides from fat tissue in the body.
- An example of this type of drug is Gemfibrozil which is commonly available under the brand name Lopid
- This type successfully decreases the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood (by up to 60%). This is due to the inhibiting of an enzyme in the body, HMG-CoA Reductase, which controls the rate of cholesterol production by the body itself. They also allow the liver to increase it’s natural ability to remove the LDL Cholesterol from the blood.
- There are currently five statin drugs on the market in the United States: lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, and atorvastatin
Calcium Channel Blocker
Has the effect of relaxing the blood vessels, and is used for the treatment of high blood pressure and chest pain. The cells of the heart contract in order to pump blood into the arteries. This requires calcium which passes into the cells via tiny ‘channels’. Calcium-channel blockers reduce the amount of calcium that goes into these muscle cells, causing them to relax. The effect widens the arteries which helps to lower the blood pressure.
An example of this type of drug is Verapamil, which is also commonly available under the brand name Verapamil.
makes the heart contract harder and is used when the heart’s pumping function has been weakened; it also slows some fast heart rhythms.
An example of this type of drug is Digoxin which is commonly available under the brand name Lanoxin.
Diuretics decrease the fluid level in the body and are used to treat high blood pressure. They are often referred to as “water pills.” because they work by increasing the amount of fluid and salt that is passed in the urine. This has some effect on reducing the fluid in the circulation which reduces blood pressure. They may also have a ‘relaxing’ effect on the blood vessels which reduces the pressure within the blood vessels. Only a low dose of a diuretic is needed to treat high blood pressure. Therefore, the diuretic effect is not particularly noticeable.
An example of this type of drug is Losartan used in combination with Hydrochlorothiazide, which is commonly available under the brand name Hyzaar. You can find a review of this medication here: Hyzaar
Nitrates (including nitroglycerine)
An angina pain develops if part of the heart muscle does not get as much blood and oxygen as it needs. (Blood flow to heart muscle is restricted because the coronary arteries are narrowed.) Nitrates mainly work by relaxing the blood vessels in the body. This causes them to dilate (widen) – Vasodilation. This then makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and reduces the ‘strain’ on the heart. This means the heart muscle does not need as much blood and oxygen supply.
An example of this type of drug is Prazosin which is commonly available under the brand name Minipress. You can find a review of this medication here: Minipress
These are also called “clot busting drugs,” they are given during a heart attack to break up a blood clot in a coronary artery in order to restore blood flow.
An example of this type of drug is Clopidogrel Bisulfate, which is commonly available under the brand name Plavix.
You can find a review of this medication here:
As with all types of drugs, heart drugs can cause side effects. If side effects occur, report them to your doctor. Often, a change in the dose or type of a medication, or the use of a combination of drugs can reduce or eliminate the side effect.
If you enjoyed reading this article, and have considered the possibility of pursuing a future career in medecine, then studying through Benedictine University online courses offers you a way to gain your medical qualifications, and open the door to making an impact in the public health field.