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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Dying from a Broken Heart

Is it possible to die from a broken heart?

Well, apparently it is.

When a relationship breaks down, especially a long term relationship, the resulting pain and anguish experienced by the rejected person is often described as ‘a broken heart’. More often than not, this is accompanied by a period of misery and depression, that may last for many years, or until a new relationship is found to replace the feelings of loss and grief that frequently follow the breakup.

But what if the relationship is terminated suddenly and unexpectedly by the death of one of the partners?

Research conducted by the University of Glasgow has shown that losing a partner may significantly increase your risk of dying yourself, and this may be due literally to a broken heart – where the surviving spouse is unable to live without the person to whom they have been married to for many years.

There are some high profile examples of this phenomenon as well as potentially countless unrecorded instances :-

  • The ex British Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan died in 1995 aged 92, just over a week after his wife died. They had been married for nearly 70 years.


  • The parents of the Kemp brothers from the famous 80’s pop group Spandau Ballet, died within a short time at the same hospital after the husband – Frank Kemp – suffered a heart attack and died. When his wife learned of his death, she herself passed away within a short time.

But the most amazing story of all must surely be of the couple from the UK – Stewart and Olga Whitfield, aged 56 and 61 respectively, who both died from heart attacks literally within minutes of each other – whilst the paramedics were on their way.

Mr. Whitfield had called for emergency help after his wife had suffered from a cardiac arrest. When the paramedics arrived they were unable to gain access to the house, so they were forced to break a window to enter the property. What they found inside must surely have amazed them, as they discovered that both Mr and Mrs Whitfield were dead, and both had died from a heart attack within a few minutes of each other.

According to their neighbours the couple were completely dedicated to one another, and this may be the clue to the unusual circumstances of their deaths, although backed up by the Glasgow University study conclusions.

Visceral Fat

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What is visceral Fat ?

Visceral fat (or ‘hidden fat’ as it is often referred to), is a different type of fat from other body fat. Also known as intra-abdominal fat, this fat lies deeper beneath the skin, and surrounds the body’s internal organs. It is also more difficult to lose than surface or subcutaneous fat that lies just beneath the epidermis.

Visceral fat cells are deep, active, fat storage cells. They release inflammatory agents knwon as ‘cytokines’, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), that contribute to chronic non-infectious systemic inflammation. Visceral fat also produces angiotensin, a chemical messenger that can elevate blood pressure by causing the constriction of blood vessels. Even small increases in visceral fat can result in damage to the endothelium, which is a thin protective layer of tissue within the blood vessels that separates the blood from the wall of the vessel.

Visceral fat is more dangerous than normal body fat

The soft surface fat that shows in ripples and cellulite on your thighs, buttocks, and hips (the pear shape) may make you look bad in your swimsuit or shorts, but it is actually a lot less dangerous than deep visceral fat. Because visceral fat wraps itself around the vital organs of the body, it can cause compression and inflammation of these organs.

This type of inflammation can lead to premature hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, and risk of acute coronary syndrome. It is also a contributory factor in developing metabolic syndrome – a group of risk factors linked to obesity and weight gain that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Visceral fat also causes concern because it is metabolized by the liver, which turns it into blood cholesterol. However the biggest danger related to Visceral fat is that it can go undetected as in many cases it is not visible from the outside of the body. Also this type of fat cannot be removed by liposuction.

How is visceral fat detected ?

The only way for doctors to determine how much visceral fat a patient is carrying is by a magnetic resonance imaging (mri) scan. This uses magnetic waves to form a three dimensional image of the interior of the abdomen, and allows the doctors to accurately determine the extent of visceral fat within the persons body and around the organs.

What causes visceral fat (and how to avoid it) ?

One of the prime causes is excessive body weight gain, so maintaining an optimal body weight by calorie restriction, and exercise, is key to preventing the build up of visceral fat.

Keep in mind that this type of fat is more difficult to eliminate from the body, and cannot be removed by liposuction, so prevention is much better than attempting to cure.

Other risk factors are aging, diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excesive alcohol consumption and hormonal factors. The good news is that even modest reductions in visceral fat can help to reverse its adverse effects.

Lose Body Fat through Freezing

Excessive body fat is a major contributory factor in heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. Now a new treatment known as cryolipolysis has been developed in the United States that helps to remove surplus body fat, and aid weight loss, by locally freezing the affected part of the body.

How does it work ?

The traditional method of physical reduction of fat from different bodily areas such as the stomach, hips and thighs has been by liposuction, where the fatty tissue is literally extracted through an incision in the skin, through a process of suction – hence the term liposuction.

The problem with liposuction is that it is a surgically invasive procedure that involves a certain degree of risk. When it goes wrong it can cause infection, scarring or hemorrhaging.

The freezing process in the new procedure triggers the decomposition of the fat – a process known as lipolysis, through temperature. The cold temperature causes localised inflammation of the cells responsible for the production and storage of fat, known as adipocytes. This disruption to the fat production process causes a net reduction in the amount of fat in that part of the body.

You can easily reproduce this effect yourself by sucking on a frozen ice cream. Whilst your tongue may soon feel cold and even slightly painful with the cold, what you may not realise is that it actually becomes inflamed. This is the principal of lipolysis in action.

What does the procedure involve ?

Clinical trials of cryolipolysis have utilised a metal plate about 12 square centimeters that is directly attached to the fatty part of the body for about twenty minutes and cooled quickly to -1 degrees C.

However because the process requires extreme cold in order to cause tissue damage, and the degeneration and breakdown of the fat cells, since the fat layer is beneath the surface of the skin, the treatment may require pain relief via a local anasthetic.

Diet and exercise are still the best weight loss tactics

The doctors who developed the treatment have cautioned, however, that this treatment should not be regarded as a future cure-all for obesity and weight loss, and is never going to be a substitute for a well balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a good exercise regimen.

New Catheter Ablation treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Heart palpitations are a form of arrhythmia that can be a symptom of atrial fibrillation, and can be a frightening experience. For many of us it’s the only time that we are reminded that we have a miraculous, beating, blood pumping machine inside our chest, that we are totally reliant upon to keep us alive.

When the normal heart rhythm is disrupted for whatever reason, and the heart starts to beat irregularly, we can start to panic, fearing that our heart may stop beating altogether and we will imminently die.

Heart arrythmia are often mis-diagnosed or are not treated with the seriousness they deserve, as primary healthcare providers are often unaware of the symptoms or that specialist treatment centres are now available.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common forms of heart arrhythmia, and affects up to one million people in the United Kingdom of all age groups. Sufferers experience distressing symptoms of rapid and irregular heart beat, accompanied by shortage of breath and dizziness. It is a serious condition, that left untreated can double the risk of dying from heart failure. It has also been shown to be a factor in triggering up to one third of strokes.

The longer it is left untreated, the more serious it becomes.

Traditional treatments for atrial fibrillation have involved prescribing drugs that have been associated with serious and unpleasant side effects that are little better than the condition they are supposed to treat – nausea, breathlessness and light sensitivity. Now there is a new treatment available – a technologically enhanced version of catheter ablation – that has previously only been suitable for a different type of arrhythmia known as Tachycardia.

Catheter ablation is performed by a specialist doctor known as an electrophysiologist. The procedure involves using a probe that is inserted into the groin, and is fed upwards through the blood vessels until it reaches the heart. An electric current is then passed through the probe that heats the surrounding tissue that is responsible for disrupting the electrical signals around the heart. This restores the normal electrical impulse transmission through the heart muscle, and is a successful treatment in most cases.

Until recently, this technique was not suitable for treating atrial fibrillation, as there are multiple sources of electrical signal disruption associated with this condition, whereas with Tachycardia there is usually only a single source of electrical signal disruption, making it easier to target with the treatment. New technology has allowed the catheter ablation treatment to be successfully applied to cases of atrial fibrillation, and, since 2007 has been providing sufferers of atrial fibrillation with a permanent solution to this distressing heart problem.