A small tick that feeds on the blood of it’s victims could play a vital future role in the fight against high blood pressure and heart disease.
Each year over a quarter of a million people in the United Kingdom suffer from a heart attack, and coronary artery disease continues to claim the most lives of any illness or disease.
A heart attack is triggered by a shortage of oxygenated blood flow to the heart muscle, that is caused by clotting or thickening of the blood. Blood clotting is an essential natural healing process that is designed to prevent bleeding to death from an injury or wound. However, internal blood clotting, not associated with an external injury, as a result of thickened or sticky blood can be fatal. Where a blood clot reaches the brain it can cause a brain stroke, and when it reaches the lungs it can cause a pulmonary embolism. Each of the three critical illnesses caused by clots – heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism can result in instant death or a lifetime of paralysis, suffering and debilitation.
What’s this got to do with the Tick ?
Ticks feed on the blood of their victims, and have developed ingenious ways to ensure that the blood keeps flowing from their tiny bites. They do this by injecting a chemical into the victim’s body that suppresses the clotting ability of the blood – an anti-coagulant.
Scientists have now been able to use this chemical compound in a new drug that has been developed from the anti-clotting fluid manufactured in the Tick’s body, and found in it’s saliva.
The new drug which is marketed under the name Variegin has been chemically engineered to become many tens of times more powerful than the original mother nature’s version. It is proving to be an effective alternative to existing blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin.
The problem with existing blood thinning drugs
People with high risk factors, or recovering heart attack and stroke victims are often prescribed blood thinning medication, the most common being Warfarin that has a long track record over the last half century. However, patients who are prescribed Warfarin have a high risk of bleeding to death from serious cuts sustained whilst using the medication.
The advantage of the new Variegin research is that it has produced an antidote to the uncontrolled bleeding problem. Another chemical compound known as protamine sulphate can be injected into the patients bloodstream that effectively switches the clotting process back on, which can be a life saver in the event of a serious injury or the patient requiring emergency surgery.
If you’ve been following our research and updates on swine flu, and it’s relevance to those of our many thousands of readers with an interest in heart disease, our last update on swine flu and heart disease was posted on July 20th 2009. We’re issuing this latest update as we feel there are significant developments that now need to be reported.
Because Swine Flu or any other type of Influenza virus places extra strain on the body, we’ve been especially concerned to warn our readers that prevention really is better than attempting to deal with the illness, especially if you are unfortunate enough to also suffer from a heart complaint.
How to avoid getting Swine Flu
The UK government’s advice is ‘catch it – bin it – kill it’ – and refers to using a disposable tissue (catching the virus) when sneezing or coughing in public, then quickly disposing of the tissue (bin it) and hence killing the virus by preventing it from easily spreading.
Because the common cold and flu viruses are so resilient, the best defence is avoidance of coming into contact with the virus. The main attack method of the swine flu virus is by getting into the body via the nose, mouth or eyes. The best chance of avoiding this is by avoiding public places where you may be exposed to airborn particles containing the virus as a result of a sneeze or a cough from an affected individual. Secondly, because the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as door handles, it is essential that you wash your hands frequently with soap and water whenever you come into contact with these surfaces in public, or at home if another member of your family has been diagnosed.
Cases of swine flu are rocketing again this Autumn
During the intervening period through the summer months, the spread of the Swine Flu virus has been much reduced, as expected. But with the advent of late autumn, moving into winter in the northern hemisphere, and the reduction in average temperatures we are starting to see the predicted rise (or second wave) in the number of diagnosed cases of the virus.
During the last week of October, the number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United Kingdom has increased by over fifty percent in just one week, reaching nearly 80,000 !
Over half a million people have now contracted the swine flu virus in the UK since the start of the current flu pandemic in the early part of 2009, and there have been 137 deaths from the illness during this period. Although this figure is relatively small, representing just over 2 people dying per 10,000 confirmed cases, there must surely be many heart disease sufferers who may not have died after contracting the virus, but whose condition has suffered as a result of the additional strain placed on their heart disease condition by the swine flu illness. This may translate into unknown future premature deaths from heart attacks, heart failure and strokes, but is impossible to calculate.
More swine flu patients are now requiring intensive care
Another worrying statistic is that the percentage of swine flu victims requiring intensive care has risen substantially, according to the UK government’s chief medical officer – Sir Liam Donaldson. There are currently over 750 people hospitalised in the UK with swine flu, but 20% of these patients are in intensive care, and this is following the pattern established in Australia and the southern hemisphere during their winter.
So, although the level of infection is approaching the 100,000 new weekly cases maximum established in July 2009, the number of serious cases has far exceeded that level reached in July.
Swine Flu Vaccine is now available !
A new swine flu vaccine has been developed by drugs giant Glaxo SmithKline, and is now starting to become available at doctors surgeries in the UK. The initial batch is to be targetted at high risk patients, and the UK government plans to immunise all high risk patients by the middle of December.
We urge all our readers who have any problems with their heart health or immune system to contact their physician to enquire when they can obtain a vaccination against swine flu, as it is not clear whether there will be an automatic system of contacting vulnerable patients, including those with heart conditions.
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.
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.