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Heart Attack risk

New Moms – Breast Feeding can Lower your Heart Attack Risk

Breast Feeding Your Baby can Reduce Your Heart Attack Risk


A large US study involving over one hundred thousand women has concluded that breast feeding your baby as a new Mom can protect you against heart disease, heart attacks and strokes in later life.

The investigations were carried out by a team of scientists and medical experts based at the University of Pittsburgh, and published in the medical journal ‘Obstetrics and Gynaecology’.



Study follows through from child birth to Menopause


It has followed the health of the study volunteers from their early child bearing years, through their later years and into the menopause stage of their lives.

The following findings were discovered by the research team, which was led by Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz :-

  • long term breastfeeding  for more than a year) reduces the risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke by more than 10%
  • A very short period of breastfeeding, typically just for a month after giving birth, was found to produce beneficial lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, plus lower recorded rates of diabetes, all of which form significant risk factors in cardiovascular disease later in life
  • The reduction in the instances of high blood pressure was 12%, whilst the reduction in instances of high cholesterol was even higher at 20%.


Employers need to facilitate breast feeding for women at work


Dr Schwarz contextualises the research findings towards employers, and promoting breast feeding wherever possible, especially encouraging new mothers to feed their babies where they work, when they go back to work.

Over the other side of the Atlantic, the United Kingdom now has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates anywhere, with nearly a third of all new Moms never even attempting to breast feed their babies.

A spokesperson from the UK National Childbirth Trust, Rosie Dodds, has called upon the UK government to assist with the promotion and facilitation of breast feeding in the workplace, and in more public locations.

If you have experienced any difficulties or obstacles when breast feeding your baby at work, or in public, please leave a comment below – we’d like to hear about your experiences

Anxiety Increases the Risk of Heart Attack

Most people have heard that stress is bad for the heart. Many people also know about the debilitating effects of anxiety and depression. But evidence is now emerging that these negative psychological factors appear to play a significant role in the risk of having a heart attack. People suffering from anxiety and depression have up to a 50% higher risk of developing heart disease according to two new studies conducted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in London, and professor Biing-Jiun Shen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

Stress and Anxiety definition

Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or even anxious. What is stressful to one person is not necessarily stressful to another. Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear. You may not know the source of this uneasiness, which can add to the distress you feel. Anxiety disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that involve excessive anxiety.

Although stress has previously been linked with heart problems, the studies have shown that anxiety, especially heightened levels of anxiety, or chronic anxiety causes the increased risk of damage to the heart.

Anxiety tends to lead to poor lifestyle habits

However the poor health habits of those people suffering from anxiety appear to be the main causes of their increased risk of heart disease, according to the British research, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Two thirds of that increased risk are due to two specific factors which contribute to these statistics – smoking and a lack of exercise, as people suffering from anxiety and depression are more likely to smoke tobacco and lead an inactive lifestyle.

British Anxiety Study finds 50% increased risk of heart problems

The British study was Led by Dr. Mark Hamer, a senior researcher from University College London, and involved more than 6000 people who took part in an anxiety test designed to measure their general happiness or symptoms of depression and anxiety, whilst also being tested for common risk factors for heart disease. The survey found that around 15% of the participants were found to be suffering from stress, natural anxiety or depression.

The same people were then monitored for seven years, and statistics were gathered for the numbers of deaths and illnesses from heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and those requiring heart bypass surgery, plus other coronary-related illnesses.

During that period there were 223 cardiovascular events recorded including 63 deaths. After age and sex were taken into account, people with depression and anxiety faced more than a 50 percent increased risk when compared to happier people.

American Study broadly agrees with British Study findings

The American study led by lead researcher professor Shen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, has independently concluded that there is a link between anxiety and heart attack amongst otherwise healthy older men. This is despite the fact that the research took into account, and corrected for other risk factors such as anger, hostility, depression and type A personality factors, plus the standard cardiovascular risk factors and general health habits.

Shen’s study involved 735 men who took part in the ‘Normative Aging Study’ research, which assesses medical and psychological changes associated with aging. Each of the men were examined in 1986 and had no heart problems at the time. They were tracked for an average of 12 years, after which the researchers found that the men who had chronic anxiety had a 30 percent to 40 percent increased risk of heart attack. Those with the highest individual levels of anxiety according to psychological testing had an even higher risk of heart attack. These results broadly agree with the results of the British survey.

Evidence from studies indicates anxiety is independent risk factor for heart disease

The evidence from these studies indicates that anxiety not only represents an independent risk factor for heart attack but may also explain the associations between heart attack risk with other psychosocial risk factors. Exaggerated responses to acute and chronic stress in anxious individuals may trigger a number of different ways that increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease and being stricken with a heart attack. Highly anxious individuals should be aware they may face an increased risk of a heart attack and take proactive steps, under the supervision of a physician, to control their cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, blood cholesterol (lipid) levels, activity level and weight.

This research also implies that a wider approach to providing anxiety help in society is necessary, but also an approach to combat the unhealthy behaviours which occur as a result of people who slide into poor lifestyles as a result of their anxiety or depression.

Further studies are needed to assess benefits to heart health of anxiety disorder treatment

Further studies will be required to discover whether providing anxiety disorder treatment actually reduces the risk of heart attack, but the implication is that it is something that doctors should be aware of when their patients present themselves with symptoms of anxiety and depression, as anxiety treatments could reduce their risk of developing heart disease until a definitive anxiety cure is discovered.

Sleep Apnea – Why it is bad news for heart health

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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea (or Apnoea as it is spelt in the United Kingdom) is a breathing disorder associated with sleeping and more specifically snoring. It is also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This condition is caused by the relaxation of the respiratory muscles and the subsequent blockage of the airway at the back of the throat, which is sucked to the closed position by the action of breathing whilst asleep. The result is a lack of oxygen which eventually causes the body to react sharply in a reflex reaction to prevent death through suffocation. This reaction may be observed by a sleep partner as a long silence in the breathing of the sufferer, followed by a gasp for air, which then repeats itself many dozens of times throughout the night.

Who Suffers from Sleep Apnea – what are the causes?

The condition occurs most frequently in overweight middle aged men, but may also be experienced by children, especially those with enlarged tonsils. It is estimated that up to 4% of the overall population suffers from some degree of Sleep Apnea. The main causes are obesity, nasal obstructions such as

adenoids, and respiratory depressants such as alcohol or strong analgesics.  Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea The sufferer may not be aware that they have Sleep Apnea. It is often diagnosed by a sleeping partner who is disturbed by the symptoms, which may be summarised as:

  • Loud snoring
  • Breathing pauses (over 10 seconds in duration)
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Unrefreshed sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Morning headache
  • Night time choking
  • Reduced libido
  • Swollen ankles
  • Feeling of ‘drunkenness’ in morning

The effort and shock of the sudden strenuous forced breathing, although brief and violent does not usually wake the sufferer, although it is sufficiently disruptive of the sleep pattern to cause problems with drowsiness and tiredness the following day.


Why sleep Apnea is very bad news for heart health

A person with Obstructive Sleep Apnea habitually deprives their brain and arterial system of oxygen. This is known as Hypoxia, and it can lead to raised pulmonary arterial pressure. In some cases it can even lead to sudden death from Cardiac Arrest. It increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack or dying by 30% over a period of four to five years, according to a new study carried out at Yale University. The study which involved 1123 patients over a 5 year period, also found that the risk of developing heart disease or dying was proportional to the initial severity of the Apnea.

What to do if you suspect you may have sleep Apnea

If you believe you may be suffering from Sleep Apnea, or your sleeping partner has identified some of the symptoms listed above you should consult your Doctor, as this is a serious medical condition that should be investigated. It is likely that your blood oxygen levels will be monitored by a non-invasive process known as Oximetry. This may be followed up by a visit to an overnight sleep disorder clinic, where you can be monitored by special diagnostic machines whilst sleeping, to determine the extent of the problem.

I’ve been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea – what treatments are available?

The diagnosis is generally confirmed if there are more than 15 ‘Apneas’ or disruptive episodes in any one hour of sleep. The treatment recommended by the Doctor will most likely depend on the cause of the condition, but may involve one or more of the following:

  • Surgery to the throat or nasal areas
  • Lifestyle change to reduce obesity, alcohol or drug use reduction
  • Use of an artificial sleep aid such as a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device which is worn by the sufferer continuously whilst asleep
  • Use of a dental device which fits over the teeth and changes the geometry of the mouth to improve airflow (Mandibular Advancement Device)
  • Nasal Strips
  • Herbal remedies