Dr. Chauncey Crandall’s
Quick Takes: Tips For Better Heart Health Now!
The Wonderful Vitamin C
Vitamin C, among its other amazing attributes, now appears to cut the risk of heart attack by reducing the level of C-reactive protein (CRP), which now is seen as not only a marker of increased heart risk but also a contributory factor. CRP indicates increased inflammation in the body. Its levels can go up as much as 100 times when an infection occurs.
A study at the University of California, Berkeley demonstrated that daily doses of 500 milligrams of vitamin C can lower CRP levels 24 percent in just two months. However, to get these results, it’s necessary to take vitamin C as a stand-alone supplement. The same study showed that patients who received an antioxidant combining vitamins C and E, and alpha-lipoic acid received no benefit in CRP reduction. The scientists conducting the study speculate that interactions between antioxidants rendered the vitamin C ineffective.
Terrific Triad Against High Blood Pressure
Three amazingly simple steps can help reduce high blood pressure. A study at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that taking 800 micrograms of the B vitamin folate — which is found in grains, greens, and citrus — can cut the risk of high blood pressure by almost a third. Those old isometric exercises that you may have tried in high school can help as well. Specifically, isometric handgrip exercises can reduce systolic blood pressure and improve artery flexibility at the same time. Want another remedy? Well, as a wife might say to her snoring husband: Roll over! Sleeping face down actually lowers nighttime blood pressure, according to a study from the Ehime University School of Medicine in Japan.
A Lean Horse for a Long Race
Overweight, middle-aged men may have a higher risk of heart problems and strokes, and may die earlier than thinner men, even if they don’t have other risk factors such as high blood pressure. Doctors refer to “metabolic syndrome”—a collection of three or more risk factors for diabetes and heart problems such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, and low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. A recent study, following more than 1,700 Swedish men for 30 years, shows that overweight and obese men had increased risks for heart attack and stroke, even without metabolic syndrome. In fact, it shows that overweight men are 52 percent more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and other medical problems than men who maintain a healthy weight. Truly obese men have nearly double the risk. According to the study, obese men with metabolic syndrome have the highest risk, at 2.5 times that of normal-weight men without metabolic syndrome. But heavy men without metabolic syndrome also showed increased risks of these same complications — even with other risk factors such as smoking and high levels of “bad” cholesterol taken into account.
The study clearly reaffirms the health benefits of losing weight.
The Trials of Triglycerides
For many years, doctors were unsure whether triglycerides — another form of fat in the blood, along with cholesterol — played
any role in heart disease. Physicians often virtually ignored a patient’s triglyceride count. Now a study at the University of Cambridge in England has begun to unravel the often contradictory findings on triglycerides. One important part of the story appears to be why a patient has high triglyceride levels. If the tendency to high triglyceride levels has a genetic basis — if it’s an inherent part of the individual’s biochemistry — then high triglyceride counts correlate with an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, in some cases by as much as 40 percent. “We found that people with a genetically programmed tendency for higher triglyceride levels also have a greater risk of heart disease,” said lead researcher Nadeem Sarwar, a lecturer in cardiovascular epidemiology at Cambridge. “This suggests that triglyceride pathways may be involved in the development of heart disease.” The researchers looked at mutations in the apolipoprotein A5 gene, which plays a role in determining triglyceride levels. For every copy of the variant, there was a 16 percent increase in triglyceride concentrations. Two copies equaled a 32 percent increase, which correlates with a 40 percent increased risk of heart disease. As a physician, I would say this provides good reason for running lipid panels on teenagers and young adults, which is not always standard practice. During the teen and young adult years, a tendency to high triglyceride levels can show up even in the absence of elevated cholesterol levels. With that knowledge, doctors can inform such patients that they should be particularly careful about developing other risk factors for heart disease.
To Your Heart Health,
Dr. Chauncey Crandall