Wood Street Clinic Blog

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Is krill oil better than fish oil for omega-3?

Krill oil and fish oil supplements are two sources of omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA. While oil from both krill and fish provide health benefits, there are differences in their origin, price, and benefits.

Fish oil comes from oily fish, such as tuna, herring, or sardines. Krill oil comes from a small, shrimp-like animal called krill.

Krill oil has a distinctive red color while fish oil supplements are typically yellow or gold. Krill oil is usually more expensive than fish oil.

While each supplement type contains omega-3 fatty acids, there are various risks and benefits in taking each supplement type. Read on to find out more.

Benefits of krill oil and fish oil Krill oil versus fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in krill oil and fish oil.

Both krill oil and fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the most popular and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

When consumed in fish, these fatty acids have been shown to boost a person's overall heart health and reduce the risks of heart attack and coronary artery disease. However, while research has shown eating whole fish can have heart-protecting benefits, scientific studies have not yet proven that taking omega-3 supplements offers the same benefits as eating fish.

However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that the specific benefits of taking omega-3 supplements include:

Reducing high triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Relieving rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence suggests that omega-3 supplements may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Relieving dry eye symptoms. Some studies have indicated that omega-3 supplements help to improve eye moisture and reduce the symptoms of dry eye disease. However, other large-scale studies have found that taking omega-3 supplements are no better than a placebo for eye dryness, so more research is needed.

Drug stores and online supermarkets sell both fish oil and krill oil supplements.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today What does the research say? A study from 2011 compared the effects of fish and krill oil, finding that they resulted in similar blood levels of EPA and DHA. However, people took 3 grams (g) of krill oil and only 1.8 g of fish oil, which may suggest that a person needs to take almost twice as much krill oil as fish oil to get the same benefits. However, the amount and concentration of omega-3 in krill and fish oil vary depending on the product. Some krill oil manufacturers claim that the krill oil omega-3s are better absorbed than fish oil omega-3s, so a lower concentration works just as well. However, there is no current proof that this statement is true. According to the study's authors, 30–65 percent of krill oil's fatty acids are stored as phospholipids, while the fatty acids in fish oils are instead stored primarily as triglycerides. The researchers suggest that the body may able to use fatty acids stored as phospholipids more easily. However, despite this possibility, a person may still have to take more krill oil capsules than fish oil to get an equivalent amount of omega-3s. Another small-scale study published in 2013 found that after 4 weeks of taking only one of the supplements, krill oil led to higher levels of EPA and DHA in a person's blood compared with fish oil. Although both supplements increased levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, they also increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the 'bad' cholesterol. Studies are not consistent, though. A study from 2015 found no differences in krill oil and fish oil in the blood after 4 weeks of taking supplements. So, while some research suggests that the body might better absorb krill oil, other studies find no difference between fish and krill oil. More research is therefore needed. The above research only looks effects of the oil on blood levels, which is just one marker of their potential benefits. No study has compared these products to see if one works better than the other for the specific uses that people are interested in, such as bodybuilding or promoting heart health. Risks of krill oil and fish oil Krill oil versus fish oil - both can cause bad breath
There is no significant risk in taking omega-3 supplements, but a person may experience bad breath as a result. Taking omega-3 supplements in the forms of krill oil and fish oil does not appear to carry any significant side effects, but minor side effects may include: Also, omega-3 supplements, such as krill oil and fish oil, have the potential to interact negatively with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). This is because omega-3 fatty acids have mild anticoagulant or blood-thinning effects. However, a person must usually take between 3 and 6 g of fish oil a day for these adverse interactions to occur. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Dosage recommendations The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) reports there is no established upper limit for taking omega-3 supplements. However, taking dosages of more than 900 milligrams (mg) of EPA and 600 mg of DHA a day can reduce a person's immune system by suppressing natural inflammatory responses. According to the ODS, daily intakes for omega-3 fatty acids are about 1.6 g per day for men and 1.1 g per day for women. The ODS also recommend not exceeding 2 g of EPA and DHA a day from dietary supplements. A person should read supplement labels carefully to determine how much of each substance is in each capsule. Takeaway Krill oil versus fish oil - both can reduce arthritis symptoms
Omega-3 may help to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. According to the ODS, an estimated 7.8 percent of adults and 1.1 percent of children in the United States take omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the forms of fish oil, krill oil, or animal-free alternatives, such as algal oil or flaxseed oil. The evidence is still inconclusive about whether krill oil works as well as or better than fish oil. So far, most of the research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has been carried out using fish oil. There is not a lot of research on krill oil. Taking omega-3 supplements can offer benefits in terms of lowering triglyceride levels and reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. However, the evidence is inconclusive regarding whether they can reduce heart disease or improve overall cardiovascular health to the same extent as eating whole fish. According to the NIH, eating oily fish, including tuna and salmon, can offer a greater variety of nutrients than supplements, and has been shown to improve heart health. On balance, taking either krill oil or fish oil supplements can help to boost a person's overall levels of omega-3 fatty acids, though it is unclear whether one is better than the other.
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Novel gel regrows brain tissue after stroke

A new study paper describes a groundbreaking bioengineered gel that can help stroke-damaged brain tissue to regrow.
Brain stroke gel photomicrograph
Photomicrograph of stroke-damaged tissue with gel (explained in text).
Image credit: UCLA Health

A stroke occurs when blood supply to a certain part of the brain is significantly reduced, resulting in brain cell death.

Following a stroke, many people will be left with cognitive impairments, motor impairments, or both because of the brain tissue that is destroyed in the process.

In fact, stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States.

Unlike most other tissues in the body, the brain cannot regenerate; once brain tissue dies, it is absorbed, leaving a cavity that is not refilled.

For many years now, researchers have been trying to find ways to encourage the central nervous system to regenerate — but this has proven challenging.

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New approach to stroke damage

Recently, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles set about the problem using a novel, bioengineered gel. They were led by Dr. Tatiana Segura — now a professor at Duke University in Durham, NC — who created the innovative gel.

The compound is designed to thicken once it enters the brain, acting as a scaffolding for fresh neuronal and vascular growth.

The gel contains compounds intended to stimulate the growth of blood vessels. It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds. This is important because inflammation causes scarring, which hinders new growth.

Using a mouse model of stroke, they squirted the gel into the cavities left by stroke damage. At the 16-week mark, they assessed the cavities for activity and new growth.

They discovered that the gel was slowly absorbed into the body, and regions that had previously been empty spaces were now filled with new tissue. The findings were recently published in the journal Nature Materials.

"This study indicated that new brain tissue can be regenerated in what was previously just an inactive brain scar after stroke."

Dr. S. Thomas Carmichael, researcher

The image at the top of the article is a photomicrograph. It shows new tissue growing into the gel-filled cavity in a stroke-damaged mouse brain.

The red tubes are blood vessels, the green strings are axons — which grow along the blood vessels as they creep into the cavity — and the blue spots are cell nuclei.

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Motor recovery

When assessing the mice's recovery, the scientists found that motor behavior improved in the mice that had been treated with the gel. However, it is not exactly clear how this improvement was achieved.

Segura explains, "The new axons could actually be working, or the new tissue could be improving the performance of the surrounding, unharmed brain tissue."

The findings are exciting, although preliminary. Of course, more work will need to be done on a much larger scale — but, in principle, this could be a gamechanger.

Carmichael and Segura are eager to continue testing their gel in new situations. For instance, the new study used a mouse model that replicates an intervention roughly 5 days after a stroke.

Next, they want to examine how the gel might perform in brain tissue that was injured longer ago.

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One egg per day may keep stroke at bay

Popular knowledge has it that eggs, due to their high cholesterol content, are quite bad for us. New research, however, suggests we would do well to indulge in more egg consumption: about one per day could help us to steer clear of cardiovascular conditions.
carton of eggs
We might think of eggs as unhealthful, but could they protect against cardiovascular events?

If you've ever heard that eating more than two or three eggs per week is bad for your health, you're not alone.

Some studies have suggested that, due to yolks' high cholesterol content, eggs can be a harmful food — particularly for people already at risk of cardiovascular events.

The idea that eggs may pose danger to health has also been spread widely by many popular websites and magazines.

However, despite being rich in cholesterol, eggs are also a great source of healthful nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, phospholipids, and carotenoids.

And, recent research has increasingly gathered evidence showing that eggs don't really influence the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

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One study published in 2013 in The BMJ, for example, concluded that eating up to one egg per day was not tied to a heightened risk of heart disease or stroke.

Another study, published earlier this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that a "high-egg diet" of up to 12 eggs per week did not increase cardiovascular risk.

But recent research from the School of Public Health at Peking University Health Science Center in Beijing, China, goes even further.

Lead investigators Prof. Liming Li and Dr. Canqing Yu have now found that a diet in which eggs are consumed on a regular basis may actually protect cardiovascular health.

The team's findings were published yesterday in the journal Heart.

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About 84 million people in the United States have some form of CVD, and about 2,200 people die each day due to their condition. And, in China, the rates for cardiovascular conditions are even higher.

In China in 2014, an estimated "837,300 urban residents and 1,023,400 rural residents died from cerebrovascular diseases," according to recent data. And the most widespread conditions are stroke — both hemorrhagic and ischemic — and ischemic heart disease, in that order.

These numbers motivated the researchers involved in the new study to investigate what role — if any — egg consumption plays in modifying the risk for CVD.

In order to do so, they analyzed data sourced via the China Kadoorie Biobank, which is an ongoing prospective study investigating the genetic and environmental causes of chronic diseases among the Chinese population.

In this study, Prof. Li and team analyzed health-related information from 416,213 adult participants recruited in 2004–2008. They were all free of cancer, CVD, and diabetes at baseline.

At recruitment, the participants reported how often they ate eggs — 13.1 percent of them admitting to daily consumption (about 0.76 eggs per day) and 9.1 percent saying that they only indulged in eggs rarely (0.29 eggs per day) or not at all.

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There was a median follow-up period of 8.9 years, during which new health diagnoses and deaths were recorded. During that time, 83,977 participants received a CVD diagnosis, and 9,985 people died due to CVD-related causes. Moreover, 5,103 major coronary events were recorded.

The researchers' analysis revealed that individuals who usually ate about one egg per day had a 26 percent lower risk of experiencing hemorrhagic stroke, a 28 percent lower risk of death due to this type of event, and an 18 percent lower risk of CVD-related mortality.

Almost daily egg consumption — or around 5.32 eggs per week — was also linked to a 12 percent lower risk of ischemic heart disease, compared with people who never or rarely ate this food (amounting to approximately 2.03 eggs per week).

"The present study finds that there is an association between moderate level of egg consumption (up to 1 egg/day) and a lower cardiac event rate," the study authors explain.

Prof. Li and team warn that this was an observational study, so it would be unwise to conclude that there is necessarily a causational effect between egg consumption and a lower risk of CVD.

However, the large population sample size with which the researchers worked, as well as the fact that they adjusted for confounding factors — both known and potential CVD risk factors — imply that this is a strong possibility.

"Our findings," the researchers conclude, "contribute scientific evidence to the dietary guidelines with regard to egg consumption for the healthy Chinese adult."

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This 'natural antioxidant' may protect heart health

Bilirubin is a pigment and natural antioxidant. Often, an excess of bilirubin is a sure indicator of disease, but emerging research suggests that high levels of this compound may actually help to sustain cardiovascular health.
colorful letters spelling bilirubin
Could higher bilirubin levels help to improve the risk of cardiovascular events?

This pigment has a yellowish tint, which causes the yellow tinge of the skin in jaundice.

It is a natural byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells, which takes place when blood cells age or become faulty.

Bilirubin is then processed by the liver; some of it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream, while the rest is eventually excreted through urine or feces.

Sometimes, due to various dysfunctional biological mechanisms, excess bilirubin is not processed and eliminated from the body. When this happens, it can lead to jaundice; sometimes, it indicates that there is a problem with the liver or pancreas.

Yet, according to researchers from a range of reputable institutions in the United States — including the Atlanta Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Georgia, Yale University in New Haven, CT, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and Boston University in Massachusetts — blood levels of bilirubin may also be used to determine a person's risk of cardiovascular problems.

Their findings, now published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, indicate that people with higher levels of bilirubin in the blood may be better protected against conditions and events such as heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.

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Previous research suggests that bilirubin levels could predict cardiovascular risk, but the investigators involved in the current study were interested in seeing whether the relationship was different in HIV-positive versus HIV-negative individuals.

They were interested in this because people living with HIV are often at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. At the same time, the HIV drug ataznavir is known to elevate serum bilirubin levels.

"We sought to determine whether increased total bilirubin levels were associated with reduced [cardiovascular] events in [Veterans Aging Cohort Study] and to determine if those associations differed by HIV status, atazanavir use, and liver disease," the authors explain in their paper.

For this purpose, they worked with 96,381 participants with an average age of 48. Of these, 31,418 were HIV-positive, and 66,987 were HIV-negative. Ninety-seven percent of these were men, and 48 percent identified as African-American.

"We initially wanted to see if bilirubin and cardiovascular disease had a different relationship in people who were HIV positive, compared to HIV negative," says first author Vincent Marconi, from the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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Marconi and team split the participants into four groups, or quartiles, based on their levels of serum bilirubin. Those in the highest bilirubin category were found to have a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.

In other words, the higher the bilirubin levels, the lower the risk for cardiovascular events, and vice versa. The risk decreased "by 8 percent for each increase in total bilirubin quartile," the authors write.

Moreover, the risk trends were similar among the HIV-positive and the HIV-negative cohort, though they remained slightly higher for the former.

The researchers also note that "high levels" of the compound did not mean "off the charts," and that the concentration of serum bilirubin always stayed within healthy ranges.

"Large increases in bilirubin were not required to see an effect on [cardiovascular] risk reduction," explains Marconi, adding, "Most of the change happened well within the normal physiologic range and specifically from the first to the second quartile."

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The study did not find an independent effect of ataznavir on cardiovascular health outcomes, but the researchers note that previous analyses have suggested that the drug could have a positive impact in this respect.

In their conclusion, Marconi and team note that a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms set in motion by bilirubin may help to improve therapies for individuals at high risk of cardiovascular events, as well as various inflammatory diseases.

"It is important to determine whether incorporating bilirubin levels into current risk stratification models could improve prognostication of inflammatory diseases."

"In addition," the authors conclude, "further exploration into the mechanisms related to the antioxidant properties of bilirubin could provide new insights into therapeutic strategies."

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Increasing exercise over 6-year span protects the heart

With heart failure, the cardiac muscle is unable to pump blood at the normal rate, resulting in persistent tiredness, breathlessness, and swollen legs. The condition can appear with age and tends to worsen over time.
older individuals exercising
Can increasing exercise protect heart health? And how much would you need to increase it by to benefit? A new study investigates.

Heart failure affects about 5.7 million adults in the United States.

The most salient risk factors for this condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are: hypertension, a history of coronary heart disease or heart attacks, and diabetes.

Since this condition, once acquired, has to be managed for life, healthcare professionals recommend preventive strategies.

These usually involve making more healthful lifestyle choices by acquiring good dietary habits and exercising regularly.

But how do fluctuations in a person's levels of physical activity influence their risk of experiencing heart failure? That is what Dr. Chiadi Ndumele and colleagues, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and other institutions set out to clarify.

In a new study — the findings of which have now been published in the journal Circulation — Dr. Ndumele and team investigate whether individuals who are active until middle age, but then become more sedentary, are more exposed to heart failure and vice versa.

"The population of people with heart failure is growing," says first study author Dr. Roberta Florido, "because people are living longer and surviving heart attacks and other forms of heart disease."

"Unlike other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, we don't have specifically effective drugs to prevent heart failure," she notes, "so we need to identify and verify effective strategies for prevention and emphasize these to the public."

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It's never too late to exercise more

The research team analyzed data sourced from 11,351 people using the long-term Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The participants had an average age of 60 at the point of recruitment, and 57 percent of them were women.

They were monitored over a period of 19 years, on average, and records were kept about instances of cardiovascular disease events — including heart failure, stroke, and heart attack — on a yearly basis.

Moreover, each participant was asked to delineate their exercise habits on two ARIC study visits — first at baseline, and then again after 6 years. The researchers then used this information to rate everyone's levels of physical activity.

Measuring the study participants' exercise habits against the American Heart Association's (AHA) recommendations, they were categorized as:

poor, if the individual did not typically exercise intermediate, if exercise levels corresponded to those outlined by the AHA — that is, a minimum of 75 minutes of "vigorous" exercise per week, or at least 150 minutes of "moderate" exercise per week

Dr. Ndumele and his collegues noted that the participants that met recommended exercise levels both at baseline and at the 6-year mark appeared to enjoy the greatest benefits to heart health, with a 31 percent lower risk of heart failure, compared with their peers who had poor physical activity habits during the same timeline.

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But those participants who increased their levels of physical activity over that 6-year period also experienced benefits. Heart failure risk decreased by 12 percent among individuals who upped their fitness levels from poor to intermediate.

And the reverse was also true — participants who gave up exercise during those 6 years saw an 18 percent increase in heart failure risk.

"In everyday terms," notes Dr. Ndumele, "our findings suggest that consistently participating in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, such as brisk walking or biking, in middle age may be enough to reduce your heart failure risk by 31 percent."

"Additionally," he says, "going from no exercise to recommended activity levels over 6 years in middle age may reduce heart failure risk by 23 percent."

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At what rate must we up our exercise levels?

The research team also wanted to ascertain by how much an individual would need to increase their levels of physical activity in order to lower their risk of experiencing heart failure.

To do so, they calculated physical activity as "metabolic equivalents" (METs) and described one MET as 1 kilocalorie per kilogram per hour, which was equivalent to a passive activity, such as sitting down and watching TV.

Different activities corresponded to different MET levels; for instance, walking fast would be 3 METs, jogging 7 METs, and jumping rope 10 METs.

They determined that every increase of 750 MET minutes per week over a 6-year period would reduce the risk of heart failure by 16 percent. Also, every increase of 1,000 MET minutes per week would result in a 21 percent lower risk of heart failure.

That being said, Dr. Ndumele and his team also warn that their study was observational, and so the relationship between physical activity levels and the decreased risks to heart health should not be automatically taken as causational.

Even so, they note that the trends they observed are consistent enough to indicate that individuals may benefit from adhering to exercise guidelines in middle age.

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Stroke: Clinical trial results 'likely to change care practice'

Both transient ischemic attacks and minor strokes only last a few hours and rarely have any enduring effects. But they can lead to a major stroke, which is much more dangerous and may impact an individual's health more severely. "How can this best be prevented?" researchers ask.
person holding two tablets
An international trial suggests that aspirin and anticoagulants might be the best treatment after a TIA or minor stroke.

As in the case of a major stroke, in a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, blood supply to the brain is disrupted.

This major organ becomes starved of oxygen, which might lead to trouble speaking, visual disturbances, and numbness in the body's extremities.

A minor stroke is similar, but it is normally taken to have a more persistent impact, and the term "is often used for stroke patients with mild and nondisabling symptoms."

However, unlike a major stroke, TIAs do not tend to cause serious, lasting damage. Still, many who experience a mini-stroke may go on to experience a major stroke within the next 90 days, with more serious consequences.

To avoid this, people who have had a TIA should receive immediate medical attention — within 3 hours from the event — and they may be prescribed an anticoagulant drug to prevent further blockages that may obstruct the circulation of blood to the brain.

But researchers are now asking if there are even more effective preventive methods to keep major stroke at bay after a TIA or minor stroke.

Clay Johnston, a professor of neurology at Dell Medical School in the University of Texas at Austin, suggests that patients taking an anticoagulant and aspirin combo might reduce their risk of experiencing a major stroke even further.

In a new study — the results of which were published in The New England Journal of Medicine — Prof. Johnston and team suggest that taking the anticoagulant clopidogrel, as well as aspirin, can lower an individual's risk of major stroke post-TIA.

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Drug combination shows promise

The researchers analyzed medical data sourced from 4,881 adults across 10 countries who had had a TIA or a minor stroke. Specifically, they were interested in evaluating the outcomes for those patients who had been administered both clopidogrel and aspirin.

They found that this aspirin plus anticoagulant combo resulted in a 25 percent lower risk for experiencing a major stroke, heart attack, or death caused by the formation of blood clots within 3 months from the initial event.

Yet this approach does not come without specific risks of its own. Thus, "The study gives [...] solid evidence that we can use this drug combination to prevent strokes in the highest-risk people, but not without some risk of bleeding," notes Prof. Johnston.

The participants who took both aspirin and clopidogrel rather than just aspirin after a TIA or minor stroke had an increased risk of hemorrhage. Therefore, for every thousand patients receiving this drug combo, five extra major bleeding events would be expected, as well as 15 fewer strokes and major ischemic events.

The researchers note that, despite the heightened possibility that a hemorrhage might occur, the benefits of the clopidogrel-aspirin treatment far outweigh the risks, as bleeding is normally reversible and therefore easier to attend to.

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Treatment benefits outweigh the risks

"Of the 33 major hemorrhages that occurred in these 4,881 patients," explains study co-author Dr. J. Donald Easton, from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, "more than half involved the gastrointestinal tract, and none of them [were] fatal."

"These largely preventable or treatable bleeding complications of the treatment," he adds, "have to be balanced against the benefit of avoiding disabling strokes."

A trial that had already tested the waters with the clopidogrel-aspirin combination had also pointed out its benefits, but it had not spotted the risk of bleeding as an adverse event.

Still, the results of the existing research all add up, suggesting that this approach may be a highly desirable one going forward.

As Dr. Ralph Sacco, from the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami in Florida, reports, "The results of this large international trial, when added to the results of previous research, provide evidence to support the use of clopidogrel plus aspirin for 90 days among patients with minor ischemic stroke and high-risk TIA treated within 12 hours."

And the consistently promising outcomes, the researchers believe, will probably change the way in which patients are treated after a TIA or minor stroke.

"This trial is likely to change practice since most clinicians and patients are usually willing to accept the increased risk of hemorrhage to offset the disabling impact of a stroke."

Dr. Ralph Sacco

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What are the best foods for heart health?

Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States. In this Spotlight, we outline 16 foods that, when consumed as part of a well-rounded diet, might help to keep your heart healthy.
Heart-shaped fruits
How can you improve your heart health with food?

There are many things you can do to help keep your heart healthy and disease-free.

You can schedule an annual checkup, exercise daily, quit smoking, or take steps to reduce the level of stress in your life.

All of these things can have a positive effect on heart health. But, one of the simplest lifestyle changes that will benefit your heart is watching what you eat.

Nearly 6 million people are currently living with heart failure, and around half of these will die within 5 years of being diagnosed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be very bad for the heart. So, when taking steps to minimize the risk of heart disease, diet is a good place to start.

In this article, we examine some of the best foods for ensuring that you keep a robust and healthy heart.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a natural source of folate, which helps to prevent an amino acid called homocysteine from building up in the body. High homocysteine levels have been linked with an increased risk of heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke.

2. Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils

Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils — otherwise known as pulses or legumes — can all significantly reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol." They are also packed with fiber, protein, and antioxidant polyphenols, all of which have beneficial effects on the heart and general health.

3. Berries

Berries are also full of antioxidant polyphenols, which help to reduce heart disease risk. Berries are a great source of fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and they are low in fat.

4. Broccoli

Some studies suggest that regularly eating steamed broccoli can lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.

5. Chia seeds and flaxseeds

These seeds are a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3s have many beneficial effects, such as helping to lower levels of triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol. They also reduce blood pressure and minimize the buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries.

Omega-3s decrease the risk of disorders that can lead to heart attack, such as thrombosis and arrhythmias.

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6. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rare example of a food that tastes amazing and is good for you (in moderation).

Heart health dark chocolate
Dark chocolate: delicious and heart-healthy.

Scientists now believe that dark chocolate has protective benefits against atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up inside the arteries, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

Dark chocolate seems to prevent two of the mechanisms implicated in atherosclerosis: stiffness of the arteries and white blood cell adhesion, which is when white blood cells stick to the walls of blood vessels.

What is more, studies have found that increasing dark chocolate's flavanol content — which is the compound that makes it tasty and moreish — does not diminish these protective benefits.

7. Coffee

Also in the "almost too good to be true" camp is coffee. One recent study found that regularly drinking coffee was linked with a decreased risk of developing heart failure and stroke.

However, it is important to bear in mind that this study — which used machine learning to assess data from the Framingham Heart Study — can only observe an association between factors, and cannot conclusively identify cause and effect.

8. Fish high in omega-3s

Fish is a strong source of heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids and protein but it is low in saturated fat. People who have heart disease, or are at risk of developing it, are often recommended to increase their intake of omega-3s by eating fish; this is because they lower the risk of abnormal heartbeats and slow the growth of plaque in the arteries.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we should eat a 3.5-ounce serving of fatty fish — such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna — at least twice per week.

9. Green tea

A 2011 systematic review found that drinking green tea is associated with a small reduction in cholesterol, which, as we know, is a main contributor to heart disease and stroke. But the review could not pinpoint how much green tea someone would have to drink to receive any health benefits.

In 2014, another review studied the effects of drinking green tea on people with high blood pressure. The report concluded that green tea was associated with a reduction in blood pressure. But, the authors were unable to determine if this modest reduction could help to prevent heart disease.

10. Nuts

Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are all heart-healthy nut options. These nuts are full of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Like fish and flaxseeds, walnuts are also ripe with omega-3 fatty acids, making them a heart-healthy snack to have on the go.

11. Liver

Of all the organ meats, liver is the most nutrient-dense. In particular, liver is bulging with folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc, which increase the blood's hemoglobin level and help to keep our heart healthy.

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12. Oatmeal

Because oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, it may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2008 review of the evidence concluded that oat-based products significantly reduce LDL and total cholesterol without any adverse effects.

13. Red wine (sort of)

Many studies have noted the potential health benefits of the antioxidants in red wine. However, it is unlikely that the benefits of the antioxidants outweigh the dangers of alcohol.

Red wine and heart
Red wine contains beneficial antioxidants, but bear in mind that it should only be consumed in moderation.

Recently, however, a new study proposed that these same antioxidants could form the basis of a new stent for use during angioplasty — the process where narrow or obstructed veins are widened to treat atherosclerosis.

The researchers behind that study are currently developing a new kind of stent that releases red wine-like antioxidants into the blood to promote healing, prevent blood clotting, and reduce inflammation during angioplasty.

It is worth noting that drinking alcohol, in general, is not healthy for your heart. In fact, it is vitally important for cardiovascular health to drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

14. Spinach

You can help to maintain a healthy heart rhythm by regularly consuming good sources of magnesium. Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, and consumption of Popeye's favorite food is associated with a raft of health benefits.

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes have lots of nutrients that might help keep our hearts healthy. The little red fruits are chock-full of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and choline, which are all good for the heart.

As well as helping to keep heart disease at bay, potassium benefits muscles and bones, and helps prevent kidney stones from forming.

Scientists have argued that increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake is the most important dietary change when attempting to reduce the risk of heart disease.

16. Vegetables

The AHA advise that we eat eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Vegetables are low in fat and calories but rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. A healthful amount of veggies in the diet can help to moderate weight and blood pressure.

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What causes the heart to skip a beat?

When heartbeats suddenly become more noticeable, they are called heart palpitations. Sometimes they can feel as though the heart has skipped a beat.

Palpitations can also feel like the heart is pounding, fluttering, or beating irregularly. A person may experience these sensations in the throat or the neck. They can last for a few seconds or several minutes.

Heart palpitations can be frightening, especially when experienced for the first time. However, they are usually nothing to worry about.

What is a heart palpitation? A heart palpitation happens when someone suddenly feels one or more heartbeats. Because the heart pumps blood automatically, people are usually unaware of individual beats. This pumping allows the blood to circulate throughout the body, delivering oxygen and other essential components. The heart has four chambers that are attached by one-way valves. A heartbeat is a pumping action that takes about 1 second and happens in two parts: Part 1: As blood collects in the upper two chambers, an electrical signal causes a contraction that pushes blood to the lower chambers. Part 2: Blood is pushed from the heart into the lungs, where it is mixed with oxygen before circulating around the body. Below is an interactive animation of a normal heartbeat. Explore the animation with your mouse pad or touchscreen. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Causes of skipped beats

The heart skipping a beat can be the result of a number of factors, including:

1. Lifestyle triggers

Strenuous exercise, not getting enough sleep, or drinking too much caffeine or alcohol can all lead to heart palpitations.

Smoking tobacco, using illicit drugs such as cocaine, or eating rich or spicy foods can also cause the heart to skip a beat.

2. Psychological or emotional triggers

Palpitations can be caused by stress or anxiety.

They may also occur during a panic attack. Other symptoms of a panic attack include:

nausea feeling weak or dizzy numbness in the extremities chest pain or tightness trembling shortness of breath

3. Medication

A number of medicines can trigger heart palpitations. These include:

asthma inhalers, such as salbutamol and ipratropium bromide medications for high blood pressure, such as hydralazine and minoxidil antihistamines, such as terfenadine antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and erythromycin antidepressants, such as citalopram and escitalopram antifungal medicines, such as itraconazole

Anyone who has frequent heart palpitations and is taking medication should check the list of possible side effects on the label.

They should not stop taking the drug, however, without speaking to a doctor. Usually, heart palpitations are a harmless side effect.

4. Hormone changes

Periods, pregnancy, and menopause can all cause heart palpitations.

5. Arrhythmias

Senior man holding his chest because of heart pain
Arrhythmias are common in older people.

Arrhythmias are a group of health conditions that can interfere with the heart's rhythm. Millions of people have arrhythmias, and they are especially common as people get older.

Most are harmless, but some require medical attention.

The following are examples of arrhythmias:

Atrial fibrillation, which can cause a fast, irregular heart rate. Atrial flutter, which can make the heart beat quickly with a regular or irregular rhythm. Supraventricular tachycardia, which causes episodes marked by an abnormally fast but regular heart rate. It tends to affect otherwise healthy people. Ventricular tachycardia, a potentially serious condition that causes a fast, regular heart rhythm and is sometimes associated with dizziness or blackouts.

6. Heart conditions

In some cases, palpitations can indicate problems with the heart. Examples include:

A mitral value prolapse, which causes blood to flow inefficiently through the heart. Heart failure, which happens when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which refers to an enlargement of the heart muscle and its walls. Congenital heart disease, which refers to abnormalities that are present from birth.

7. Other medical conditions

The following issues can also cause palpitations:

Symptoms Heart palpitations tend to feel like a fluttering or churning in the chest or neck. When more serious arrhythmias are responsible, palpitations can occur with the following symptoms: tiredness dizziness lightheadedness fainting a rapid or pounding heartbeat shortness of breath chest pain In extreme cases, heart palpitations can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today When to see a doctor Patient receieving notes from doctor.
If heart palpitations continue without improvement, medical attention is required. If heart palpitations happen occasionally and pass quickly, it is unlikely that the underlying cause is severe. It is a good idea to speak to a doctor when palpitations: follow a history of heart problems last for long periods do not improve over time get worse Some cases require emergency medical attention. Seek medical help immediately when palpitations accompany any of these symptoms: severe shortness of breath pain or tightness in the chest light-headedness or dizziness fainting or blacking out Diagnosis To investigate the cause of heart palpitations, a doctor will usually ask about a person's symptoms and medical history. They may also recommend blood tests and an electrocardiogram to check the heartbeat. If the doctor suspects a heart problem or an arrhythmia, they may request: Holter monitoring Also called a continuous ambulatory electrocardiographic monitor, a person wears a Holter monitor for 24–48 hours to record the heart's rhythm. Treadmill testing Exercise or stress tests are designed to trigger a palpitation so that it can be diagnosed. A person will usually walk and run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle while the heart rate and rhythm are monitored. Echocardiogram This test uses sound waves to create an image of the heart's size, structure, and motions. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Treatment Treatment will depend on the cause of the palpitations. When lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption are responsible, a person can take steps to avoid those triggers. A person with palpitations caused by stress, anxiety, or panic attacks may benefit from learning breathing exercises and stress-management techniques, such as yoga and meditation. It may also be a good idea to speak with a therapist. Most arrhythmias are harmless and do not require treatment. However, some are classified as clinically significant and require long-term medication. A person with a diagnosed heart condition, such as heart failure, will usually be given a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes and medication. While not everyone with a congenital heart defect will need treatment, some may require surgery or cardiac catheterization.
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Reversing atherosclerosis with one shot

New research demonstrates that injecting synthetically designed nanofibers in mice helps to break up the arterial plaque that is a hallmark of atherosclerosis.
plaque build up inside of arteries
A new study suggests that an injection might be able to reduce arterial plaque (depicted here).

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds inside the arteries, stiffening and eventually clogging them.

Plaque is a waxy substance that's made of cholesterol, fat, fragments of cellular waste, calcium, and fibrin, an insoluble protein that helps the blood to clot.

As plaque gradually builds up inside the arteries, it causes the vessels to lose their elasticity, which makes them less efficient at pumping blood.

It also makes the walls inside the arteries thicker, which limits the flow of oxygen to the cells. Over time, plaque can lead to blood clots, or parts of it can detach and block the arteries.

For these reasons, atherosclerosis may lead to coronary heart disease, angina, peripheral artery disease, or chronic kidney disease, among other conditions.

Current therapies for atherosclerosis include the use of statins, which help to regulate cholesterol levels. However, these drugs only help to keep the condition in check; they don't reverse it.

New research, however, shows that one day, reversing this condition could be possible. Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani — an integrated vascular surgery fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL — led a study in which synthetically created nanofibers were used in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.

The injection successfully targeted the buildup of cholesterol and led to the breaking up of plaque. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's conference Vascular Discovery: From Genes to Medicine Scientific Sessions 2018, held in San Francisco, CA.

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Dr. Mansukhani explains how the researchers decided to design very small fibers that contained cholesterol-removing particles. "Our aim," he says, "was to develop a non-invasive, non-surgical, novel therapy to halt and reverse the disease by actually targeting the vessel wall with peptide-based nanofibers developed in the laboratory."

The authors explain that the small fibers contain a key amino acid sequence that melts down the cholesterol.

To test the newly designed substance, Dr. Mansukhani and team genetically engineered mice to have atherosclerosis. Then, they placed the mice on a high-fat diet for 14 weeks.

After the 14 weeks, some of the rodents were injected with the nanofibers and some with saline water biweekly for 8 weeks.

"[F]irst we wanted to confirm that the therapy actually targeted areas of atherosclerosis," says Dr. Mansukhani. To this end, he and his team used imaging techniques to trace the effect of the therapeutic substance in the rodents' bodies.

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The effects were noticeable after 24 hours, lasted up to 72 hours, and were completely gone in 7–10 days.

Overall, at the end of the 8-week treatment period, the plaque in the male mice decreased by 11 percent, and that in the females dropped by 9 percent.

"[The results] demonstrate that a novel targeted nanofiber binds specifically to atherosclerotic lesions and reduces plaque burden after a short treatment duration."

Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani

Despite these promising results, the authors caution that the findings are just preliminary, and that more tests are required before the innovative method can be trialed in humans.

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How to identify pitting edema

Edema refers to visible swelling caused by a buildup of fluid within tissues. When an indentation remains after the swollen skin is pressed, this is called pitting edema. The effect may also be noticeable after taking off a tight shoe or stocking.

Anyone can have pitting edema, but because some causes are more dangerous than others, it is often a good idea to consult a doctor.

In this article, we describe who is at risk for pitting edema. We also explore accompanying symptoms, treatments, and prevention techniques.

Symptoms of pitting edema Pitting edema. Image credit: James Heilman, MD, (2017, February 1).
Pitting edema may cause indentations to remain on the skin after pressure is released.
Image credit: James Heilman, MD, (2017, February 1).

This condition is most common in the lower body, particularly in the legs, ankles, and feet.

Swelling caused by edema will usually make the skin feel tight, heavy, or sore. Other symptoms depend on the cause, but they can include:

tingling or burning sensations around the swelling pain and aching in the swollen areas skin that feels puffy or stiff skin that is warm or hot to the touch numbness bloating water retention cramps unexplained coughing fatigue or decreased daily energy chest pain shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

People who experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or swelling in only one limb should seek immediate medical attention.

Pitting vs. non-pitting edema

Edema occurs when fluid that accumulates in tissues leads to swelling. When pressure is applied to a swollen area, it may leave a pit, in the skin.

In non-pitting edema, the skin will return to its swollen shape once the pressure has been removed.

Causes of pitting edema A variety of factors can lead to pitting edema, including: flying poor circulation obesity pregnancy dehydration low levels of protein trauma or injuries Alternatively, any of the following conditions may be responsible: Pitting edema may also be a side effect of medications such as: steroids nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) medications that supplement estrogen medications for high blood pressure thiazolidinediones, a class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Risk factors sedentary lifestyle shown by woman lying on couch.
A sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of pitting edema. Pitting edema can affect anyone, though certain factors can increase a person's risk. These include: a sedentary lifestyle living in a warm climate a diet overly rich in sodium obesity multiple pregnancies a history of lymph node surgery thyroid conditions lung diseases, such as emphysema heart disease When to see a doctor In most cases, a doctor should determine the cause of pitting edema and, if necessary, refer a person to a specialist. Some accompanying symptoms require urgent care. Anyone experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or swelling in a single limb should seek immediate medical attention. When leg pain and swelling persist after a person has been sitting for several hours, this may indicate deep vein thrombosis. This occurs when a blood clot develops deep in the leg. Anyone who suspects this should seek urgent medical care. Pitting edema during pregnancy Pregnancy can cause pitting edema, and it usually resolves as the pregnancy ends. However, it is a good idea to discuss every new symptom with a doctor, who can test to rule out serious conditions linked with edema, such as very high blood pressure or preeclampsia. Diagnosis and grading Pitting edema is often diagnosed with a physical exam. The doctor may apply pressure to the swollen skin for about 15 seconds to check for lasting indentation. Because some associated conditions are more dangerous than others, it is important to find the underlying cause of the edema. This may require thorough testing. The edema will usually resolve once the cause has been treated. To properly identify the underlying cause, a doctor may take a detailed medical history and ask about medications. They may then refer the person to a doctor who specializes in issues concerning the veins or circulatory system. Tests that can aid in a diagnosis of pitting edema include: a physical exam imaging tests, such as X-rays, which can show fluid retention and problems in the lungs blood tests urine tests an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound scan of the heart Pitting edema is classified based on the depth and duration of the indentation. The following scale is used to rate the severity: Grade 1: The pressure applied by the doctor leaves an indentation of 0–2 millimeters (mm) that rebounds immediately. This is the least severe type of pitting edema. Grade 2: The pressure leaves an indentation of 3–4 mm that rebounds in fewer than 15 seconds. Grade 3: The pressure leaves an indentation of 5–6 mm that takes up to 30 seconds to rebound. Grade 4: The pressure leaves an indentation of 8 mm or deeper. It takes more than 20 seconds to rebound. Understanding the severity of edema can help a doctor to identify the underlying cause and best course of treatment. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Treatment Doctor prescribing treatement.
The treatment plan for pitting edema will depend upon the cause. This involves addressing the underlying cause of the edema. A range of treatments correspond with the range of causes, but common methods include: elevating the swollen limbs above the level of the heart wearing compression stockings to encourage circulation undergoing vascular surgery increasing blood protein levels taking diuretics to flush out excess fluid Prevention When the underlying cause has been successfully treated, edema is unlikely to recur. Some adjustments to lifestyle and diet can reduce the likelihood of developing edema, particularly if a person has a high risk. These changes may include staying active, avoiding sitting or standing for long periods, and doing gentle exercises to reduce swelling. Outlook Pitting edema is a common symptom. It is usually not a cause for concern in itself, but many underlying conditions require treatment, sometimes urgently. Edema should not cause any long-term complications. After working with a doctor, many people find lasting relief from the symptom.
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How does exercise keep the heart young?

A recent study published in Nature Communications identifies a link between exercise and the heart's ability to regenerate new muscle cells under normal conditions and after a heart attack.
Blue heart in chest diagram
A new study investigates the effects of exercise on the heart.

The research, which was conducted on groups of mice, could have dramatic implications for "public health, physical education, and the rehabilitation of cardiac patients."

The first study authors are Ana Vujic, Ph.D., who works in the Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology in Cambridge, MA, and Dr. Carolin Lerchenmüller, of Harvard Medical School (HMS), also in Cambridge, and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

According to previous research, our hearts have very little capacity to regenerate themselves.

Vujic explains, "We wanted to know whether there was a natural way to enhance the regenerative capacity of heart muscle cells. So, we decided to test the one intervention we already know to be safe and inexpensive: exercise."

They found that heart muscle cells in a young adult heart only renew 1 percent every year and this would continue to decrease with age. Therefore, any interventions that increase new heart cell formation could have the potential to prevent heart failure in the future.

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The effects of exercise on heart cells

In the new study, researchers used two groups of healthy mice to test the effects of exercise on the heart. One group of mice had voluntary access to a treadmill, and the other group did not and remained sedentary.

The mice with the treadmill ran around 5 kilometers each day. The scientists were able to measure heart regeneration in the mice by tracking the newly made DNA as the cells divided. By doing this, they could see where new cells were being produced in the heart muscles.

The team reported that the mice that used the treadmill produced more than four and half times the amount of new heart muscle cells than those without access to a treadmill.

They decided to take the test one step further by using mice that had experienced an actual heart attack. As Vujic says, "We also wanted to test this in the disease setting of a heart attack, because our main interest is healing."

Following a heart attack, the mice with access to a treadmill continued to run 5 kilometers per day voluntarily, and they showed an increase in heart tissue where new muscle cells were formed.

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Positive results

Co-senior study authors Dr. Richard Lee, a Harvard professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, and Dr. Anthony Rosenzweig, a Paul Dudley White Professor of Medicine at the HMS, believe that they have made significant progress with their research.

Dr. Rosenzweig says, "Maintaining a healthy heart requires balancing the loss of heart muscle cells due to injury or aging with the regeneration or birth of new heart muscle cells. Our study suggests exercise can help tip the balance in favor of regeneration."

Dr. Lee adds, "Our study shows that you might be able to make your heart younger by exercising more every day."

The next step for these researchers is to locate the biological mechanisms that tie exercise to the regeneration of heart muscle cells. Thus far, they have found a particular biological pathway needed for exercise to switch on heart muscle cell regeneration.

"Now," explains Dr. Rosenzweig, "we need to find the signals that are sufficient to turn this pathway on."

Dr. Lee concludes, "If we can turn on these pathways at just the right time, in the right people, then we can improve recovery after a heart attack."

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How walnuts benefit your gut bacteria and overall health

Walnuts have been shown to have wide-ranging health benefits — from strengthening our hearts to reducing our risk of cancer. Now, new research sheds light on the mechanisms that may explain these benefits.
New research explains why walnuts are so great for our all-round health.

In case you didn't know, walnuts are a veritable treasure trove of health benefits.

A rich source of antioxidants, this delicious snack has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, lower cholesterol levels, keep heart disease at bay, and even strengthen our brains.

But what is it that makes walnuts so potent in the fight against disease? Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to uncover the health benefits hidden under the walnut's wrinkly shell, and they published their results in The Journal of Nutrition.

Specifically, the researchers — led by Hannah Holscher, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at the university — looked at how walnuts affect our gut microbiota, or the trillions of (mostly beneficial) micro-organisms that inhabit our gut.

Nuts are known to be a precious source of fiber, and dietary fiber helps to diversify and strengthen our gut bacteria. But the scientists' findings go beyond that, showing how walnuts may benefit our cardiometabolic and gastrointestinal health.

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Walnuts raise levels of beneficial metabolite

To uncover walnuts' secret health benefits, Holscher and her colleagues fed 18 participants either 42 grams of walnuts or no walnuts at all over two 3-week periods.

To study how walnuts impacted the composition of the microbiota, the researchers collected and analyzed blood and fecal samples from the participants both at the beginning and the end of the study period.

The analysis revealed that walnut intake increased levels of three main bacteria: Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, and Clostridium. The researchers explain that these three bacteria produce a metabolic byproduct called butyrate, which has been shown to improve colon health.

However, Holscher cautions, these findings must be taken with the caveat that butyrate levels were not actually measured in this study. "[S]o," she says, "we can't say that just because these microbes increased that butyrate did increase. We still need to answer that question."

She goes on to add that Faecalibacterium "has also been shown in animals to reduce inflammation. Animals with higher amounts also have better insulin sensitivity." Faecalibacterium may also be a probiotic bacterium, Holscher suggests.

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Walnuts may lower carcinogenic bile acids

The study also revealed that people who consumed walnuts had a decrease in so-called secondary bile acids.

While bile acids are normal compounds that help to absorb lipids, cholesterol, and some vitamins in the gastrointestinal tract, some of them have been shown to be toxic.

Bile acids can be primary or secondary, and the latter have recently been suggested to contribute to colon cancer.

"Secondary bile acids have been shown to be higher in individuals with higher rates of colorectal cancer," Holscher says.

"Secondary bile acids can be damaging to cells within the [gastrointestinal] tract, and microbes make those secondary bile acids. If we can reduce secondary bile acids in the gut, it may also help with human health."

Holscher explains that the way in which microbes absorb and process the energy derived from walnuts may hold the key to how the nuts affect our health.

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Walnuts' energy absorbed by gut microbes

"When you do calculations to determine how much energy we predicted we would get from eating walnuts, it didn't line up with the energy that was absorbed," Holscher notes. "You're really only absorbing around 80 percent of the energy from walnuts that labels say."

"That means that the microbes get access to that extra 20 percent of calories and the fats and fiber left in them, and so what happens then? Does it produce a positive health outcome, or a negative health outcome?"

"Our study provides initial findings that suggest that the interactions of microbes with the undigested walnut components are producing positive outcomes."

Hannah Holscher

However, she advises, "We need more research to look at additional microbial metabolites and how those are influencing health outcomes, instead of just characterizing the changes in the microbiome."

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Could saunas reduce stroke risk?

Finally, something indulgent might actually be good for us; one newly published study says that enjoying regular saunas could significantly reduce stroke risk.
Inside sauna
Saunas might be more than just a relaxing treat.

Although their invention is often ascribed to the people of Finland, saunas and sweat lodges appeared independently in many cultures throughout ancient history.

Today, they are relatively popular in much of the Western world — and for good reason.

In fact, saunas were all the rage across much of Europe in the Middle Ages.

That is, until a syphilis scare swept the continent in the 1500s, putting saunas on the back-burner for a while.

Interestingly, the outbreak didn't take hold in Finland, so their popularity there never waned. During recent decades, with syphilis becoming less of a concern, saunas have enjoyed a strong resurgence in favor.

Anyone who has ever stepped into a sauna and relaxed for a while will understand why they are so popular. There's nothing quite like sitting motionless in a dark, damp, hot shed. Psychologically speaking, one can imagine they might do wonders for your stress levels.

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The health benefits of saunas

Aside from the potential psychological benefits of relaxing in the warm, several researchers have wondered whether saunas might also impact physical health.

For instance, studies have shown that taking a sauna can lower blood pressure, while others have concluded that regular saunas might reduce dementia risk. Others still have found a link between saunas and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death.

For the first time, scientists from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom take a look at the sauna's potential impact on stroke risk.

The study followed 1,628 participants for an average of 15 years; their average age was 63, and none of them had a history of stroke.

Each person filled out a questionnaire asking how many times they took saunas. They were also asked about a range of other factors that could influence stroke risk, such as alcohol intake, cholesterol levels, physical activity, and blood pressure.

The results were published this week in the journal Neurology.

Across the decade and a half, 155 people had a stroke. Individuals who took one sauna per week had a rate of 8.1 strokes per 1,000 person-years. For those who took two to three per week, the rate was 7.4, and for people who took four to seven per week, the rate dropped to 2.8.

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In other words, people who had saunas four to seven times per week were 60 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who only enjoyed one per week.

Even after the researchers adjusted the analysis to take account of other risk factors, such as smoking and cholesterol levels, the findings remained the same.

"These results are exciting because they suggest that this activity that people use for relaxation and pleasure may also have beneficial effects on your vascular health."

Senior study author Setor K. Kunutsor, Ph.D.

As for how saunas might afford this protection, Kunutsor explains, "Saunas appear to have a blood pressure-lowering effect, which may underlie the beneficial effect on stroke risk."

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Observation and association

Of course, this study is observational and can only show an association between the amount of saunas taken and stroke risk.

For example, people who regularly hit the sauna might do so because they have more free time; those who take fewer may lead busier, more stressful lives, which could be the cause of the increased stroke risk, rather than it being directly related to a lack of sauna time.

As Kunutsor explains, "Sauna bathing is a safe activity for most healthy people and even people with stable heart problems. More research is needed to confirm this finding and to understand the ways that saunas affect stroke risk."

It is vital to note that, for some, saunas might not be safe. For instance, people who have recently had a heart attack and anyone with chest pain or unstable angina should avoid the sauna. Also, older adults with low blood pressure must be cautious when taking a sauna.

But, if you don't fall into any of these high-risk categories, it might be time to take up this rather pleasant Finnish pastime.

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How true are these health myths?

Throughout the centuries, many health myths have arisen. Some are tried, tested, and taken as fact, but others are nothing more than fantasy. In this article, we debunk some of the latter.
health with question marks
Do we need eight glasses of water every day? And are eggs bad for the heart? We investigate these myths.

Health-related myths are common and arise for a variety of reasons.

Some may be "old wives' tales" that have been passed from generation to generation, which somehow escape being challenged outside scientific and medical professions.

Other times, it can be that old but previously accepted science — such as the results of studies from the mid-20th century — is found by modern scientific methods to be less accurate than originally thought.

In this article, we take a look at five of the most common health myths and examine the evidence behind them.

1. 'Drink eight glasses of water per day'

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are unambiguous in this matter, stating that "drinking enough water every day is good for overall health."

filling a glass of water
Do we really need eight glasses of water per day?

The question is, how much water is "enough?" The CDC note that there are no guidelines on how much water we should be drinking daily.

But, they do link to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, who say that women require 2.7 liters and men require 3.7 liters of "total water" per day.

The total water point is crucial; this refers to not how many liters of water you should drink from the faucet, but about what your rough intake of water from different drinks and foods combined should be.

It is vital to note that the average person's total intake of water from drinks — including caffeinated drinks — forms about 80 percent of their total water intake, with the remaining 20 percent actually coming from foods.

Many people believe, however, that the recommended daily amount of water is eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals 2.5 liters, straight from the faucet.

This figure does not take into account the amount of water we get from other drinks or foods at all. And, this figure does not appear in any official or scientific United States guidelines on water consumption. So, why do so many people persist in this belief?

A 2002 study traced the eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day claim — known colloquially as "8x8" — back to the misinterpretation of a single paragraph in a government report from 1945.

In it, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council wrote, "A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods."

As recommendations go, this one does not seem to be especially controversial, and it actually seems to tally more or less with what the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are telling us in 2018.

But the author of the 2002 paper believes that people only paid attention to the first sentence, and that over time, they disregarded the statement about water-containing food. This then led to the very erroneous impression that 2.5 liters of straight water should be consumed every day in addition to whatever water we imbibe from other drinks and food.

Most pertinently, the author of this study did not find any scientific evidence to back up the 8x8 theory in terms of health benefits.

Subsequent studies have also debunked 8x8 as a concept, with a 2011 statement by Dr. Margaret McCartney in The BMJ going as far to lay the blame on manufacturers of bottled water for perpetuating the myth in their marketing.

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2. 'You can catch a cold by being cold'

Although, historically, people have assumed that it is the state of being cold that causes people to catch a cold, in this day and age, people are generally more aware that you catch cold not from being outside in poor weather, but from a virus.

a woman with a cold
Is there any truth in the saying that being cold can give you a cold?

We become infected with cold viruses, known as "rhinoviruses," through physical contact or being in the same space as infected people.

This is especially true if the infected person is coughing or sneezing, or if we have touched some of the same objects as that person.

So, on the face of it, it seems fairly obvious that the concept of cold temperatures causing people to catch colds is a myth.

That being said, there is a mechanism by which being cold may actually make us more susceptible to coming down with a cold.

Cold viruses try to enter the human body via the nose, but they usually get trapped in mucus there. Normally, the mucus is passed back into the body, swallowed, and the virus is neutralized by stomach acids.

But when we inhale cold air, the nasal passage cools down. This slows the movement of mucus, and this means that the live rhinoviruses have more opportunities to break through the mucus barrier and into the body.

Studies have also found that cold viruses thrive in colder weather, because they are less able to survive at normal body temperature.

So, it is largely due to viruses and not just a consequence of cold weather. But the cold weather myth is not just an old wives' tale, after all.

3. 'Cracking your joints can lead to arthritis'

Cracking your joints does not cause arthritis. But if, like me, you are an inveterate knuckle-cracker, you have almost certainly been admonished at some point in your life by a possibly well-meaning (but more likely annoyed) teacher, colleague, or loved one with the words, "Don't do that! You'll give yourself arthritis!"

a woman cracking her knuckles
Contrary to popular belief, cracking your knuckles is unlikely to give you arthritis.

Several studies have investigated this anecdotal association.

They generally report that individuals who crack their joints are at nearly the same risk of getting arthritis as those who have never cracked their joints. So, no, cracking your knuckles will not increase your risk of arthritis.

If you are worried about what happens in your joints when you hear that sound, you may be reassured by the findings of a 2018 study.

When we crack our knuckles, the researchers explain, we are slightly pulling apart our joints, which causes pressure to decrease in the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. When this happens, bubbles form in the fluid.

The variations in pressure causes the bubbles to rapidly fluctuate, which creates that characteristic cracking sound, which is oh-so-pleasing to the cracker but often less so for the people around them.

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4. 'Deodorant can cause breast cancer'

Some individuals have suggested that there may be a link between the use of underarm deodorant and the development of breast cancer.

woman applying deodorant
'Little evidence' has been found for this myth.

This is based on the notion that chemicals from the deodorant affects the breasts' cells, given that they are applied to nearby skin.

Nearly all of the studies that have tested this link have found little evidence to support the claim that deodorant can cause breast cancer.

One retrospective study, however, revealed that breast cancer survivors who used deodorants regularly were diagnosed younger than the women who did not regularly use them.

But because this is a retrospective study, its results cannot conclusively prove a link between deodorant use and the development of breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute say that additional research would be required to prove that a relationship between deodorant use and breast cancer exists.

5. 'Eggs are bad for the heart'

Ever since the 1970s, there has been a strong focus in healthcare on the role played by cholesterol in heart disease.

egg in a pan
Actually, eggs are very good for us, in a number of ways.

Eggs are rich in nutrients, but they also have the highest cholesterol content of any common food.

Because of this, some have recommended that we should eat only two to four eggs per week, and that individuals with type 2 diabetes or a history of heart disease should eat fewer.

But new research suggests there is no link between eating lots of eggs and cholesterol imbalance or increased risk of heart problems and type 2 diabetes.

The study noted that occasionally, people who eat more than seven eggs per week have increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, but this is almost always matched by a similar increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which has protective properties.

The evidence suggests that eating even as many as two eggs every day is safe and has either neutral or slightly beneficial effects on risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

According to the CDC, eggs are one of the "most nutritious and economical foods" that nature can offer us, and that the main health risk posed by them is a risk of Salmonella infection. The CDC provide guidance on how to best avoid Salmonella.

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Both exercise and cold burn fat, but how?

Why is physical exercise so beneficial to our health? A new study reveals part of the answer, as a fat molecule — which improves cardiometabolic health — is found to be released during exercise.
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When we're cold, we burn fat, and a new study helps to explain why and how.

Physical activity and our heart and metabolic health are known to be intimately linked.

Even the slightest increase in physical activity levels lowers cardiometabolic risk, studies have shown, while less physical activity raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

But why is exercise so good for our body, and how does it help us to manage fat levels and keep a healthy weight?

Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center — affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA — in collaboration with scientists at the Ohio State University in Columbus set out to investigate.

The researchers found that even a short, moderate bout of exercise boosts the levels of a key lipid that is released by brown fat, or the "good" type.

Brown fat is considered to be "good" because, unlike white fat — which has been tied to conditions such as heart disease and diabetes — it burns calories; the main purpose of brown fat is to convert the food we eat into energy.

The new findings — which are now published in the journal Cell Metabolism — "highlight another mechanism for the beneficial effects of exercise," explains study co-author Laurie Goodyear, a senior investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

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Cold and exercise have similar effects

The lipid in question is called 12,13-dihydroxy-9Z-octadecenoic acid (or 12,13-diHOME), and one of the interesting things about it is that our body also releases it when we're cold.

Previous research has shown that exposure to cold makes the lipid 12,13-diHOME stimulate brown fat activity, and that people with a higher level of 12,13-diHOME have better insulin sensitivity and a lower body mass index (BMI).

What the new study found, for the first time, is that exercise also boosts 12,13-diHOME levels. Using lipidomics analysis, the researchers saw that a single "bout of moderate-intensity exercise causes a pronounced increase in the circulating lipid [12,13-diHOME] in male, female, young, old, sedentary, and active human subjects."

An additional examination of mice revealed that in rodents, too, both a short bout of exercise and long-term physical training boosted levels of the lipid. Finally, removing the rodents' brown fat canceled this effect, confirming the fact that the lipid is produced by this type of fat.

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White and brown fat complement each other

As Goodyear explains, "Our data provide some of the first evidence that exercise can alter the endocrine function of brown fat by increasing 12,13-diHOME."

Treating mice with 12,13-diHOME "increased skeletal muscle fatty acid uptake and oxidation, but not glucose uptake," write the researchers.

This suggests that, while white fat breaks down the stored adipose tissue into fatty acids that then circulate in our blood, brown fat produces 12,13-diHOME, which encourages the muscles to absorb these fatty acids during exercise.

"I think it is surprising that one type of fat provides the fuel and the other signals the muscle to use the fuel," says Goodyear.

The researchers say that they found the results surprising, especially in light of previous studies, which so far have suggested that exercise lowers the activity of brown fat in the human body.

"Most data," says study co-author Kristin Stanford, who is a researcher at the Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, "have suggested that cold and exercise have opposite effects on [brown fat].

"[S]o," she adds, "to see that 12,13-diHOME was released from [brown fat] after both exercise and cold exposure was unexpected."

"We still have more to learn about how [brown fat] is activated by cold and exercise and how these two stimuli could work in parallel," concludes Stanford.

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Types of heart attack: What you need to know

Heart attacks pose a serious health risk and can be life-threatening. They occur when a blockage in the coronary arteries disrupts blood flow to the heart, which can cause permanent damage.

Three types of coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack. These are:

ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) coronary artery spasm

In this article, we describe these three types of disease, their risk factors, and how they are treated.

What is a heart attack? There are different types of heart attacks
A heart attack occurs when a blockage develops in the coronary arteries.

The coronary arteries carry blood to the heart, allowing it to function. A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when a blockage develops in the coronary arteries and restricts the flow of blood to the heart.

Blockages occur when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up, forming deposits called plaques in blood vessels. These plaques can become damaged over time and may release platelets.

Platelets can cause the blood to clot. They may collect around a plaque, eventually blocking blood flow.

By restricting blood flow, these blockages can damage the heart muscle. The severity of damage will depend on the size of the blockage. When blood is not reaching a significant segment of the heart, the damage will be more extensive.

A cardiac arrest is often mislabelled as a heart attack. However, a cardiac arrest occurs when the heart abruptly stops working.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Types A heart attack results from one of the following types of coronary artery disease: STEMI A STEMI heart attack is severe and requires immediate attention. These attacks occur when the coronary artery is fully blocked, preventing blood from reaching a large area of the heart. This causes progressive damage to the heart muscle, which can eventually stop it from functioning. NSTEMI NSTEMI heart attacks occur when the coronary artery is partially blocked and blood flow is severely restricted. While they are less dangerous than STEMI heart attacks, they can cause permanent damage. Coronary artery spasm These spasms are also called silent heart attacks or unstable angina. They occur when the arteries connected to the heart contract, preventing or restricting blood flow to the heart. Symptoms do not cause permanent damage, and they are less severe than those of other types of coronary artery disease. It is possible to mistake a coronary artery spasm for a minor condition, such as indigestion. However, having a coronary artery spasm can increase the risk of having a more severe heart attack. Treatment Oxygen therapy can be administered as treatment for all types of heart attacks
Oxygen therapy will often be administered in the immediate aftermath of a heart attack. Regardless of the cause, all heart attacks require immediate medical attention. The treatment used will depend on the type of coronary artery disease. In most cases, medical professionals will administer immediate treatment before determining the type or severity of the attack. This treatment may involve: aspirin to reduce further blood clotting oxygen therapy nitroglycerin to support blood flow efforts to reduce chest pain Once a doctor has determined the type of heart attack, more treatment is needed to stimulate blood flow. When the underlying coronary artery disease is less severe, this can be done using medication, such as: Clot busters, also known as thrombolytic medicines, which help to dissolve the blood clots causing blockages Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, which prevent further clotting. Blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors, which help to maintain healthy blood flow and reduce pressure. Statins, which can lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Beta-blockers, which can reduce the heart's workload and chest pain. Doctors may also perform a percutaneous coronary intervention. This involves inserting a thin tube, or catheter, into the narrowed or blocked coronary artery. The end of the tube is inflated, creating more space in the artery, so that more blood can reach the heart. In some cases, a stent will also be inserted during the procedure. This small metal device is designed to prevent future blockages. Surgery may be necessary in severe cases. The most common type is a coronary artery bypass, which involves moving a blood vessel from elsewhere in the body to the blocked artery. The added vessel will allow blood to flow around the blockage and reach the heart. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Recovery Recovery can vary significantly, depending on the type of heart attack, its severity, and how it was treated. A person can often return to normal activities within a week. However, when the underlying coronary artery disease was more severe, it may take months to recover from a heart attack. Following any kind of heart attack, a doctor will often recommend cardiac rehabilitation, which can teach a person to maintain a healthful lifestyle and minimise the risk of another attack. Changes to levels of physical activity and diet may be suggested. Risk factors High blood pressure puts a person more at risk of all types of heart attacks
High blood pressure may increase the risk of a heart attack. Some people may be more vulnerable to heart attacks. Common risk factors include: high blood pressure obesity or being overweight a poor diet, particularly one high in trans or saturated fats low levels of physical activity smoking tobacco older age diabetes or high blood sugar levels a family history of heart disease Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Prevention A person can lower their risk of having a heart attack by: exercising for at least 150 minutes per week reducing stress not smoking eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and oily fish maintaining a healthy weight Heart attacks are not always preventable because genetics is a factor. However, with simple lifestyle changes, a person can take significant steps toward reducing their risk.
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What diseases affect the circulatory system?

The blood circulatory system, also called the cardiovascular system, consists of the heart and the blood vessels that run throughout the body. It delivers nutrients and oxygen to all cells of the body.

The oxygen we breathe gets mixed into the blood in the lungs, and the heart pumps this blood to all parts of the body. Each heartbeat is a contraction of the heart as it pumps blood around the body.

The heart has four chambers: the left atrium, right atrium, right ventricle and left ventricle. They are all separated by one-way valves, meaning the blood can only flow in one direction. Blood is carried to the heart in the veins, and back out to the rest of the body in the arteries.

There are many different circulatory system diseases all of which interrupt this complex process of distributing blood around the body.

In this article, learn about diseases that affect the circulatory system, as well as treatment options and prevention.

Fifteen circulatory system diseases Cardiovascular system with diseases
The cardiovascular system is composed of the heart and blood vessels.

Diseases that can affect the circulatory system include:

1. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries.

It is typically caused by a diet high in fat, which leaves fatty deposits on the lining of the blood vessels. These fatty deposits stick together and make the arteries hard and less flexible.

Atherosclerosis leads to high blood pressure, which can damage the heart and kidneys and even lead to strokes.

2. Heart attack

Myocardial infarction (MI) is the technical term for a heart attack. A heart attack can occur when the blood supply is cut off from the heart, often by a blood clot. Some heart attacks are minor, but others can be life-threatening.

3. Mitral valve prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse means the mitral valve bulges out or prolapses because it does not close evenly. The mitral valve pumps freshly oxygenated blood out of the heart to the rest of the body.

4. Mitral valve regurgitation

Mitral valve regurgitation happens when the mitral valve does not close all the way and causes a leak, allowing some of the oxygenated blood to flow backward.

5. Mitral stenosis

Mitral stenosis means the mitral valve is abnormally narrow which can prevent the blood from flowing smoothly or quickly through it.

6. Angina pectoris

Angina pectoris means "pain in the chest" and occurs if the heart is not receiving enough blood. People often describe it as a crushing sensation or feeling like their chest is in a vice.

People with angina pectoris may also feel breathless, tired, and nauseated.

7. Arrhythmia and dysrhythmia

Arrhythmia and dysrhythmia are often used interchangeably, and both refer to abnormal heart rates and rhythms. In general, arrhythmia means "no rhythm" and dysrhythmia means "abnormal rhythm."

8. Cardiac Ischemia

Man at desk at work clutching his chest because of heart pain.
Cardiac ischemia may cause similar pain to a heart attack.

Cardiac ischemia means the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen to function properly. A person with cardiac ischemia will usually experience angina-like pain and may feel as though they are having a heart attack.

9. High cholesterol

High cholesterol is usually caused by a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthful diet. Some people can also be genetically at risk of high cholesterol.

People need cholesterol, but too much cholesterol can form a thick layer on the inside of the vessels, blocking blood flow.

10. Heart failure

Heart failure means that the heart is not pumping blood around the body as efficiently as it should. It can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and coughing.

Some people with heart failure find it difficult to do things such as walking, climbing stairs, or carrying groceries.

11. High blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure or hypertension means the force or pressure of the blood flowing through the vessels is consistently too high. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, loss of vision, heart failure, heart attack, kidney disease, and reduced sexual function.

12. Stroke

A stroke can happen when one of the vessels that lead to the brain either becomes blocked by a blood clot or bursts. This stops blood flow and prevents oxygen from getting to the brain.

13. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to narrowing of the arteries that lead to the legs, stomach, arms, and head. This reduced blood flow can damage the cells and tissues in the limbs, organs, and brain. PAD tends to occur more often in older people.

14. Venous thromboembolism (VTE)

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a blood clot that gets stuck in a vein, blocking the flow of blood. It is a serious condition that needs emergency medical attention.

15. Aortic aneurysms

Aortic aneurysms affect the main artery in the body. It means the artery wall has weakened, allowing it to widen or "balloon out." An enlarged artery could burst and become a medical emergency.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Can circulatory diseases be prevented? Student pointing at anatomical model of human heart.
Various circulatory diseases are linked to one another. While scientists do not know what causes all of these diseases, there are things that individuals can do to reduce the risk of developing them. Many circulatory system diseases are linked to each other. For example, high blood pressure damages the blood vessels, which can lead to other circulatory problems. The narrowing of blood vessels caused by high cholesterol increases the likelihood of a person getting a blood clot. Being overweight or obese also increases the possibility of developing circulatory diseases. However, a healthful diet and being active can reduce the risk. Regular exercise keeps the heart healthy by reducing the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight — all of which are risk factors for circulatory diseases. People who have family members with a circulatory disease are more likely to develop one themselves. This risk, however, can be reduced with a healthful lifestyle. Does smoking increase the risk of circulatory diseases? Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing circulatory diseases. Toxic substances in tobacco can narrow and damage the blood vessels, increasing the risk of blood clots and causing poor circulation. When to see a doctor Some circulatory diseases, such as stroke, heart attacks, and burst aneurysms, are life-threatening and need emergency medical attention. Anyone who experiences heart pain is advised to make an appointment with their healthcare team. People who are concerned that they are at risk of developing a circulatory disease can ask their doctor how to make healthful lifestyle changes. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Outlook The outlook for circulatory system diseases depends on the underlying problem. Without immediate medical attention, stroke, heart attacks, and aneurysms can have devastating effects. Other diseases can be managed. For example, doctors typically treat angina pain with tablets that increase the blood flow to the heart. Eating a healthful diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking can ease many symptoms or reduce the risk of the conditions listed above.
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What do elevated cardiac enzyme levels mean?

When the heart suffers an injury, such as a heart attack, it releases certain enzymes. These enzymes are biomarkers that tell doctors when someone's heart is damaged.

Enzymes are proteins produced by the body to speed up specific chemical reactions in the body. The cardiac enzymes that doctors measure to see if a person is having a heart attack include troponin T (TnT) and troponin I (TnI).

Both troponin types are commonly checked because they are the most specific enzymes to a heart attack. Doctors may also check the levels of creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and myoglobin in some situations.

These enzymes are normally present in low quantities in the bloodstream. When these levels are elevated, it indicates that the heart muscle may be injured or may not be getting enough oxygen.

In this article, we take a look at the cardiac enzyme test and the possible causes behind elevated cardiac enzyme levels. We also look at what treatments may be required if someone has high cardiac enzyme levels.

What is a cardiac enzyme test? Doctor with clipboard explaining cardiac enzyme levels test to patient.
A cardiac enzyme test is performed after a heart attack to asses whether the heart is damaged.

A cardiac enzyme test is a blood test that measures the cardiac enzymes in the blood. A technician will insert a needle into a person's arm and draw a sample of blood. They will send the sample to a lab where it will be analyzed for cardiac enzymes.

People undergoing a cardiac enzyme test do not need to fast or undergo any special preparations. Doctors often order this test in an emergency situation when they suspect a person may be having a heart attack.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today What do elevated cardiac enzymes mean? The results of a cardiac enzyme test can indicate if someone had a heart attack. Levels of troponin are normally so low that this enzyme is undetectable in the blood. If someone's cardiac enzyme test comes back positive for troponin, they have likely had a heart attack or injury to the heart. The results of a cardiac enzyme test can also help a doctor to assess the level of damage caused by the heart attack. The more troponin found in the blood, the more damaged the heart generally is. Doctors and scientists measure troponin in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The more nanograms per milliliter found in the blood, the higher the likelihood of a heart attack. A cardiac enzyme test may come back normal if the test is performed too soon after an injury to the heart. A doctor will generally repeat a cardiac enzyme test after several hours as a result. Other causes There are a few other factors that may cause cardiac enzyme levels to be elevated. These include the following: pulmonary hypertension tachycardia, where the heart beats faster than normal pulmonary embolism, a blockage of an artery in the lungs kidney disease congestive heart failure weakening of the heart muscle injury or trauma to the heart muscle, such as from a car accident prolonged exercise swelling of the heart muscle open heart surgery cardiac stenting cardiac ablation Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Treatment Pharmacy shelf with various medications.
Medication is often prescribed following a cardiac enzyme test to prevent future heart attacks or treat heart damage. A doctor will likely order other tests in addition to a cardiac enzyme test. This is because other factors besides heart attacks can cause high cardiac enzyme levels. These tests may include the following: other blood tests electrocardiogram echocardiogram chest X-ray angiogram stress test heart CT scan If the reason for the elevated cardiac enzymes is not a heart attack, a doctor may treat whatever condition is causing the enzyme levels to be elevated. The doctor may also suggest that a person makes healthful lifestyle changes to keep the heart working as well as possible. If a doctor determines that a heart attack caused the elevated cardiac enzymes levels, the person will require treatment in the hospital with medications or surgery to restore blood flow to the heart. Doctors may also prescribe the following medications for a person who has had a heart attack: drugs that dissolve blood clots, known as thrombolytics blood thinners, such as heparin antiplatelet agents to keep blood clots from getting bigger nitroglycerin beta-blockers ACE inhibitors pain medications A doctor may recommend that a person who has just had a heart attack should have surgery in addition to treatment with medications. Doctors may suggest coronary stenting or coronary artery bypass surgery. Coronary stenting During this procedure, a doctor will guide a long thin tube through an artery to find blockages. When the doctor locates a blockage, they will use a tool on the end of the tube to open the blocked artery and insert a metal stent to keep the artery open. The person who had the heart attack is normally awake or under light sedation. People require less recovery time after this procedure than after a coronary bypass. Coronary bypass A coronary artery bypass is major surgery that may occur immediately following a heart attack, or shortly after to give the heart a chance to recover. During a coronary artery bypass, a doctor will remove a portion of the blocked artery and stitch the artery back together. Takeaway Heart attacks are a medical emergency. People who have high cardiac enzyme levels must follow all of their doctor's instructions for the best outcomes. People who receive faster treatment also generally have better outcomes than those who wait for treatment. The outlook for people varies based on what is causing the elevated enzyme levels. A doctor can advise a person on their specific outlook and the best ways to keep their heart as healthy as possible.
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Do compression stockings help to treat varicose veins?

A varicose vein is a highly visible vein located just beneath the surface of the skin. Compression stockings may help to reduce the appearance and painful symptoms associated with varicose veins in some people.

Varicose veins occur when blood collects behind the small valves in a person's veins instead of flowing smoothly back to the heart. They are more common in the legs and feet, because blood returning to the heart has farther to travel.

Doctors often recommend compression stockings to improve circulation, stop varicose veins from getting worse, and reduce pain or discomfort.

Here, we look at evidence that supports the use of these stockings, as well as associated risks. We also discuss how to choose the right size and shape.

How do compression stockings work? Compression stockings on white background for varicose veins.
Compression stockings may help to improve circulation and treat the symptoms of varicose veins.

Compression stockings are traditionally used to improve circulation. According to the authors of Sclerotherapy: Treatment of Varicose and Telangiectatic Leg Veins, Roman soldiers often wrapped their legs in leather straps to improve circulation during long marches.

Modern compression stockings are more sophisticated and designed to provide consistent pressure in the legs, helping blood to flow back toward the heart. Stockings usually exert more pressure near the ankles and feet, providing an extra squeeze that promotes blood flow.

Studies suggest that compression stockings can improve some symptoms of varicose veins, but little evidence supports the idea that stockings alone will eliminate them. Different types of stockings exert different amounts of pressure.

Some recent research into varicose veins includes:

A 2018 study, which found that wearing compression stockings with pressures of 18 to 21 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for 1 week helped to reduce aches and pain associated with varicose veins, compared to normal stockings. A 2017 study, which determined that wearing stockings of 22 mm Hg for 6 months helped to control leg swelling during pregnancy in people with varicose veins. However, the authors noted that an oral medication called pycnogenol was more effective than using stockings. A 2014 study, which concluded that surgery to remove varicose veins was a more effective treatment than compression stockings.

Overall, results are mixed. A review from 2015 found that little reliable evidence supports compression stockings as a treatment for varicose veins.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Which type of compression stocking should I use? The right amount of pressure and the right kind of stocking depends on the number, type, and underlying cause of a person's varicose veins. The three main kinds are: Support pantyhose. These exert some pressure, but are the least tight option. Compression socks and stockings. A range of pressures are available for purchase at many drugstores, pharmacies, and online stores. These provide more support than pantyhose. Prescription compression stockings. These exert the greatest amount of pressure, and are fitted by a specialist to ensure that they are effective but not so tight that they affect a person's circulation. Stockings are typically knee- or thigh-high. Knee-high stockings promote circulation in the lower leg and when exercising. A doctor may recommend thigh-high compression stockings for varicose veins, though these are more often used to prevent blood clots after surgery, particularly after knee replacement surgery. When should I wear compression stockings? People tend to wear compression stockings during the day, because sitting upright and standing are more likely to cause circulation problems. A person with varicose veins might try putting their feet up at night, to improve circulation. However, a doctor may recommend wearing stockings at night as well. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Risks of compression stockings Elderly woman holding knee in pain with varicose veins on leg.
Compression stockings may cause skin irritation if worn incorrectly or for too long. Because compression stockings are intentionally tight, they can be difficult to put on. The legs should be clean and dry. Wait for any lotion to be absorbed before putting on stockings. Using compression stockings can have side effects, including: broken skin skin irritation discomfort temporary dents in the skin Stockings that are wrinkled, worn incorrectly, or the wrong size are more likely to cause problems. When circulation is inhibited by a condition such as peripheral neuropathy, which can damage the nerves in the legs, a person may not be able to tell whether stockings are too tight or falling down. A person is more likely to experience negative effects if they wear stockings for too long. Remove stockings every day and check the legs and feet for signs of damage or irritation, using a mirror if necessary. It may help to use a long-handled mirror or a mirror placed on the ground. If new areas of irritation occur, contact a doctor. Outlook Compression stockings may not eliminate varicose veins, but they may reduce associated pain and swelling. Examine their legs daily for signs of irritation and damage, and replace compression stockings every 3 to 6 months. Keep the legs and stockings clean and dry to achieve the best results. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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Is saturated or unsaturated fat better for you?

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