Wood Street Clinic Blog

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Can a vitamin combo prolong your life?

Vitamins are nutrients that when synthesized or assimilated in the right quantities support our health and well-being. A new review suggests that a set of known and newly categorized vitamins can help prolong a person's lifespan, and promote health well into old age.
wooden spoon with supplements
A series of crucial nutrients may be 'longevity vitamins' that help fend off disease and prolong our lives.

The review, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by Dr. Bruce Ames, Senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) in Oakland, CA.

This work analyzes the results of numerous studies conducted in Dr. Ames's CHORI laboratory, as well as those carried out by researchers from other institutions.

In the published paper, Dr. Ames identifies a set of vitamins, which he calls "longevity vitamins." He contextualizes the importance of these nutrients by suggesting that people can classify the proteins (or enzymes) that they need to stay healthy as either "survival proteins" or "longevity proteins."

While all these nutrients are essential for well-being, they play different roles. The scientist explains that "survival proteins" support our basic processes for survival and reproduction, whereas "longevity proteins" play an additional role in protecting against further damage to the human body.

When nutrients are deficient, Dr. Ames says, the body tends to favor the production of "survival proteins," which can lead to a decrease in "longevity proteins," and thus to a heightened risk of disease.

"Longevity vitamins," according to the researchers, are the nutrients which support the function of "longevity proteins," and allow the human body to remain healthy, and live for an extended period.

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Over 30 vitamins sustain longevity

Dr. Ames explains that these key nutrients — which include vitamin K, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and selenium — contribute to the processes that keep the cells in our bodies healthy.

These nutrients play many roles in the body, including repairing DNA, maintaining cardiovascular health, and preventing cellular damage due to oxidative stress, the scientist argues.

"The prevention of the degenerative diseases of aging is a different science than curing disease: it will involve expertise in metabolism, nutrition, biochemistry, and genetic regulatory elements and polymorphisms," he writes.

"This approach is critical for lowering medical costs. It has been estimated that the [European Union] would save 4 billion euros [$4.6 billion] from osteoporosis alone by utilizing vitamin D and calcium supplementation," the researcher further notes.

In the current review, Dr. Ames argues that 30 known vitamins and essential minerals, taken at adequate doses, can help extend a person's lifespan and ensure healthy aging.

To these, he adds 11 compounds, which, although not currently categorized as "vitamins," Dr. Ames thinks fit in with the concept of "longevity vitamins" as described in his review.

These substances include taurine, ergothioneine, pyrroloquinoline quinone, queuine, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and astaxanthin.

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'Diet is very important'

Previous studies conducted by Dr. Ames and his team found that individuals with chronic, low-level deficiencies of vitamin K, which is a constituent of 16 different enzymes, and the mineral selenium, which is a key component of 25 enzymes, have a higher risk of experiencing health problems, particularly cardiovascular issues.

Vitamin K is crucial to blood coagulation. When levels of this vitamin are low, the body is unable to produce enough of the enzymes that help keep the arteries clear, allowing blood to flow smoothly.

Considering these observations and the findings of the review, Dr. Ames urges people to be more mindful about following a balanced, healthful diet.

"Diet is very important for our long-term health, and this theoretical framework just reinforces that you should try to do what your mother told you: eat your veggies, eat your fruit, give up sugary soft drinks and empty carbohydrates."

Dr. Bruce Ames

In the future, the researchers believe that specialists might identify even more "longevity vitamins." However, discovering these nutrients requires long periods of observation because their absence from the system does not necessarily cause immediate, visible effects.

Instead, the impact of "longevity vitamin" deficiencies causes disruptions in a person's system over time.

For now, as Dr. Ames notes: "[The current review] may be a theoretical paper, but I hope it can add a few years to everyone's lives."

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Heart surgery: Does it impact cognitive ability?

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that, following open heart surgery, a person's cognitive ability might be reduced — at least in the short-term.
Surgical tools
A new analysis investigates the impact of heart surgery on cognitive performance.

Almost 8 million people in the United States undergo cardiovascular surgery or other related procedures each year.

Thanks to the steady improvements made by medical science, the procedures are becoming ever safer and can give people a new lease of life.

Aware of improvements in physical health due to cardiovascular surgery, scientists know less about the cognitive impact of open heart surgery.

A recent study set out to understand precisely how heart surgery might influence the mind. In particular, the researchers were interested in heart valve surgery.

Previous studies have looked at cognitive decline following some types of heart operation, but scientists know little about the impact on this particular group of surgical patients.

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Valve surgery and the mind

Each year in the U.S., around 150,000 heart valve surgeries take place. In most cases, surgeons operate to treat aortic stenosis. This is a condition where the aortic valve becomes narrowed, partially blocking blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body.

Generally, aortic stenosis occurs in people aged 65 or older. Because of the aging population, the number of cases of aortic stenosis is predicted to increase significantly over the coming decades.

As people age, their cognitive ability tends to decline, so understanding how heart surgery might further impact cognitive ability is crucial.

To investigate, the researchers pooled data from 12 existing studies. They assessed the cognitive performance of all the participants before and after surgery. In this analysis, the scientists also compared the effects of two types of valve surgery — aortic and mitral. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The authors found that in the first month after surgery, there was a decline in cognitive ability. However, they also showed that by 6 months post-surgery, a person's thinking abilities had almost returned to normal.

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In fact, some of the studies analyzed for the review suggested that cognitive ability was slightly improved 6 months after surgery, compared with before surgery.

The analysis also showed that the patients' cognitive performance responded differently depending on the type of surgery they had. Those who had surgery on the aortic valve saw more significant cognitive deficits in the first month following surgery, while those who had mitral valve surgery experienced a less significant cognitive decline.

Over the following 6 months, however, the difference in deficits steadily disappeared as the cognitive abilities of those who underwent aortic valve procedures caught up.

However, this difference might not have been due to the procedures themselves. It is possible that the differences were due to age — individuals who underwent aortic valve procedures were, on average, 9 years older than those who had mitral valve procedures.

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More questions than answers

Overall, the researchers conclude that individuals who undergo heart valve surgery are likely to have reduced cognitive ability for the first few months after the procedure.

Although mental ability is likely to return to normal within 6 months, this is a matter for further research. The authors of the study note this as one of the study's shortfalls — they did not investigate cognitive performance past the 6-month point.

The authors also note that, for some of the studies they analyzed, it was not clear whether the participants had undergone previous surgery, or whether this was the first event.

Also, the researchers did not know about some other factors that might have influenced cognitive changes, such as level of education, social support, depression, blood pressure, and the severity of cardiovascular disease a person had.

The authors hope that their findings "encourage routine preoperative cognitive assessment to establish cognitive baseline and postoperative assessment to monitor trajectory."

According to the authors, it would be useful if future studies focused on the specific factors that made valve surgery patients more susceptible to cognitive decline. This could guide clinicians as they help patients and their families through the recovery process.

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Can you take too much magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral. However, having too much magnesium in the blood can be dangerous. The medical term for this is hypermagnesemia, and a magnesium overdose is one possible cause.

The body needs magnesium for more than 300 biochemical processes.

Magnesium blood levels of 1.7–2.3 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) are within the normal range, while levels above 2.6 mg/dl can indicate hypermagnesemia.

Having too much magnesium in the blood is uncommon. It is more likely to occur in people with existing health conditions, such as kidney failure.

Excessive dosage of supplements or medications can also cause hypermagnesemia.

In this article, we discuss the risk factors and symptoms of a magnesium overdose. We also describe why it is important to get enough magnesium from the diet and supplements.

Symptoms of a magnesium overdose magnesium overdose supplements
Excessive dosage of magnesium supplements can cause hypermagnesemia.

If the body has absorbed too much magnesium, a person may notice any of the following symptoms, which can range from mild to very severe:

lethargy facial flushing diarrhea nausea stomach cramps vomiting depression muscle weakness an irregular heartbeat low blood pressure urine retention breathing difficulties cardiac arrest How likely is a magnesium overdose? Severe overdoses of magnesium are rare in otherwise healthy people. Getting too much magnesium from the diet is not typically a cause for concern. Occasionally, a high dosage of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause mild symptoms of an overdose, including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. The following forms of magnesium are most likely to cause these symptoms: magnesium carbonate magnesium chloride magnesium gluconate magnesium oxide Rarely, a very high dosage of a supplement or medication provides more than 5,000 mg of magnesium per day. This can cause magnesium toxicity. The medicines involved are typically laxatives or antacids. The kidneys clear excess magnesium from the body, and people with renal problems or kidney failure are more likely to absorb too much magnesium. Doctors usually advise people with this risk to avoid supplements and medications that contain magnesium. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Risk factors magnesium overdose kidney disease
Kidney disease can increase the risk of a magnesium overdose. The risk factors for a magnesium overdose include: having kidney disease having other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, or gastrointestinal disorders taking too many supplements or medications that contain magnesium The first treatment for hypermagnesemia is to stop consuming magnesium in supplements or medications. Other treatments include: intravenous fluids diuretics dialysis If hypermagnesemia is severe, treatment may also involve intravenous calcium. Medications that contain magnesium Laxatives, in particular, often contain high levels of magnesium, due to its natural laxative effects. Although these medications provide more than the recommended amount of magnesium, the body usually does not absorb it all. For example, 1 tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia contains 500 mg of elemental magnesium. A daily dose for adults is up to 4 tablespoons per day, but the body excretes much of the magnesium because of the medication's laxative effects. Some migraine medications also contain magnesium, as do some drugs for indigestion and heartburn. Only take a medication that contains magnesium with medical supervision. Why we need magnesium The body requires magnesium to stay healthy. It is essential for over 300 processes, including: muscle function nerve function protein synthesis bone formation DNA synthesis energy production heart health maintaining blood sugar levels maintaining blood pressure Some studies suggest that magnesium may help treat or prevent: However, confirming the effects of magnesium on these conditions will require more research. Magnesium deficiency, or hypomagnesemia, is much more common than hypermagnesemia, especially in otherwise healthy individuals. Some research indicates that 10–30 percent of people have low levels of magnesium. The Office of Dietary Supplements at the American National Institutes of Health recommend the following daily allowances of magnesium: 400–420 mg for adult males 310–320 mg for adult females 350–360 mg during pregnancy Risk factors for magnesium deficiency include: Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and other gastrointestinal diseases type 2 diabetes alcohol use disorder advanced age certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors and diuretics being an adolescent female — on average, this group may receive less magnesium from the diet Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Sources of magnesium People can meet their magnesium needs through the diet and dietary supplements: Foods black beans magnesium overdose
Black beans are a source of magnesium. Magnesium is present in many foods, including: legumes, such as black beans and kidney beans nuts, including almonds, cashews, peanuts, and peanut butter whole grains, such as brown rice and oats potatoes, when a person eats the skin leafy green vegetables, such as spinach fortified breakfast cereals soy products, including soymilk and edamame dairy products, such as milk and yogurt There is no need to limit the amount of magnesium in the diet if the body can excrete it through the kidneys. Supplements People can take supplements to meet their magnesium requirements. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, most people in the United States do not get enough magnesium from their diets alone. However, by taking supplements, most people get more magnesium than necessary. To avoid an overdose, do not take more than 350 mg of magnesium a day. Topical magnesium sources Some believe that the body can absorb magnesium particularly well through the skin, in a process called transdermal absorption. For this reason, a person may try meeting their requirements by using Epsom salts or topical magnesium oils. However, little if any scientific research currently supports the idea. Takeaway Magnesium is essential for well-being, but too much can cause problems, including digestive issues, lethargy, and an irregular heartbeat. In rare cases, a magnesium overdose can be fatal. Magnesium toxicity is rare in otherwise healthy people, and levels are more likely to be low than high. People with conditions affecting the kidneys are among those at risk of absorbing too much magnesium. The risk of death is highest in older adults with renal failure. A person is unlikely to overdose from magnesium in the diet, but supplements and medications can provide too much magnesium. Early diagnosis of a magnesium overdose is important. Treatment is usually effective if a doctor detects the overdose in an early stage.
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What tests are used to diagnose COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is the medical name for a group of long-term lung conditions. Doctors use a number of tests to diagnose people with COPD.

Symptoms of COPD, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and fatigue, can be similar to the signs of other lung conditions.

COPD often gets progressively worse over time. Getting an accurate and early diagnosis allows doctors to develop an effective treatment plan that can help slow the progression of a person's disease.

Doctors begin diagnosing COPD by carrying out a physical exam and reviewing a person's medical history. They will usually then order one or more tests to help them confirm a diagnosis.

Common tests doctors use to diagnose people with COPD include:

Pulmonary function tests copd tests spirometry
Spirometry is a type of pulmonary function test and helps determine how well a person's lungs are functioning.

Doctors consider pulmonary function tests to be one of the best diagnostic tools for diagnosing COPD. Spirometry is one of the main pulmonary function tests.

Spirometry helps determine how well a person's lungs are functioning. The test measures the amount of air they can breathe in, and how much and how fast they can expel the air back out of their lungs.

Spirometry can also help a doctor determine if a person has a restrictive or obstructive lung disease.

People with restrictive lung disease have difficulty completely expanding their lungs when they inhale.

Individuals with obstructive lung disease, such as COPD, have trouble getting air completely out of their lungs when they exhale.

For the spirometry test:

The person wears a clip on their nose to prevent breathing in or out through this. The individual puts their lips around a tube-like device that is attached to the spirometry machine. When ready, the technician will instruct the person to take a deep breath and then exhale, as quickly and forcefully as possible, until their lungs are empty. Usually, a person repeats this process three times, and the technician records the highest value of the test for the final results.

Sometimes, the doctor or technician will ask the person to inhale a bronchodilator before doing the test again.

A bronchodilator is a medication that relaxes the muscles of the airways and opens them up. This allows the doctor to determine if the bronchodilator affects how much air a person can get in and out of their lungs.

Although spirometry is the most common pulmonary function test, a doctor may recommend other types, such as lung diffusion capacity or body plethysmography.

What do the results mean?

The amount of air a person exhales is called the forced vital capacity (FVC). The percentage of air they exhale during the first second is called the forced expiratory volume (FEV1).

Doctors base the diagnosis of COPD on the ratio between FEV1 and FVC. They compare FEV1 and FVC measurements with a predicted value that they base on a person's age, height, and weight.

An FEV1 and FVC ratio of less than 70 percent of the predicted value indicates that a person may have COPD.

Doctors can also use the FEV1 measurement to help determine the severity of COPD. According to a 2017 report from the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, classification of COPD based on FEV1 is as follows:

FEV1 above 80 percent is mild FEV1 of 50 to 79 percent is moderate FEV1 of 30 to 49 percent is severe FEV1 of 29 percent or less is very severe Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Arterial blood gas copd tests blood
An arterial blood gas test allows doctors to measure oxygen levels in the blood. An arterial blood gas test is a blood test that doctors use to measure: oxygen levels in the blood carbon dioxide levels in the blood pH, or the acidity, of the blood bicarbonate levels in the blood During this test, a healthcare professional will draw a small sample of blood from the person's artery. Typically, this will be the radial artery, which is on the inside of the wrist. The doctor or nurse will then use a machine to analyze the blood sample. What do the results mean? The results of a blood gas test let the doctor know how efficiently a person is getting oxygen into their lungs and carbon dioxide out. People with COPD often have problems getting all the air out of their lungs due to damage to the air sacs. When air becomes trapped, carbon dioxide levels can rise. Lung damage can also impact oxygen levels, which may be lower than normal in someone with COPD. Different levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood can also affect pH and bicarbonate levels. A doctor will not make a diagnosis of COPD based on arterial blood gas alone, but the results can be helpful in reaching a diagnosis. Alpha-1 antitrypsin (ATT) deficiency screening The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. Rarely, COPD can develop as a result of AAT deficiency, which is due to a faulty gene that can run in families. The liver makes AAT, which is a protein that helps protect the lungs and other organs from damage. People with AAT deficiency lack this protein, which increases their risk of developing COPD and liver disease. AAT deficiency can also cause COPD to develop at an earlier age than usual. Doctors can determine if a person has AAT deficiency by taking a blood sample to measure the amount AAT in the blood. What do the results mean? Low levels of AAT in the blood indicate that an individual may have AAT deficiency. Usually, the lower the AAT levels in the blood, the higher the risk of developing COPD. Doctors can use AAT deficiency screening to help them confirm a diagnosis of COPD when there is no obvious cause. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Imaging tests Doctors sometimes also use imaging tests, such as a CT scan or chest X-ray, to help diagnose COPD. These tests create an image of the inside of the lungs and chest. Often, a CT scan can provide a greater level of detail than an X-ray. What do the results mean? Imaging tests cannot aid a doctor in determining the severity of a person's COPD. However, they can help confirm a diagnosis or rule out whether another condition is causing the symptoms. As an example of this, these imaging tests allow a doctor to see if the lungs appear hyperinflated or if the diaphragm is flat, both of which are signs of COPD. Differential diagnosis copd tests struggle breathing
Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COPD. A differential diagnosis is important when confirming COPD. Symptoms of COPD can be variable but typically include: wheezing shortness of breath coughing increased mucus fatigue chest pain Many of the symptoms are also present in other lung and heart diseases, including: Making a diagnosis of COPD is sometimes a process of elimination. Doctors need to consider other conditions with similar symptoms and rule them out. To complicate matters further, a person can have COPD along with another condition, making diagnosis more difficult. Identifying other conditions is also essential for developing the best treatment plan. Takeaway Along with carrying out a physical examination and checking a person's medical history, doctors use several tests to diagnose people with COPD. These tests may include pulmonary functions tests, blood tests, and imaging tests. A doctor will typically order more than one test to help them reach a correct diagnosis. Because COPD is a progressive condition with symptoms that can be similar to other illnesses, getting an accurate diagnosis is vital. Early detection and treatment can help slow the progression of COPD and significantly improve a person's quality of life.
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Can COPD cause anxiety?

Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) also experience anxiety. The symptoms of COPD may indicate danger to the brain, which can react by causing anxiety or possibly triggering a panic attack.

A 2016 study concluded that people with COPD have a significantly higher likelihood of anxiety. However, it can be difficult for doctors to accurately diagnose anxiety in a person with COPD, as the symptoms of the two conditions can overlap.

In this article, we look at the link between COPD and anxiety in more detail. We also cover some treatments that may help manage the symptoms of both conditions.

The link between COPD and anxiety Copd and anxiety
People with COPD may struggle for breath, which can lead to a panic attack.

People with COPD often struggle for breath.

The brain reacts to this by sending signals of distress.

These distress signals may trigger anxiety, which can lead to a panic attack in some people.

Panic attacks and anxiety can also cause a person to have difficulty breathing or to change their normal breathing patterns.

Due to this overlap of symptoms, a person with COPD often becomes trapped in a cycle in which the breathing difficulties of COPD trigger anxiety, which makes it even more difficult to breathe.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today How to tell if COPD is causing panic attacks People with COPD are often aware of the symptoms of a panic attack, as it is normal for the brain to send stress signals out during an episode of breathlessness. Panic attacks can be dangerous for people with COPD because they can exacerbate breathing difficulties and make it even more challenging to get air from each breath, leading to worsening symptoms. There are many ways to identify a panic attack. A panic attack may: be sudden and intense come on without warning cause an irrational level of fear Specific events, such as breathlessness, may trigger panic attacks, but an attack may sometimes come on with no apparent trigger. Panic attacks cause symptoms that include: difficulty breathing rapid heartbeat tightness in the chest shaking cold sweats sudden changes in body temperature, such as hot flashes or chills dizziness feelings of dread or a sense of impending doom Panic attacks generally only last for a few minutes, but they can affect some people for longer. In some people, they may occur regularly. COPD and depression COPD may link to depression and anxiety in a similar way. A 2014 study noted that the relationship between COPD and depression seems to flow both ways. COPD may cause depression, and depression may worsen COPD by increasing a person's anxiety, which can adversely affect their breathing ability. The study notes that psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may work for both COPD and depression, but the extent of treatment necessary to see results is unclear. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Coping strategies for anxiety and COPD A comprehensive COPD treatment strategy will ensure that people know how to deal with symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Treatment strategies often involve therapies or techniques to help relax the body and calm the mind, including: Breathing exercises Copd and anxiety breathing issues
Practicing diaphragm breathing while lying down can improve breathing efficiency. A person may feel as though they are suffocating during a panic attack. Practicing diaphragm breathing can encourage people to breathe more efficiently and help them regain control of their breath. People can practice diaphragm breathing by: Sitting with the shoulders relaxed or lying down on the back, making sure not to hunch over or block the chest or abdomen. Inhaling slowly through the nose and paying attention to the abdomen as it expands outward with a full, deep breath. Exhaling slowly while pursing the lips. The breath should not cause the chest to expand too much. It is important to focus on breathing using the diaphragm and feeling the abdomen rise and fall with each breath. Placing one hand on the abdomen can help a person physically feel this motion as it happens. CBT CBT may help train the brain to respond to panic triggers more positively. CBT is the process of talking through these triggers with a therapist and learning how to respond to them differently to change the brain's focus from panic to relaxation. Doing this can help people change how they think or feel about a situation that is out of their control, hopefully reducing the number of panic attacks that occur. Pulmonary rehabilitation Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) techniques, such as exercises, educational information, and energy-saving advice, can help people maintain a higher quality of life and keep their lungs functioning as well as possible. PR is useful for people with COPD and anxiety because it helps the body deal with the physical symptoms of COPD. This may make psychological triggers less likely to occur or more straightforward to manage. Meditation Meditation may be beneficial for people who have COPD and anxiety. Adopting the practices below may help people feel less stressed or anxious in their daily life: guided meditation yoga chanting, often using a calming word or phrase Meditation may not be enough to treat the underlying issue, but it can supplement other treatment options. Medication Standard medications for anxiety include alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium). These drugs often help people manage anxiety symptoms in the short-term, but they may not be suitable for people with COPD. Some anxiety medications may interact with COPD medications, and the possible side effects may interfere with how a person breathes. However, medication may help people control their panic attacks safely. People should talk to their doctor to determine whether or not medication is suitable for them. Takeaway COPD commonly causes stress and anxiety. Other issues, such as panic attacks or depression, can make the symptoms of both conditions worse, but people can use a range of methods to help manage them. It is important to note that certain techniques, such as meditation and breathing, require regular practice. Using these techniques consistently may help people prepare for and deal with a panic attack or other anxiety symptoms. Anyone having trouble managing their symptoms should speak to a doctor about possible treatments.
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Could it be possible to eliminate clogged arteries?

A new clinical trial to study a potential way of reducing the risk of early-onset atherosclerosis may be on the way.
Atherosclerosis clogged artery
Atherosclerosis can lead to a range of cardiovascular problems.

After evaluating previous research, a report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association concludes that a clinical trial might pave the way for a new treatment to help reduce the early onset of atherosclerosis.

According to lead author Dr. Jennifer G. Robinson, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Prevention Intervention Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the key may be targeting B lipoproteins in young and middle-aged adults.

These blood proteins (also called apolipoprotein B) include low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or the "bad," cholesterol. Scientists think that LDL and other B lipoproteins are among the leading causes of atherosclerosis.

Preventing atherosclerosis

"Lowering them may have a big impact on making atherosclerosis go away," says Dr. Robinson. "If this works, you could completely eliminate heart attacks and strokes within a generation, because you can't have a heart attack or stroke unless you have atherosclerosis."

The potential study aims to determine whether it is possible to reverse atherosclerosis in high-risk adults aged 25–55 using medications known as statins and PCSK9 inhibitors over a 3-year period. Both statins and PCSK9 inhibitors work to lower LDL cholesterol in the blood.

"The idea is to get the cholesterol very low for a short period of time, let all the early cholesterol buildup dissolve, and let the arteries heal," says Dr. Robinson, confirming that this method has been successful in animal studies. "Then patients might need to be re-treated every decade or two if the atherosclerosis begins to develop again."

"Once you know what causes something, you can come up with a hammer for it and eliminate it. We're not the first ones to think of this idea. This would be the culminating study of decades of research by thousands of people."

Dr. Jennifer G. Robinson

Dr. Robinson continues, "But I'm excited about this, and I think it's really time to pursue this hypothesis."

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How atherosclerosis affects your health

Atherosclerosis, wherein plaque builds up in the arteries, can prevent oxygen-rich blood from traveling through the blood vessels to supply the rest of the body.

Plaque is made up of different substances in the blood, such as fat, cholesterol, and calcium. Over time, this plaque begins to harden, and when it does, it narrows the arteries.

This means that a person does not get as much oxygen-rich blood as they need, which can have serious consequences, including heart attacks and strokes. It can also lead to death.

There are some risk factors for atherosclerosis that people can try to control themselves, including unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL and low levels of high-density lipoprotein, or "good," cholesterol are among the leading causes of the disease.

Other risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, insulin resistance, diabetes, being overweight, and a lack of physical activity. An unhealthful diet can also be a factor, particularly for people who eat a lot of foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

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Potential study limitations

A new way to combat early-onset atherosclerosis would be welcome, especially as heart disease is so widespread and a leading cause of death for people in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that about 1 in 4 deaths are a result of heart disease.

However, Dr. John Wilkins, a cardiologist and assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL — who has conducted studies on B lipoproteins but was not involved in this study — thinks that it might be difficult to convince healthy adults to take medications to keep atherosclerosis at bay.

He also notes that this type of clinical trial may be hard to do as it would involve tracking people for 20 or 30 years, which could prove difficult.

Overall, the study is promising, and as Dr. Robinson says, it could lead to big changes in how doctors and their patients fight heart disease in the future. Reducing or eliminating atherosclerosis in people is an excellent goal, and while a clinical trial has not started yet, it is definitely a good place to start.

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What are the health effects of chronic stress?

Short-lived feelings of stress are a regular part of daily life. When these feelings become chronic, or long-lasting, they can severely impact a person's health.

In this article, we look at what chronic stress is, how to identify it, and the medical consequences it can have. We also describe ways to manage stress, including medical treatments, and when to see a doctor.

What is chronic stress? Man suffering from chronic stress at work
Signs of chronic stress can include headaches, fatigue, and low self-esteem.

Stress is a biological response to demanding situations. It causes the body to release hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.

These hormones help prepare the body to take action, for example by increasing the heart and breath rates. When this occurs, a doctor might describe a person as being in a state of heightened alertness or arousal.

Many factors can trigger a stress response, including dangerous situations and psychological pressures, such as work deadlines, exams, and sporting events.

The physical effects of stress usually do not last long. However, some people find themselves in a nearly constant state of heightened alertness. This is chronic stress.

Some potential causes of chronic stress include:

high-pressure jobs financial difficulties challenging relationships

Chronic stress puts pressure on the body for an extended period. This can cause a range of symptoms and increase the risk of developing certain illnesses.

Signs and symptoms Chronic stress affects the whole body. It can have several physical or psychological symptoms, which can make functioning on a daily basis more challenging. The type and severity of symptoms vary considerably from person to person. Signs and symptoms of chronic stress can include: irritability, which can be extreme fatigue headaches difficulty concentrating, or an inability to do so rapid, disorganized thoughts difficulty sleeping digestive problems changes in appetite feeling helpless a perceived loss of control low self-esteem loss of sexual desire nervousness frequent infections or illnesses Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Health consequences Over long periods, chronic stress can contribute to the development of a range of physical and mental disorders, including: doctor measuring blood pressure
Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Managing stress Chronic stress can seem overwhelming, and a person may feel unable to regain control over their life. However, a number of strategies can help to reduce stress levels and improve well-being. Some methods for managing stress include: Understanding the signs and symptoms. These indications can vary, but if a person can recognize their own signals of stress, they will be better able to manage them. Speaking to friends and family. They can provide emotional support and the motivation to take action. Identifying triggers. It is not always possible to avoid triggers of stress. However, taking note of specific triggers can help a person to develop coping and management strategies, which may involve reducing exposure. Exercising regularly. Physical activity increases the body's production of endorphins, which are chemicals that boost the mood and reduce stress. Exercise can involve walking, cycling, running, working out, or playing sports. Trying mindfulness. People who practice this form of meditation use breathing and thought techniques to create an awareness of their body and surroundings. Research suggests that mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, and depression. Improving sleep quality. Getting too little sleep or sleep of poor quality can contribute to stress. Try to get at least 7 hours every night, and set regular times for going to sleep and waking up. Avoid caffeine, eating, and intense physical activity in the hours before bed. It can also help to unwind before sleeping, by listening to music, reading a book, taking a warm bath, or meditating, for example. Treatment If strategies such as those listed above are not helping, it is important to see a healthcare professional for advice and support. A doctor may recommend psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). One established aim of CBT is to help people deal with chronic stress. In structured sessions, a therapist works to enable a person to modify their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings concerning stressors. CBT can also help a person develop tools and coping mechanisms to manage stress responses. Sometimes, a doctor recommends medications to help treat some symptoms of chronic stress. For example, they may prescribe antidepressants to treat anxiety or depression. For people with trouble sleeping, doctors may prescribe sedatives. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today When to see a doctor Do not try to deal with chronic stress alone. If self-help strategies are not working, a doctor can provide support and advice about treatment options. They can also refer a person to a more specialized healthcare provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Anyone feeling overwhelmed by stress should see a doctor as soon as possible, especially if they are having suicidal thoughts or using drugs or alcohol to cope. Takeaway Stress is a regular part of daily life. Short-lived stress is generally harmless, but when it lasts and becomes chronic, it can cause a range of symptoms. It can also contribute to the development of physical and mental disorders. Self-help techniques include identifying triggers, developing coping and avoidance strategies, reaching out to friends and family, and practicing mindfulness. If these techniques are not working, or if stress is becoming overwhelming, a person should speak to a healthcare professional.
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Seed oils are better for cholesterol than olive oil

An analysis of data from dozens of studies reveals that replacing saturated fat in the diet with unsaturated fat reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. In addition, of the unsaturated fats, seed oils such as sunflower have the strongest effect.
Sunflower
Is olive oil or seed oil, such as sunflower, more healthful?

Dr. Lukas Schwingshackl — from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke — led the new study.

This study was the first to carry out an analysis that allows the impact of several oils and solid fats on blood lipids to be assessed in a single model.

Many have compared the effect of replacing a food rich in saturated fat, such as butter or lard, with one rich in unsaturated fat, such as plant-based olive oil and sunflower. However, the evidence makes it difficult to find out which of the many plant-derived oils have the greatest benefit.

To this end, Dr. Schwingshackl and team used a statistical technique called network meta-analysis, which is gaining ground in health research as a way to glean evidence from enormous amounts of data through the use of "direct and indirect comparisons."

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Network meta-analysis

Investigators use network meta-analysis to find answers that could otherwise only be addressed in "giant studies" that compare the effect of many different interventions on a single result.

"The beauty of this method," Dr. Schwingshackl explains, "is that you can compare a lot of different interventions simultaneously."

The end result, he adds, is that "you can say" which of the oils is best for the "specific outcome."

The method, for instance, allows a comparison of butter with sunflower oil to be inferred indirectly by analyzing the results of two trials: one that tested butter against olive oil directly, and another that tested sunflower against olive oil directly.

The new findings feature in a paper that is now published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

A modifiable cardiovascular risk factor

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease and stroke are the biggest killers worldwide and have been so for 15 years. In 2016, 15.2 million people died because of these cardiovascular diseases.

In their study background, the investigators explain that dyslipidemia, or abnormal blood levels of lipids such as cholesterol, is a major cardiovascular risk factor that people can modify.

"It is well-established," they point out, that replacing saturated fatty acids with either mono- or polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad kind," which is a "strong risk factor" for cardiovascular disease.

For their network meta-analysis, they searched databases going back to 1980 for studies that had compared the effect of different types of dietary fats on blood lipids.

The researchers found 55 studies that matched their criteria for inclusion. These had assessed the impact on blood levels of various lipids of consuming the "same amount of calories" from two or more types of solid fats or oils over a minimum of 3 weeks.

Their analysis compared the effect of 13 oils and solid fats: safflower oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, hempseed oil, corn oil, coconut oil, palm oil, soybean oil, butter, beef fat, and lard.

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Seed oils were the 'best performers'

Dr. Schwingshackl reports that the "best performers" were safflower oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and flaxseed oil. In contrast, "solid fats like butter and lard are the worst choice for LDL," he adds.

He and his colleagues point out that their approach has limitations, and that these should be borne in mind when interpreting the results. For one, they focused on lipid levels and not disease outcomes.

"This is not a hard clinical outcome," Dr. Schwingshackl goes on to warn. "LDL is a causal risk factor for coronary heart disease, but it's not coronary heart disease."

In addition, the authors feel that the method was not robust enough to pick a "winner" from the list of seed oils.

The fact that the oils that showed greatest benefit on LDL cholesterol levels were not necessarily the ones that showed a similar impact on other types of lipid, such as HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, also complicated matters.

Nevertheless, as it would be almost impossible to carry out a trial in which people are required to consume just one type of dietary fat for several years, such methods offer the next best thing.

"Some people from Mediterranean countries probably are not so happy with this result, because they would prefer to see olive oil at the top. But this is not the case."

Dr. Lukas Schwingshackl

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Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of dementia

New evidence suggests that atrial fibrillation, in which the heart has an irregular beat, is linked to an increased risk of dementia. This knowledge, however, also indicates a potential preventive strategy, researchers show.
person holding heart figurine
An irregular heartbeat speeds up the rate at which cognitive function deteriorates, but there may be an easy way to address this.

In a new study paper published yesterday in the journal Neurology, researchers at the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University, which are in Sweden, explain that atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is linked with an increased risk of developing dementia.

In A-fib, the heart's atria — or the chambers that receive blood and then send it to the ventricles, which pump it out to the rest of the body — beat irregularly.

Because of this, blood can pool inside the heart and form clots, which may later circulate to the brain, leading to a stroke.

The new study has found that A-fib also increases the risk of another health problem as people age — namely, dementia. However, this warning also comes with an encouraging solution, the authors explain.

"Compromised blood flow caused by atrial fibrillation may affect the brain in a number of ways," as study co-author Chengxuan Qiu explains.

"We know [that] as people age, the chance of developing atrial fibrillation increases, as does the chance of developing dementia," Qiu says, adding:

"Our research showed a clear link between the two and found that taking blood thinners may actually decrease the risk of dementia."

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A-fib is linked with faster cognitive decline

In the new study, the investigators analyzed data collected from 2,685 participants with an average age of 73. All of these participants were followed for an average period of 6 years.

The team interviewed each person and administered a medical exam at baseline and then again after 6 years for participants younger than 78, or once every 3 years in the case of participants older than 78 at the beginning of the study.

None of these volunteers had dementia at baseline, though 9 percent of all the participants (243 individuals) had been diagnosed with A-fib.

Over the follow-up period, 11 percent of the total number of participants (279 individuals) developed A-fib, and 15 percent of the cohort (399 individuals) received a diagnosis of dementia.

After analyzing the data, the researchers revealed that the cognitive function — including thinking capacity and memory — of participants with A-fib tended to deteriorate more rapidly than in the case of people with healthy cardiovascular systems.

Also, people with A-fib had a 40 percent higher chance of developing dementia when compared with their healthy peers.

Of the 2,163 participants without A-fib, 10 percent (278 individuals) were diagnosed with dementia throughout the course of the study.

As for the 522 people with A-fib, 23 percent (121 individuals) developed dementia.

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Blood thinners may counteract risk

However, the team also saw that participants with A-fib who took blood thinners to prevent blood clots actually had a 60 percent lower risk of developing dementia, compared with those who did not take this medication.

Of the 342 people who did not take blood thinners, 22 percent (76 people) developed dementia, while among the 128 participants who did take blood thinners, only 11 percent (14 people) developed the neurodegenerative condition.

At the same time, the researchers also note that participants who took antiplatelet drugs — which prevent clots from forming in the arteries — did not have a lower risk of dementia.

"Assuming that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between using blood thinners and the reduced risk of dementia," explains Qui, "we estimated that about 54 percent of the dementia cases would have been hypothetically prevented if all of the people with atrial fibrillation had been taking blood thinners."

"Additional efforts should be made to increase the use of blood thinners among older people with atrial fibrillation," the researcher advises.

The investigators nevertheless admit that their study faced some limitations, such as the fact that it did not distinguish among different subtypes of A-fib, or that certain participants with A-fib may not have been diagnosed accordingly due to lack of symptoms.

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Newly discovered molecule could treat heart failure

In heart failure, the heart is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body. One key factor in the development of this condition is calcium dysregulation. A newly discovered molecule that may be able to address this issue could become the next therapeutic target for this heart condition.
heart concept illustration
Will a newly discovered molecule become the next therapeutic target for heart failure?

The heart can contract, relax, and pump blood through the veins effectively, partly due to a process called "calcium cycling." This process allows calcium to circulate in and out of cells.

This cycle is sometimes impaired by a person's age, which can also affect the rate or potency with which the heart muscle pumps out blood.

Calcium dysregulation may therefore lead to the development of heart failure.

So far, researchers have focused on developing therapies targeting a molecule known as SERCA, whose role is to transport calcium ions, ensuring the relaxation of the heart muscle.

In heart failure, SERCA does not function properly, which has led some scientists to look into the possibilities of developing a gene therapy that would increase SERCA expression.

Now, however, specialists from the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, and from Loyola University Chicago in Illinois, have discovered a micropeptide, which they named "dwarf open reading frame" (DWORF). The scientists believe that DWORF could pave the way to better treatments for heart failure.

"Our lab recently discovered a micropeptide called [DWORF], which binds directly to SERCA and enhances its activity," explains the lead author of this new study, Catherine Makarewich.

"In this study, we explored the therapeutic potential of high levels of DWORF, as a way to increase SERCA activity and improve heart contractility in heart failure."

Catherine Makarewich

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DWORF's impact on heart function

Makarewich and team first found that DWORF displaces a molecule called phospholamban (PLN), which inhibits SERCA activity.

This suggested that scientists might be able to use DWORF to help boost SERCA activity, thus allowing the heart to regain its ability to contract and relax effectively.

In the current study, whose findings appear in the journal eLife, the researchers worked with mice that they genetically engineered to express higher levels of DWORF, higher levels of PLN, or higher levels of both DWORF and PLN in the heart.

By comparing genetically engineered rodents with normal ones, the scientists noticed that the mice with higher DWORF levels had better calcium cycling than regular mice.

At the same time, the mice engineered to express higher PLN levels had poorer calcium cycling compared with the controls. Finally, in the mice with high levels of both molecules, DWORF prevented the impact of PLN.

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'An attractive candidate' for new therapies

In order to consolidate these findings, the researchers also assessed the effects of DWORF in a mouse model of dilated cardiomyopathy, in which the heart becomes enlarged and unable to pump blood efficiently.

Regular mice with dilated cardiomyopathy had poor function of the left heart ventricle, the part of the heart that pumps oxygenated blood towards the body.

Mice with dilated cardiomyopathy that were also engineered to have higher levels of DWORF, however, showed better function of the left heart ventricle.

Conversely, rodents with the same heart problem but with no DWORF at all displayed even poorer left ventricle function than the controls.

Makarewich and team also noted that mice with high DWORF levels did not show some of the usual physiological signs of cardiomyopathy, such as enlarged heart chambers, thinning of the chamber walls, and a higher volume of heart muscle cells.

Also, the mice with high DWORF levels did not develop a buildup of scar tissue in the heart, which is another characteristic of cardiomyopathy.

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"Previous attempts to restore SERCA to protect against heart failure have been unsuccessful because they have focused on increasing levels of SERCA itself," notes the study's senior author, Eric Olson.

Based on the current findings, however, he thinks the team may have identified a more viable therapeutic target in DWORF.

"We believe that increasing levels of DWORF instead may be more feasible and that the small size of the DWORF molecule could make it an attractive candidate for a gene therapy drug for heart failure," Olson adds.

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Why are my feet swollen?

A person might experience swollen feet for a number of reasons. Some causes, such as minor injury, are apparent and easy to treat. Others, however, may be signs of a serious underlying health condition that needs prompt medical attention.

Here, we take a look at some of the reasons why a person's feet may appear swollen, when they should talk to a doctor, and what the treatment might involve.

1. Edema Swollen foot
Edema refers to swelling that results from trapped fluid.

Edema is the medical term for swelling that occurs when fluid becomes trapped in the body's tissues. It usually affects the legs and feet but can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the face or abdomen.

Other signs of edema include:

shiny, stretched skin over the affected area skin that stays dimpled after pressing it discomfort and reduced mobility coughing or difficulty breathing, if it affects the lungs

Treatment

Edema may go away by itself, or there may be an underlying cause that needs medical treatment.

Home remedies include wearing support stockings, reducing salt intake, and lying down while raising the legs above the chest.

If the swelling does not improve, a person should talk to their doctor to check for any underlying causes.

2. Foot or ankle injury Trauma to the foot or ankle can cause swelling in this area of the body. For example, a sprained ankle, which occurs when the ligaments become overstretched, could cause the foot to swell. Treatment To treat a foot or ankle injury, a person should elevate the foot when possible and try not to bear weight on the affected leg. Using an ice pack or compression bandage can help reduce swelling, and over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease discomfort. If the swelling and pain do not go away, a person might need to see their doctor to rule out more severe damage. 3. Pregnancy A common symptom of late pregnancy is for the feet and ankles to swell. This swelling is due to fluid retention and increased pressure on the veins. Home remedies To treat swollen feet during pregnancy, women can elevate their feet where possible, wear comfortable and supportive footwear, and avoid standing for extended periods. Staying cool, avoiding salt, and increasing water intake can help reduce fluid retention. Wearing supportive clothing, such as tights or compression stockings, should also reduce discomfort and help the swelling decrease. 4. Preeclampsia If swelling during pregnancy comes on suddenly and is severe, it could be a sign of preeclampsia. This is a condition that can occur during pregnancy or immediately after the birth. Symptoms include protein in the urine, rapid excessive fluid retention, and high blood pressure. This is a severe condition that usually occurs in the latter half of pregnancy and can progress to eclampsia, which is even more dangerous and constitutes a medical emergency. Signs of preeclampsia include: severe swelling headaches dizziness nausea and vomiting vision changes less frequent urination Treatment If a pregnant woman experiences any of these symptoms, she should speak with her doctor or midwife straight away. 5. Lifestyle factors Some lifestyle factors can also lead to swollen feet. These factors include: having a sedentary lifestyle being overweight wearing ill-fitting shoes Home remedies Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of swollen feet. Other ways to alleviate swollen feet include: drinking plenty of water wearing compression socks or stockings soaking the feet in cool water raising the feet above the heart regularly staying active losing weight if overweight eating a healthful diet and being mindful of salt intake massaging the feet eating more potassium-rich foods, as these can help reduce water retention Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 6. A side effect of medication Steroids can cause swelling.
Steroids can cause swelling in the feet. Taking certain medications can result in the feet swelling, especially if they cause water retention. Medications that may cause the feet to swell include: Anyone who thinks that their medication is causing their feet to swell should speak with a doctor, who may be able to alter the dosage or prescribe a different type of medication. 7. Alcohol Alcohol can cause the body to retain excess water, causing the feet to swell. If the swelling continues for more than 2 days, a person should make an appointment with their doctor. Recurrent swelling of the feet after drinking alcohol may be a sign of an underlying issue with the heart, liver, or kidneys. Home remedies Elevating the feet above the heart, drinking plenty of water, and reducing salt intake may all help minimize swelling. Soaking the feet in cold water can also relieve symptoms. 8. Hot weather During hot weather, the feet can swell because their veins expand to cool the body. This process can cause fluid to leak into the surrounding tissue. Fluid can also collect in the ankles and feet. Home remedies Drinking plenty of water and wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes that allow some ventilation can help prevent the feet from swelling in warm weather. 9. Infection An infection can cause swelling in the feet and ankles. People with diabetes have an increased risk of infection affecting their feet, so they should remain vigilant for any changes to this part of the body, such as blisters and sores appearing. Treatment A doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics to treat infections. 10. Venous insufficiency Venous insufficiency occurs when a person's blood cannot flow around the body properly. This is due to damaged valves causing blood to leak down the vessels and fluid retention in the lower legs, particularly around the feet and ankles. Signs of venous insufficiency include: achy legs skin changes, such as flaking new varicose veins appearing skin ulcers infection Treatment A person experiencing any signs of venous insufficiency should make an appointment with their doctor as soon as possible. To treat venous insufficiency, a doctor may recommend making some lifestyle changes, such as taking up exercise to help keep the blood pumping around the body efficiently. Compression stockings and medication to prevent blood clots can also help. In some cases, a doctor may suggest surgery to try to repair the damaged valves. 11. Blood clot Blood clots occur when the blood fails to flow around the body correctly, causing platelets to stick together. If blood clots develop in the leg veins, they may prevent the blood from moving back to the heart. This can cause the ankles and feet to swell. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots form deep in the legs. DVT is a serious condition that can cause a blockage in the major leg veins. In some cases, the clots may break loose and move to the heart or lungs. Signs of DVT include: swelling in one leg pain or discomfort in the leg low-grade fever color changes in the leg Treatment If a person notices any signs of DVT, they should seek urgent medical attention. A doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication to treat blood clots. People can help prevent blood clots by wearing tights, compression stockings, or clothing that is loose-fitting around the ankles. Other prevention methods include keeping active and reducing salt intake. It is also best to avoid standing or sitting still, especially with crossed legs, for extended periods. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 12. Lymphedema Lymphedema causing swelling in the feet
Treatments for lymphedema focus on draining excess fluid. The lymphatic system helps the body get rid of unwanted substances, such as bacteria and toxins. Lymphedema occurs when lymphatic fluid gathers in the tissues as a result of problems with the lymph vessels. If the lymph vessels are damaged or absent, lymphatic fluid can build up and lead to infection, slow wound healing, and even deformity. People who undergo radiation therapy or lymph node removal have a higher risk of lymphedema. Anyone who has undergone cancer treatment and experiences swelling should contact their doctor immediately. As well as swelling of the feet, signs of lymphedema include: recurrent infections impaired motion aching a feeling of tightness or heaviness thickening of the skin Treatment Treatment options for lymphedema include exercises and targeted massage, which can both help drain the excess fluid. Wearing bandages or compression garments may also be beneficial. 13. Heart disease Swelling of the feet could be a sign of heart disease or heart failure. If the heart is damaged, it cannot pump blood to the heart efficiently. Right-sided heart failure can cause the body to retain salt and water, resulting in swollen feet. As well as swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet, symptoms of heart failure include: shortness of breath, particularly when exercising or lying down rapid heartbeat weakness fatigue coughing or wheezing white or pink, blood-tinged phlegm abdominal swelling rapid weight gain from fluid retention loss of appetite nausea or vomiting difficulty concentrating or confusion Treatment If a person experiences any of the above symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention. Treatment options for heart failure include medications, medical devices to help support the heart, and surgery. 14. Kidney disease People with poorly functioning kidneys may not be able to flush out fluid, which can build up in the body. Kidney disease may not present any symptoms until it is severe and the kidneys are beginning to fail. Signs and symptoms of kidney failure include: less frequent urination shortness of breath drowsiness or fatigue pain or pressure in the chest seizures nausea confusion coma Treatment Treatment options for kidney disease include medication, a low-protein diet, and supplements of vitamin D and calcium. The treatment options for kidney failure include dialysis or a kidney transplant. 15. Liver disease Liver disease can inhibit the production of albumin. Albumin is a protein that helps stop the blood leaking from blood vessels. A lack of albumin means that the blood may leak, causing fluid to pool in the legs and feet, which can result in swelling. Symptoms of liver disease include: jaundice, in which the skin and eyes turn yellow dark urine bruising easily loss of appetite skin itching lack of energy nausea or vomiting tender, swollen abdomen pale, bloody, or tar-colored stools Treatment To treat liver disease, a doctor may prescribe medication. They may also suggest making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or reducing alcohol intake. In more severe cases of liver disease, surgery may be necessary. When to see a doctor Many cases of swollen feet tend to resolve without medical care, although home remedies and lifestyle changes can help reduce the swelling. If the swelling does not go away or it occurs repeatedly, it is essential to make an appointment with a doctor to determine whether there is an underlying cause. If swollen feet occur alongside shortness of breath, chest pain, or pressure in the chest, call the emergency services immediately.
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Just how harmful is it to have 1 drink per day?

Many enjoy a glass of wine or beer during dinner, believing that this little alcohol couldn't possibly affect them. A new study is, however, warning that even one small drink per day can influence our health.
glass of wine
It is not safe to have even one glass of wine with your meal, finds a new study.

In August, we covered a large-scale review that drew an unequivocal conclusion: it's not, in fact, safe to drink any amount of alcohol.

Senior author Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou referred to the idea that one or two drinks are safe for health as "a myth."

She said that her and her colleagues' research found that any level of drinking is tied to an increased risk of early death, cancer, and cardiovascular events.

Now, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, have discovered even more about just how harmful it can be to have even as little as one drink per day.

The new study focused on the impact of alcohol on light drinkers specifically, so its findings — now published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research — are relevant to a large segment of the population.

"It used to seem like having one or two drinks per day was no big deal, and there even have been some studies suggesting it can improve health," says first author Dr. Sarah M. Hartz.

"But now we know that even the lightest daily drinkers have an increased mortality risk," she cautions.

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Even light drinking heightens death risk

The authors of the recent study analyzed data collected from 434,321 participants, aged 18–85. Of these, 340,668 (aged 18–85) were recruited via the National Health Interview Survey, and 93,653 (aged 40–60) provided health information as outpatients at Veterans Health Administration sites.

Dr. Hartz and team found that people who had one or two drinks four or more times weekly had a 20 percent higher risk of premature death, compared with those who drank only three times per week or less often. This increased death risk, the study authors add, remains consistent across all age groups.

"A 20 percent increase in risk of death is a much bigger deal in older people who already are at higher risk," notes Dr. Hartz.

"Relatively few people die in their 20s, so a 20 percent increase in mortality is small but still significant," she adds.

"As people age, their risk of death from any cause also increases, so a 20 percent risk increase at age 75 translates into many more deaths than it does at age 25."

Dr. Sarah M. Hartz

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The risks outweigh any potential benefits

One study published earlier this year suggested that people who drink just a little — one drink each day, at most — appear to have lower cardiovascular risk than both people who drink more and people who shun alcohol entirely.

Dr. Hartz and team's research, however, reveals that the health hazards that even people who drink lightly face outweigh any potential benefits.

When the scientists assessed the risk for heart disease and cancer, they saw that, on the whole, though drinking a little did help protect the heart in some cases, daily consumption — even when light — increased a person's risk of cancer.

"Consuming one or two drinks about four days per week seemed to protect against cardiovascular disease, but drinking every day eliminated those benefits," explains Dr. Hartz.

"With regard to cancer risk, any drinking at all was detrimental," she warns.

However, Dr. Hartz also believes that in the future, health practitioners may want to develop more highly personalized guidelines for their patients.

Therefore, healthcare providers might advise people at risk of developing heart problems to drink on occasion. Conversely, they may encourage those who are at risk of cancer to give up drinking entirely.

"If you tailor medical recommendations to an individual person," explains Dr. Hartz, "there may be situations under which you would think that occasional drinking potentially could be helpful."

"But overall," she reports, "I do think people should no longer consider a glass of wine a day to somehow be healthy."

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Could we use gene mutations to treat diabetes and heart disease?

Genes that control one aspect of our health can also influence others. Now, a recent study has revealed such a link between mutations of three genes that control cholesterol and a lower risk of certain cardiovascular conditions and type 2 diabetes.
dna structure with red patch
Scientists find a link between gene mutations, cholesterol, heart health, and diabetes.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as the Veteran Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, both in California, have led an investigation that linked genetic information on 300,000 veterans to their electronic health records.

It focused on three gene variants, or mutations, that change the way their associated genes behave.

Studies of gene mutations usually uncover how they damage health or give rise to disease, but in this study, the gene variants are all linked to positive effects.

Veterans who carried any one of these three gene variants not only had better levels of blood cholesterol, but also — depending on the gene — a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The investigators suggest that their findings — which now feature in the journal Nature Genetics — offer valuable information for developing drugs to treat the conditions associated with the three genes.

The genes are: ANGPTL4 for type 2 diabetes, PCSK9 for abdominal aortic aneurysm, and PDE3B for coronary heart disease.

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The 'power of numbers'

For a genetic study such as the recent one to give significant results, it must draw on the "power of numbers."

The Million Veteran Program (MVP), which was set up in 2011, offers such an opportunity. Its aim is to explore the relationship between genetic variation and health in military veterans in the United States.

The MVP gave the researchers access to genetic information on 297,626 — including 57,332 black and 24,743 Hispanic — veterans for whom there were also electronic health records containing measures of their cholesterol.

By bringing the MVP data together with "data from the Global Lipids Genetics Consortium," the team was able to identify 188 genetic markers of cholesterol that were already known about and 118 that were not.

Then, by applying an approach called a phenome-wide association study, the team picked out the cholesterol-associated gene variants that were also associated with other health factors or conditions in the MVP data.

The result was that variants in ANGPTL4, PCSK9, and PDE3B appeared not only to favor beneficial cholesterol levels but were also linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and coronary heart disease, respectively.

These associations were previously unknown; the PCSK9 variant was already known to lower risk of heart disease, but this was the first study to tie it to a lower risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm.

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'Good case' for new drugs

The researchers believe that their results "make a good case" for developing drugs that "mimic the effects" of the gene variants.

They acknowledge that there already exists a drug called cilostazol, which mimics the effect of the PDE3B mutation on cholesterol, for treating vascular conditions. However, they advise against using it to treat heart disease on the basis of the recent genetic study alone.

"The genetics," explains senior study author Dr. Themistocles L. Assimes, an assistant professor of medicine in Stanford University's Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, "help suggest that this drug can decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering triglycerides, but it's not proof."

He urges people to wait until the approved drugs have been thoroughly tested for other desired effects in large randomized clinical trials before using them for those purposes.

"We've been misled before by drugs that had effects on cholesterol, but they turned out to be cosmetic," he adds.

"Better cholesterol profiles can look great, but if the drug doesn't affect the outcome you're aiming for [...] then it's useless."

Dr. Themistocles L. Assimes

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Why sudden cardiac arrests no longer peak in the morning

New research, published in the journal Heart Rhythm, discovers that due to recent cultural shifts in our work schedules and daily stressors, sudden cardiac arrests no longer tend to occur in the mornings.
person holding their chest
Sudden cardiac arrest can occur any time of the day, says a new study.

Until now, the consensus has been that a range of cardiovascular events, such as angina, heart attacks, and stroke, tend to happen mostly in the early hours of the morning.

A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that in the morning, the sudden pressures of daily activities put a strain on people's cardiovascular system.

Just waking up, in fact, releases the activity of certain hormones, such as cortisol, that raise blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels, as well as narrow blood vessels and prompt our hearts to pump harder.

However, given the new pressures of modern life — such as instant communication, the prevalence of smartphones, apps, and the online medium in general — the timing of our daily stressors may have changed.

So, do these changes have a bearing on certain cardiovascular events and the time of day in which they occur? New research suggests so.

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Zooming in on sudden cardiac arrests

Scientists from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA — led by Dr. Sumeet Chugh, a professor of medicine — set out to investigate when the peak times for sudden cardiac arrests during the day are.

As Dr. Chugh and team explain, contrary to popular belief, sudden cardiac arrest is quite different to a heart attack. Unlike in a heart attack, during sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating suddenly. Death occurs if medical assistance is not given within minutes.

A heart attack, on the other hand, occurs when blood flow to the heart is partially blocked, which does not usually cause the heart to stop beating.

As the study authors mention, around half of all cardiovascular deaths in the United States result from sudden cardiac arrest, and up to 350,000 cases occur each year, making the condition a significant concern for public health.

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'Stress is likely a major factor'

Dr. Chugh and his team studied data available from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, which began in 2002.

For the analysis, the investigators looked at the data collected from emergency medical reports in 2004–2014. During this time, 1,535 adults had sudden cardiac arrests and died as a result.

Of these people, note the authors, only 13.9 percent died between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. Contrary to older research and an ensuing widespread belief, the study found no evidence of a higher prevalence of sudden cardiac arrests on Mondays.

"While there are likely several reasons to explain why more cardiac arrests happen outside of previously identified peak times, stress is likely a major factor," explains Dr. Chugh.

"Because sudden cardiac arrest is usually fatal, we have to prevent it before it strikes," he adds.

"We now live in a fast-paced, 'always on' era that causes increased psychosocial stress and possibly, an increase in the likelihood of sudden cardiac arrest."

Dr. Sumeet Chugh

Dr. Chugh also shares some directions for future research, explaining, "Our next steps are to conclusively determine the underlying reasons behind this shift, then identify public health implications as a result."

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Some chiropractic treatments can harm eyesight

Chiropractic care realigns the bones in the spine and other body parts to treat issues such as headaches and back pains. Some chiropractic adjustments, however, can produce side effects, and according to a new case report, these include vision problems.
chiropractor treating patient
Chiropractic techniques can harm vision, a new case study illustrates.

A case report — now featuring in the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports — has analyzed the situation of a 59-year-old woman who experienced patchy vision after receiving chiropractic intervention.

She noted that she had a "tadpole-shaped" spot in her vision soon after having undergone high-velocity cervical spine manipulation, which she sought in order to relieve a problem with headaches.

The following day, the woman's eyesight got even worse.

Dr. Yannis Paulus, a retina specialist at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor, analyzed the woman's case with Dr. Nicolas Belil, her optometrist, who referred her to the Kellogg Eye Center.

Drs. Paulus and Belil explain that, although the chance of something like this happening is low, at times, particularly forceful movements performed in high-velocity manipulation can damage the blood vessels in the retina.

The retina is the layer of tissue that sits at the back of the eye, which contains the type of cells that convert light into neural signals that will later be sent to the brain for "decoding."

If there is bleeding inside the retina, it can result in a measure of vision loss. In the case discussed in the recent study, the woman regained her normal vision within approximately 2 months without requiring any treatment.

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Specialists found that chiropractic treatment can bring serious risks for cardiovascular health; it may damage important blood vessels. One of the most notable risks is cervical artery dissection, which can lead to stroke.

In 2014, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a warning statement, calling for practitioners to be aware that cervical artery dissection could occur and to clearly inform their patients of the risks involved.

Forceful manipulation of the bones in the neck, Dr. Paulus points out, can cause artery walls to tear, leading to some bleeding. If a blood clot forms at the site and it later happens to become dislodged, it may end up blocking a blood vessel in the brain and causing a stroke.

This may also lead to problems with eyesight, such as double vision or the occlusion of the central retinal artery, which is the main blood vessel that carries oxygen to the nerve cells found in the retina.

Now, the case study that Drs. Paulus and Belil analyzed suggests that the motion of high-velocity neck manipulation can actually cause more direct damage to the eye.

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For instance, such motions can lead to preretinal hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the vitreous humor. This is the transparent tissue that fills the eye between the lens at the front and the retina at the back.

The high-velocity technique might also result in what is known as "posterior vitreous detachment," which takes place when the vitreous humor is dislodged from the retina.

Although posterior vitreous detachment requires no special treatment and the vision problems it causes tend to improve on their own within 3 months, the event can sometimes cause serious complications. In those cases, laser treatment or surgery must be done to repair the tear.

For this reason, Dr. Paulus urges people who seek chiropractic care to alert their doctors of their choices.

He also urges chiropractors to remember that some of their patients may need them "to modify techniques" in order to avoid events such as the one reported in the case study.

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Does 'bad' cholesterol deserve its bad name?

"Misleading statistics, exclusion of unsuccessful trials, and [...] ignoring numerous contradictory observations" are at the root of a half-century-long assumption that may be entirely wrong, says new research.
heart shape with foods in it
Heart health may not have much to do with cholesterol levels.

In the case of good vs. bad cholesterol, things are less clear-cut than we'd like them to be.

An increasing number of studies suggest that high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or the "good" kind, may not be so good after all.

A recent study found an unsettling association between HDL cholesterol and mortality in men.

Another one found that HDL cholesterol levels correlated with a higher risk of heart disease among women.

Now, new research has shone a critical light on "bad," or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol.

Researchers led by Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, Ph.D. — a former medical practitioner and independent researcher based in Lund, Sweden — set out to analyze the findings of three large reviews that maintain that LDL cholesterol gives rise to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and that statins prevent CVD.

The results were published in the journal Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology.

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Why high LDL cholesterol is not the culprit

Dr. Ravnskov and his team started with philosopher Karl Popper's criterion for the falsifiability of scientific claims, according to which a scientific theory can never be proven true, but it can be shown to be false. So, they set out to see if the bad cholesterol hypothesis could be falsified.

The hypothesis that high LDL cholesterol is the main cause of heart disease is invalid, explain the researchers, "because people with low levels become just as atherosclerotic as people with high levels and their risk of suffering from CVD is the same or higher."

"The usual argument in support of the lipid hypothesis," they continue, "is that numerous studies of young and middle-aged people have shown that high [total cholesterol] or LDL [cholesterol] predict future CVD."

"This is correct, but association is not the same as causation," write the scientists. Not only are the studies unable to prove causality, but the statistical methods are also flawed, they say.

The authors go on to point to a range of other potential causes of CVD that the reviews analyzed did not account for, such as mental stress, inflammation, and infections.

Dr. Ravnskov and colleagues conclude:

"Our search for falsifications of the cholesterol hypothesis confirms that it is unable to satisfy any of the Bradford Hill criteria for causality, and that the conclusions of the [...] three reviews are based on misleading statistics, exclusion of unsuccessful trials, and by ignoring numerous contradictory observations."

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People should make an informed decision

Study co-author Prof. David Diamond, of the University of Southern Florida in Tampa, comments on the findings, saying, "There have been decades of research designed to deceive the public and physicians into believing that LDL causes heart disease, when in fact, it doesn't."

"The research that has targeted LDL is terribly flawed," he goes on to explain. "Not only is there a lack of evidence of causal link between LDL and heart disease, the statistical approach statin advocates have used to demonstrate benefits has been deceptive."

The researchers aim "to share this information with people, so they can make an informed decision when they're considering taking cholesterol lowering medication."

In the paper, the authors disclose that Dr. Ravnskov — along with a few other co-authors — have previously published books that criticize the idea that LDL cholesterol causes heart disease.

Dr. Ravnskov is the director of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, and in 2007, he was awarded the Leo-Huss-Walin Prize for Independent Thinking.

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Yo-yoing weight linked to higher cardiovascular risk

Recent research cautions that fluctuating weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events and death.
concept photo of scales and yoyo
Weight fluctuation is a top risk factor for cardiovascular events, says new research.

Scientists at the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul, South Korea — with other institutions — have now assessed the associations between fluctuations in some certain types of health measurement and cardiovascular health outcomes.

The health measurements include body weight, systolic blood pressure (blood pressure during heartbeats), cholesterol, and blood sugar.

Essentially, the investigators wanted to see whether or not high variability of these health measurements would be good predictors of heart problems and negative cardiovascular events, such as stroke.

Their findings now appear in the journal Circulation.

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Increased risk of early death

In the recent study, the investigators analyzed health data collected from 6,748,773 people with no history of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart attacks at the beginning of the study. This information was provided by the Korean National Health Insurance system.

All those involved with this study underwent at least three different health checkups in 2005–2012. Some of the information recorded during these examinations included body weight, systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar.

For the first time, the authors concluded that high fluctuations in the measurements of these factors was associated with a negative impact on cardiovascular health.

Also, they go on, if a person has high variability of more than one of these, their cardiovascular risk may be further heightened.

Compared with people with stable measurements across an average period of 5.5 years, those who scored the highest variability on all risk factors had a 127 percent higher risk of all-cause death, were 43 percent more likely to experience a heart attack, and had a 41 percent higher risk of stroke.

Such fluctuations in the measurements under analysis can be the result of either negative changes or positive changes, the researchers note.

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All fluctuations appear to heighten risk

For this reason, they also decided to separately assess the effect of the changes on people whose measurements had either improved or worsened by over 5 percent. The team found that, in both cases, high variability was linked to a heightened risk of all-cause death.

"Healthcare providers should pay attention to the variability in measurements of a patient's blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels as well as body weight," urges senior study author Dr. Seung-Hwan Lee.

"Trying to stabilize these measurements may be an important step in helping them improve their health," he adds.

Nevertheless, the researchers emphasize that their study was of an observational nature, meaning that they cannot readily conclude that there is a causal relationship between the fluctuations and the risk of death and cardiovascular events.

Furthermore, they admit that they did not look into the causes behind the fluctuating body weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure.

Also, as Dr. Lee points out, "It is not certain whether these results from Korea would apply to the United States."

"However, several previous studies on variability were performed in other populations, suggesting that it is likely to be a common phenomenon."

Dr. Seung-Hwan Lee

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Some cancer therapies may avert cardiovascular disease

Existing cancer drugs could be repurposed as treatments for vascular inflammation, according to new research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
Researcher in lab coat holding bottle of pills and tablet
Several drugs approved by the FDA for cancer treatment may also treat vascular inflammation.

Publishing their findings in Cell Reports, the authors describe new insights into the way G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) work within cells to influence inflammation using cellular "waste disposal systems."

Vascular inflammation (inflammation of the blood vessels) is a significant contributing factor in the early phases of atherosclerosis, a disease whereby plaque builds up inside the arteries and which can lead to heart attack, stroke, or even death.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, so identifying any potential targets for therapies addressing cardiovascular disease or its causes — such as vascular inflammation — is a priority.

GPCR functions 'not fully understood'

GPCRs are embedded in the membranes of all cells, where they mediate cells' responses to their external environments. GPCRs change shape when a nutrient or other molecule binds to them.

Part of this shape change involves a G-protein inside the cell docking to the GPCR on the internal side of the membrane, which initiates a series of molecular changes.

Scientists know that GPCRs are important in maintaining many biological functions such as smell, sight, taste, allergic responses, blood pressure, and heart rate.

They also know that when GPCRs malfunction, they can contribute to a range of diseases. However, many of the basic functions of GPCRs are still not fully understood.

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How GPCRs influence inflammation

The research team from this latest study investigated how a process called ubiquitination affects GPCR functions in the cells that line blood vessels.

Ubiquitination is when proteins are tagged by enzymes with molecules called ubiquitin, acting as a kind of flag to let the cell know that this protein can be disposed of.

However, the team discovered that in these cells, the GPCR activates the E3 ligase enzyme that initiates ubiquitination, which in turn activates an inflammation-promoting protein called p38. This is a markedly different mechanism to the usual process of ubiquitination.

"We were surprised to discover that GPCRs and inflammation are influenced by ubiquitination — a process that was previously thought to only mark proteins for destruction," explains senior author JoAnn Trejo. "Instead, we've unveiled new insights into both GPCR function and ubiquitination."

According to Trejo, this is the first time that E3 ligases have been identified as playing a role in vascular inflammation, making it a viable target in developing treatments for this condition.

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The good news is that several drugs that are currently used as cancer treatments have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); such drugs inhibit these E3 ubiquitin ligases, and researchers are currently studying more in clinical trials. So, it may be possible to also use these drugs to treat vascular inflammation.

However, Trejo warns that "the field is really in its infancy," and that "the number of E3-targeting drugs approved or in clinical trials is remarkably small." This is further complicated by the sheer number of different E3 ligases in the body, thought to be between 600 and 700, and which are associated with a variety of biological functions.

Although vascular inflammation is a known contributor to atherosclerosis, Medical News Today recently reported on a study that found inflammation may actually help to keep heart attack and stroke at bay in more advanced cases of the condition.

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What to know about ectopic heartbeats

Ectopic heartbeats are extra heartbeats that occur just before a regular beat. Ectopic beats are normal and usually not a cause for concern, though they can make people feel anxious.

Ectopic beats are common. People may feel like their heart is skipping a beat or is producing an extra beat.

In this article, we look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments for ectopic heartbeats.

What is an ectopic heartbeat? woman with hands on heart
Ectopic heartbeats are premature or extra heartbeats.

An ectopic heartbeat is when the heart either skips a beat or adds an extra beat. They are also called premature heartbeats.

Ectopic heartbeats are usually not a cause for concern, and they may occur for no known reason. Despite the skipped or added beat, the heart otherwise functions normally.

People may be worried if they feel their heartbeat skipping. But it is not a sign of a serious problem. Anxiety often causes ectopic beats, and they will usually go away by themselves.

There are two types of ectopic heartbeat:

Premature atrial contractions (PAC), which originate in the upper chambers, or atria. Premature ventricular contractions (PVC), which originate in the lower chambers, or ventricles.

Ectopic heartbeats are common in adults. They are less common in children and typically occur due to an underlying heart condition.

When a child experiences an ectopic heartbeat, it is often a PAC. It is usually harmless.

The chances of having a PVC increase as people get older. A heart attack or family history of PVC may increase the risk of someone developing PVCs as they age.

Causes of ectopic heartbeats Ectopic heartbeats have several potential causes or risk factors that can increase the chance of their occurrence. Possible causes of ectopic heartbeats include: caffeinated drinks and foods containing caffeine smoking anxiety or stress recreational drug use drinking alcohol exercise decreased potassium levels certain prescription medications some allergy and cold medications asthma medications Also, several potential underlying conditions may cause or be risk factors for ectopic heartbeats, including: a family history of ectopic heartbeats previous history of a heart attack heart disease Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Symptoms Ectopic heartbeats can occur with no symptoms. In other instances, people may realize that their heart skipped or had an extra beat by feeling it in their chest. Some people may experience more extreme symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of more serious heart conditions. Typical symptoms of ectopic heartbeats may include: an extra awareness of the heart beating a feeling of faintness or dizziness a sensation of the heart stopping for a moment a racing heartbeat a fluttering sensation in the chest Diagnosis man having a heart ultrasound
A heart ultrasound can help a doctor make a diagnosis. Some people may not have any symptoms. A person may never know they have had an ectopic heartbeat. If someone does experience symptoms, and they occur regularly, they should speak to their doctor. Doctors can diagnose ectopic heartbeats by discussing the symptoms a person is experiencing. They will likely hold a stethoscope to the person's chest to listen for an irregular beat. A doctor may also order other tests to help determine the cause of the ectopic heartbeat. These tests may help them rule out more dangerous causes. Diagnostic tests used may include: a Holter monitor, a heartbeat device that a person wears for 24 hours electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the heart's rhythm and electrical signals echocardiogram, or heart ultrasound coronary angiography, or heart X-ray MRI or CT scans exercise testing Treatments In most cases, doctors do not treat an ectopic heartbeat. Typically, it will go away with no intervention. However, if symptoms do not go away on their own, a doctor is likely to want to explore the underlying condition. Once determined, they will treat the cause, which will help stop further ectopic heartbeats from occurring. In other cases, people can help prevent further ectopic heartbeats through lifestyle changes. Often, this will involve finding what triggers them. Once someone identifies the triggers, they can reduce or eliminate their contact with them. Triggers can include stress, smoking, or alcohol. Other changes a person can try include, reducing caffeine and exercising regularly. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Complications Typically, a person will have no further complications from ectopic heartbeats. However, in some uncommon cases, they may develop: Ventricular tachycardia, which is an irregular and rapid heartbeat. Arrhythmias, which involves issues with the heart's rhythm. People who have had a previous heart attack are at a greater, though low, risk of cardiac arrest and death. Ectopic beats and pregnancy pregnant woman laying down with her stomach exposed
During pregnancy, it is normal to experience ectopic beats and arrhythmias. Ectopic beats and arrhythmias are normal during pregnancy. According to research published in Cardiology and Therapy, during pregnancy, people experience many physiological changes that increase the demand placed on their cardiovascular system. These changes lead to an increase in heat rate and may cause people to notice extra beats. It is also quite common for the fetus to experience extra beats. In most case, extra beats or even faster-than-normal beats are not a cause of undue concern for doctors. Typically, a doctor will discover the ectopic beats in a fetus and decide if any treatment is needed. Other types of irregular heartbeat Ectopic heartbeats are just one type of irregular heartbeats a person may experience in their lifetime. Irregular heartbeats can also involve the heart beating too fast, too slow, or in a different rhythm than usual. An example of an irregular heartbeat is atrial fibrillation (AF). When AF occurs, the upper chambers of the heart are contracting at odd intervals, which causes the irregular beat to occur. AF is not common in children. Other irregular heartbeats that people can have include: supraventricular tachycardia, where the electrical signals come from the wrong area atrial flutter, where the upper chamber of the heart fires too quickly ventricular tachycardia, where there are abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Outlook A person may never realize that they have experienced an ectopic heartbeat. In other cases, they may feel as though their heart is skipping or having an extra beat. Normally, ectopic heartbeats are not a cause for concern. If ectopic beats do not clear naturally or are recurring frequently, a person should speak to their doctor. Typical treatment involves avoiding triggers, such as smoking or drinking alcohol, and treating the underlying cause of the ectopic beats if necessary.
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Your height may predict your risk of varicose veins

A genetic study of nearly half a million people concludes that height is "not just a correlated factor, but an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins."
woman massaging her legs
Women are at a higher risk of varicose veins, but new research suggests that height is also a factor.

Varicose veins — also known as spider veins — are "swollen, twisted veins" that can usually be seen right beneath the skin on a person's legs.

According to the most recent estimates, the condition affects approximately 33 million people in the United States.

The condition is generally considered quite harmless, but previous studies have found a strong association with serious cardiovascular problems, such as blood clotting and deep vein thrombosis.

Also, varicose veins may be moderately painful and aesthetically unpleasant to some people. Now, a large-scale genetic study published in Circulation suggests that a person's height may determine their risk of developing varicose veins.

The new research was jointly supervised by Dr. Nicholas Leeper, an associate professor of surgery and cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and Dr. Erik Ingelsson, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University.

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Dr. Leeper and his colleagues applied machine learning and statistical methods to examine the genetic data of 493,519 people who were registered in the UK Biobank database.

Furthermore, the researchers conducted a genome-wide association study in 337,536 of these individuals, 9,577 of whom developed varicose veins.

The study confirmed previously known risk factors for varicose vein disease, such as age, sex, weight, and lifestyle habits including smoking and being sedentary.

However, the study also identified some new risk factors. "We confirmed that having had deep vein thrombosis in the past puts you at increased risk in the future," Dr. Leeper explains.

"Recent research suggests that the converse appears to be true as well. Having varicose veins puts you at risk of these blood clots."

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Of all the new risk factors identified, the scientists deemed height as the most surprising. "[G]reater height remained independently associated with varicose veins," the study authors report.

"We were very surprised to find that height came up from our machine-learning analyses," says co-first study author Alyssa Flores, a Stanford University medical student.

"Our results strongly suggest height is a cause, not just a correlated factor, but an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins," says Dr. Ingelsson.

He adds, "By conducting the largest genetic study ever performed for varicose vein disease, we now have a much better understanding of the biology that is altered in people at risk for the disease."

"Genes that predict a person's height may be at the root of this link between height and varicose veins and may provide clues for treating the condition."

Dr. Nicholas Leeper

The recent study also identified 30 genes that are not just tied to varicose veins, but also to deep vein thrombosis.

"[Varicose vein disease]," says Flores, "is incredibly prevalent but shockingly little is known about the biology. There are no medical therapies that can prevent it or reverse it once it's there."

"We're hoping," she adds, "that with this new information, we can create new therapies, as our study highlights several genes that may represent new translational targets."

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