Wood Street Clinic Blog

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How four cups of coffee might protect the heart

Researchers found that consuming the amount of caffeine that is equivalent to four cups of coffee might be enough to set off a cellular chain of events that protects the cells of our hearts.
Four cups of coffee
Four cups of coffee might have a protective effect on your heart.

There appears to be a study praising the health benefits of coffee published every other week.

Over recent years, researchers have concluded that caffeine protects against diabetes, heart failure, and stroke.

Higher levels of coffee consumption have also been linked with a lower risk of mortality.

Still, as the evidence mounts in support of caffeine's health benefits, the mechanism behind its protective powers is still not completely understood.

Scientists from Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf, Germany, recently set out to identify the cellular pathways involved in caffeine's heart-protective ability.

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In earlier experiments, the authors of the new study found that caffeine levels equivalent to around four cups of coffee improved the function of endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels.

They also revealed that the benefits that caffeine imparted seemed to involve mitochondria. These, as everyone is well aware, are commonly referred to as the powerhouses of the cell — a description so well known it has achieved meme status.

Mitochondria won their title because, within their membranes, adenosine triphosphate — which is the energy currency of life — is produced.

In their latest study, they identified a new player within mitochondria that appears to be relevant to caffeine's protective effect: p27. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS Biology.

First identified as an inhibitor of the cell cycle, p27 is an enzyme that normally slows cell division.

The researchers — led by Judith Haendeler and Joachim Altschmied — found that caffeine caused p27 to move into mitochondria. Once within these organelles, it triggered tasks vital for the repair of heart muscle following a heart attack.

These tasks include promoting migration of endothelial cells and protecting heart muscle cells from cell death, also known as apoptosis. p27 also sparked activity in fibroblasts, or cells that synthesize certain structural components of tissues. Caffeine encourages fibroblasts to produce essential contractile fibers.

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Further to these findings, the scientists found that caffeine protected against heart damage in prediabetic, older, and obese mice. They have high hopes for the future implications of these results.

Haendeler concludes, "These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in the elderly population."

"Furthermore," she says, "enhancing mitochondrial p27 could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy not only in cardiovascular diseases but also in improving healthspan."

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Marriage is good for the heart — literally

A new analysis of existing studies suggests that single, divorced, and widowed people are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The authors suggest that healthcare providers consider marital status as an independent risk factor.
two people getting married
Getting married may have hidden benefits for your heart health, a new study suggests.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death among both men and women, in the United States as well as across the world.

As many as 80 percent of heart disease cases are down to well known risk factors, including smoking, high levels of "bad" cholesterol, age, sex, and other conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.

What accounts for the remaining 20 percent? An international team of researchers wanted to see whether one's marital status influences their risk of developing heart disease.

The researchers were led by Chun Wai Wong, who is a cardiovascular researcher at the University of Keele and the Academic Department of Cardiology at the Royal Stoke Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, both in the United Kingdom.

The findings were published in the journal Heart.

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A 42 percent higher risk for single people

To find out the influence of marital status on heart disease incidence, Wong and team examined 34 studies, summing up over 2 million participants, aged 42–77, from across the globe.

The researchers carried out a pooled analysis of these studies. The results showed that people who had never married, were divorced, or had been widowed were 42 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than married participants.

Also, the single, divorced, and widowed participants had a 16 percent higher risk of coronary artery disease, as well as a 42 percent higher chance of dying from it. These participants were also 55 percent more likely to die from a stroke.

A more detailed analysis of the data revealed that going through a divorce heightened the risk of heart disease by 35 percent for both men and women, and being widowed increased chances of having a stroke by 16 percent.

Finally, never marrying raised the risk of dying after a heart attack by 42 percent. However, no statistical difference was noted in the case of survival after a stroke.

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Strengths and limitations of the study

The authors note some strengths and limitations to their study. They claim that this is the largest study of its kind to date, and that having access to the participants' ethnicity and age makes the findings widely applicable.

However, the researchers admit that they had no information on same-sex civil partnerships or marriages, and that the quality of the marriage was not considered.

Also, it could be the case that simply living with someone, rather than being married to them, is what benefits heart health. Another weakness is that the studies examined varied greatly in the methods they used.

Finally, because the research is observational, it cannot draw any conclusions about the causal mechanisms behind the associations found.

The authors speculate on a few potential reasons why marriage might protect heart health.

These include improved financial security, overall higher well-being, stronger adherence to medication, and a prompter recognition of health problems and taking appropriate action.

Wong and colleagues conclude:

"Future research should focus around whether marital status is a surrogate marker for other adverse health behavior or cardiovascular risk profiles that underlies our reported findings or whether marital status should be considered as a risk factor by itself."

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Are e-cigarette flavorings toxic to the heart?

Despite their popularity, little is known about the health impacts of electronic cigarettes. New research investigates the chemicals used to flavor these products and their effects on cardiovascular health.
Young man vaping
A new study investigates e-cigarettes' impact on the heart.

New research, published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, concludes that the chemicals used to create these flavors could be damaging blood vessels and the cells that line the inside of the heart.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were first introduced to the United States in 2006 and were marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes.

These battery-powered devices heat a liquid solution that is then inhaled by the user. However, e-cigarettes can still contain nicotine and some of the chemicals used in regular cigarettes.

Since their introduction, they have gained popularity and are widely used as an alternative to smoking traditional tobacco products. They are often used to help people quit smoking with the belief being that they offer fewer health risks.

They have also gained popularity among young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was an increase in middle and high school students using e-cigarettes from 2011 to 2016.

However, they are not recommended for use by the American Heart Association (AHA), who instead advise people to avoid the devices. The AHA believe that e-cigarettes containing nicotine should be subject to the same laws as traditional tobacco products.

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Effects on the heart

This new study was led by Dr. Jessica L. Fetterman, of the Boston University of Medicine in Massachusetts. Dr. Fetterman and her team wanted to test the effects of these chemical additives on blood vessels and the heart.

Researchers looked at nine chemicals used to create an array of flavors, including mint, vanilla, banana, burnt flavor, cinnamon, clove, butter, strawberry, and spice cooling.

They used three groups of volunteers: one group of nine people who did not smoke or use e-cigarettes, another of six people who did smoke menthol cigarettes, and another of six people who did not smoke menthol cigarettes.

Dr. Fetterman and her team looked for short-term effects of e-cigarette flavorings on the cells that line the blood vessels and the inside of the heart, known as endothelial cells.

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Potential health consequences

The researchers gathered the endothelial cells from the participants and exposed them to different chemical flavorings. They demonstrated that all nine flavors impaired nitric oxide production in endothelial cells.

However, some flavors produced higher levels of inflammation and caused a more significant reduction in nitric oxide production.

Dr. Fetterman says, "Increased inflammation and a loss of nitric oxide are some of the first changes to occur leading up to cardiovascular disease and events like heart attacks and stroke, so they are considered early predictors of heart disease."

"Our findings suggest that these flavoring additives may have serious health consequences."

"Our work and prior research have provided evidence that flavorings induce toxicity in the lung and cardiovascular systems. Flavorings are also a driver of youth tobacco use and sustained tobacco use among smokers."

Dr. Jessica L. Fetterman

Dr. Fetterman and her team directly tested the effects of the flavorings at the levels likely to be reached in the body. However, she also makes the study's limitations clear; for instance, they only tested the short-term effects, and the study "did not heat all the flavorings or include other chemicals used in e-cigarettes."

There is still much more to explore; as Dr. Fetterman says, "We still don't know what concentrations of the flavorings make it inside the body."

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What to know about peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease is a disease that causes restricted blood flow to the arms, legs, or other body parts. It occurs when arteries or veins get narrower, become blocked, or spasm.

If peripheral vascular disease (PVD) occurs only in the arteries, it is called peripheral artery disease (PAD). Most cases of PVD affect the arteries as well, so the terms are often interchangeable.

In this article, we take a close look at PVD, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments.

Fast facts on PVD:
PVD affects an estimated 1 in 20 Americans over 50 years of age. Common risk factors include being over 50, smoking cigarettes, and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Common symptoms include pain and cramps in the legs, hips, and buttocks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PVD affects men and women equally. Arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis are among the most common causes of PVD.
Types of peripheral vascular disease There are two main types of PVD: Organic PVD results from changes in the blood vessels caused by inflammation, plaque buildup, or tissue damage. Functional PVD happens when blood flow decreases in response to something that causes the blood vessels to vary in size, such as brain signals or changes in body temperature. In functional PVD, there is no physical damage to the blood vessels. Symptoms Senior woman having leg looked at by physiotherapist.
PVD commonly affects the legs.

Signs and symptoms of PVD often appear gradually. They occur more commonly in the legs than the in arms because the blood vessels in the legs are further from the heart.

Pains, aches, or cramps while walking are typical symptoms of PVD. However, up to 40 percent of people with PVD or PAD do not experience any leg pain.

Pains, aches, and cramps related to walking, which is known as claudication, might occur in the following areas:

Symptoms of claudication often develop when someone is walking quickly or for long distances. The symptoms typically go away with rest. However, as PVD progresses, symptoms can get worse and become more frequent. Leg pain and fatigue may persist even while resting.

Other symptoms of PVD include:

leg cramps when lying down pale or reddish-blue legs or arms hair loss on the legs skin that is cool to the touch thin, pale, or shiny skin on the legs and feet slow-healing wounds and ulcers cold, burning, or numb toes thickened toenails slow or absent pulse in the feet heavy or numb sensations in the muscles wasting away of the muscle (atrophy) Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Causes Causes of PVD vary and depend on the type a person has. Causes of organic PVD Arteriosclerosis, which is caused by changes in the structure of the blood vessels, is a common cause of organic PVD. Atherosclerosis, which is a specific type of arteriosclerosis, occurs when plaque (fats and other substances) build up in the blood vessels. Atherosclerosis can restrict blood flow, and if left untreated, can cause clots. Clots block the arteries and cause loss of limbs or organ damage. Common risk factors for atherosclerosis include: The following conditions may cause structural changes in the blood vessels: Injury, inflammation, or infection in the blood vessels may also cause structural changes in the blood vessels. Causes of functional PVD Functional PVD occurs when blood vessels have an increased response to brain signals and environmental factors. Common causes of this include: cold temperatures drug use feeling stressed using machines or tools that cause the body to vibrate Risk factors Middle aged man smoking cigarette
Smokers and people over the age of 50 are at an increased risk of developing PVD. In general, the risk factors for PVD are similar to those for arteriosclerosis. They include: Age. People aged 50 years and over are more likely to get PVD and PAD. Being overweight or obese increases risk of arteriosclerosis, PVD, and other cardiovascular conditions. Lifestyle choices. People who smoke, use drugs, avoid exercise, or have an unhealthful diet are more likely to get PVD. Medical and family history. PVD risk rises for people who have a history of cerebrovascular disease or stroke. Those with a family history of high cholesterol, hypertension, or PVD are also at higher risk. Other medical conditions. People with high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes are at an increased risk of developing PVD. Race and ethnicity. African American people tend to develop PVD more frequently. Diagnosis If a person suspects they have PVD, it is essential that they see a doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the outlook for the disease and prevent severe complications from occurring. A doctor will diagnose PVD by: Taking a full medical and family history, which includes details of lifestyle, diet, and medication use. Performing a physical examination, which includes checking the skin temperature, appearance, and the presence of pulses in the legs and feet. They may also order tests to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other conditions. Several other disorders can mimic the symptoms of PVD and PAD. Diagnostic tests used to diagnose PVD include: Angiography. Angiography involves injecting dye into the arteries to identify a clogged or blocked artery. Ankle-brachial index (ABI). This non-invasive test measures blood pressure in the ankles. The doctor then compares this reading to blood pressure readings in the arms. A doctor will take measurements after rest and physical activity. Lower blood pressure in the legs suggests a blockage. Blood tests. Although blood tests alone cannot diagnose PVD, they can help a doctor check for the presence of conditions that can increase a person's risk of developing PVD, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Computerized tomography angiography (CTA). A CTA imaging test shows the doctor an image of the blood vessels, including areas that have narrowed or become blocked. Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). Similar to a CTA, magnetic resonance angiography highlights blood vessel blockages. Ultrasound. Using sound waves, an ultrasound allows the doctor to see blood circulation through the arteries and veins. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Treatment Effective PVD treatment aims to slow or stop disease progression, manage pain and other symptoms, and reduce the risk of serious complications. PVD treatment plans usually involve lifestyle changes. Some people may also require medication, and severe cases may require surgical treatment. Lifestyle changes Lifestyle changes include: engaging in regular exercise, including walking eating a balanced diet losing weight if necessary quitting smoking Medication Medications to treat PVD include: cilostazol to reduce claudication pentoxifylline to treat muscle pain clopidogrel or aspirin to stop blood clotting Co-occurring conditions may also require medicines to keep symptoms under control. For example, some people may need: statins (such as atorvastatin and simvastatin) to reduce high cholesterol angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors for hypertension metformin or other diabetes medications to manage blood sugar Surgery People with severe PVD might require surgery to widen arteries or bypass blockages. Surgical options are: Angioplasty. This involves inserting a catheter that is fitted with a balloon into the damaged artery and then inflating the balloon to widen the artery. Sometimes, the doctor will place a small tube (stent) in the artery to keep it open. Vascular bypass surgery. Also known as a vascular graft, this procedure involves reconnecting blood vessels to bypass a narrow or blocked part of a vessel. It allows blood to flow more easily from one area to another. Complications Man clutching his chest in pain because of heart attack
PVD can increase the risk of a heart attack. If PVD is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause severe or life-threatening complications such as: gangrene (tissue death), which can require amputation of the affected limb heart attack or stroke impotence severe pain that restricts mobility slow-healing wounds potentially fatal infections of the bones and blood Prevention A person can reduce their risk of developing PVD by: quitting smoking, or not starting engaging in at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity, such as walking or running, each week eating a balanced diet maintaining a healthy body weight managing blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Outlook When diagnosed early, PVD is often easily treated with lifestyle modifications and medications. A doctor can monitor a person's improvement by measuring the distance they can walk without claudication. If treatments are effective, people should be able to gradually walk longer distances without pain. Early intervention may prevent the condition from progressing and can help to avoid complications. Anyone experiencing any of the symptoms of PVD should see a doctor. The sudden development of pale, cold, and aching limbs with loss of pulses is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
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What can autopsies teach us about heart disease?

Are we overlooking an important source of clinical information by not using autopsy more in medical research? Several studies suggest the answer is 'yes.'
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Red meat allergy may increase heart disease risk

According to a new study, red meat allergies may increase the risk of heart disease, even in people who only have minor reactions to the allergen.
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Stable angina: Everything you need to know

Stable angina causes pain, squeezing, or tightness in the chest, usually when someone is stressed or doing physical activity. Narrowed arteries or blockages can reduce the blood flow to the heart, causing stable angina. Here, learn more about the symptoms, as well as the difference between stable and unstable angina.
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24-hour Holter monitoring: What to know

A Holter monitor is a medical device that can help to diagnose heart problems, such as arrhythmias. A technician will attach electrodes to a person’s chest, and the person will wear the monitor for 24 hours. In this article, learn what to expect, how to wear the monitor properly, and what results mean.
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A supple aorta might slow brain aging

Researchers investigate the role of arterial stiffness in memory decline in older adults. A flexible aorta may be key to maintaining cognitive ability.
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Coronary artery spasm: What to know

Coronary artery spasm may cause pain, burning, or tightness in the chest, but it is often asymptomatic. While coronary artery spasms sometimes go unnoticed and do not cause significant problems, they can sometimes be life-threatening. In this article, learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, and how to treat it.
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Even slightly elevated blood pressure increases dementia risk

Hypertension in middle age is known to increase the risk of dementia, but so far the specifics are unclear. A new study sheds fresh light on this matter.
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Heart disease: Erectile dysfunction may double risk

Erectile dysfunction can put men at risk of developing a range of heart problems, such as heart attack and sudden cardiac death, shows a new study.
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Can mangoes protect heart and gut health?

A small-scale study has found that consuming mango regularly might improve cardiovascular health and have a positive effect on gut bacteria.
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What causes chest pain that comes and goes?

Chest pain can have many origins, including problems with the heart, muscles, and lungs. When this pain comes and goes, a person may suspect a problem with the heart. In this article, we explore possible causes of intermittent chest pain, how to tell when the problem is heart-related, and when to call a doctor.
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Nutrition 2018: New data confirm health benefits of plant-based diet

A raft of new studies presented at the recent Nutrition 2018 conference sing the praises of a vegetable-based diet. The evidence keeps on mounting up.
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What happens if you fast for a day?

What happens if you don't eat for a day? While most people will feel hungry and possibly tired, there is also a range of other effects. In this article, learn about how the body starts to burn fat for energy and whether fasting for 24 hours can be a good weight loss tool. We also investigate the possible risks.
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What are the benefits of blackberries?

The blackberry is rich in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, and people can add them to their diet easily with some simple changes to their daily eating habits. Learn more about the health benefits of blackberries here, the potential side effects, and how to add them to your diet here.
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How does cheese affect cholesterol levels?

Most types of cheese are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Studies provide conflicting information about the relationship between cheese and blood cholesterol levels. Here, learn more about how cheese may affect a person's cholesterol levels, and which types of cheese are best for a person with high cholesterol.
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Job strain could be harming your heart

A study has found that job strain — defined as doing highly demanding work but having low control over it — is tied to higher risk for atrial fibrillation.
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These four foods are proven to lower your cholesterol

A new analysis shows that the so-called Portfolio diet — which consists of four main food components — reduces cholesterol and cardiovascular risk.
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