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A new study released by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is suggesting that a simple and inexpensive screening can potentially identify children who are at risk for serious heart issues. While relatively uncommon, sudden cardiac arrest is attributed to anywhere from 100 to 1,000 or more childhood deaths each year. This condition is caused by structural or electrical abnormalities, which often show no symptoms and are rarely diagnosed. Read more »
Contemporary research has shown that there is an increasing correlation between cardiovascular risk factors and brain functionality. In a study conducted in France over a ten-year period, patients were tested on brain function including memory, reasoning, vocabulary and fluency.
Participants in the study were assessed and given a Framingham risk score, which predicts one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future. This score takes into account a variety of factors, including cholesterol level, age, blood pressure, smoking habits, and history of diabetes. They were then given memory tests, which they took 3 times during the 10-year study.
Over the course of ten years, patients with higher cardiovascular risk experienced a decrease in their level of brain function. A 10% increase in cardiovascular risk, as measured by the Framingham risk score, was associated with lower scores on the memory test—2.8% lower for men and 7.1% lower for women. Those with high cardiovascular risk also experienced, on average, a more rapid decline in cognitive function.
The results of this study come as no surprise to most health professionals. Many heart doctors have noted that cognitive decline and heart disease share many of the same risk factors, including smoking, hypertension and high cholesterol.
“As a cardiologist, it is my job to educate my patients on the risks of cardiovascular disease and the benefits to living a healthy lifestyle,” stated Dr. Steven Shayani, director of Long Island Heart Associates. “The increases in cardiac risk can decrease the blood flow to the brain and affect cognitive and overall mental capabilities.”
Numerous studies have shown that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption can be beneficial to heart health. But how much is too much? A study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this week suggests that frequent binge drinking can nearly double the risk of heart attack or dying from heart disease.
The study compared the drinking patterns of healthy, middle-aged men in Belfast, Northern Ireland with those in various regions throughout France. While the two groups were found to drink roughly the same volume of alcohol per week, the researchers observed that the men in Belfast tended to do the majority of their drinking on the weekend, whereas the French spread their alcohol consumption more evenly throughout the week.
Led by Dr. Jean-Bernard Ruidavets from Toulouse University, the researchers followed a little under 10,000 men between the ages of 50 and 59 for a total of ten years. What they found was that the men who binge drink frequently (meaning roughly 4-5 drinks in one day, with one drink being equal to about half a pint of beer) had almost twice the risk of heart attack and death by heart disease compared to the men who drank a moderate amount of alcohol on a regular basis. The researchers believe this may explain why heart disease is so much more prevalent in Belfast than in France, despite similar overall alcohol consumption levels.
So, how is it that a little bit of alcohol can be beneficial, but a lot can be deadly? It is believed that moderate alcohol consumption can protect against heart disease by reducing plaque in the arteries, raising good cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clots. All of these can reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease. However, alcohol is still a toxic substance, and drinking too much alcohol in one day can be harmful. Doing so consistently over long periods of time can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure and high triglyceride levels—all of which actually increase the risk of heart attack!
How much is “too much” can vary from person to person, depending on gender, size, age and other factors. The best way to avoid the negative consequences of alcohol is to avoid it altogether! Any heart doctor will tell you that, while alcohol consumption is fine in moderation and may even reduce the risk of heart disease, it is still far safer and more effective to simply eat right and get regular exercise!