Tag Archives: heart disease


A Mediterranean diet in the UK would save 20,000 lives a year

The lives of 20,000 Britons a year would be saved if everyone ate a Mediterranean diet, it is claimed.

In the first study of its kind, doctors evaluated the effects of an olive oil, fish and nut-rich diet on the health of ordinary people in England.

It revealed that one in eight deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other types of cardiovascular disease could be prevented if everyone followed a Mediterranean diet.

The Cambridge University researchers said this makes the eating plan as good for the heart as exercise.

Cardiovascular disease is behind more than one in four deaths, killing 155,000 Britons a year.

Study author Dr Nita Forouhi said: ‘A higher level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet could have a significant impact on lowering the cardiovascular disease burden in the UK.’

Dr Forouhi crunched data on almost 24,000 men and women aged 40-plus from Norfolk whose lives were tracked for up to 20 years.

All filled in a detailed dietary questionnaire, underwent various health checks and recorded whether they smoked and how much they exercised.

None suffered heart problems at the start of the study but, by its end, 7,606 of them had suffered a heart attack, stroke or other problem, and 1,714 had died as a result.

Those who ate the most Mediterranean-like diet had the fewest heart problems, the journal BMC Medicine reports.

The traditional diet of Greece and southern Italy involves eating meals rich in fruit, vegetables, cereals, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

Dairy products, fish, poultry and red wine are also encouraged, but red and processed meat should be eaten in moderation.

Numerous studies done in the Mediterranean have shown it to benefit health, but those done in other countries have provided conflicting results.

And no proper research has been carried out in the UK, despite health authorities promoting the diet.

Dr Forouhi said: ‘We estimate that 3.9 per cent of all new cardiovascular disease cases, or 12.5 per cent of cardiovascular deaths in our study population, could potentially be avoided if this population increased their adherence to the Mediterranean diet.’

UK-wide, this would equate to almost 20,000 lives being saved annually.

The change could also provide numerous other benefits, with a Mediterranean diet warding off ills from cancer to diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Image result for mediterranean food

The Cambridge University researchers said this makes the eating plan as good for the heart as exercise

Dr Forouhi added: ‘Encouraging greater adoption of the Mediterranean diet looks like a promising component of a wider strategy to help prevent cardiovascular disease, including other important factors such as not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, blood cholesterol and blood pressure.’

Professor Ian Johnson, of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, said: ‘This is a careful and rigorous study showing a relatively small but potentially important association between higher adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet and reduced risk of heart disease and death from heart disease.’

The British Heart Foundation welcomed the research but cautioned that there is more to good health than just eating well.

Tracy Parker, a dietician at the charity, said: ‘The researchers found that those with high adherence to the diet were less likely to be smokers and more likely to be physically active – both important independent factors in reducing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.’

Source Mail Online

Short people’s ‘DNA linked to increased heart risk’

The shorter you are, the greater your risk of heart problems, a team at the University of Leicester says.

The study, of nearly 200,000 people, found sections of DNA that control both height and heart health.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed every extra 2.5in (6.4cm) cut coronary disease incidence by 13.5%

The British Heart Foundation said short people should not be unduly worried and everyone needed a healthy lifestyle.

Coronary heart disease, which includes heart attacks and heart failure, is the leading cause of death in the UK.

More than 73,000 people die from the disease each year.

‘Small’ risk

The idea that height plays a role in heart health was first proposed more than 50 years ago, but researchers did not know why.

Some thought the relationship was a consequence of other factors, such as poor childhood nutrition stunting height and also affecting the heart.

But the study at the University of Leicester suggests the answer lies deeper – inside our DNA.

They analysed 180 genes that have a known link to height.

The results showed that every 2.5in of height affected the risk by 13.5%, so the difference in heart risk between a five-footer and a six-footer would be around 64%.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, from the University of Leicester, told the BBC News website: “In the context of major risk factors this is small – smoking increases the risk by 200-300% – but it is not trivial.

“I wouldn’t say shorter people need to take greater precautions, because if you’re 6ft 1in (1.85m) you still need to stop smoking.

“This is only one of many factors affecting risk, everybody should be cautious.”

Genetic clues

The study also showed those genes cutting height were also increasing the amount of cholesterol and fats in the bloodstream.

The researchers believe some of the height genes may also be controlling both growth and blood vessel development.

“Understanding these pathways may lead to new treatments and that may be more valuable in the longer term,” Prof Samani added.

But it is worth remembering it is not all good news being tall. as height increases the risk of cancer.

Prof Peter Weissberg, the medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study does not suggest that short people should be unduly worried about their health or that doctors need to focus on the health of shorter patients.

“Everyone, regardless of their height, should do everything in their power to reduce their risk of future heart disease by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking.

“Currently available health checks are designed to help you understand what measures you need to take to reduce your personal risk.”

Sourced from  the BBC Online

MS drug ‘may already be out there’

Depression and heart-disease drugs are to be tested in a trial to find treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from existing medicines.

There are currently no treatments in the secondary progressive stage of the debilitating disease.

Doctors hope the necessary drugs are already out there, but have never been tested on MS.

More than 400 people will take part in the trial at University College London and the University of Edinburgh.

Walking, balance, speech, and vision become impaired in the later stages of the disease.

There are treatments in the early phases of MS to prevent the frequency or severity of relapses. But there is nothing once the disease progresses.


The MS-Smart trial will test the safety and effectiveness of three drugs used in other conditions:

  •     Amiloride – licensed to treat heart disease
  •     Fluoxetine – used in depression
  •     Riluzole – for Motor Neurone Disease

They were identified after a review of previously published research into drugs that appear to protect the nerves from damage.

Researchers believe these treatments could slow down the progress of MS and the trial will be the first time they have been tested on such a large number of patients.

Dr Jeremy Chataway, a consultant neurologist and lead researcher on the trial based at UCL, said there was “huge unmet need”.

He told the BBC: “It may be the case that we have already invented the drugs we need to treat MS.

“In the same way that aspirin was developed as a painkiller and is now used to treat stroke patients, we may well have invented the drugs that we need, we just don’t know that they work in different situations than what they were invented for.

“One of the advantages is they are very cheap, and we know a great deal about them as they have been tested on millions of people around the world in their original indication.

“So it’s much more of a running start when we use drugs that we aim to repurpose.”

Prof Siddharthan Chandran, a clinical neurologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is a landmark study that seeks to not only test three potential treatments, but also showcase a new approach to clinical trials for progressive neurological conditions.”

MS-Smart is a phase two trial, making sure the drugs are safe and demonstrate sufficient effectiveness before they are tested in a larger number of people.

If successful, it could lead to new ways of using the existing drugs to modify the way the disease develops.

Sanjay Chadha

It is the first time Sanjay Chadha, 47, has had any real hope for his condition.

He has lived with progressively worsening MS for 25 years, and is now a wheelchair-user with round-the-clock care.

He said: “In recent years, as my MS has progressed into secondary progressive MS, those treatments aren’t available to help stop the accumulation of disability, which just seems to weaken the whole body.

“It’s very dispiriting and – I hate to use the word – depressing that there’s very little that can stop the symptoms and give me some kind of control and some kind of certainty for the future.

“To have even some kind of hope that there is some kind of possibility of something that might help – it’s that word ‘hope’.

“It’s so meaningful for somebody in my situation. Living is hard enough, but to live with no hope is even harder.”

Sourced from the BBC Online

Mediterranean diet could halve your risk of heart disease

The Mediterranean diet is regularly lauded for its health benefits, including helping to fight dementia and cutting the risk of cancer. Now, a new study suggests it may also be beneficial in combating heart disease.

Researchers from Harokopio University in Athens, Greece regularly examined the health of more than 2,500 adults aged 18 to 89 over a period of 10 years. By the end of the study, nearly 20 per cent of the men and 12 per cent of the women had either developed or died from heart disease, including strokes, heart attacks and coronary heart disease.

The team found those who followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 per cent less likely to develop heart disease compared to those who did not follow the diet.

Healthy? A typical Mediterranean meal (ALAMY)

The study also found that women tended to follow the Mediterranean diet more closely than men.

Whilst there is no ‘set’ Mediterranean diet, it is generally rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and olive oil.

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Mediterranean diet ‘can help women get pregnant’

Researcher Ekavi Georgousopoulou said: “Because the Mediterranean diet is based on food groups that are quite common or easy to find, people around the world could easily adopt this dietary pattern and help protect themselves against heart disease with very little cost.”

The study was limited to Greece, but previous studies in other countries have also linked the Mediterranean diet to reducing heart disease.

A 2013 study in Spain suggested that a Mediterranean diet is almost as good at reducing the risk of a heart attack as taking statins with Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, stating: “Eating a Mediterranean diet is associated with heart health benefits, including reductions in heart attack, stroke and deaths from cardiovascular disease.”

Sourced from the Telegraph Online

Regular coffee drinkers have ‘cleaner’ arteries

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries – a known risk factor for heart disease – Korean researchers believe.

They studied more than 25,000 male and female employees who underwent routine health checks at their workplace.

Employees who drank a moderate amount of coffee – three to five cups a day – were less likely to have early signs of heart disease on their medical scans.

The findings reopen the debate about whether coffee is good for the heart.

Heart effects

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the effect of coffee on heart health.

Some studies have linked consumption to heart risk factors, such as raised cholesterol or blood pressure, while others suggest the beverage may offer some heart protection.

But there is no conclusive evidence either way, and the latest research from South Korea, which is published in the journal Heart, only adds to the discussion.

Unexplained link

In the study, the researchers used medical scans to assess heart health.

Specifically, they were looking for any disease of the arteries supplying the heart – the coronary arteries.

In coronary heart disease, the coronary arteries become clogged by the gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls.

The scan the researchers used looks for tiny deposits of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries to provide an early clue that this disease process may be occurring.

None of the employees included in the Korean study had outward signs of heart disease, but more than one in 10 of them were found to have visible calcium deposits on their scans.

The researchers then compared the scan results with the employees’ self-reported daily coffee consumption, while taking into account other potential heart risk factors such as smoking, exercise and family history of heart problems.

People who drank a few cups of coffee a day were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than people who drank more than this or no coffee at all.

The study authors say more research is needed to confirm and explain the link.

Coffee contains the stimulant caffeine, as well as numerous other compounds, but it’s not clear if these might cause good or harm to the body.

Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation said: “While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association.

“We need to take care when generalising these results because it is based on the South Korean population, who have different diet and lifestyle habits to people in the UK.”

Sourced from the BBC Online

Fall in Scots death toll from heart disease and strokes

The number of people dying from heart disease fell by more than 3,000 since 2004, while survival rates for those suffering their first heart attack increased by 6.7 per cent.

Scottish Government figures released yesterday found that the overall mortality rate for heart disease has fallen 43 per cent from 2004 to 2013 with stroke deaths down by 41 per cent over the same period.

They confirmed a long-term trend for the decline in mortality rates of coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure and heart attacks.

The increasing survival rate came as incidences of coronary heart disease declined by four per cent, while cases of angina fell by 44 per cent.

Despite this, heart attacks, chest pains and heart failure all increased over the course of the decade.

The figures also found that incidences of cerebrovascular disease, which causes strokes, dropped by 30 per cent between 2004 and 2013.

Annual stroke deaths fell by 1,000 to 2,483 over this period.

Alongside cancer, heart disease and strokes are Scotland’s “big three” killers.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said that work needs to continue in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
He added: “It is encouraging that fewer people in Scotland are dying from coronary heart disease and that the survival rate for heart attack is improving.

“But there can be no room for complacency.

“CHD is still Scotland’s single biggest killer and the death rate in Scotland is higher than the rest of the UK.”

The figures also revealed that the gap in death rates between the worst and best off areas in Scotland for coronary heart disease has narrowed by 33 per cent over 10 years.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “It’s tremendous news that fewer people are developing heart disease or suffering strokes and that fewer people are dying.

“I’m also encouraged to see that health inequalities are reducing in this area with the gap in mortality rates between the most deprived and least deprived communities falling over time.”

She added: “These figures are a genuine success story for Scotland’s health service.

“But the real secret to further decreases in heart disease and stroke lies in people’s lifestyles.

“Taking regular exercise, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol are simple steps that everyone can take to reduce the risk of suffering heart disease or stroke.”

Figures published last year found that the cost of prescribing drugs for heart disease fell from £231million in 2004 to £111million in 2012.

Source The Express

Have your steak and eat it: how red meat could become healthier

A pill which could stop red meat causing heart disease is closer after scientists reported a breakthrough which they say could allow gastronomes to ‘have their steak and eat it.’

Red meat is known to promote the serious condition astherosclerosis where arteries become clogged up with fatty plaque-like substances.

Red meat could be

Plaque build-up can cause arteries to harden and narrow, which restricts blood flow and can damage organs and stop them functioning properly. If the plaques rupture they can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

It was previously thought that saturated fat in meat was the key culprit.

But now scientists at the Lerner Research Institute in the US have discovered that bacteria in the gut triggers a chemical reaction on meeting ‘L-carnitine’, a nutrient which is abundant in red meat.

It produces a metabolite, or small molecule, called gamma-butyrobetaine which helps drive the build-up of plaque 1000 times faster than any previously known substance.

Last year the team discovered that the same bacterial process triggers a separate chemical reaction which ‘trimethylamine-N-oxide’ – a molecule also known to promote fatty deposits in arteries, but in much smaller quantities.

They suggest that a drug or a probiotic could be developed to change the bacteria in the gut and prevent the molecules forming.

Lead author Dr Stanley Hazen said: “The findings identify the pathways and participants involved more clearly, and help identify targets for therapies for interventions to block or prevent heart disease development.

“While this is into the future, the present studies may help us to develop an intervention that allows one to ‘have their steak and eat it too’ with less concern for developing heart disease.”

Atherosclerosis (and the resulting cardiovascular diseases) is the single biggest cause of death in the developed world, accounting for one in three of all deaths.

Each year an estimated 124,000 deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease in England and Wales.

The research was published in the journal Cell Metabolism

Source The Telegraph

Blood-vessel gene could fight cancer and heart disease

A blood vessel-creating gene that could be used to combat cancer, heart disease and strokes has been identified by scientists.

A graphic of a blood vessel

Piezo1, as the gene is called, allows new blood vessel networks to grow in response to changes in blood flow.

Researchers say the gene can be manipulated to restrict blood supply to certain cancers, which require blood to grow. And it could be used to treat atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Atherosclerotic plaques, accumulated deposits of material on artery walls, tend to form at areas of disturbed blood flow.

Lead scientist Professor David Beech, from Leeds university, said: ”Blood vessel networks are not already pre-constructed but emerge rather like a river system.

”This gene, Piezo1, provides the instructions for sensors that tell the body that blood is flowing correctly and gives the signal to form new vessel structures.

”The gene gives instructions to a protein which forms channels that open in response to mechanical strain from blood flow, allowing tiny electrical charges to enter cells and trigger the changes needed for new vessels to be built.”

Prof Beech added: ”We need to do further research into how this gene can be manipulated to treat these diseases. We are in the early stages of this research, but these findings are promising.”

The research, co-funded by the British Heart Foundation, appears in the online edition of Nature journal.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: ”Blood flow has a major effect on the health of the arteries it passes through. Arteries are more likely to become diseased in areas where the flow is disturbed, for example.

”This is because the endothelial cells lining the arteries are exquisitely sensitive to this flow and their response to changes can lead to disease, where the artery becomes narrowed and can eventually cause a heart attack.

”Until now, very little has been known about the process by which blood flow affects endothelial cells. This exciting discovery, in mice, tells us that a protein in those cells could be critical in detecting and responding to changes in blood flow.

”Through further research, using this knowledge, we hope to see whether a treatment can be developed that targets this process to prevent the development of disease in healthy arteries.”

Source The Telegraph

Genetic test for heart disease risk rolled out in UK

The DNA blood test aims to spot the one in 500 people in the UK who have familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), an inherited condition that greatly increases a person’s heart attack risk.

Left undiagnosed, up to half of people with FH will develop heart disease before they are 60.

Early treatment can bring risk down to a normal level.

People with FH inherit a gene that causes high levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in the blood.

This can lead to hardening of the arteries and an increased risk of heart disease if left untreated.

A DNA test can check for the presence of the faulty gene.

When people are diagnosed, their family should also be offered testing.

If one person is found with FH, on average half their brothers and sisters and half their children will also have the faulty gene and be at high risk of early heart disease.
‘Huge opportunity’

The British Heart Foundation is funding £1m to pay for nurses so that testing can be extended to eight NHS trusts across England and Scotland, after a successful pilot scheme in Wales.

They are:

  •     Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust
  •     Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  •     South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Centre
  •     Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cardiac and Stroke Network
  •     University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
  •     City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust
  •     NHS Grampian/North of Scotland Cardiac Network
  •     University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Some parts of the UK, such as the East of England, will not have access to nearby testing services, however.

Prof Steve Humphries, of the British Heart Foundaton, said: “With an estimated one in 200 families carrying an FH-causing faulty gene in the UK, the introduction of cascade testing represents a huge opportunity to identify and treat people before they suffer from potentially life-threatening heart problems.”

Heart UK, The Cholesterol Charity, urged NHS England to launch a national FH testing service.

Article was taken from BBC Online

Fruit juice timebomb: Health experts say stick to one glass a day as teenagers’ poor diets are blamed for increased diabetes risk

The appalling diets of the nation’s teenagers have been exposed by a report which shows that many are already putting themselves at risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

And last night health experts warned that fruit juice – seen by many as a healthy option – should be drunk no more than once a day because of its high sugar content.

Girls and boys aged 11 to 19 typically eat 42 per cent too much sugar and 14 per cent too much saturated fat.

Health experts have warned people to stick to one glass of fruit juice a day due to its high sugar content

Health experts have warned people to stick to one glass of fruit juice a day due to its high sugar content

Only 10 per cent of teenage boys and 7 per cent of teenage girls manage to get their five portions of fruit and veg a day.

Adults do not fare a great deal better. Only a third get their five-a-day and the diet of the average adult exceeds recommended sugar limits by 10 per cent.

The report, the Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey, also shows  that children aged ten and under typically exceed the recommended daily limit of sugar by 34 per cent.

Their main sources of sugar are fruit juice, soft drinks, cereal bars, biscuits and cakes.

It reveals that adults are eating half the recommended weekly amount of oily fish – which protects against heart disease, cancer and dementia – while teenagers and children only manage a fifth of  this amount.

The survey, which involved 4,000 adults and children between 2008 and 2012, says 48 per cent of men and women have above-normal levels of cholesterol, putting them at higher risk of heart disease  and strokes.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study paints a clear picture that too many people, especially children, are not eating healthily enough.

‘This puts them at greater risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity now or in the future. There is no magic bullet to solve this problem. Parents, schools, restaurants, retailers and the food industry all have a role to play.

‘But the Government can fire the first shot by implementing a 9pm watershed ban on junk food marketing to stop children being bombarded with advertising about products high in fats, salts and sugars. We also need stringent regulation to protect children from online marketing tactics.’

Only a third of adults get their recommended five-a-day, and are still eating too much fat, with 48 per cent having higher-than-average cholesterol, putting them at risk of heart attacks and strokes

Only a third of adults get their recommended five-a-day, and are still eating too much fat, with 48 per cent having higher-than-average cholesterol, putting them at risk of heart attacks and strokes

Experts have also warned that government change4life adverts which promote healthy eating are not working, as people who already eat healthily are the only ones who pay attention

Experts have also warned that government Change4Life adverts which promote healthy eating are not working, as people who already eat healthily are the only ones who pay attention

There is also concern that policies such as the NHS’s Change4Life programme are having little effect because only healthy adults and children pay any attention.

The initiative, which has cost taxpayers £65million since its launch in January 2009, consists of television adverts, a website, a helpline and locally-run sports clubs all aimed at curbing the obesity epidemic.

The scheme also produces posters for schools, community clubs, GP surgeries and hospitals urging the public to eat their five- a-day, take regular exercise and  cut portion sizes.

Dr Ian Campbell, of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘In spite of a raft of measures designed to encourage us to eat a healthier diet we are, as a nation, failing miserably.

‘If we really care about the health of our children we need to take far more decisive action.

‘We need to regulate the food industry to make healthy choices easier, more attractive and cheaper.’

Dr Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, the Government agency that released the report, said fruit juice was a good option as one of the recommended five fruit portions a day.

But she warned: ‘It should only be drunk once a day and with  a meal because it can be high  in sugar.’

In March, Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, said the Government may have to introduce a  sugar tax to help make the nation’s diet more healthy.

Later that month the World Health Organisation urged the public to cut their sugar intake by half to six teaspoons a day.

Yesterday Labour MP Keith Vaz called for food labels to include the numbers of teaspoons of sugar in all products.

Article taken from Daily Mail Online