Extremely high blood pressure in African-Americans is 5 times the national average

Extremely high blood pressure that leads to strokes, heart attacks and acute kidney damage, classified as hypertensive emergency, is five times higher in inner-city African-American patients than the national average, according to a recent study co-lead by a Rutgers researcher.

The study, which is the largest one of its kind to compare the development of hypertensive emergency in a United States inner city, appears in the journal Blood Pressure.

One in three adults have high blood pressure known as hypertension, with the highest rates among African-Americans. In addition to being very common, high blood pressure in African-Americans develops earlier in life but has lower control rates compared to other racial-ethnic groups. Higher than average blood pressure results in the development of serious health complications that come with it. The study sought to determine the prevalence and risk factors of high blood pressure escalating to severe cases among African-Americans.

Full story at Science Daily

Statins have low risk of side effects

The cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have demonstrated substantial benefits in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots (ischemic strokes) in at-risk patients. Since statins are associated with a low risk of side effects, the benefits of taking them outweigh the risks, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association that reviewed multiple studies evaluating the safety and potential side effects of these drugs. It is published in the Association’s journal Circulation: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

According to the statement, one in four Americans over the age of 40 takes a statin drug, but up to 10 percent of people in the United States stop taking them because they experience symptoms that they may assume are due to the drug, but may not be.

“In most cases, you should not stop taking your statin medication if you think you are having side effects from the drug — instead, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Stopping a statin can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke caused by a blocked artery,” said Mark Creager, M.D., former president of the American Heart Association and director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Full story at Science Daily

Study: Street-level air pollution increases health risk among elderly

A new study published today in the journal Environmental Health shows that differences in traffic-related air pollution are associated with higher rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in the elderly. Scientists from Environmental Defense Fund and Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research combined data from the nonprofit’s block-by-block study of air pollution in Oakland, CA, with 6 years of electronic health records from more than 40,000 local residents to evaluate the impacts of air quality between neighbors, people who live on the same street or within a few blocks of each other at an unprecedented resolution.

Specifically, the study shows that 3.9 parts per billion higher NO2 concentrations are associated with a 16 percent increased risk of diagnosed heart attacks, surgery or death from heart disease among the elderly and 0.36 microgram per meter cube higher black carbon concentrations are associated with a 15 percent increased risk of having a cardiac event and/or dying from coronary heart disease among the same population.

The effect estimates of street-level neighborhood differences in long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution on cardiovascular events in the general population of adults, were consistent with results found in previous studies, though not statistically significant. The associations among the elderly add to a growing body of evidence indicating higher susceptibility to air pollution.

Full story at edf.org

Migraine linked to increased risk of cardiovascular problems

Migraine is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular problems (conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels) including heart attacks, stroke, blood clots and an irregular heart rate, say researchers in a study published by The BMJ today.

Although the absolute risks were low, the findings suggest that “migraine should be considered a potent and persistent risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases in both men and women,” say the authors.

Around one billion people worldwide are affected by migraine. It has considerable impact on quality of life and imposes a substantial burden on society.

Full story at Science Daily

Molecular therapy set to protect at-risk patients against heart attack and stroke

Even a single dose of a specific ribonucleic acid molecule, known as a small interfering RNA (siRNA), offers patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease long-lasting protection against high LDL cholesterol — one of the main risk factors for heart attack and stroke. This is the result of a clinical study that researchers from Charité and Imperial College London have published as leading authors in the current edition of New England Journal of Medicine*.

As a component of cell walls and a building block of numerous hormones, cholesterol plays an important role in the cell’s lipid metabolism. However, too much LDL cholesterol in the blood results in an increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and problems such as heart attack and stroke. Patients suffering from a genetic disorder which causes very high levels of LDL cholesterol are at a particularly high risk. In these patients, a protein known as PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) prevents the liver from removing LDL cholesterol from the blood.

Full story of molecular therapy to protect against strokes at Science Daily

Fish oil supplements may help prevent death after MI but lack evidence of CV benefit for general population

Omega-3 fish oil supplements prescribed by a healthcare provider may help prevent death from heart disease in patients who recently had a heart attack and may prevent death and hospitalizations in patients with heart failure, but there is a lack of scientific research to support clinical use of these supplements to prevent heart disease in the general population, according to a new science advisory from the American Heart Association.

“We cannot make a recommendation to use omega-3 fish oil supplements for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease at this time,” said David Siscovick, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the writing committee of the new science advisory published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

“People in the general population who are taking omega-3 fish oil supplements are taking them in the absence of scientific data that shows any benefit of the supplements in preventing heart attacks, stroke, heart failure or death for people who do not have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease,” Siscovick said. Approximately 18.8 million U.S. adults reported taking omega-3 fish oil supplements in 2012.

Full story of fish oil may help prevent death after MI at Science Daily

Popular heartburn medication may increase ischemic stroke risk

A popular group of antacids known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, used to reduce stomach acid and treat heartburn may increase the risk of ischemic stroke, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016.

“PPIs have been associated with unhealthy vascular function, including heart attacks, kidney disease and dementia,” said Thomas Sehested, M.D., study lead author and a researcher at the Danish Heart Foundation in Copenhagen, Denmark. “We wanted to see if PPIs also posed a risk for ischemic stroke, especially given their increasing use in the general population.”

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, is caused by clots blocking blood flow to or in the brain.

Full story of popular heartburn medication and stroke risk at Science Daily

Experts suggest upgrades to current heart disease prevention guideline

Acknowledging key strengths and “lessons learned,” preventive cardiologists from Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic have developed a short list of suggested upgrades to the controversial heart disease prevention guidelines issued jointly in 2013 by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

The recommendations, published in the Aug. 11 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are designed, the authors say, to improve subsequent guidelines and clarify key points of confusion related to risk prediction and treatment of heart attacks and strokes.

“Given that heart disease and stroke are top killers worldwide, even small improvements in the way we identify and treat those at risk could yield tremendous benefits both in reducing human suffering and health care costs,” says lead author Miguel Cainzos-Achirica, M.D., a post-doctoral research fellow in preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Full story of upgrades to current heart disease prevention guide at Science Daily

Diabetes drug may reduce heart attack risk in HIV patients

In patients with HIV, a diabetes drug may have benefits beyond lowering blood sugar. A new study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests the drug may prevent cardiovascular problems because it works to reduce inflammation linked to heart disease and stroke in these patients.

Although infection with human immunodeficiency virus is no longer a death sentence, people with the virus have an elevated risk of heart attacks and diabetes, and problems with glucose, insulin and cholesterol. Part of what drives that risk is chronic inflammation.

In the new study, the researchers found that the diabetes drug sitagliptin (brand name Januvia) both improved metabolism and reduced inflammation in HIV-positive adults taking antiretroviral therapy. The findings are published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Full story of diabetes drug to reduce heart attack risks at Science Daily