Perhaps you missed these thought provoking medical briefs this past year. Some were front-page news while others were buried in back of a paper or appeared only in medical newsletters. They are worth considering and could affect your heart health.
COX-2 inhibitors as a last resort
Don’t eagerly pop that Celebrex without exploring safer alternatives. According to a March article in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,” other lines of more conservative treatment should be tried first due to increased heart attack and stroke risks seen with some popular COX-2 medications.
Initially, try exercise, weight loss to reduce stress on the joints, heat or cold, and physical therapy. If those measures don’t work, add acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin.
If you still don’t experience improvement, a third choice would be non-selective cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors such as ibuprofen. Researchers say, “In at risk patients, use of COX-2 inhibitors for pain relief should be limited to patients for whom there are no appropriate alternatives, and then, only in the lowest dose and for the shortest duration necessary.”
Fish oil and statins equals less heart attacks
The prestigious Lancet reported a Japanese study involving 18,645 high cholesterol men and women who added fish oil to statin therapy experienced substantial protection against heart attack.
After four to six years of observation, heart disease patients who took the statin plus fish oil had 19 percent fewer major coronary events than those in the control group. They also had less unstable angina but interestingly, there was no difference in fatal coronary events or sudden cardiac death between the two groups. However, fish oil capsules cost little, don’t require a prescription, and are safe when used with other medications. Check with your health care provider.
Depression is bad for your heart
Depressed older patients are 50 percent more likely to die or be hospitalized for heart problems and should be treated for both conditions, concluded a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina and Duke University Medical Center.
The results published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed a group of 200 stable heart failure patients over a three-year period. They were given a battery of psychological tests to assess their symptoms of depression. Forty-six percent demonstrated critical symptoms. During the three years, 26 percent died and 48 percent were admitted to a hospital for heart problems.
The psychological tests were matched with a new blood test, b-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) that measures chemicals discharged into the bloodstream by the heart tissue when it cannot pump efficiently. High levels of BNP were expected to predict negative outcomes, but even when that was factored in, Andrew Sherwood, PhD, a medical psychologist at Duke, found the symptoms of depression were independently associated with heart failure.
Stem cells and heart disease
Stem cells could soon be used to mend hearts from cardiomyopathy and heart attack.
Research from two successful clinical trials were presented at the Innovation in Intervention Summit at the March 2007 meeting of the American College of Cardiology.
In one trial, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) repaired damage to the heart muscle caused by heart attack. MSCs, found in bone marrow, generate bone, cartilage and connective tissue. They are drawn to the heart after an injury, where they repair the damage and improve the heart’s ability to pump.
The second study used a different type of stem cell called autologous skeletal myoblasts (ASM), removed from the patient’s own muscles. Catheters were used to deliver ASM to the hearts of 23 patients with severe heart failure. At six months, patients who received ASM showed distinct improvement in heart function and quality of life.
A week after these clinical trials were reported, British scientists announced they had grown human heart valve tissue from stem cells found in bone marrow. Trials of these heart valves in sheep or pigs will begin later this year.
If all goes accordingly, researchers will grow entire hearts using the same process of implanting stem cells on collagen scaffolds. Time frame? These designer hearts could be available in three to five years.
Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org