Meditation ‘cuts risk of heart attack by half’

Meditation is good for the body as well as the mind, scientists have discovered, as the practice significantly reduces the risk of a heart attack for people with heart disease.

 Patients with heart disease who practised Transcendental Meditation cut their chances of a heart attack, stroke and death by half, compared with non-meditating patients, the first study of its kind has found.

 Stress is a major factor in heart disease and meditation experts say the technique can help control it.

 Transcendental Meditation, practised by the Beatles and based on an ancient tradition of enlightenment in India, involves sitting quietly and concentrating to focus the mind inwards by silently repeating a mantra. The practice is said to induce inner peace by allowing thoughts to flow in and out of the mind.

 The results of the research are being presented at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando, Florida.

 Over nine years, 201 African American people with an average age of 59 and who had all been diagnosed with heart disease were randomly assigned to either Transcendental Meditation or health education classes about diet and exercise.

 Both groups continued with their normal medication.

 The researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, calculated heart attacks, strokes and deaths as one result and found a 47 per cent reduction in meditating patients.

 They also had lower blood pressure and significant reductions in their stress levels, the researchers said.

 Dr Robert Schneider, lead author and director of the Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention, said: “Previous research on Transcendental Meditation has shown reductions in blood pressure, psychological stress, and other risk factors for heart disease, irrespective of ethnicity.

 “But this is the first controlled clinical trial to show that long-term practice of this particular stress reduction program reduces the incidence of clinical cardiovascular events, that is heart attacks, strokes and mortality.”

 Dr Theodore Kotchen, co-author of the study, professor of medicine, and associate dean for clinical research at the Medical College, said: “This study is an example of the contribution of a lifestyle intervention—stress management—to the prevention of cardiovascular disease in high-risk patients.”

 Dr Schneider said that the effect of Transcendental Meditation in the trial was like a newly discovered medicine for the prevention of heart disease.

 “In this case, the new medications are derived from the body’s own internal pharmacy stimulated by the Transcendental Meditation practice,” he said.

Handful of nuts a day can keep heart healthy

A daily dose of nuts—walnuts, almonds, pistachios— can make up for a heart-healthy diet, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

 Most nuts contain some nutrients that can benefit heart health and help with cholesterol control.

 They include unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, 1-arginine and plant sterols. Nuts have been shown to reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) levels in the blood.

 Eating nuts also can reduce the risk of developing blood clots and improve the health of the lining of the arteries.

 The above benefits suggest that eating nuts, in limited amounts, may reduce the risk of heart disease, though studies haven’t yet proved this conclusively.

 Almost any type of nut is nutritious — and high in calories. It is best to eat nuts in moderation, no more than a handful a day.

 Also, choose unsalted or low-salt versions and use nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs and dairy products.

 The study has been published in the latest issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource.


Don’t ignore the signs

  Heart attacks are very common and the next time it may be one of our own friends who may be having one. It is important to know how to recognise the symptoms and take proper steps. If properly looked after, a person under heart attack, has the best chance of survival and can lead a long and active life.

 heart attack

Let us start at the beginning.

 The following symptoms should ring a bell in our minds

 * Discomfort in the centre of the chest.

 * Pain in the left side of the chest

 * Heaviness in the chest or upper abdomen

 * Pain in the chest, which radiates into the left or right arm.

 * Unexplained sweating

 * Burning in the chest

 * Uneasiness in the chest

 * Pain in the jaw

 * Choking sensation

 * Pain or heaviness in both the arms

 What are the associated symptoms?

 These symptoms are present along with pain or discomfort

 * Sweating

 * Breathlessness

 * Palpitations or awareness of heart beating.

 One must remember that these associated symptoms are not always present

 The background history of the person is also important; it is much more likely to be a cardiac symptom if the person either has been having high blood pressure, or a history of diabetes mellitus or if he is a smoker.

 The best thing to do is to act quick, not take any chances and take the person to a place where there is a facility to take an ECG and also see a cardiologist. Remember that only taking an ECG is not enough.

 There have been many cases where the ECG reports are normal and the person goes back home, only to develop an attack. It is the background check plus the symptoms plus an ECG which should be evaluated to help in the diagnosis.

 Why do we need to get treated early?

 The person has the best chance if he is given clot dissolving drugs and if necessary angioplasty and stent treatment. The earlier the treatment, the lesser the heart muscle damage.

 Dr Sunil Kapoor is a senior consultant cardiologist, CARE Hospitals


Yoga boosts heart health

  Want to have a healthy heart? Practice yoga daily as Indian researchers have claimed that breathing exercises, stretching, relaxation and meditation improve heart health.

 According to the researchers at IIT-Roorkee in Uttarakhand, heart rate variability, a sign of a healthy heart, has been shown to be higher in yoga practitioners than in non-practitioners.

 Ramesh Kumar Sunkaria, Vinod Kumar and Suresh Chandra Saxena of the Electrical Engineering Department evaluated two small groups of men in order to see whether yoga can improve heart health.

 The team said that in their preliminary study of 84 volunteers, there was strengthening of parasympathetic (vagal) control in subjects who regularly practice yoga, which is indicative of better autonomic control over heart rate and so a healthier heart.

 They analysed the “HRV spectra” of the electrocardiograms (ECG) of 42 healthy male volunteers who were non-yogic practitioners, and 42 who are experienced practitioners, all volunteers were aged between 18 and 48 years.

 The spectral analysis of HRV is an important tool in exploring heart health and the mechanisms of heart rate regulation, according to the team.

Dentists can identify patients at risk of heart attacks

Washington: Dentists can do more than just taking care of your oral health – they can help determine your risk for fatal heart attack, says a new study.

The study followed 200 patients (101 women and 99 men) in private dental practices in Sweden whose dentists used a computerized system, “HeartScore,” to calculate the risk of a patient dying from a cardiovascular event within a 10-year period.
The system, designed by the European Society of Cardiology, measures cardiovascular disease risk in persons aged 40-65 by factoring the person’s age, sex, total cholesterol level, systolic blood pressure and smoking status.

Patients with HeartScores of 10 percent or higher, meaning they had a 10 percent or higher risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke within a 10-year period, were told by dentists to seek medical advice regarding their condition.

12 patients in the study, all of them men, had HeartScores of 10 percent or higher. All women participating in the study had HeartScores of 5 percent or less.

Of the 12 male patients with HeartScores of 10 percent or higher, nine sought further evaluation by a medical care provider who decided that intervention was indicated for six of the patients.

Two patients did not follow the dentist’s recommendation to seek further medical evaluation and one patient was only encouraged by his dentist to discontinue smoking. Physicians for three patients were not able to confirm their risk for cardiovascular disease.

All 200 patients enrolled in the study were 45 years of age or older with no history of cardiovascular disease, medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes and had not visited a physician during the previous year to assess their glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure levels.
The researchers conclude that oral health care professionals can identify patients who are unaware of their risk of developing serious complications as a result of cardiovascular disease and who are in need of medical interventions.
The study has been published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association

Excessive use of aspirin harmful: Study


Healthy people, who use aspirin as a precaution against heart attack, might do more harm than good, warns a review study.

“Taking the drug daily in the belief that it is a way to protect against heart attack or stroke can lead to serious abdominal problems, including internal bleedings,” said the study published in medical journal Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB).

Asserting that stomach bleeding could be fatal, Ike Ikeanacho, editor of DTB said, “The risks should not be dismissed. In people who have never had a heart attack or stroke, the evidence does not support them being on this drug.”

Pointing out that many healthy people take aspirin every day as a precaution, Ikeanacho said, though they don’t have any precise figures but it is very common for people to start themselves on aspirin.

“While some people would continue to take the drug no matter what the risks, most were unaware of its potentially dangerous side-effects,” he added.

Asking doctors to review use of aspirin with all patients they think are taking the drug, including diabetics and otherwise healthy people, the study said, those persons who have already had a heart attack can continue with the drug if prescribed by their doctor.

The drug is currently prescribed to those who have already had a heart attack and diabetics over 50 years of age and having blood pressure, The Telegraph reported.

Rules to rule your heart


HEART TALK: Always keep a check on the symptoms of heart disease

 The common stress test doesn’t tell the full story about your heart condition. Know what more needs to be done

This is a story worth listening to, more so if you have undergone a stress test on the treadmill to check your heart condition and have got a negative result. Senior cardiologist Dr. Balbir Singh of the Apollo Hospitals in New Delhi narrates, “This is about my professor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Some years ago, on feeling somewhat uncomfortable, the professor, a cardiologist, went for a stress test. Much to his relief, it turned out to be negative. But just two weeks after the test, he suffered a heart attack.”

Dr. Singh’s rationale is, “It ran in his family. So even if a stress test shows negative, you need to look at the symptoms too, such as your cholesterol level, your lifestyle, etc. and also whether there is a heart condition in the family.”

But five years after the American Heart Association established that stress tests may fail to identify irregularities of the heart in patients, and cardiologists worldwide are convinced the technique has serious limitations, few people here are aware of the limits of the test. Almost always, a negative stress test frees a patient of any fear of cardiac problems, and a positive result invariably triggers panic.

But Dr. Singh highlights, “A stress test can have false positive or false negative results.” He elaborates on when to worry: “A patient need not worry much about a negative stress test result only if he/she is asymptomatic — that is, if he/she shows no possible symptoms of a heart condition. But if they do, or have already had a heart attack, a negative stress test doesn’t mean they are safe. They still need to do an angiogram.”

This is particularly important in the case of women. “Many women, even after the ECG shows irregularities of the heart or otherwise, show negative during a stress test for non-specific causes. It is better to go for a stress echo.” During stress echo, a small prop is put on the patient while he/she runs on the treadmill to reap accurate results.

If an asymptomatic person shows the stress test as positive, he/she should ideally go for a stress echo or a stress thallin test before undergoing an angiogram straightaway to establish his/her heart condition. A stress thallin is a more expensive proposition but is far more accurate than a common stress test, as it uses radio-nuclear material.

For the layman, Dr. Singh explains how a stress test works. “A stress test puts the heart to stress as you start running on the treadmill. During the test, both blood pressure and heart rate go up, thus facilitating blood flow to the heart. But if there is an arterial blockage, then the blood flow will be less. But mind you, it picks up a blockage only if it is 75 per cent blocked.” However, an angiogram shows up even 55 per cent blockage of the artery.

If the stress test is not always accurate, why do doctors then ask patients to undergo one? He responds, “Like an ECG, it has its importance, particularly in asymptomatic persons. Also, since Indians are more prone to heart disease, we don’t recommend bypass surgery if the blockage is below 75 per cent.”

While a stress echo takes about an hour and costs Rs.4,000, a stress thallin test takes about five to six hours and is priced at Rs.8,000.