Dr. Kevin Most: Heart health

28 Days to a Healthy Heart

If asked what item you thought of when you hear the word February, you either pick a snow shovel or a heart. Most people think of a heart as it is associated with Valentine’s Day, although this year a snow shovel may be more appropriate. February is also Heart Disease Awareness Month. The hope is that with awareness we will commit to a heart healthy lifestyle, and realizing that small changes can impact your heart health and life expectancy.

We always talk about the importance of eating right, exercising, not smoking and knowing your cholesterol numbers. Doing those four things will make a big impact on your heart health. Remember Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in both men and women, with over 630,000 individuals dying each year. We know there are many treatments, medications and lifestyle changes that can help us slow or postpone damage to our heart.

If you recall earlier in January we talked about NY resolutions and how most of the big resolutions are broken within just a few days or weeks. The parking lots at health clubs are no longer jammed and many feel disappointed that they did not complete their resolution.

In early January we discussed doing 10 simple things each week and each would be easy but make an impact, especially if they were continued. Well the NIH agrees with that concept and they have a calendar of the month of February with a simple thing to do each day to help your heart health. Each day has a simple goal, it may be to have a healthy snack, take the stairs one day, eat extra vegetables, no salt for a day, go to bed early….. the list goes on. They even tie in the Olympics as one day is to do 3 jumping jacks for each Olympic gold medal the US wins that day. The concept is each day do a simple thing that will help your heart health. The listing is available on nih.gov.

Let’s discuss some new heart studies that have come out in the past 2 weeks that will impact your heart health, and some will actually make you happy.

The first is about exercise, if you recall we used to ask for 30 min of aerobic exercise to help your heart, we wanted you to reach a good heart rate and exercise for 30 minutes. A recent study from Sweden has shown that replacing 30 min of sitting every day with movement like walking even light exercise is linked to a 24% reduced risk of death from heart disease. This is thought of as “avoiding inactivity” versus exercising. So the mall walking in the winter or the walk after dinner will make an impact even though it does not get your heart rate up to levels we thought were needed.

The study published 2 weeks ago, did show that moderate or higher intensity activity had a greater impact and in fact reverse damage that was done by sedentary lifestyle in the past. This study showed that you actually can make your heart stronger, but you have to start at the right age as the heart loses some of it stretching ability as we age. So if you are in your 50’s consider getting into an active exercise program to protect your heart as you age. For those who “don’t have the time to exercise” this study shows that just getting up of the couch and moving for 30 minutes a day will have a great impact on your heart health, working out in your 50’s will actually strengthen your heart, so do you really need to watch a rerun of “Swamp People”, get up and move it may save your life.

Ok, So some of you may still say, “I don’t want to exercise”, well a study that came out 2 weeks ago shows us the importance of Vitamin D and heart disease. So for those who don’t want to exercise maybe taking a vitamin in the winter hopefully won’t be a burden.

Now we have discussed vitamin D in the past. It is important for bone health so women who have a higher chance of osteoporosis should make sure they have a Vitamin D strategy. If you remember the body is pretty cool in that it can make its own Vitamin D in the summer when we have sun exposure, however in the winter when we have more dark than light hours and it is cold so we don’t go out, and if we do we are bundled up to stay warm, we do not get enough Vitamin D from the sun. Supplement Vit D between the time changes.

A recent Vit D study was just released and it shows that Vitamin D can significantly restore damage done to the cardiovascular system. We have talked about the damage high blood pressure and diabetes cause to the heart. The study completed at Ohio University shows that Vitamin D can help restore the function of cells injured following a heart attack and even a stroke. We will see in the near future higher doses of Vitamin D being used as a treatment to treat and prevent cardiac events.

For Dave and Andrea we also have some good news and it relates to Red Wine.

Two new studies have come out regarding the health benefits of red wine. We have all been told that chemicals in red wine are good for our heart health, some recommend a glass or two of red wine a day. It is thought that the chemical resveratrol, which is a strong antioxidant found in wine is the beneficial component. Well, scientists have now developed cardiac stents that are coated with these wine based antioxidants. The stent which is placed following angioplasty will continue to deliver the antioxidant, giving the benefit to the patient. Essentially we are dipping the stent in red wine and providing the protection continuously in place of only when you have a glass of wine.

Many feel a couple glasses of wine helps clear your mind, what if a study showed it actually helped CLEAN your mind as well. A study out last week shows that low doses of alcohol actually improves the ability of the brain to remove waste. Now, be very careful, this is a dose limited response. In other words just because a little alcohol is good does not mean a lot of alcohol is better. In fact the same study showed that large amounts of alcohol caused problems with cognitive skills as well as motor skills. This study is now being looked at with larger numbers of individuals to see if there is an impact in the rate or incidence of Alzheimer’s.

So it looks like another reason that a small amount of alcohol may be beneficial to our heart and perhaps our brain.