Tag Archives: heart

World Heart Day targets salt consumption, risk reduction

heartToday is World Heart Day – when the World Heart Federation and the World Health Organization highlight global efforts to raise awareness about the epidemic of cardiovascular diseases. The goal is to reduce cardiovascular-related mortality by a third over the next 15 years.

According to the WHO, more than 17 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2008, representing 30 percent of all deaths worldwide. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.2 million were due to stroke. More than 80 percent of these deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. The WHO believes the number of cardiovascular disease deaths, mainly from heart disease and stroke, will increase to more than 23 million by 2030.

The CDC estimates that about 600,000 people die from CVD annually in the United States. It is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. About half (42.2 million) of the estimated 83.6 million people in the U.S. with some type of heart disease are age 60 or older, and two-thirds (66 percent) of CVD-related deaths occur in people age 75 or older. Continue reading

Covering heart disease and older adults

heartCardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. As with many other chronic conditions, age is the greatest risk factor. In 2013, someone in the U.S. died from cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds.

The average annual rates for first cardiovascular event rise drastically with age – from three per 1,000 men from 33 to 44 years old, to 74 per 1,000 men in the 85-to-94 age group. For women, comparable rate rises occur 10 years later than men.

Of the estimated 82.6 million Americans who have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association says about 40 million are age 60 or older.

Many of the problems older people have with their heart and blood vessels are really caused by disease, not by aging. For example, an older heart can normally pump blood as strong as a younger heart; less ability to pump blood is caused by disease. But, changes that happen with age may increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

Get more facts, stats and resources for your reporting on heart disease.

Steak and eggs: Putting science, health news into context

Steak and eggs

Photo by avlxyz via Flickr

Is it just me, or do medical journals seem to have a knack for publishing conflicting findings on the same topic within the very same week?

That’s what happened earlier this month when the journal Nature Medicine published a fascinating paper that linked a chemical plentiful in red meat, l-carnitine, to the acceleration of atherosclerosis in mice. Researchers also found convincing evidence that when l-carnitine is converted into another chemical, called TMAO, by gut bacteria it may also be linked to heart disease in people. (For an engrossing account of these experiments and the science behind them, check out Gina Kolata’s story for The New York Times.)

A few days later, I ran across this headline: “L-Carnitine Significantly Improves Patient Outcomes Following Heart Attack.” C’mon now. Really? First l-carnitine is bad for the heart, now it’s beneficial? Continue reading

Was a study of chelation fatally flawed or just countercultural?

This is the second of two posts about a study of whether chelation therapy might benefit some patients who have suffered a heart attack. In the first post, I gave health reporters high marks for their coverage.

Early in my career, I covered a story on chelation therapy. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the alternative treatment. I was a broadcast producer, and we needed video, so we visited a chelation clinic. Looking back, I can’t recall what our story was about, but I do remember what it was like to talk to the patients as they sat in recliners that lined the walls of the narrow storefront.

They were all hooked up to IV bags filled with a vivid yellow liquid that was a mixture of B-vitamins and the chemical EDTA that they believed was flushing heavy metals, minerals, and toxins from their bodies.

Many spoke of chelation with fervor. One man, a diabetic, credited the regular three-hour infusions with saving his legs, which were riddled with sores.

Chelation has been around for decades. It is accepted treatment for lead poisoning and other kinds of heavy metal toxicity. But alternative practitioners have greatly expanded its use, with claims that it can treat myriad ills, everything from autism to Alzheimer’s to problems caused by metal hip implants.  There’s almost no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

It was against this backdrop – lots of claims, enthusiastic patients, evangelistic providers – that the NIH set out to test the practice.

The Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT, has again ignited a heated debate among doctors.

Here’s another voice to add to the discussion. He is lead study author Gervasio A. Lamas, M.D., chairman of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., and professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University Division of Cardiology. I asked him to talk about the process of publishing TACT and asked him to respond to a few of the main criticisms of the trial. These are lightly edited questions and answers from our interview: Continue reading

Health reporters deserve high marks for chelation coverage

In case you missed it, health reporters who cover medical studies had a shining moment recently. It centered around the heavily stage-managed publication of the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT.

TACT was a 10-year double-blind, randomized controlled study of 1,708 patients that was carried out at 134 sites in the U.S. and Canada. It cost the government and, by extension, taxpayers, $31 million. About 60 percent of the sites were traditional chelation centers – some of which had shaky legal histories, the rest were traditional cardiology practices and academic medical centers, including Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic. Continue reading