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Is Turbulence Good For The Heart?

It’s hard to believe that turbulence could be a good thing for the heart. Consider how the word turbulent is defined: “Characterized by conflict, disorder, or confusion; not controlled or calm.” Those traits don’t sound very heart-healthy. But when it comes to heart rhythm, it turns out that a turbulent response — to a premature beat — is better than a blunted one. The more turbulent the better.

No, you haven’t missed anything, and turbulence isn’t another of my typos. Until [recently], heart rate turbulence was an obscure phenomenon buried in the bowels of heart rhythm journals.

What Is Heart Rate Turbulence (HRT)?

When you listen to the heart of a young physically-fit patient, you are struck not just by the slowness of the heartbeat, but also by the variability of the rhythm. It isn’t perfectly regular, nor is it chaotic like atrial fibrillation (AF). Doctors describe this — in typical medical speak — as regularly irregular: The heart rate increases as the patient inhales and slows as he or she exhales. This variability occurs as a result of the heart’s responsiveness to its environment. The more robustly and quickly the heart responds, the healthier it is.

HRT seeks to measure how quickly and vigorously the heart rate reacts in response to a single premature beat from the ventricle — a premature ventricular contraction (PVC).  Normally after a PVC, the heart rate speeds for a few beats, and then slows back to baseline over the next 10 beats. The healthy heart responds with a more intense rise in heart rate and a quicker return to baseline. Using simple measurements of heart rate from a standard 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor, a propriety software program averages many of these responses and comes up with a measurement of turbulence onset and turbulence slope. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

A Chia Pet For Diabetes?

Like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano in the spring, Chia Pets begin appearing every December on late-night television and in the gift aisles of many stores. (Full disclaimer: I bought one for the Yankee Swap at Harvard Health Publication’s annual Christmas party.) Water these ceramic figures and they sprout a green “fur” from seeds embedded on the surface. Silly? Sure, that’s why they are such a hit. What you might not know is that the seeds may someday be a real gift for people with diabetes.

Chia seeds come from a plant formally known as Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family. It gets its common name from the Aztec word “chian,” meaning oily, because the herb’s small, black seeds are rich in oils. It was a staple food for the Aztecs, and legend has it that their runners relied on chia seeds for fuel as they carried messages one hundred or more miles in a day. Chia seeds contain more healthy omega-3 fats and fiber than flax or other grain seeds. They are also a good source of protein and antioxidants. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Brush Up On Heart Health

The British Medical Journal reported on a study of toothbrushing and found that people with poor oral hygiene had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.

We’ve known for the last two decades that inflammation plays an important role in atherosclerosis. Markers of low-grade inflammation like C-reactive protein are also shown to be higher in heart disease.

The Scottish Health researchers looked at the general population and followed a large subset with questions about their oral health. They asked about frequency of dentist visits, toothbrushing, and controlled for many co-variables such as general activity, hypertension, smoking, height and weight. They also collected blood for studies of C-reactive protein as a marker of inflammation. They removed from the analysis participants who had no natural teeth (edentulous) and those with existing cardiovascular disease.

This elaborate and lengthy study showed that toothbrushing is associated with cardiovascular disease, and that subjects who brushed their teeth less than once a day had a 70 percent increase in heart disease compared with people who brushed twice a day. The inflammation that periodontal disease causes is directly related to increased C-reactive protein and increased heart attacks.

Leave it to the Scotts and the Brits to remind us to brush and floss every day.

REFERENCE: British Medical Journal, 2010; 340: c2451.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

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