Tag Archives: heart failure

Aspirin use may increase the risk of heart failure among at-risk individuals

Aspirin may increase the risk of heart failure in individuals with at least one underlying health factor that predisposes them to such conditions, a new study finds.

Image credits Miguel Á. Padriñán.

Aspirin is a commonly-used drug prescribed, among other uses, as a blood-thinning agent. Blood thinners are anticoagulants, substances that prevent blood from clotting, or that slow down its clotting speed. They’re prescribed to individuals at risk of heart attacks and strokes in order to reduce the chances of such events taking place, as they are caused by blood clotting inside our arteries and veins (where it shouldn’t).

However, this study calls into question the wisdom of prescribing aspirin for such purposes. According to the findings, aspirin may actually increase the risk of heart failure for patients with at least one predisposing factor.


“This is the first study to report that among individuals with at least one risk factor for heart failure, those taking aspirin were more likely to subsequently develop the condition than those not using the medication,” said study author Dr. Blerim Mujaj of the University of Freiburg, Germany.

“While the findings require confirmation, they do indicate that the potential link between aspirin and heart failure needs to be clarified.”

Despite its use as a preventive treatment for heart failure, aspirin’s effects on this condition remain controversial. The team wanted to provide a better look at the interaction between the two, both in patients with and without heart disease, and whether its use can promote the emergence of heart disease in patients who are already at risk of developing it.

According to the findings, aspirin use is associated with a 26% higher risk of heart failure in patients with at least one predisposing factor. These include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The study worked with 30,827 participants enrolled from Western Europe and the US into the HOMAGE (Heart OMics in AGEing) study; all were flagged as being ‘at risk’ for developing heart failure due to one of the factors listed above. All participants were aged 40 and above (average age 67) and had not experienced any incidents of heart failure at the start of the study. Roughly 34% of the participants were women.

Their aspirin use was recorded at the start of the study, based on which they were classified as ‘users’ or ‘non-users’. Follow-up investigations were performed at the first fatal or non-fatal heart failure event that required the participant’s hospitalisation.

At baseline, a total of 7,698 participants (25%) were taking aspirin. Over the 5.3-year duration of the study, 1,330 developed heart failure.

The 26% increased risk figure was obtained after adjusting for a whole host of factors including but not limited to sex, age, body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, blood pressure, and hypertension. This means that the increase in risk observed in the study comes down to the use of aspirin exclusively.

In order to verify the results, the team repeated the analysis after matching users and non-users based on risk factors. In this step, aspirin was associated with a 26% increased risk of a new heart failure diagnosis. The authors then excluded patients with a history of cardiovascular disease from the data pool and performed the analysis yet again. Among the 22,690 participants (74% of the initial number) free of cardiovascular disease, aspirin use was associated with a 27% increased risk of developing heart failure.

“This was the first large study to investigate the relationship between aspirin use and incident heart failure in individuals with and without heart disease and at least one risk factor,” Dr. Mujaj explains. “Aspirin is commonly used — in our study one in four participants were taking the medication. In this population, aspirin use was associated with incident heart failure, independent of other risk factors.”

“Large multinational randomised trials in adults at risk for heart failure are needed to verify these results. Until then, our observations suggest that aspirin should be prescribed with caution in those with heart failure or with risk factors for the condition.”

The paper “Aspirin use is associated with increased risk for incident heart failure: a patient‐level pooled analysis” has been published in the journal ESC Heart Failure.

Neuromorphic chip mimics biological neurons to prevent heart failure

Scientists have devised a solid-state neuron that responds nearly identically to the electrical behavior of biological neurons. The goal is to someday insert bionic chips into the brains of patients to address malfunctioning biological circuits in the nervous system and regulate functions lost to diseases.

The neural chip responds to electrical signals from nerves in the same way as real neurons. This has huge potential for medical devices, like smart pacemakers. Credit: University of Bath.

Alain Nogaret, a professor of physics at the University of Bath, and colleagues designed microcircuits that mimic the activity of ion channels and the neural response of respiratory and hippocampal neurons.

They first analyzed the parameters from a large-scale database of electrophysiological recordings, replicating the dynamics of hippocampal and respiratory neurons.

Getting the membrane voltage of the synthetic chip to oscillate identically to the biological chip was extremely challenging. But, in the end, “enriching cross-disciplinary interactions with colleagues and hard work” paid off, Nogaret told ZME Science.

The researchers performed 60 different current injection protocols on the solid-state neurons, which generated nearly identical electrical responses when compared to biological neurons.

 Prof. Alain Nogaret and Dr. Kamal Abu-Hassan in their lab
 Credit: University of Bath.

“Our approach allows analog hardware including highly nonlinear circuits to be configured to perform specific tasks. A computation that uses the physical properties of the hardware presents enormous advantages in terms of low latency times, low power consumption, ability to read raw nerve signals, etc. but has so far been hindered by the difficulty of finding hardware parameters that condition the behaviour of biocircuits. We expect to be investigating more complex biocomputers than single neurons in the future and to address neuronal disease,” Nogaret said.

The respiratory neurons that were modeled in this study are responsible for regulating respiratory and cardiac rhythms. When this mechanism goes awry, either through age or disease, an individual becomes at risk of developing sleep apnoea and heart failure. Instead of drugs, a device that adapts biofeedback in a similar way to respiratory neurons may prove to be more effective.

“We have evidence that this approach provides a novel therapy for heart failure. Compliance with implant regulations over the certification phase is probably why this technology will take a bit of time before benefiting humans,” Nogaret said.

The findings appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

Credit: Pixabay.

Viagra-like drug might be effective agaist heart failure

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Sometimes drugs that are designed to treat a certain disease can unexpectedly work for other conditions as well. According to a new study from the University of Manchester, Tadalafil — a drug from the same class as the famous Viagra, which meant to treat erectile dysfunction — seems to slow or even reverse heart failure.

Heart failure is a chronic disease that requires lifelong management. It occurs when the heart is too weak to pump enough blood through the body. When cells aren’t supplied with enough oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, the body can’t function normally, resulting in fatigue, shortness of breath, and coughing. When the condition sets in, even mundane activities such as walking or climbing stairs can become difficult.

At first, the heart tries to compensate for its inadequate pumping rate in several ways, including enlarging, developing more muscle, pumping faster, narrowing the blood vessels, and diverting blood supply away from less important tissue. These measures only temporarily mask the problem since heart failure worsens in time until the compensation mechanisms no longer work. These measures also explain why it usually takes years for a patient to realize that their heart has stopped functioning properly. Often, the diagnosis comes too late — the disease has five-year survival rates lower than most common types of cancer.

Most treatments for heart failure are ineffective, which is why the new study from the University of Manchester is so exciting.

Human trials and epidemiological studies showed that Tadalafil, known by the brand name Cialis in the US, might effectively treat heart failure. Professor Andrew Trafford and colleagues performed a new study that investigated this relationship more closely. The team administered the drug to sheep with heart failure, whose condition was induced by pacemakers. Shortly after the first dose, the progression of the disease was stopped and, in some cases, the drug even managed to reverse the effects of heart failure. The dose received by the sheep was similar to the dose humans take in order to treat erectile dysfunction.

“This discovery is an important advance in a devastating condition which causes misery for thousands of people across the UK and beyond,” said Professor Trafford.

“This study provides further confirmation, adds mechanistic details and demonstrates that Tadalafil could now be a possible therapy for heart failure,” he added.

Tadalafil is known to block the activity of an enzyme called Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5S), whose role is to regulate how tissue responds to hormones like adrenaline. Trafford and colleagues found that in sheep affected by heart failure, the drug triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that restores the heart’s ability to respond to adrenaline. For instance, breathlessness due to heart failure is caused by the inability of the heart to respond to adrenaline and this symptom disappeared in the sheep that were given Tadalafil.

The drug also increased the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. However, despite the promising results, the researchers advise people that they shouldn’t self-medicate and ought to always consult with their doctors before taking new medication.

“Viagra-type drugs were initially developed as potential treatments for heart disease before they were found to have unexpected benefits in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. We seem to have gone full-circle, with findings from recent studies suggesting that they may be effective in the treatment of some forms of heart disease—in this case, heart failure,” said Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.

The findings appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

More evidence showing that flu vaccination lowers risk of death in heart failure patients

Credit: Pixabay.

Patients diagnosed as having heart failure had an 18% lower risk of death if they subsequently received the seasonal influenza vaccine, according to a recent study published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

The flu season is an annually recurring time period characterized by the prevalence of outbreaks influenza that occurs during the cold half of the year in each hemisphere. It usually starts late fall and runs through the spring, with flu cases peaking during the winter months.

Influenza can be very serious or even fatal for patients with heart failure because these patients are often older than 65, have other health complications, and infection exacerbates heart failure symptoms. Heart failure is expected to increase over the next decades as the world’s population ages and people live longer.  By 2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total 2 billion, up from 900 million in 2015.

Some people are at higher risk for serious flu complications, including young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.

In this study, researchers analyzed data on 134,048 heart failure patients over a 12-year period from 2003 to 2015. After adjusting for income, co-morbidities, and other factors, the researchers found the following:

  • Flu vaccination was associated with an 18% reduced risk of premature death. Annual flu vaccination following a heart failure diagnosis was associated with a 19% reduction in both all-cause and cardiovascular death when compared with no vaccination.
  • Frequency of flu vaccination mattered — getting a flu vaccine less than once per year but more than not at all was associated with a 13% reduced risk of all-cause death and an 8% reduced risk of cardiovascular death.
  • Timing also mattered — there was a greater reduction in cardiovascular and all-cause death when vaccination occurred earlier in the flu season.

According to study lead author Daniel Modin of the University of Copenhagen, while their research only looked at patients with newly diagnosed heart failure, the protection from a flu vaccination likely benefits any patient with heart failure. The research team hopes the study can help in making physicians and cardiologists aware of how important flu vaccines are for their patients.

An earlier publication from 2013 analyzed six studies dating back to the 1940s concerning the heart health of over 6,700 men and women with an average age of 67. About a third had heart disease and the rest had risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. They found that people who had received the flu vaccine were: 36% less likely to experience heart disease, stroke, heart failure or death from cardiac-related causes and 55% less likely to suffer a cardiac event if they had recently experienced a heart attack or stroke.

Several other studies have concluded that flu vaccination should be considered as an integral part of chronic heart diseases management and prevention. While the European Society of Cardiology, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, cardiology experts & many other health organizations recommend flu vaccines for patients with heart disease, rates of vaccination in these groups are low.

Recents studies show how coffee is good for your health

Steaming hot, iced, blended, black, creamy. Coffee! It comes in many forms, and it’s part of my daily routine. It’s part of many others’ too. Last week several established publications’ websites were running coffee-related articles, touting this beverage’s health benefits. Scientists have remarked on this drink’s healthful qualities in the past. The idea that coffee is good for you is not a new one.

The Relationship with Diabetes

The delightful drink seems to help in warding off type 2 diabetes. The sex hormone-binding globulin, or SHBG for short, is a protein which controls the sex hormones in the human body: testosterone and estrogen. It has also been considered to have a key role in the evolution of this specific type of diabetes.

It has been observed that drinking coffee will increase the amount of plasma of SHBG. A few years ago, a study showed that women who ingested a minimum of four cups each day were slightly less likely to develop diabetes as opposed to those who didn’t drink it at all.

Help in Other Areas

The Best Way to Start the Day Right. Source: Pixabay.

Coffee, primarily the caffeinated kind, has been known to prevent as well as alleviate Parkinson’s disease. The consumption of caffeine has been found to significantly decrease the number of Parkinson’s cases. In fact, it may even aid in simple movement in individuals afflicted with the disease.

It provides some benefits for those who are concerned about their heart. Small daily doses can assist in preventing heart failure. In one study, it was shown that the risk of heart failure in people drinking four European cups of coffee per day was reduced by 11%.

Newer studies show that the regular intake of a relatively small amount of coffee can bring down the chances of premature death by 10%. Additional benefits could possibly include preventing cirrhosis, decrease the likelihood of multiple sclerosis (MS), and prevent the onslaught of colon cancer. However, to be certain whether these benefits are actually present in coffee more tests are needed. It is also one of the very best sources of antioxidants which protect the human body against destructive molecules called free radicals. This is good since free radicals are believed by many scientists to bring about cancer, blood vessel disease, and other serious ailments.

The Biggie: Coffee and Liver Health

From Pot to Cup. Source: Pixabay.

Perhaps the biggest health factor it basks in being associated with is liver health. Marc Gunter, head of a recent large-scale European study noted by National Geographic, has stated coffee drinking is linked to good health in the liver and circulatory systems. He also says it can account for lower inflammation levels in those who drink it as opposed to those who don’t.

The discoveries this study has led to supply the strongest defense to date for the healthful qualities of coffee. Gunter informed the scientific community and the public that he plans to examine the beverage’s chemical compounds in an attempt to know what makes it healthful.

We have actually seen how it can aid in liver conditions for several years. For instance, it was found that consuming three cups of coffee on a daily basis reduced the chances of getting liver cancer by 50%! Decaf also decreases the number of enzymes located in the liver. Thus, it is seen that caffeine is not always the prime healthy aspect provided in coffee. Drinking the beverage frequently has been associated with decreasing the risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) which is a rare disease infecting the liver’s bile ducts.

As we’ve seen, coffee has quite a few benefits when drunk regularly and moderately. The important thing to recognize now is that many specific studies need to done on coffee itself and how it relates to treating various illnesses.

High salt intake doubles the risk of heart failure

If you thought salt isn’t so bad… well, it is.

Image credits: National Institute of Korean Language.

A new study studied the connection between salt consumption and heart failure risk. It was a follow-up study of 4,630 randomly selected men and women aged 25 to 64 from Finland. Participants filled in a self-evaluation questionnaire, and researchers measured their weight and height. They also took blood and urine samples and measured blood pressure, measuring the salt in the urine.

The study was followed up after 12 years, and salt intake was then compared with the risk of a heart accident. A clear correlation was observed between the two.

“High salt (sodium chloride) intake is one of the major causes of high blood pressure and an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke,” said Prof Pekka Jousilahti, research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland. “In addition to CHD and stroke, heart failure is one of the major cardiovascular diseases in Europe and globally but the role of high salt intake in its development is unknown.”

This was a “correlation not causation” study, but this isn’t nearly the first time salt has been found to contribute to the overall risk of heart failure. In addition to other adverse effects, excessive salt consumption has long been associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The heart just doesn’t seem to like salt all that much. Two times more salt, two times more heart risk failure.

“People who consumed more than 13.7 grams of salt daily had a two times higher risk of heart failure compared to those consuming less than 6.8 grams,” he continued. “The optimal daily salt intake is probably even lower than 6.8 grams. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 5 grams per day and the physiological need is 2 to 3 grams per day.”

In most populations, average consumption is significantly higher than the limit, largely due to processed foods, most of which contain a lot of salt.

Processed foods contain most of the salt we consume, researchers warn. Image via Wikipedia.

So it’s best to keep total salt consumption under 5 grams a day, which is less than one teaspoon. But it’s not just about adding less salt to our food — studies show that about 80% of salt intake is in processed foods, and that’s much harder to reduce. The most straightforward way would be to reduce processed foods altogether — as numerous studies have shown them to be largely detrimental to human health.

The results were presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2017 Congress and have not yet been peer reviewed.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Could Actually Help Your Heart

A new study conducted by Harvard scientists concluded that moderate consumption of alcohol (moderate!) can lead to lower risk of heart failure. The study, which was conducted on over 14,000 men and women aged 45-64 found that a small drink every day is associated with a 20 percent lower risk of men developing heart failure and 16 percent reduced risk for women.

Image via Substance.com

Alcohol is generally regarded as unhealthy. However, alcohol has its benefits; in the Mediterranean diet, moderate consumption of red wine is indicated, and the Mediterranean diet is one of the best for the heart. Previous studies have also found that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better memory later in life. This study found that alcohol itself can be good for the heart.

“The findings suggest that drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of heart failure and may even be protective,” said Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

A cocktail a day keeps the doctor away

The team defines “a drink” as one small (125ml) glass of wine, just over half a pint or a third of a litre of beer and less than one shot of liquor such as whisky or vodka. The participants in the study were divided into six categories:

  • abstainers
  • former drinkers, current abstainers
  • people who drink 1-7 drinks a week
  • people who drink 7-14 drinks a week
  • people who drink 14-21 drinks a week
  • people who drink over 21 drinks a week

During the study, almost 20 percent (1,271 men and 1,237 women) of participants developed heart failure. Out of those, the lowest rate of heart failures occurred in those drinking up to seven drinks per week and interestingly enough, the highest occurrence was in former drinkers. Men who drank between 1 and  7 drinks a week had a 20% reduced risk of developing heart failure compared to abstainers, while in the women, that risk was reduced by 14%.

A pint of beer a day might help your heart. Image via Cache Blog.

It’s quite possibly that the reason why former drinkers showed the highest rates of heart failure is that they had a medical reason to quite drinking in the first place. The sex difference seems statistically relevant, but it’s not yet clear why this happens.

“There are a number of different mechanisms by which the effects of alcohol on the heart may differ by sex,” write the researchers in their study. “Women have a higher proportion of body fat and absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men, attaining higher blood alcohol concentrations for a given amount of alcohol consumed.”

The study was not raw, and scientists controlled, as much as possible, for other elements which may impact the results. They compensated for age, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or heart attacks, body mass index, cholesterol levels, physical activity, education and smoking,

“We did adjust our results to take account, as far as possible, for a variety of other lifestyle factors that could affect a person’s risk,” Solomon explained.

However, as we pointed out several times, correlation does not imply causation. The fact that moderate drinkers show a lower chance of heart failure does not necessarily mean that it’s the alcohol doing the good.

“It is important to bear in mind that our study shows there is an association between drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and a lower risk of heart failure but this does not necessarily mean that moderate alcohol consumption causes the lowered risk, although we did adjust our results to take account, as far as possible, for a variety of other lifestyle factors that could affect a person’s risk.”

Journal Reference:

  1. A. Goncalves, B. Claggett, P. S. Jhund, W. Rosamond, A. Deswal, D. Aguilar, A. M. Shah, S. Cheng, S. D. Solomon. Alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. European Heart Journal, 2015; DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehu514

Light smoking doubles the risk of sudden heart failure in women

If you’re a woman who just can’t give up smoking, but you’ve toned it down, even to just one cigarette per day, then don’t think you’ve eliminated the risks; according to a new research published in the Journal of American Heart Association, even very light smoking doubles the risk of heart failure in women, while quitting drops the risks in a few years.

The research tracked the health of 101,000 US nurses over three decades. In people aged 35 or younger, heart problems usually occur due to a genetic predisposition; but in people older, as were most of the studied nurses, heart failure is typically preceded by coronary heart disease, where the heart’s arteries become blocked by fatty deposits.

After taking into consideration the other factors, such as high cholesterol, family history and high blood pressure, Dr Roopinder Sandhu and colleagues found the women who smoked were twice as likely to suffer major heart issues, even if they smoked “light-to-moderate” amounts – between one and 14 cigarettes a day. For every five years of continued smoking, the risk went up by 8%.

Dr Sandhu, of the the University of Alberta, Canada, explains:

“What this study really tells women is how important it is to stop smoking. The benefits in terms of sudden cardiac death reduction are there for all women, not just those with established heart disease. It can be difficult to quit. It needs to be a long-term goal. It’s not always easily achievable and it may take more than one attempt.”

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, also appreciated the study:

“This study shows that smoking just a couple of cigarettes a day could still seriously affect your future health. As we approach the new year, many of us will be making resolutions and giving up smoking will be top of the list for lots of people. If you’re thinking of quitting and need a nudge, this research adds to the wealth of evidence that stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.”

Shorties: Exercise helps ease depression in heart failure patients

Almost half of all patients who suffered some sort of heart failure slip into depression, even though some of them live another few decades after the event. But exercise really is a miracle worker – according to doctors, even in such a delicate case, it can significantly help patients overcome their depression.

Researchers randomly assigned more than 2,300 heart failure patients in the United States to receive either education and the regular training, or just supervised aerobic exercise, 90 minutes a week for the first three months, and 120 minutes of at home training for the next nine months. Patients who were most active in the exercise group had the greatest reduction, but the average absolute reduction was pretty small.