Our goal is to always keep our readers informed about the latest breaking health news. Sometimes medical research results can surprise as well as inform.

Cardio health is a concern for many as a leading cause of serious illness and death for both men and women. Cardiovascular disease tend to run in families, and if heart problems have occurred in your family members we recommend you educate yourself on the best lifestyle or diet changes, and natural or pharmaceutical medicines that can help.

Before we present our information we must state that there are exceptions to research findings, and you should always check-in with your doctor before making significant changes in your diet, lifestyle or medication and supplement regimens.

Cholesterol and Fats – Not Harmful?
Cholesterol is not what we thought when it comes to heart health. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has reported on an analysis covering over 300,000 participants in which the authors concluded, “Dietary cholesterol did not statistically significantly change serum triglycerides or very-low-density lipoprotein concentrations.”[1]

The British Medical Journal published the study findings on over 68,000 participants showing that, in people over the age of 60, low density lipoprotein, LDL – the “bad” cholesterol – is not associated with early death but is, in fact, associated with longevity.[2]

In a review of 24 clinical trials of statin medication used in cases of heart failure, published in 2017, the authors concluded statins do not reduce sudden cardiac death, or mortality, but can in some cases reduce the length of hospitalization.[3]

The role of dietary fats for healthy hearts is also under scrutiny. Omega-3[4] fatty acids, such as those found in salmon and walnuts, have stronger support from research than omega-6[5] fatty acids, such as those found in vegetable oils, for beneficial effects on blood lipids such as LDL and total cholesterol.[6] The dietary ratio of these fats has also been found to be important as research shows more omega-3 fats than omega-6 is beneficial.[7]

Sugar, Syrup, Fructose, Glucose
If cholesterol could be less of a factor in atherosclerosis than previously thought, what is plugging us up? It might be sugar. In The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease, authors James J. DiNicolantonio, Sean C. Lucan, and James H. O’Keefe comment on factors in coronary heart disease (CHD), stating: “When saturated fats are replaced with refined carbohydrates, and specifically with added sugars (like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup), the end result is not favorable for heart health. Such replacement leads to changes in LDL, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglycerides that may increase the risk of CHD.”[8]

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New Insights: How Stress Affects the Heart
Researchers at the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research and Heidelberg University Hospital have conducted studies on how hearts of mice respond to stress, and the influence of a gene fragment known as HDAC4, and came up with new findings: a formerly undetected signal pathway causes heart failure or protects the heart from it, depending on the type of stress.[9]

Chronic stress triggered one path of response during exercise, short-term stress another. Protective enzymatic activity and the effects of HDAC4 diminished with long-term stress, causing heart cells to rely on sugar-protein complexes for energy to a greater degree than usual. These complexes have a negative effect on calcium metabolism, on which the heart’s ability to contract depends. The altered metabolism promotes heart failure over time. When subjected to short term stress, the effect of exercise was still adverse. The mice developed heart failure after intense exercise but when the stress was relieved, the heart failure resolved.

Future research will explore how these findings relate to human health, but this new information adds to the evidence that stress management is vital for heart health.

Could Too Much Exercise Be a Problem?
“Athlete’s heart”, “Athletic Heart Syndrome”, athletic bradycardia and athletic cardiomegaly all refer to a condition involving an enlarged heart with a slower than normal rate of contraction and changes in the aorta, the massive artery that distributes blood to the body, arising from extended periods of intense exercise. In the Encyclopedia of Cardiovascular Research and Medicine (2018), L. M. Safi and M. J. Wood of Harvard Medical School state:  “This syndrome encompasses a variety of significant physiological and morphological changes that affect all cardiac chambers and the aorta. Sport-specific cardiac remodeling occurs after repetitive training exercises and leads to differing cardiac adaptations. Understanding the possible normal cardiac adaptations to exercise is necessary to differentiate healthy cardiac adaptations from potentially life-threatening pathology.”[10]

It occurs primarily in endurance athletes, and is sometimes mistaken for illness-related changes in the heart. It has not been found to have adverse health effects and reverses following 3 months of deconditioning.[11]

Is Athletic Heart Syndrome really a problem?
It could be. Potential danger could exist if it is assumed that cardiomegaly and other findings are the result of Athlete’s Heart and no further exploration is undertaken.[12] All changes in the size and the function of the heart should always be fully investigated.

References
[1] Berger, Samantha, et al. “Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2015): ajcn100305.
[2] Ravnskov, Uffe, et al. “Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review.” BMJ open 6.6 (2016): e010401.
[3] Al-Gobari, Muaamar, et al. “No benefits of statins for sudden cardiac death prevention in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” PloS one 12.2 (2017): e0171168.
[4] Calder, Philip C. “New evidence that omega-3 fatty acids have a role in primary prevention of coronary heart disease.” Journal of Public Health and Emergency 1.2 (2017).
[5] Ramsden, Christopher E., et al. “Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73).” bmj353.i1246 (2016): i1246.
[6] Singh, R. B., et al. “Association of Higher Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Diet with Higher Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in North India.” MOJ Public Health 6.6 (2017): 00193.
[7] Simopoulos, Artemis P. “The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.” (2008).
[8] DiNicolantonio, James J., Sean C. Lucan, and James H. O’Keefe. “The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease.” (2015).
[9] Lehmann, Lorenz H., et al. “A proteolytic fragment of histone deacetylase 4 protects the heart from failure by regulating the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway.” Nature medicine (2017).
[10] L.M. Safi, M.J. Wood Athlete’s Heart  Encyclopedia of Cardiovascular Research and Medicine, Volume null, Issue null, Pages 205-211
[11] Pelliccia A., Maron B.J., De Luca R., Di Paolo F.M., Spataro A., Culasso F. (2002) Remodeling of left ventricular hypertrophy in elite athletes after long-term deconditioning. Circulation 105:944–949.
[12] “Athletic Heart Syndrome”. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. November 2005. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec07/ch082/ch082c.html

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