2016 has been a massive year in terms of medical research and innovation, and on the forefront has been clinical research in the realm of cardiovascular health, with topics ranging from chemotherapy’s effect on heart, dietary effect on heart, use of technology in monitoring heart diseases.

And there’s a good reason for this, heart diseases remain the number one cause of death in the US, with 614348 deaths reported annually. So, without further ado let’s take a look at the researches:

1.Sleep Deprivation Causes Heart Disease In Women

Scientists from Columbia University Medical Center have started enrolling women in a multifaceted study to uncover the link between sleep patterns and heart disease. The funding was provided by American Heart Association.

This study was partly motivated by the fact that many women consider not getting enough sleep as a contributing factor in heart disease, after being asked in a recent national survey to name the things they could do to reduce their risk of heart disease.

The most popular choice they selected was to get more sleep. What can improve the current research are future studies focusing on both men and women, since there might be patterns that are different due to biological differences; such as hormones, weight, and height.

2.Mediterranean Diet Is Good For Heart

People who regularly follow a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, even if they eat junk food from time to time, according to a study that was published on 25th March in the BMJ.

It is now a common knowledge that junk food is bad for you, because it causes disharmony in the normal metabolic reactions in the human body, which as consequently damages the heart and ultimately leads to the formation of cardiovascular diseases.

However, the study suggests a Mediterranean diet can neutralize such effects, so people can indulge in junk food, without any health risks.

Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables, along with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and fruits, bread, cereals beans, nuts, seeds to make a complete balanced meal. Therefore, eat at your heart’s delight this wonderful diet, pun intended.

3.Controversy Of Calcium Supplements’ Effect On Heart

There was a bit of controversy surrounding calcium supplements and its effects on heart. So, let’s take a look at the debate.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine assessed 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, and concluded that taking calcium supplements can cause heart disease by building up plaque in arteries, which ultimately lead to cardiovascular problems.

The researchers found that individuals taking calcium supplements had a 22% increased risk of having their coronary artery calcium scores rise higher than zero over the decade, which pointed towards a possibility of developing heart disease.

While another meta-analysis showed that cardiovascular disease risk was not linked with calcium supplements even at the highest tolerable recommended range of 2,000-3,000 mg daily.

One thing is for sure that as a person grows older they are at a risk of calcium from their bones being accumulated at the site of the heart, so maybe take the study with a grain of salt and consider the risks, but don’t add too much salt cuz of obvious reasons.

4.Heart Disease Warrants Consultation About Sex

Sex is on a lot of people’s minds, and rightly so I might add, heart patients are no different and why should they be? Research shows that victims of a heart attack often show a decline in sexual activity.

A study released on the 31st of August, 2016 by Stacy Tessler Lindau and colleagues have shown that among 18 to 55 year olds, it is the women who face greater sexual health problems after an acute myocardial infarction (AMI).

The study also found that in cases the heart patients didn’t consult about sex with a doctor in the immediate month after the AMI, the time taken to reengage in sexual activities was delayed.

Further research is definitely required as what seemed like two totally different health problems seem to have deeper connections, as shown by this study, than previously thought.

5.Consuming More Fruits Will Save You From Heart Disease

We’ve already covered Mediterranean diet’s almost magical effects on the heart, so now following a similar theme; research showed that consuming more fruits is greatly beneficial for the heart.

Research carried out on US adults had shown that higher intake of fruits was cited as being responsible for decreasing the risk of ischemic heart diseases like heart attack, stroke.

In April 2016, Huaidong Du published a research which credited fruit consumption with low rates of cardiovascular diseases in China. So, isn’t it obvious by now eat fruits to your heart’s desire, literally.

6.Alcohol’s Effects On Heart

Well to no one’s surprise, I guess for a few, alcohol is not only bad for the liver, it has devastating effects on the heart as well.

A team of researchers based at the University of California, San Francisco, investigated the relation between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular diseases by comparing alcohol sale laws in different counties of Texas.

The results showed that alcohol abuse and alcohol-related liver diseases were significantly greater in wet counties than in dry counties even after adjusting for factors such as race, ethnicity, age and sex.

There was also a higher frequency of patients with atrial fibrillation, which is the most common type of heart arrhythmia, a problem with the rate or rhythm of heartbeat.

7.Effects Of Antidepressants On Heart

Many scientific pieces of evidence pointed toward the fact that antidepressants do indeed have an adverse effect on heart. But a study published in BMJ claimed that there is no link between taking SSRI antidepressants and the risks of cardiovascular issues. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRI are a common anti-depressant.

The research included people between the age groups of 20 to 64 years old, and found no concrete evidence of any link between elevated risk of heart attacks, transient ischaemic attacks, stroke and arrhythmia in patients with depression prescribed SSRIs.

They did, however, noted an increase in arrhythmias risk associated with SSRIs use. So, that being said it is vital to discuss with your physician all your medical history when taking any new medication especially anti-depressants.

8.Chemotherapy Affects Diabetes Patients’ Heart To A Great Extent

According to a study presented at EuroEcho-Imaging 2016.1 in December, heart damage caused by chemotherapy is worse in patients suffering from diabetes.

The study explored different cancer types and the impact they had on cardiovascular health in order to identify patients at a higher risk.

The research was conducted in order to minimize risk of heart disease and prevent heart attacks, by detecting any abnormal cardiovascular markers.

Cardiovascular disease is more significant in diabetics because these patients suffer from high blood glucose levels due to decreased insulin production.

This high levels of blood glucose can damage arteries, increase blood pressure, leading to medical complications such as heart disease and stroke. This was one of the most significant research of 2016 as quite a few people were aware of this fact.

9.Smart Bra That Can Monitor Heart Rate

This was a revolutionary innovation in every sense of the word, as scientists from a startup from Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to turn one of the oldest piece of attire, the bra into a scientific miracle.

The startup named Bloomer Tech was at the helm of developing flexible, washable circuits with sensors to be stitched into the lining of a bra.

The smart bra device would enable monitoring of electrocardiogram signals from the heart, in addition to other biometrics, and send data in real time to a woman’s smartphone, as well as to her doctor.

The startup aims to provide patients and doctors with more accurate data to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.

The most crucial part of the circuit, however, is in its capability to send data in real time, so patients can note down the time and scenario where they felt discomfort or any abnormal symptom, and share it with their physician at the time of their choosing.

Moreover, it will be available in a variety of styles, so it was indeed one of the most remarkable piece of gear to be announced in 2016.

10.Sodium Intake Increases Risk Of Heart Disease In Children

Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded that US school-aged children are consuming large quantities of sodium than their daily requirement, which is putting them at an increased risk of heart diseases.

The study used data from 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey was published on November 3rd, 2016 in the journal ScienceDirect.

Researchers say that high sodium content in food is harmful because the kidneys have trouble processing the excess sodium it encounters in the blood.

As sodium increases, which is known as hypernatremia, the body holds onto water to dilute the sodium in the bloodstream.

This increases the amount of fluid in the body and in the blood vessels, resulting in an increase in blood pressure as the heart is exerted to maintain proper blood flow in the body.

With time, it leads to stiffening of the blood vessels, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.

Therefore, it is suggested that parents keep a close eye on the food being fed to their children and should replace high sodium content junk food with fruits vegetables and fat-free low-salt meat.

Their heart will thank them for it, as shown by this study.

 

11.Smartphones Help Monitor Heartbeat

Continuing on the theme of fascinating tech that we got to put our eyeballs on this year, and when we thought that our smartphones had evolved to the max, that there was not much innovation left in the smartphone industry, they don’t need to smarten up anymore, we got the mindboggling news that a smartphone app can effectively help detect irregular heart rate.

The app, when combined with a hand-held wireless single lead heart monitor (ECG), could be practically and effectively used to detect irregular heart rate or a potentially fatal, condition known as atrial fibrillation (AF).

This technique is economically feasible and easily accessible since it can allow for systematic mass screening, given that the condition was silent in around two thirds of newly diagnosed cases, according to the researchers.

This was one of my favorite researches of the year, no joke.

12.Coffee Does Not Harm Heart Patients

With the release of this study, all coffee addicts led a joint sigh of relief, and I was no exception. The study, led by experts from Cardiology and Cardiovascular Sciences, Medical School, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alerge, Brazil, found that consuming high doses of caffeine is safe for people who suffer from systolic heart failure and those who are at high risk of ventricular arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), as it was not found to be associated with inducing arrhythmias.

Consuming high caffeine containing beverages and foods has long been associated with increasing heart health risks, particularly for the people who had experienced heart failure in the past.

While many of these claims remain mere speculations with little or no supportive evidence present, but with this research they can finally put their worries at ease and enjoy a dark cup of Joe, the drink that magically makes all our problems disappear, don’t quote me on that.

13.Almonds Are Good For The Heart

Following the same theme of healthy food that is beneficial for the heart, this study reaffirmed that Mediterranean diet, which includes nuts as a vital component, is great for the health as it showed that almonds are great for minimizing symptoms of cardiovascular diseases.

The research showed that almonds may help patients with high cholesterol because they can reduce unhealthy cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while not doing anything to healthy cholesterol (HDL). This meant that indicates that almonds can significantly decrease heart related and cholesterol problems.

The researchers discovered that the benefits of almonds are more visible in hyperlipidemic people, who have an intake of 45g/day.

They claim these findings are important as they can help health experts to better understand the use of almonds in maintaining blood lipid levels.

What a time to be alive! I used to munch almonds casually, when I felt bored, I did not know that practically sitting on my couch watching tv and consuming almonds would be protecting my heart, who needs to go to the gym anyways?

14.Common Painkillers Lead To Heart Failure

This study reaffirmed fears of many patients. The BMJ has issued a press release on a study stating that common prescription painkillers increase the risk of heart disease.

The drugs include traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well as a new breed of anti-inflammatory drugs, known as COX-2 inhibitors. COX-2 inhibitors are a type of NSAIDs that directly attack cyclooxygenase-2 or COX-2 enzyme responsible for pain and inflammation.

Current use of any NSAIDs, which was calculated as use in preceding 14 days, was found to be associated with a 19% increase of risk of hospital admissions for heart failure compared with the past use of NSAIDs, which was set as use greater than 183 days old.

One important thing to note here is that this was an observational study, so no conclusive evaluation can be made about cause and effect, and information on absolute risks was not made available to the researchers.

Therefore, these kinds of studies have to be taken with a grain of salt, and until further researchers come into light, such kind of studies have to be approached with caution.

15.New Drug Helps In Treating Hyperlipidemia

Another major study to come out in 2016 concluded that a new drug released by Ionis Pharmaceuticals, CA, USA, proved to be an effective treatment for hyperlipidemia. IONIS-APO(a)Rx is an antisense therapy that lowers elevated lipid levels and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease in people who are genetically predisposed to this condition.

Results of the phase 2 clinical trial proved to have quite promising results. This innovative treatment modality for hyperlipidemia has been carried out for the first time in human subjects. Hyperlipidemia is a serious condition in which lipid levels become significantly elevated.

This fantastic therapy can be considered a useful solution for hyperlipidemia since the condition is not just restricted to elevated lipid levels only, but can be used as a viable treatment plan for multiple heart diseases. It is also a major determinant of atherosclerotic heart disease that involves deposition of fat plaques in the heart vessels, thus reducing blood flow to the heart and elevating the risk of heart attack manifold in such patients.

16.Hookah Smoking can lead To Erratic Heart Beats

This study really sold the cake for me, as it proved quite “crystal-clearly” that hookah smoking is not as safe as people initially assumed.

The prospective study by Kecioren Training and Research Hospital, Turkey aims to shed scientific evidence to justify these wise words.

According to them, hookah smoking can cause severe carbon monoxide intoxication which can lead to premature, erratic or both increased and decreased heart beats at different times.

They involved 33 healthy volunteers from a hookah café for the study and recorded their vital signs, carboxyhaemoglobin levels and heart beat by ECG before and after smoking for 30 minutes.

The researchers found that carboxyhaemoglobin, carbon monoxide in red blood cells, had increased from 1.3% to at least 23% and in some cases, it was as high as 44% which is comparable to severe acute CO intoxication. In addition, their blood pressure was also elevated to abnormal levels.

Hopefully, this will be the study that finally informs people about the dangers of this trend.

17.World’s First Artificial Heart Transplanted Successfully

This was personally my favourite and most revolutionary heart study of 2016, and what a gem of a discovery this was. CARMAT, a French company specializing in developing artificial hearts, announced that it has successfully, for the first time ever, managed to implant an artificial heart in a new clinical trial.

The artificial heart is similarly sized to the real thing and is powered by an external source.

It is designed to closely mimic the natural biomechanics of a human heart, and with the help of the external power source it may be able to sustain patients continuously for years if the trial and subsequent observations prove successful.

This collaboration was necessary because while the mechanism of heart might be understood for years, but to continuously supply power, and to move fluids around without creating stress and turbulence to such an intricate organ for years, is a major engineering feat.

This discovery will take us to new beginnings in cardiac treatment and corresponding precision cardiovascular medicine that explains how some drugs lead to heart damage for few people and not for the other, suffering from a similar ailment.

The success of this study shows a brilliant future for the world of heart research and possibility of sustaining a health life on an artificial heart.

18.Use Of Beta Blockers To Save Lives

A multi-institute clinical trial press-release in September concluded that use of beta blockers can significantly increase chances of survival of patients with myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack.

These drugs resume cardiac rhythm, reduce high blood pressure and protect the heart from another heart attack. Beta blockers are one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs to treat hypertension, angina, heart attack and heart failure.

BBs work by blocking beta receptors located mainly in heart and blood vessels, thereby blocking the effects of noradrenaline – a neurotransmitter that “ups” heart. By blocking beta receptors, BBs lower your heart’s demand for oxygen and let it switch back to its normal rhythm.

The study has its limitations though. For one, it was performed on a limited number of patients. For another, the effects of BBs were studied only in “less severely ill” patients. Most severely ill patients with AMI require emergency measures and less often receive BBs.

Therefore, it was no guarantee if the treatment would work effectively for a severely ill patient and might show some side effects, therefore it required a proper medical advice, but it was still a pretty revolutionary heart study of this year.

19.Not All Fat Is Bad For Your Heart

This study was good in its own unique way as it highlighted the fact, which very few are aware of; not all fat is bad for you and your heart.

Researchers from the American Heart Association (AHA) have found that giving patients high doses of fish oil for six months daily after a heart attack can greatly reduce scarring in the heart muscle walls, along with improving their ability to pump blood, and can reverse the damage done by heart attack.

Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), consist of the components DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which have the potential to lower risk of arrhythmias i.e., abnormal heartbeats, lower triglyceride levels, slow down buildup of plaque and decrease blood pressure.

The American Heart Association suggests normal individual without a heart problem should eat at least two servings of fish equal to 4 ounces every week to prevent the risk of developing any heart diseases. So “eat fish and prolong your life” basically is what this study said, well it was more detailed than that but you got the point.

20.Stem Cell Treatment For Heart Disease

2016 was a big year for stem cell therapy overall, in all medical fields but especially for the treatment of certain heart diseases.

Currently, there are a lot of techniques being used in stem cell therapy, which range from using different types of stem cells (IPSC, embryonic, bone marrow) to how these cells get incorporated and interact with the heart tissue. One such highly successful example of stem cell therapy has recently found when stem cells of the company Celixir which were injected into the hearts of post-heart failure patients.

21.Night Shift Work Can Increase Risk Of Coronary Heart Disease

This wasn’t pretty thrilling news for all the night owls among us. A prospective cohort research study, released in April found, by analyzing the risks of coronary heart diseases (CHD) in the women who work late at nights, women who worked as nurses, suggested an increased risk of 15-18% of CHD as compared to the women who did not work in rotating shifts at night.

We all knew when our moms told us that staying up late isn’t a good thing, well this study proved it.

The reason why sleeping late affects the heart is due to a number of factors including hormonal changes, immune system getting affected, and our heart having to work extra hard to keep us working during the wee hours.

22.Low Salt Levels Are Bad For The Heart

Well, well, well! What do we have here? A study that contradicts the popularly held belief that salt is bad for the heart.

The study published in medical journal The Lancet on May 20, 2016, found that people who consume low salt levels have an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and death, regardless of if they are hypertensive or not.

People who have high salt levels also share the same risk but only if they have high blood pressure issues.

This study was met with a lot of criticism from the scientific community.

The controversy was that this study was not “scientific enough” and it went against the long-held notion that salt is bad for your heart. Well, whatever, nevermind, this is just one study, I’ll still try to keep my salt intake to a minimum, regardless.

23.Air Pollution Can Cause Heart Disease

This was kind of a big deal especially for those living in urbanized, populous, highly polluted areas.  According to the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution (MESA Air), published in The Lancet on May 24th this year, conducted within six metropolitan areas in the USA between 2000-2010; there is a strong association between air pollution and calcification in the coronary artery.

This was quite a significant study since the previous studies were shorter and dependent on the existing data whereas this study consists of evidence received directly from MESA Air. More than 6,000 people from six metro areas of the US have been considered for the study.

This study showed that people living in areas where there is a high prevalence of air pollution are at a significant risk of developing heart diseases.

This study’s release meant that environment-protection agencies and governments around the world need to assess a better long-term strategy in order to cut down air pollution for the benefit of the entire human race.

24.Telehealth May Help Patients With Heart Problems

This was another one of my favourite studies of this year, since it used technology to solve the number one cause of death, heart disease.

The study released early this year, in June, showed the results of a controlled trial where the use of digital health technologies by non-clinical staff showed positive clinical benefits. Groups at high risk of cardiovascular diseases were provided better care and support with the use of the Healthline services, which is an established telehealth company.

The approach was successful in lowering the blood pressure and weight of study subjects, reducing the risk of stroke by 23% and heart attack by 15%.

Although there was no general improvement or reduction in the overall average risk of preventing cardiovascular diseases, some progress was seen for a few risk behaviors in the study. Similarly, Telehealth interventions improved behavioral aspects such as diet, physical activity and proper administration of medication.

This was a major achievement since it made use of a relatively new and novel technology, telehealth, the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies, as a promising cure for heart disease aimed at people who are at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

25.Breast Milk Is Good For Babies’ Health

As if new mothers didn’t need more proof about the fact that breast milk is extremely vital for a baby’s development due to the antibodies and nutrients it provides.

Apparently, it’s also immensely beneficial for a baby’s heart. Researchers have observed that when a combination of both breast milk and formula milk was given to children, cardiac structure and function improved as the proportion of breast milk consumed by the individuals increased.

The study published in the journal, Pediatrics in its June 2016 issue by the same researcher, has also found that babies born preterm have reduced heart volumes and functions as opposed to those who were born full term.

26.Taking Naps Is Good For Your Heart

Now there is a good reason for taking naps in the afternoon………………. (Sorry, I fell asleep. Where was I? Yeah, outside the parenthesis) so you can escape this horrid reality that is known as 2016. Any guesses? Yes, it has to do with your heart what a surprise.

Researchers have been working on finding the various benefits of mid-day naps to the human body. It was revealed by American scientists that a 45-minutes nap can help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. This further means you can become more invigorated and refreshed.

Every office should make it compulsory to have a 45 to 90 min daily nap. What I wouldn’t give to work in such an office.

27.Heart Surgery Using 3d Imaging Technology

Another revolutionary study conducted this year called for use of 3D imaging technology to carry out heart surgeries. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), UK, has just recommended Heartflow FFRct for use in patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) — a software medical device that calculates fractional flow reserve (FFR) using standard coronary CT angiography scans (cCTA).

This method can help diagnose heart conditions in patients with chest pain and suspected angina with non-invasive techniques.

Due to the significant risks associated with heart surgery, this study came at the right time, as it allowed for heart surgery to be performed without any worries, and also improving diagnosis of coronary artery disease.

28.Detection Of Amyloid Related Heart Failure Using Imaging Technology

Following a similar theme, this study further cemented the use of technology, in particular, imaging technology, in such a massive field of cardiovascular health. the study carried out by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian found that amyloid related heart disease can be detected by imaging techniques, thereby eliminating the need for a biopsy.

The technique is known as technetium 99m pyrophosphate (Tc 99m PYP) cardiac imaging. Don’t let the name scare ya, it’s pretty incredible actually.

ATTR-CA is one of many types of amyloidosis, a condition in which the transthyretin (TTR) protein breaks down and forms fibrils that deposit in organs and tissues.

In the heart, the extracellular amyloid deposits lead to congestive heart failure. Since there are so many different types of amyloidosis, each requiring its own treatment, accurate diagnosis can be an arduous task.

With so many impressive researches that came this year, they can have many clinical implications, especially in performing non-invasive procedures to diagnose diseases such as ATTR-CA, which in turn guarantees patient’s safety.

29.Low Blood Pressure Is Not Good For Cardiovascular Patients

A multinational research discovered that lowering BP to a threshold below 120/70 mm Hg, in fact, increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in patients with hypertension and coronary artery disease.

Investigators from several countries, UK, France, Italy and Canada participated and analyzed data from more than 22,000 patients from 45 countries who had stable coronary artery disease and were treated for hypertension.

All participants were recruited between the period of 2009 to 2010 and were closely monitored for a period of five years.

This suggested that optimal blood pressure is what one should hope to achieve, although it is easier said than done. There are many factors to consider like height, weight and age when it comes to determining a person’s blood pressure.

There is, therefore, unfortunately no straight answer, but hopefully if similar progress is kept being made, we can finally have a scientific answer.

30.US Government Fought Hard To Limit Cigarette Smoking

Even if 2016 sucked overall, one good thing that came out of it was the fact that US government fought hard to minimize the prevalence of cigarette smoking, especially in teens and young adults.

One such example was The Million Hearts initiative launched by the US government in order to save 1 million lives from heart diseases and strokes by this year, 2017.

 

The online web-based initiative utilized a newsletter to disseminate the dangers of smoking in a thorough manner.

The newsletter highlighted various tools, protocols and actions which could be used to identify and treat individuals who consume tobacco.

These included ‘evidence-based strategies for tobacco cessation’ for identifying and treating tobacco users. Similarly, the ‘clinical intervention protocol’ highlighted ways to practically quit smoking, while the ‘Smokefree.gov’s Practice Quit Program’ is a text message program which guides 60 plus aged smokers who want to have another go on life by saying not to smoking.

Co Author : Fazeel Ashraf