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HEART Insight:
doi: 10.1097/01.HEARTI.0000422826.13645.ed
Departments: What's Happening

Heartbeat: New Research Findings You Can Put to Use—Now

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High Blood Pressure

Approximately one in five people who have high blood pressure will develop an increase in the thickness of their heart muscle, a process known as left ventricular hypertrophy or LVH. Although the increased muscle thickness allows the heart to pump blood against a higher pressure, it may result in complications such as heart failure or an irregular heartbeat. A study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension suggests that prevention or successful management of high blood pressure and LVH can also reduce the chance of developing diabetes by as much as 38 percent. Ask your doctor about your blood pressure medication to be sure you are taking the best combination for you.

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Diabetes

As diabetes rates soar, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) notes that more patients are developing a dangerous foot complication known as Charcot foot that is caused by severe nerve damage (neuropathy). In Charcot foot, the bones in the foot soften, leading to fracture, joint loss, collapse of the arch and ulcers. Severe cases can lead to foot amputation or even death. Symptoms, which include swelling and warm, reddened skin, appear suddenly and are often mistaken for infection. Reconstructive surgery can help correct the damage. Charcot foot is rare, affecting less than one percent of people who have diabetes, but foot and ankle surgeons expect the incidence of this complication to rise along with increased incidence of diabetes.

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Alzheimer's

High blood pressure, chest pains or irregular heartbeat is associated with a faster rate of memory loss, according to a study of 135 elderly people with newly diagnosed Alzheimer's disease published in Neurology®, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. At the beginning of the study, 62 percent had a history of one or more cardiovascular-related conditions — irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, heart attack, diabetes, stroke — or were taking medication to treat high blood pressure, or had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The researchers found that the rate of cognitive decline was twice as fast in those who had high blood pressure at the time they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's than those whose blood pressure was normal. A lack of blood supply to the heart was also associated with faster cognitive and functional decline.

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Kids

A study published in Pediatrics suggests that kids who are sleep deprived are at higher risk of becoming overweight, regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, or quality of the home environment. Previous research in adults established a link between not getting enough shut eye and piling on the pounds. Parents should enforce an “age-appropriate” bedtime, recommends the study's lead author Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development. According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschool children need 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night; those in elementary school need 10 to 12 hours; adolescents should get 9 to 11 hours; and teens, 8½ to 9 hours. Overweight or obese kids can develop high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes before adulthood.

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© 2008 American Heart Association, Inc.

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