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More Exercise After 65 Lowers Heart Attack Risk

If you think being a senior is a good excuse to cut back on working out, think again - a newly published study suggests that you’re better off exercising more rather than less as you get older. That’s the message from researchers who analyzed heart monitor recordings of 985 seniors (average age 71) taken over a five-year period. The investigators were focused on heart rate variability – differences in time between one heartbeat and the next in everyday life. Over the course of the clinical trail, the researchers found that seniors in the study who walked longer and faster and were more physically active than their peers had better heart rate variability, fewer irregular heart rhythms, and an estimated 11 percent lower risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death. “Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age,” study leader Luisa Soares-Miranda, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Faculty of Sport at Portugal’s University of Porto said in a press release.

Luisa Soares-Miranda et al, “Physical Activity and Heart Rate Variability in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study,” Circulation, May 2014

A Good Reason to Keep Your Cool

Losing your temper can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke within hours after your meltdown. A review and analysis of nine studies conducted between 1966 and 2013 found that within two hours of an angry outburst, the risk of a heart attack or acute coronary syndrome (which means heart attack or angina) increased nearly five-fold. The analysis also suggested the risk of stroke increased nearly four-fold, as did the risk of ventricular arrhythmia, a dangerous heart rhythm disorder. The researchers reported that the risk was highest among people who often lost their temper and also had existing risk factors for heart problems. While the individual risk of having a coronary event after an angry blowup is generally pretty low, the investigators wrote that among people who get angry more often, five outbursts a day would lead to approximately 158 extra heart attacks per 10,000 people per year among those at low risk, and 657 extra heart attacks among those at high risk.

Elizabeth Mostofsky et al,  “Outbursts of anger as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” European Heart Journal, DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehu033, published online 3 March 2014

Big News About Smoking and Heart Attacks

Rates of heart attack (fatal or not) for smokers who quit are about the same as those for people who never smokedFormer smokers may have no more reason to fear heart attacks than people who have never smoked, but the habit is likely to have a lasting effect on heart health. That surprising conclusion comes from a study that used medical imaging to evaluate the coronary arteries of smokers and former smokers. The researchers, from New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Weill Cornell Medical College, reported that after two years of follow up, the rates of heart attack (fatal or not) for smokers who quit are about the same as those for people who never smoked. This seemed to hold true even when former smokers exhibited as much disease in their coronary arteries as current smokers. However, the study also found that giving up smoking doesn’t change the amount of disease smoking causes in the coronary arteries. The research team reported the findings at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Amsterdam early this month. The investigators examined 13,372 patients from six countries in Europe, North America, and East Asia. Of those patients, 2,853 were active smokers, 3,174 were former smokers and 7,344 never smoked. The investigators found blockages of 50 percent or more in one or two major coronary arteries among the smokers and former smokers. These individuals also had twice the probability of developing severe blockages in all three major coronary arteries.

James Min et al "Coronary atherosclerosis and major adverse cardiovascular risk among never, past and current smokers undergoing coronary CT angiography: Results from 13,372 patients from the CONFIRM registry" European Society of Cardiology, 2013

Can Wine Ward Off Depression?

Two drinks a day may reduce an older person’s risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.Moderate drinking - two drinks or less daily for men and one or less for women - appears to help protect against coronary artery disease and heart attack, and now a study in the Netherlands has suggested that two drinks a day may reduce an older person’s risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The latest news on the potential benefits of drinking alcohol comes from Spain where researchers at the University of Navarra followed more than 5,500 light-to-moderate drinkers between the age 55 and 80 for seven years. The investigators found that those who drank two to seven glasses of wine a week – in other words, no more than one drink per day - were the least likely to suffer from depression, compared to those who didn’t drink any alcohol. When they enrolled in the study, none of the participants were depressed or had a personal or family history of depression or problems with alcohol. The study also found that drinking more than seven glasses of wine per week didn’t lower the risk of depression. The Spanish findings don’t prove that moderate drinking prevents depression – however, they do suggest an association between the two.

Miguel A Martínez-González et al, “Alcohol intake, wine consumption and the development of depression: the PREDIMED study”, BMC Medicine, doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-192