Health Tips ... from UPI

By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer  |  Aug. 23, 2002 at 4:45 AM
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A study shows heart disease treats the genders unequally. It appears women's quality of life suffers more than does that of men with cardiovascular disorders, a study of 536 heart patients suggests. The women in the study reported poorer physical and psychological functioning than did the men in the year following hospitalization. One reason may be social support, said lead author Charles Emery, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University. "For women, lower quality of life was associated with feeling they didn't have enough support from friends and family," Emery said. "But levels of social support did not influence psychological functioning among men."


A study published in the journal Circulation attests to the attributes of almonds as fighters of "bad" cholesterol. The study, funded by The Almond Board of California and the Canadian government, builds on previous studies that indicated eating nuts may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Other studies have pointed to nuts as calorie hogs, so they are not recommended for people watching their waistlines. In the new study, 27 men and women with high cholesterol levels ate "a full dose" of 74 grams of almonds a day, representing about a quarter of their total daily caloric intake, for one month. For the second month, they ate half that much, or about "a handful" of nuts. In the third month, the volunteers consumed a low-saturated fat, whole-wheat muffin as a daily snack, said lead author Dr. David Jenkins, director at the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. The researchers found that patients reduced low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, an average 4.4 percent with the half portion of almonds and 9.4 percent with the full portion. "We were quite impressed," Jenkins said. "If you look at the ratio of LDL to HDL (high-density lipoprotein, the 'good' cholesterol), the reduction was 7.8 percent for the half dose and 12 percent for the full dose by the fourth week. That ratio is very important in assessing cardiovascular risk." The cholesterol levels did not significantly drop after the muffin phase.


In the largest such study, researchers found patients hospitalized with heart problems were less likely to make a return visit for chest pain within a year if they took antibiotics after their first attack. The authors of the study, published in the journal Circulation, speculate antibiotics might have an anti-inflammatory benefit. Researchers were surprised to find the reduced risk was not related to the presence of two bacteria suspected of playing a role in heart disease, Helicobacter pylori and Chlamydia pneumoniae. "The beneficial effect of the antibiotics was independent of whether a person was infected with H. pylori or C. pneumonia," said study author Dr. Michael Mendall, consultant gastroenterologist at the Mayday Hospital in Croydon, England. "This implies these antibiotics are not working against these organisms. The antibiotics may be acting against other organisms to reduce the overall infectious burden of the body or may have their own anti-inflammatory properties." The study of 325 patients who had been hospitalized with a heart attack or severe chest pain showed that during one year of follow-up those who received antibiotics were 36 percent less likely to be hospitalized again for unstable angina or a nonfatal heart attack or to suffer a fatal heart attack than were those who had taken a placebo.


A simple, inexpensive test can detect heart disease before any symptoms appear, researchers report. The test determines levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, they said in the journal Circulation. In a study of 321 volunteers, the scientists analyzed the relationship between levels of the protein and coronary calcium, which indicates the extent of arteriosclerosis in the coronary arteries. Arteriosclerosis, or fatty buildup in the arteries, is a sign of heart disease. "While the majority of men and women in our study had some calcium in their arteries, the higher the C-reactive protein level, the more calcium they had," said lead author Dr. Thomas Wang of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

(EDITORS: For more information about WOMEN, call 614-688-3061; about ALMONDS, call 214-706-1279; about HEART, call 214-706-1135; about TEST, call 214-706-1279.)

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