Biology in Pictures: Clot forming in artery

Clot forming in artery on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Genes that protect against atherosclerosis identified

One way of combating atherosclerosis is to reduce levels of “bad cholesterol” in the blood. Scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have now identified the genes that bring about this beneficial effect.

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Lipoic acid could reduce atherosclerosis, weight gain

A new study done with mice has discovered that supplements of lipoic acid can inhibit formation of arterial lesions, lower triglycerides, and reduce blood vessel inflammation and weight gain – all key issues for addressing cardiovascular disease.

Although the results cannot be directly extrapolated beyond the laboratory, researchers report that “they strongly suggest that lipoic acid supplementation may be useful as an inexpensive but effective intervention strategy . . . reducing known risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis and other inflammatory vascular diseases in humans.”

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Eat less or exercise more? Either way leads to more youthful hearts

Overweight people who lose a moderate amount of weight get an immediate benefit in the form of better heart health, according to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And the heart improvements happen whether that weight is shed by eating less or exercising more.

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Researchers reveal missing link in a heart disease pathway

University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues have helped characterize a previously unknown link in the chain of biochemical reactions implicated in some forms of heart disease.

The finding provides a new target for future drug therapies.

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Eating your greens could prove life-saving if a heart attack strikes

A diet rich in leafy vegetables may minimize the tissue damage caused by heart attacks, according to researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Their findings, published in the November 12 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the chemical nitrite, found in many vegetables, could be the secret ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.

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Surgery for severe obesity saves lives

An extensive swedish study from the Sahlgrenska Academy has established that surgery reduces premature death in patients with severe obesity. A long-term follow up has shown that mortality is significantly lower among patients who undergo surgery than among those who do not.

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Researchers discover novel pathway for increasing ‘good’ cholesterol

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered that a group of liver enzymes called proprotein convertases (PCs) may be the key to raising levels of good cholesterol (HDL-C). The pathway by which these proteins are able to achieve an increase in HDL cholesterol involves another enzyme that normally degrades HDL-C, and was also discovered at Penn. The newly recognized relationship between these enzymes and cholesterol represents another target for ultimately controlling good cholesterol.

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Metabolic syndrome – don’t blame the belly fat

Abdominal fat, the spare tire that many of us carry, has long been implicated as a primary suspect in causing the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes the most dangerous heart attack risk factors: prediabetes, diabetes, high blood pressure, and changes in cholesterol.

But with the help of powerful new imaging technologies, a team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers at Yale University School of Medicine has found that insulin resistance in skeletal muscle leads to alterations in energy storage that set the stage for the metabolic syndrome.

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It’s not too late to change and lower cardiac risk later in life

Can adopting a healthier lifestyle later in life help — or is it too late? In a study published in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston found that people 45 to 64 years of age who added healthy lifestyle behaviors could substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reduce their death rate. Once these people achieved 4 healthy behaviors, eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily, exercising at least 2.5 hours per week, maintaining their Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 30 kg/m, and not smoking, investigators saw a 35% reduction in CVD incidence and a 40% reduction in mortality compared to people with less healthy lifestyles.

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Scientists discover key to manipulating fat

In what they call a “stunning research advance,” investigators at Georgetown University Medical Center have been able to use simple, non-toxic chemical injections to add and remove fat in targeted areas on the bodies of laboratory animals. They say the discovery, published online in Nature Medicine on July 1, could revolutionize human cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery and treatment of diseases associated with human obesity.

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Faulty cell membrane repair causes heart disease

During vigorous exercise, heart muscle cells take a beating. In fact, some of those cells rupture, and if not for a repair process capable of resealing cell membranes, those cells would die and cause heart damage (cardiomyopathy)

Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine have discovered a specific repair mechanism in heart muscle and identified a protein called dysferlin that is critical for resealing heart muscle cell membranes.

The study, led by UI researcher and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., also shows that loss of dysferlin causes cardiomyopathy in mice. Furthermore, heart damage in these mice is exaggerated by vigorous exercise or by inherent muscle weakness caused by a muscular dystrophy defect.

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Serious diseases genes revealed

A major advance in understanding the genetics behind several of the world’s most common diseases has been reported.The landmark Wellcome Trust study analysed DNA from the blood of 17,000 people to find genetic differences. They found new genetic variants for depression, Crohn’s disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 and 2 diabetes.

The remarkable findings, published in Nature, have been hailed as a new chapter in medical science.

Read rest of the article at BBC Newssite

Exercise may slightly boost ‘good’ cholesterol levels

Regular exercise appears to modestly increase levels of high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol, according to a meta-analysis study in the May 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
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How the treatment of common thyroid disease reduces tiredness and the risk factors for heart disease

Putting on weight and feeling lethargic?

Then new research from Newcastle University and funded by Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust shows it is worth having your thyroid levels checked – as these can be symptoms of thyroid disease which is easily identified and treated.
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Cholesterol-lowering Drugs Reduce Risk Of Stroke, Heart Attack

People whose cholesterol improved after one month on cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins reduced their risk of stroke and heart attack, according to research presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 59th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 28 — May 5, 2007.
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A steady, high-fat diet is bad, but the news gets worse

So much for the adage, ‘All things in moderation.’ Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that people who consume a single, high-fat meal are more prone to suffer the physical consequences of stress than those who eat a low-fat meal.
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Despite significantly raising HDL, torcetrapib failed to slow the progression of coronary plaques

Investigators reported today that torcetrapib, a drug that substantially raises high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL (the “good” cholesterol), did not slow the progression of plaque buildup in the coronary arteries as measured using an ultrasound probe (IVUS). All development of this drug was terminated on December 2, 2006 after the safety board monitoring a separate large clinical outcomes trial reported that torcetrapib increased the risk of death and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes.
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Dietary copper may ease heart disease

Including more copper in your everyday diet could be good for your heart, according to scientists at the University of Louisville Medical Center and the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center. Their studies show that giving copper supplements to mice eased the stress on their over-worked hearts by preventing heart enlargement. The study will be published online on March 5th in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
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Whole-grain breakfast cereal associated with reduced heart failure risk

Eating whole-grain breakfast cereals seven or more times per week was associated with a lower risk of heart failure, according to an analysis of the observational Physicians’ Health Study. Researchers presented findings of the study today at the American Heart Association’s 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. For the present study, breakfast cereals that contain at least 25 percent oat or bran content were classified as whole grain cereals.
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Light wine intake is associated with longer life expectancy in men

Drinking a little alcohol every day, especially wine, may be associated with an increase in life expectancy. That’s the conclusion of Dutch researchers who reported the findings of their study today at the American Heart Association’s 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

The researchers found that a light intake of alcohol (on average less than one glass per day) was associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular death and death from all causes. When compared to spirits and beer, consumption of small amounts of wine, about a half a glass a day, was associated with the lowest levels of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths. Alcohol treatment may be necessary to reduce the rate of cardiovascular death due to consumption.
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Inflammation is culprit in many ailments

Chronic inflammation spurred by an immune system run amok appears to play a role in medical evils from arthritis to Alzheimer’s, diabetes to heart disease. There’s no grand proof of this “theory of everything.” But doctors say it’s compelling enough that we should act as if it were true — which means eating an “anti-inflammatory diet,” getting lots of physical activity, and losing the dangerous, internal belly fat that pumps out the chemicals that drive inflammation.

This is a year old article but well written to summarize the potency of inflammation as source of age-related damage.

Caffeine may prevent heart disease death in elderly

Habitual intake of caffeinated beverages provides protection against heart disease mortality in the elderly, say researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Brooklyn College.

Using data from the first federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, the researchers found that survey participants 65 or more years old with higher caffeinated beverage intake exhibited lower relative risk of coronary vascular disease and heart mortality than did participants with lower caffeinated beverage intake.
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Afternoon naps may boost heart health

The next health trend might come out of nursery school instead of the gym: A study of nearly 24,000 people found that those who regularly took midday naps were nearly 40% less likely to die from heart disease than non-nappers.

Researchers suggest that siestas might protect the heart by lowering levels of stress hormones.

Read rest of the story on New Scientist website.

Researchers find only vegetarian low-carb diet is associated with lower risk of heart disease

Advocates of low-carbohydrate diets, such as the popular Atkins diet, claim that those diets may help prevent obesity and coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the long-term safety of those diets has been debated, particularly because they encourage the consumption of animal products, which are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and could potentially increase the risk of CHD. Prevailing dietary recommendations have advocated a contrary approach, recommending diets that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates as the best way to manage weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the first study to look at the long-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found no evidence of an association between low-carb diets and an increased risk of CHD in women. Their findings did suggest, however, an association between low-carb diets high in vegetable sources of fat and protein and a low risk of CHD.
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Researchers demonstrate ability of new therapy to treat severely elevated cholesterol levels

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have demonstrated the potential of a new type of therapy for patients who suffer from high cholesterol levels. The findings are in the January 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In this study, patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a high-risk condition refractory to conventional therapy, had a remarkable 51% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” levels.
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Researchers warn milk eliminates cardiovascular health benefits of tea

Research published online today in the European Heart Journal has found that the protective effect that tea has on the cardiovascular system is totally wiped out by adding milk.

Tests on volunteers showed that black tea significantly improves the ability of the arteries to relax and expand, but adding milk completely blunts the effect. Supporting tests on rat aortas (aortic rings) and endothelial (lining) cells showed that tea relaxed the aortic rings by producing nitric oxide, which promotes dilation of blood vessels. But, again, adding milk blocked the effect.
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Longevity gene keeps mind sharp

A gene variation that helps people live to a ripe old age also appears to preserve memory and thinking power, US work suggests. The “longevity” gene alters the size of fatty cholesterol particles in the blood, making them bigger than normal.

This stops them causing the fatty build up in blood vessels that is linked with brain impairment, and deadly strokes and heart attacks, Neurology reports.
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Secret of Heart Regeneration Uncovered

New evidence to explain how a common tropical fish mends a broken heart may suggest methods for coaxing the damaged hearts of mammals to better heal, researchers report in the November 3, 2006 issue of Cell, published by Cell Press.

The researchers found that the hearts of zebrafish harbor progenitor cells that spring into action to restore wounded heart muscle. Cells from a membrane layer that surrounds the heart, called the epicardium, follow suit, invading the wounded cardiac tissue and stimulating the growth of new blood vessels.
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Link identified between age, cardiovascular disease

Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University have discovered a fundamental mechanism that causes aging blood vessels to lose their elasticity – a literal “hardening of the arteries” that is often a prelude to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

An understanding of this mechanism, scientists say, provides an important new target for both drugs and dietary changes that might help prevent or treat atherosclerosis and heart disease. This is a leading cause of death around the world that, in some form, affects about 80 percent of older Americans.
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Further evidence that moderate drinking reduces men’s heart attack risk

Even as studies have consistently found an association between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced heart attack risk in men, an important question has persisted: What if the men who drank in moderation were the same individuals who maintained good eating habits, didn’t smoke, exercised and watched their weight? How would you know that their reduced risk of myocardial infarction wasn’t the result of one or more of these other healthy habits?

A new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) helps answer this question. Reported in the October 23, 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the findings show for the first time that among men with healthy lifestyles, those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol – defined as between one-half and two drinks daily – had a 40 to 60 percent reduced risk of heart attack compared with healthy men who didn’t drink at all.
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Scientists find boosting protein levels staves off heart failure

Boosting levels of a protein in the heart might help protect against the development of heart failure, particularly in those who have had heart attacks.

Cardiology researchers at the Center for Translational Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that increasing levels of the protein S100A1 above normal helped protect animal hearts from further damage after simulated heart attacks. In some cases, the animals’ heart function hardly changed at all. At the same time, other animals with heart cells lacking the gene for the protein couldn’t handle the stress of a heart blockage; they went on to develop heart failure.
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Alpha-lipoic acid completely prevents atherosclerosis in mice

An article published in the August, 2006 issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes reported the findings of Xianwen Yi and Nobuyo Maeda of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that giving alpha-lipoic acid to mice in whom diabetes was induced prevented the increase in cholesterol, atherosclerotic lesions and health deterioration that the disease would otherwise cause. Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant nutrient that has been used to treat diabetic neuropathy, however, its effects in diabetic cardiovascular disease have not been completely evaluated.

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DNA damage study probes inflammation, disease link

New research at MIT may help scientists better understand the chemical associations between chronic inflammation and diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. The work could lead to drugs that break the link between the two.

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Progress being made in exploring potential use of stem cells to treat heart disease

Scientists are making headway in exploring the potential future use of stem cells to treat heart disease, according to a review article in the current issue of Nature (June 29, 2006).

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Green tea and the ‘Asian Paradox’

There is a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer in Asia where people smoke heavily, which may be accounted for by high consumption of tea, particularly green tea, according to a review article published by a Yale School of Medicine researcher.

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Growth factor triggers growth of new blood vessels in the heart

The newest concept for treating coronary artery disease is to induce hearts to grow their own new blood vessels to bypass damaged tissue or clogged arteries. Unfortunately, clinical trials of two important blood-vessel growth factors — fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) — have not produced stellar results.

Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have investigated a third signaling molecule — called Sonic hedgehog — that could overcome problems associated with FGF2 and VEGF therapy.
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Research provides clues to obesity’s cause and hints of new approach for curbing appetite

Hot fudge sundaes and french fries aside, new research suggests obesity is due at least in part to an attraction between leptin, the hormone that signals the brain when to stop eating, and a protein more recently associated with heart disease. Reporting in Nature Medicine, University of Pittsburgh researchers provide evidence that C-reactive protein (CRP) not only binds to leptin but its hold impairs leptin’s role in controlling appetite. The results may help explain why obese people have so much trouble losing weight as well as point to a different target for the pharmaceutical treatment of obesity.

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Heart-healthy Compound In Chocolate Identified

In a multifaceted study involving the Kuna Indians of Panama, an international team of scientists has pinpointed a chemical compound that is, in part, responsible, for the heart-healthy benefits of certain cocoas and some chocolate products.

The study showed that epicatechin, one of a group of chemicals known as flavanols, was directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of cardiovascular health. The researchers, hope the findings will lead to new dietary or medicinal methods for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

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Virtual reality could help diagnose heart conditions

Virtual reality that allows doctors to visualise the heart in three dimensions could help in the diagnosis of heart conditions. A pilot study published today in the open access journal Cardiovascular Ultrasound reveals that doctors can diagnose heart conditions quickly and easily from virtual three-dimensional animated images or ’holograms’ of the heart. Three-dimensional (3D) holograms allow doctors to ’dive’ into the beating heart and see interior parts of the organ.
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