We want to help you keep your heart healthy. Check back often for the latest news and tips and all the ways we’re working to keep the best heart care close to home. Learn even more at www.southcoast.org/heart.
Recent scientific evidence suggests that getting a flu shot reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke. If a person has recently had a heart attack or other cardiac event, the flu shot appears to lower the risk even further.
The reason for the correlation may be that the immune response your body has to the influenza virus causes inflammation, which may destabilize plaque inside blood vessels, leading to blockages. Also, the flu causes lowered blood oxygen levels. This makes the heart work harder, which can lead to heart failure or make existing heart failure worse.
Of course, these findings should not be interpreted as saying that a flu shot is a preventive measure against heart attack or stroke. If anything, they confirm what doctors already know: that the flu is bad for your heart. Unfortunately, many people don’t get a flu shot every year, even though experts recommend one for anyone over the age of six months, especially those who already suffer from cardiovascular disease. So consider this one more very good reason to your flu shot every fall!
One of the exciting initiatives of Southcoast’s new Structural Heart Program is the development of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive procedure that uses catheters to replace tight, or stenotic, aortic valves. Instead of a typical open-heart procedure, which requires the opening of the chest and the use of a heart-lung machine to assume the role of those organs during surgery, TAVR requires only a three- to four-inch incision in the leg or chest wall. A balloon-expandable heart valve is then placed into the body with a catheter, all while the heart continues to beat on its own.
TAVR is an important option because many patients living with the life-threatening condition of stenotic arteries are not candidates for traditional open-heart surgery, due to advanced age, other medical conditions, or both. Once the stenotic valves are replaced, patients see their symptoms improve and generally go on to live prolonged lives. Recovery from the procedure is much faster than recovery from open-heart surgery as well; most patients leave the hospital in less than a week and can resume normal activities in less than ten days after treatment.
The holiday season is upon us, and while the holidays can mean different things to different people, we can all usually count on one common theme: food.
But how do you navigate all the cookies, candy, and party food that December brings if you’re trying to stick to a heart-healthy diet? It’s not always easy, but here are some tips to keep your heart healthy through New Year’s Day.
Remember, you really can enjoy the holidays without overdoing it. There is so much to celebrate this time of year, but don’t forget to celebrate you – and your healthy heart.
Recently, there’s been some good news on the trans fats front: they’re outta here! At least, they’re on their way. On November 7, 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils, otherwise known as trans fats, are no longer “generally regarded as safe.”
Although the FDA’s ruling is preliminary, health experts and food producers seem to think that it will almost certainly be finalized after the requisite 60 days designated for public comment. In fact, some food producers and restaurants are already looking into ways to eliminate trans fat content in their products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that this move by the FDA can prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease, as well as 20,000 heart attacks, each year.
All of us still need to be smart about our food choices overall, but if the elimination of trans fats from the equation makes it just a little bit easier, we’re all for it!
If you suffer from heart disease, have experienced a heart attack or stroke, or if you have poor blood flow to your brain, your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner. Blood thinners are medications that interfere with your blood’s ability to clot, which may reduce the formation the kinds of dangerous clots in arteries and veins that lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Blood thinners are classified as either anticoagulant or antiplatelet. Anticoagulants, like heparin or warfarin, use chemical reactions to increase the time it takes your blood form clots. Antiplatelet drugs, like common aspirin, prevent platelets from coming together to form clots.
It’s critical to take blood thinners exactly as directed by your doctor, and to keep careful track of any side effects you might experience. Make sure you understand how other medications and substances, like pain medications or herbal supplements, might interact with your blood thinner, and make sure every health professional you visit knows what you’re taking, and how much. Note that blood thinners are a preventive measure; they do not dissolve existing blood clots.
It’s always good news when we find out that something we like to do anyway just might be good for us, too! For instance, red wine has been touted as a heart-healthy beverage for years. But why? Should a glass of red wine become the proverbial apple a day that keeps the doctor – in this case, the cardiologist – away?
It’s true that red wine contains a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, and there is reliable scientific data that resveratrol may prevent damage to blood vessels, prevent blood clots, and reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. In fact, resveratrol, which comes from the skin of the dark grapes used to make red wine, is found in many other substances, such as peanuts, blueberries, and plain old red and purple grapes. Some studies show a heart benefit from drinking moderate amounts of any alcohol, not just red wine, so it is unclear whether resveratrol alone is responsible for those benefits.
So even though many scientists and physicians believe that alcohol consumption in moderation is good for your heart, it’s probably a bad idea to start drinking just for the supposed heart benefits. (Keep in mind that “in moderation” generally means one drink a day for women and two for men.) Alcohol’s negative effects are well-documented and far outweigh any possible boost to your heart health. As is usually the case, talking to your doctor is the best way to figure out how – or if – alcohol plays a part in your heart-health strategy.
In the fight against heart disease, you may have unlikely allies right in your bathroom: your toothbrush and a spool of dental floss! In recent years, scientific evidence has shown a link between poor oral health, especially gum disease, and cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that patients with fewer teeth and a higher incidence of tooth decay and gum disease experience a higher rate of stroke and clogged arteries in the legs.
It’s important to note that such research indicates a correlation between poor dental hygiene and heart disease, but does not say that tooth decay and gum disease cause heart disease. People who brush and floss on a regular basis may be more likely to practice other healthy habits, like eating well and exercising.
However, a strong correlation shouldn’t necessarily be ignored, especially when it involves something as simple and beneficial as keeping your teeth and gums healthy and strong. While scientists work to prove a definitive connection between the state of your heart and the state of your teeth, you can hedge your bets by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist twice a year. Think of the potential benefits to your heart as an extra bonus to a healthy smile!
In our quest to find the perfect diet, we’re often led to vilify a certain food or ingredient in favor of others. For a long time, the villain was fat. Then, with the advent of low-carb diets, the pendulum swung the other way, and suddenly fat – even saturated fat – was embraced as a key to weight loss and health. Now we’re learning that some fat is okay, while other fat should still be avoided. So what’s the answer? Is fat okay or not, especially when it comes to your heart?
The answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” All fat is not created equal, and some fats can actually reduce your risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels. “Good” fats are unsaturated fats, and they occur in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties. Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetables and some nuts (like walnuts) and seeds (like flaxseeds). Omega-3 fatty acids, a particularly healthy form of polyunsaturated fat, are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and catfish. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like avocados, cashews, and oils that are liquid at room temperature, like olive and peanut.
The “bad” fats should come as no surprise: saturated fats and trans fats. These fats can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal products, like fatty meat, eggs, and butter. Trans fats are man-made substances, like partially-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, and are found in lots of processed foods, like doughnuts, pie crusts, and cookies. These fats should find their way into your diet only occasionally, if at all.
Keep mind that fat – even the good kind – should account for less than a third of your daily calorie intake. Saturated fat should make up 7 percent or less of your calories, while trans fats should make up less than one percent.
Dr. Saltzman and the new Structural Heart Program at Southcoast were featured in The Fall River Herald News this Sunday. Read the full article.
Learn more about Southcoast’s Structural Heart Program.
Southcoast Health System is excited to announce the launch of the Structural Heart Program, our latest addition to the world-class cardiovascular services we already provide to our Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island community.
Structural heart disease refers to any heart disease caused by the interruption of the natural flow of blood through the heart. This includes conditions like atrial or ventricular septal defects (so-called “holes” in the heart); hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (the thickening of the heart muscle); and valve issues (valves can either be “leaky” or “narrowed”), among others.
Southcoast’s Structural Heart Program’s expert team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and support staff offer transcatheter therapies and minimally invasive techniques as alternatives to traditional open heart surgery. To support the work of the Structural Heart Program, Southcoast is developing a hybrid operating room at Charlton Memorial Hospital. This will be a modern OR that includes the state-of-the-art devices needed to enable minimally invasive hybrid surgeries.
Cardiologist Adam Saltzman, MD, who joined Southcoast in the spring of 2013, serves as Medical Director of the Structural Heart Program. In this role, Dr. Saltzman oversees the only program of its kind in the region, and one of just a few dedicated structural heart programs in all of New England. Stay tuned for more information about Dr. Saltzman and what he and Southcoast have in store for this exciting new venture.