Scientists at the University of Liverpool have developed a new X-ray technique to identify tissue fibres in the heart that ensure the muscle beats in a regular rhythm. The new 3D images could further understanding of how the body's heartbeat can be disturbed, which may help medics develop ways to reduce the risk of fibrillation - a condition in which heart muscle contracts chaotically and fails to pump blood rhythmically around the body. The heart needs to pump blood in a regular rhythm to maintain a steady circulation of blood to all parts of the body. It does this through the coordinated action of the muscle tissue, that pumps the blood, and the conducting tissue, which is necessary to distribute an electrical wave to trigger every heartbeat. Until now scientists have been unable to produce high resolution 3D images of the conducting tissue to fully identify the network that controls heart rhythm.
City centre residents who took part in a study were almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery calcification (CAC), which can lead to heart disease, than people who lived in less polluted urban and rural areas, according to research published in the May issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine. Researchers spoke to 1, 225 men and women aged 50 and 60 years of age, including 251 (20%) who lived in the centres of major Danish cities. Despite the fact that none of the participants showed any symptoms of heart disease, 43% of the total had CAC. The study also found that people who lived in city centres were 80% more likely to develop CAC than those living in other areas and that males, older participants, diabetics and smokers also faced higher risks. "Our study aimed to evaluate the association between living in a city centre, which is often used by researchers to indicate exposure to air pollution, and the presence of coronary artery calcification in men and women showing no other symptoms of heart disease" explains lead author Dr Jess Lambrechtsen from the Department of Cardiology at Svendborg Hospital, Denmark.
A recent study carried out by Northwestern Medicine researchers and reported in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery found that patients with abnormal heart rhythm ( atrial fibrillation or A-fib) who have cardiac surgery, have a lower long-term survival rate than those whose hearts beat normal (in sinus rhythm). The findings also indicate that by successfully treating A-fib during previously planned cardiac surgery, surgeons can level out their patients' survival rate to that of someone who never had A-fib. Richard Lee, MD, surgical director of the Center for Heart Rhythm Disorders at Northwestern Memorial's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute said: "This study indicates that atrial fibrillation should be surgically treated when a patient is undergoing another cardiac surgery procedure.
A new study in the April 11 issue of JAMA shows that both minor and major electro-cardiographic abnormalities are linked to a higher risk of incidents involving coronary heart disease (CHD) in elderly people without pre-existing cardiovascular disease and that these abnormalities were better in predicting CHD events like heart attacks outside common cardiovascular risk factors. Background information in the articles states: "In populations of older adults, prediction of CHD through traditional risk factors is less accurate than among middle-aged adults." Electrocardiographic (ECG) abnormalities are common in older adults. However, performing routine ECG among asymptomatic adults is not supported by current evidence. Considering the higher prevalence of both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and ECG abnormalities in older adults, risk prediction incorporating ECG might be more useful in this group.
Although the drug metformin is considered the gold standard in the management of type 2 diabetes, a study by a group of French researchers published in this week's PLoS Medicine suggests that the long-term benefits of this drug compared with the risks are not clearly established - an important finding given that currently, thousands of people around the world are regularly taking metformin to help control their blood sugar levels in the belief that it also has long-lasting health benefits. For the past 14 years, metformin has been recommended as the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes after a landmark study (the UK Prospective Diabetes Study) reported that when combined with dietary control measures, metformin reduced death from all causes in overweight people with type 2 diabetes.