Friday, November 29, 2013

Heart-attack chest pain similar in men and women

The signs of a heart attack in women might be different from those in men, but this may not be the case when it comes to chest pain, new research reveals.

A European study found that the symptoms of chest pain experienced by women and men during the early stages of a heart attack (formally called acute myocardial infarction) were not all that different.

When researchers analyzed the data on chest-pain complaints in women only, they found it was not a reliable diagnostic tool to quickly detect a heart attack: The study showed that women who were truly having a heart attack described symptoms that were very similar to the ones described by women who had chest pain from other causes. [Top 10 Amazing Facts About Your Heart]

The findings were surprising, and also disappointing, said study researcher Dr. Christian Mueller, a professor of cardiology at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland.

"We had hoped that a very detailed assessment of women-specific chest-pain characteristics could offer a real advance in the early detection of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in women," he said.

A quicker method for evaluating heart-attack symptomsin women could help to detect problems sooner, as well as reduce heart-attack misdiagnosis and death rates, both of which tend to be higher in women than in men, the researchers said.

The findings were published online Nov. 25 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Understanding chest pain

In the new study, European researchers evaluated nearly 800 women and about 1,700 men over a six-year period in Switzerland, Spain and Italy. The patients had gone to hospital emergency departments within 12 hours of experiencing chest pain.

To find out whether there were specific characteristics that would help to more accurately diagnose women who were having a heart attack, and distinguish them from women experiencing chest pain due to other causes, doctors evaluated chest pain in women and men based on 34 different criteria. These included the pain's location, duration, onset, severity and precipitating factors.

Patients also provided their medical history, had a physical exam and received other diagnostic tests, such as an electrocardiogram and a blood test to assess cardiac levels of troponin, a protein released when a heart attack occurs.

The data revealed that 18 percent of women with chest pain and 22 percent of men with chest pain had experienced a heart attack.

But most of the criteria used to evaluate chest pain did not distinguish a heart attack from other causes of chest pain in women and men. Only three out of 34 criteria related to pain duration and intensity seemed to show sex-specific differences, but the researchers said even these could have been due to chance.

"The findings from this large study confirm that there are important differences in symptoms experienced by women and men during a heart attack," Mueller said.

But that information doesn't really help much, because a doctor's task is not to differentiate women from men, but to differentiate women with a real heart attack from women who are experiencing chest pain from other causes, he explained.

Because the wording used by a patient to describe chest pain had only low to moderate accuracy in diagnosing a heart attack, physicians should always conduct an electrocardiogram and a cardiac troponin test so they do not miss patients with AMI, Mueller said.

Chest pain in women

The authors of the new study should be congratulated for looking into this topic, because there is a lack of gender-based research in medicine, said Dr. Marla Mendelson, director of the women's cardiovascular health program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who was not involved in the research.

Although this study showed very little difference in the chest pain experienced by men compared with the chest pain experienced by women when they are having a cardiac event, Mendelson said that gender-specific research is important and deserves more attention.

Compared with the men in the study, the women who experienced chest pain were about 10 years older, had fewer cardiac risk factors and were less likely to have a prior history of heart disease.

"Sometimes, chest pain in women is not taken seriously," Mendelson said.

"The benefits of a study like this is that it draws attention to the fact that women are at risk for heart attack," she said.

Could statins help prevent breast cancer? Study finds that high cholesterol may cause the disease

  • A by product of cholesterol could fuel the growth of breast tumours
  • Statins can reduce people's cholesterol levels, as can eating healthily
  • The by product acts like oestrogen and three quarters of breast cancers are sensitive to oestrogen - it causes them to grow

  • A daily dose of cholesterol-lowering statins could help prevent breast cancer, scientists claim
    A daily dose of cholesterol-lowering statins could help prevent breast cancer, scientists claim

    A Daily dose of statins could help prevent breast cancer, scientists claim.
    The drugs are already taken by millions of Britons to help lower cholesterol.
    Researchers believe a by-product of cholesterol to be responsible for fuelling the growth and spread of the commonest types of breast cancer.
    A study suggests that lowering cholesterol offers a simple means of reducing risk of the disease.
    Previous research had shown a link between raised cholesterol levels and breast cancer, but the association was not well understood.
    The new study, published in the journal Science, discovered that one of the chemicals produced when cholesterol breaks down in the body has a similar effect to the female hormone, oestrogen, which accelerates three quarters of breast cancers.
    ‘A lot of studies have shown a connection between obesity and breast cancer, and specifically that elevated cholesterol is associated with breast cancer risk, but no mechanism has been identified,’ said lead researcher Dr Donald McDonnell, from Duke University in North Carolina.
    ‘What we have now found is a molecule called 27HC that mimics oestrogen and can independently drive the growth of breast cancer.’

    The research was conducted on mice and daily injections of 27HC caused their breast cancers to spread more rapidly.
    Treating the mice with statins resulted in reductions to both cholesterol levels and tumour growth.
    The common drugs - used by millions in Britain - could help prevent common breast cancers (pictured) because they help to fight cholesterol a by product of which can fuel the growth of tumours

    Tests on human cells showed that the most aggressive cancers produced high levels of a chemical that, in turn, promoted the production of 27HC. 
    ‘This is a very significant finding,’ said Dr McDonnell. ‘Human breast tumours are making an oestrogen-like molecule that can promote the growth of the tumour. In essence, the tumours have developed a mechanism to use a different source of fuel.’
    The research also revealed that high levels of cholesterol can block the widely used drug tamoxifen, which is taken to counter the cancer-fuelling effects of oestrogen.
    Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior science communications officer, said: ‘This study is intriguing as it shows for the first time a direct link between cholesterol and breast cancer in mice – but it’s too early to say how this knowledge might help tackle breast cancer in the future. 
    'And, as the research was only done in the lab, it’s a long way from showing that taking statins will lower a woman’s risk of developing the disease.’
    At present, the drugs are given to eight million patients who have high cholesterol or a risk of heart disease. And previous studies have suggested that statins may actually have the opposite effect.
    Earlier this year, experts at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle found that long-term use of statins led to a heightened risk of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), which accounts for around seven out of ten breast cancer cases.
    Large scale clinical trials are now being carried out to assess the impact of statins on a range of cancers.
    Around 48,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, equivalent to around 130 a day. A woman has a one in nine chance of developing the disease at some point in her life.

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    Why we should all go nuts for nuts: From pecans to peanuts, they help you live longer, stave off cancer - and even improve your memory

  • People who regularly snack on peanuts live longer according to study
  • Announcement result of 20 year investigation involving 119,000 people
  • Nuts of all kinds found to be 'as close as you can get' to a superfood

  • Forget those expensive multi-vitamin pills and unappetising health drinks — the secret to a long and healthy life could lie in a humble bowl of nuts.
    New research has shown that people who regularly snack on peanuts, Brazils and pistachios live longer than those who don’t,  even when all other factors are taken  into account.
    And for once this wasn’t some flaky study carried out on 12 laboratory mice, but a 20-year investigation into the lifestyles of more than 119,000 people. 
    The findings are the result of a 20 year investigation into the lifestyles of more than 119,000 people
    The findings are the result of a 20 year investigation into the lifestyles of more than 119,000 people

    It showed that those who snacked on nuts seven times a week were a fifth less likely to die during the period of the study.
    For people who ate nuts only once a week, the fall in mortality rates was still an impressive  7 per cent.

    Nutrition experts and doctors tend to shun the word ‘superfood’ — they prefer to talk about healthy balanced diets. But nuts are about as close as you get.
    They are packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants (molecules which help the body fight disease and protect cells from damage) and are loaded with essential minerals such as copper, zinc, iron, magnesium (which help protect against memory loss and with the prostate) and manganese, which are all needed for organs to function effectively.
    They are an exceptionally good source of  vitamins E and B, and ooze omega 3 fatty acids (which control levels of stress hormones such as adrenalin). 
    While nuts are fatty, they mostly contain ‘good’ fats which can — in moderation — reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease. And because they are high in fibre, they tend to fill you up more than nibbling on a box of chocolates. 
    Each nut has its own advantages. Some nuts are higher in vitamins, others higher in omega 3.
    Sioned Quirke, of the British Dietetic Association, recommends eating a regular portion of mixed nuts to get the full range of health benefits. She also suggests eating the skins of nuts like almonds to get the most benefit because they are dense in nutrients.
    ‘A portion is around one ounce or 30g, which looks like a golf ball,’ she says.
    ‘Good things come in small packages. We would always say go for unprocessed nuts — not the salty or dry roasted ones.’
    So which nut is top in the health stakes?

    1oz/28g (20 to 25) nuts — 163 calories. 
    Best for: Fibre, calcium, riboflavin (B2) — the B vitamin that’s good for the skin — and  vitamin E.
    Good for: Protein, iron, magnesium, potassium (vital for a healthy nervous system), zinc (good for immune function), the vitamin niacin (which helps keep good skin) and copper.
    Packed with calcium, almonds are brilliant for strong, healthy bones and teeth. 
    They are the best source of protein of all the proper nuts, have the most fibre and are highest in  vitamin E — the nutrient that’s good for the skin, eyes and immune system.
    Almonds are relatively high in calories — second only to macadamias — but are recommended to help people diet. 
    Indeed, a study in the International Journal of Obesity showed that people who regularly ate almonds shed more pounds than those who didn’t. 
    The downside is they can be tricky to digest. Soaking them overnight in water or  milk helps. 
    Brazil nuts

    1oz/28g (6 to 8 nuts) — 186 calories.
    Best for: Selenium (a mineral vital to fighting disease and healing wounds) and magnesium.
    Good for: Protein, fibre, calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamin E.
    Higher in calories than many other nuts, making them a good source of instant energy for athletes. Technically they are a seed, not a nut, while most don’t come from Brazil any more, but Bolivia.
    Just one contains your total recommended value of selenium, which is also thought to boost male fertility and may help prevent prostate, breast and bone cancers.
    Brazil nuts may also help people with thyroid disease. But you don’t want too many. Extremely high doses lead to the loss of hair and nails, so a limit of three or four Brazil nuts a day is sensible.
    Cashew nuts

    1oz/28g (16 to 18 nuts) — 163 calories.
    Best for: Iron and zinc.
    Good for: Protein, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, folate (a natural food form of the supplement folic acid, which is particularly important for women of child-bearing age), vitamin E, omega 3.
    Cashews are particularly rich in iron and zinc. While zinc helps the immune system, iron helps the blood transport oxygen around the body. 
    They have a lower fat content than most nuts — and most of that fat is oleic acid, the heart-healthy substance found in olive oil.
    A handful of cashews contains almost a quarter of the recommended daily intake of magnesium which also helps turn the food we eat into energy and is good for the bones. The nutrients in cashews may also help with the formation of collagen in the skin.

    1oz/28g (20 nuts) — 178 calories.
    Best for: Flavour and all-round health.
    Good for: Protein, fibre, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate and  vitamin E. 
    Not only one of the tastiest nuts, they are one of the healthiest. 
    High in mono-unsaturated fats, they can help protect your heart and improve your blood health. 
    They are also rich in vitamin E, which boosts skin health, and oleic acid — the fatty acid which can also help reduce blood pressure and may even help prevent dementia. 
    A serving of one ounce contains nearly a tenth of the recommended dietary intake of fibre, a good dose of protein and 17 per cent of the recommended intake of folate — making them a good choice for expectant mums.

    1oz/28g (10 to 12 nuts) —  204 calories.
    Best for: Thiamin (vitamin B10).
    Good for: Fibre, iron, niacin, omega 3, calcium and potassium. 
    By weight, macadamias are one of most fattening of all the nuts. 
    But much of those calories are in the form of mono-unsaturated fats which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke when eaten in moderation.
    The nuts — which originally grew in Australia, but which are now produced around the world — are a superb source of omega 3 fatty acids which protect the heart. 
    However, they can be rich. Some digestive systems will struggle with more than nine or ten at a time.

    1oz/28g (28 nuts) — 166 calories.
    Best for: Protein, niacin, folate.
    Good for: Fibre, iron, potassium, zinc, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, niacin (vitamin B3).
    It may be the most popular nut, but the peanut is technically not a nut at all — it is a legume like a pea, bean and lentil and grows in small bushes a foot above the ground.
    Peanuts are fantastically good for you, as long as you don’t suffer an allergy. 
    They have the same levels of cancer-busting antioxidants as those found in strawberries. 
    They are high in the ‘good’ mono-unsaturated fat and are an excellent source of protein.
    However, many of the heart health benefits are wiped out if you eat them smothered in salt.
    Pecan nuts

    1oz/28g (20 halves) — 201 calories.
    Best for: Sterols (linked to lowering cholesterol).
    Good for: Fibre, zinc, Vitamin E. 
    Pecans are one of the most heart-friendly nuts, high in sterols that can reduce cholesterol. 
    Sterols are the natural ingredients added to cholesterol-lowering margarine. 
    A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that pecans can reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol levels by up to 33 per cent. 
    They are a good source of vitamin E, oleic acid — which is also found in avocados — and are rich in vitamin B3, a nutrient which helps us get energy from food.

    1oz/28g (50 nuts) — 160 calories.
    Best for: Potassium and vitamin B6.
    Good for: Protein, fibre, calcium, iron, thiamin (vitamin B1) and vitamin E.
    The least fattening of all the nuts, a single pistachio has just four calories. 
    Pistachios have three times the vitamin B6 — the nutrient that helps convert energy to food and form haemoglobin —– than any other nut. 
    One serving has fifth of the daily recommended amount and three grams of fibre,  more than many fruits. 
    The high Vitamin B6 levels can help women keep their hormones balanced. 
    It’s not just women who benefit, though. In 2011 a study suggested that daily pistachios could even help men suffering from erectile dysfunction.
    A serving has as much potassium as half a large banana. Pistachios are also rich in the antioxidant gamma-tocopherol, thought to protect against cancer and heart disease. 

    1oz/28g (14 halves) — 185 calories.
    Best for: Antioxidants.
    Good for: fibre, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, folate, omega 3 fatty acids.
    Packed with omega 3 fatty acids, which can also protect against heart disease and strokes. 
    And they have more antioxidants than almost any other nut, making them useful in the battle against cancer.
    Studies have shown walnuts can reduce bad cholesterol levels. 
    That is because around three quarters of their fat is mono-unsaturated — the healthier form of fat.
    However, once cooked, walnuts lose most of their health benefits. And, of course, a chocolate walnut whip will probably do more harm than good.

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    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Supporting your body in more ways than one! The high-tech bra designed to stop women from comfort eating

    To stop women reaching for the cookie jar when things hit a low, Microsoft's new prototype bra predicts when the wearer is likely to comfort eat and warns against it.
    The software company's high-tech undergarment features sensors in the cup pockets and side panels that detect changes in heart rate, skin temperature and stress levels - apparent precursors to overeating.
    All of the data is then streamed via Bluetooth to a smartphone app providing real-time 'mood-triggered eating' alerts. 
    One way to slim! To stop women reaching for the cookie jar when things hit a low, Microsoft's new prototype bra predicts when the wearer is likely to comfort eat and warns against it (stock picture)

    Lead researcher and cognitive psychologist, Mary Czerwinski, says the garment will make people aware of their 'maladaptive behaviors' so they can replace them with 'adaptive ones.'
    In her paper, Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating, she continues: 'The rationale for the criticality of monitoring is that it helps patients to be more aware of what is happening in the moment.


    '[That way] they can begin to make changes to behavior that may have seemed automatic or beyond their control.'
    Microsoft's bra was recently tested by a group of four volunteers over a four-day period.
    Food bra
    Wired up: The software company's undergarment features sensors in the cup pockets and side panels that detect changes in heart rate, skin temperature and stress levels - precursors to overeating
    According to Ms Czerwinski and her team, it was a very 'tedious' process for participants to wear the 'prototyped sensing system' because the batteries had to be recharged every three to four hours.
    But Ms Czerwinski and her fellow researchers were pleased with the results that came back.
    They wrote: 'Our pilot results have been quite promising . . .Using log files, we were able to detect arousal at 75.00per cent and [emotions] at 72.62per cent.'
    'For instance, many people reach for calorically dense foods, like donuts, when stressed'
    So that men can also be notified of ensuing snack attacks, the Microsoft team are now experimenting with 'sensor bracelets'.
    They suggest the reasons for overeating 'are intertwined in physiological responses.' 
    'For instance, many people reach for calorically dense foods, like donuts, when stressed,' they write.
    Optimistic about their latest invention, they conclude: 'An important insight around over-eating behavior is that [non-essential] eating patterns can be reeducated.'
    'In other words, both our physiological responses (the release of ghrelin to cue stomach grumbling at particular times) and psychosocial responses (eat in the presence of food or in response to stress) are malleable. 
    'Therefore, technology that is used to intervene before the maladaptive behavior happens could provide some assistance towards longterm, behavioral change.'

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    Migraines: More Than a Headache / / Learn the difference between common headaches and migraines.

    Headaches aren’t uncommon. In fact, almost everyone will experience at least one headache in his or her lifetime, and many will deal with them off and on throughout their lives. However, some headaches are worse than others. These may be migraines.
    During a migraine, the temporal artery, an artery that lies outside the skull and just under the temple, enlarges or dilates. This enlargement stretches the nerves that are coiled around the temporal artery and causes them to release chemicals that can cause inflammation, pain, and even greater enlargement of the artery. As the artery grows larger, the pain becomes worse.
    Migraines affect 28 million Americans each year, or about 14 percent of the population. Your headache symptoms may actually be a sign of a migraine. Here’s how to tell the difference between a common headache and a migraine.

    When Is a Headache More Than a Headache?

    Nearly 90 percent of headaches are tension headaches—simply put, they are a pain in your head. These headaches are most often associated with and made worse by fatigue, sleep deprivation, and stress, and they are typically treated with over-the-counter medicine or rest. Conversely, only about 10 percent of headaches each year are migraine headaches, making this type much rarer. People with migraines may experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal pain, vision trouble, and pain behind the eyes. A migraine sufferer may experience several of these symptoms at once in addition to the headache, or may have only one in addition to the headache. Each person’s experience is different, and symptoms may change with each onset of a migraine.

    Comparing Headaches and Migraines

    Other types of headaches

    A cluster headache is an intense headache with one to three painful episodes, or clusters, each day. Patients who have cluster headaches report the pain to be severe and searing, with the center of the pain typically located behind one eye. People with cluster headaches also may experience red, teary eyes, something that is not common in migraines or tension headaches. This type of headache is more common in men than women.
    A sinus headache is not actually a headache but is instead a painful response to nasal congestion or runny nose. When the sinuses are inflamed or irritated, you may experience pain across your forehead and cheeks. This pressure may feel like a headache and cause symptoms of a headache.