Rapid Beats: Heart Disease News and Updates for September

September 2016

Female runner wearing a smart watch

Web and MobileTechnology Can Help People Adopt Healthy Habits

Interventions that use the Internet, mobile phones, or other technology to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes work, though their long-term influence on habits remains unknown, according to a recently published analysis.

Researchers from the University of Washington reviewed 224 previously published studies that looked at using the Internet, mobile phone apps, personal sensors, or stand-alone computer software to encourage people to make healthy changes in their diet, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use.

Many of the internet interventions helped people improve their diet, get more exercise, lose body weight and fat, and reduce smoking and excessive alcohol use. Many of the mobile phone-based programs helped people increase physical activity and lose body fat. In general, technology-based programs were more effective if they included some interaction with healthcare providers.

Almost all of the studies lasted less than a year, most for less than six months, making it impossible the examine whether people sustained their new habits in the long run. Participants in the studies also tended to be more highly educated than the general population, meaning that the effectiveness of technology-based interventions among less computer-literate groups remains unclear.

  • Read the study in the Journal of the American Heart Association
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Medical test tray

HIV-Positive Individuals at Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Once viewed as a death sentence, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is now seen as a controllable chronic condition. While people with HIV are generally living longer and living well thanks to effective medications and healthy lifestyle choices, emerging research suggests that they are significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared with people who do not have HIV.

HIV is a chronic inflammatory disease and it appears that this state of chronic inflammation in HIV patients may be contributing to the increase in cardiovascular disease.

In 2012, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found signs of increased arterial inflammation in subjects with HIV that was otherwise well-controlled with antiretroviral therapy. A more recent 2013 study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found a 50% higher risk of acute myocardial infarction in those studied.

As the mechanisms underlying this increased risk are being explored, researchers are also investigating therapeutic strategies for these cardiovascular complications of HIV infection, including the use of statin drugs, which are traditionally used to control cholesterol. In two separate clinical trials, investigators are testing whether a daily dose of pitavastatin or rosuvastatin respectively reduce arterial inflammation and the increased risk of heart disease in patients infected with HIV.

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Woman wearing a blood pressure monitor

Very Low Diastolic Blood Pressure May Carry Risks

A new study suggests that, for some people, very low diastolic blood pressure—the pressure when the heart is resting—increases the risk of heart tissue damage and heart disease. Recent clinical trials have supported using medication to lower systolic blood pressure—the pressure measured during a heartbeat—below 120 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). However, doing so also lowers diastolic blood pressure, and the potential consequences of this have not been closely examined.

A team of researchers combed through data on blood pressure, blood tests for heart damage, and health history from over 11,000 people participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.

The researchers found that people with diastolic blood pressure below 60 mmHg were twice as likely to have high blood levels of a protein that indicates heart damage as people who had diastolic blood pressures in the range of 80 to 89 mmHg. People with diastolic blood pressure in the range of 60 to 69 mmHg were over 50% more likely to have indication of heart damage. Additionally, people with diastolic blood pressure below 60 mmHg were 49% more likely to have heart disease.

In an accompanying press release, study authors stress that more research is needed but that the results suggest “for some patients, there should perhaps be modification of intensive anti-hypertensive treatment recommendations issued last year as a result of the SPRINT trial, and that physicians shouldn’t look at driving down the top blood pressure number (the systolic number) in isolation without considering implications of lowering the bottom number.”

  • Read the study in JACC (Journal of the American College of Cardiology)
  • Get more information on high blood pressure
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