Research suggests that antidepressants can help stroke sufferers recover by reducing depression and anxiety during the aftermath of a stroke. The medicine may also aid in the reduction of physical disability and dependence. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh examined 52 studies that show antidepressants can stimulate nerve cell growth in the brain and protect cells that have been damaged by stroke. More here
Cold winter weather was long thought to be the primary cause of seasonal increases in heart-related deaths. But, according to new research, circulatory deaths, including heart attack, heart failure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, rose up to 36 percent during the winter months regardless of climate. The study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012, analyzed four years worth of death certificate data from seven locations across the country. The results found that, despite covering seven very different climate patterns, the trend in cardiac deaths was very similar. The research wasn’t designed to identify a cause for the increases but Bryan Schwartz, M.D., of the University of New Mexico, said people generally don’t live as healthy in winter as they do in the summer. Schwartz, who was lead author of the study, theorized that the spike in heart-related events may be due to the fact that people don’t eat as well or exercise as much during the winter. More here.
A study of 12,500 patients with diabetes or pre-diabetes found taking fish oil supplements had no positive or negative effect on their likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that patients who took the supplements had the same rate of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart-related causes as patients who took a placebo. Because the study was conducted on individuals who had an established heart problem or were at high risk, it’s unclear whether fish oil benefits people with a lower risk of heart disease. The researchers also stress that, despite the results, eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is good for heart health. More here.
After tracking the health of nearly 24,000 people over 11 years, the authors of a new study published in the journal Heart found that taking calcium supplements may increase the risk of having a heart attack. The research also revealed that higher levels of calcium, even from dietary sources, provided no significant protection from heart attack and stroke. The authors wrote that the findings suggest increasing calcium intake from dietary sources may not be of any cardiovascular benefit and supplements should be taken with caution. Participants who took calcium supplements regularly were 86 percent more likely to have a heart attack compared with those who didn’t use any supplements. Calcium supplements are often recommended to the elderly for help with bone thinning. More here and here.
A study of 400,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71 found that people who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 10 percent lower risk of death. The research was conducted by the National Cancer Institute and is the largest ever done on the association between coffee drinking and risk of death. The results showed that coffee drinkers were less likely to die from all types of diseases and ailments, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, accidents, injuries, diabetes, and infections. Neal Freedman, Ph.D., of the NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, said coffee is among the most widely consumed beverages in America and the study’s results provide reassurance that it does not adversely affect health. According to Freedman, coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that could be responsible for coffee’s protective properties. More here and here.
A review of 29 clinical trials covering nearly 1,400 adults between the ages of 22 and 74 found that taking vitamin C supplements may have a lowering effect on blood pressure. Participants in the study took 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily for eight weeks and, in people with high blood pressure, systolic pressure fell nearly 5 points and diastolic pressured dropped 1.7 points. Despite the results, the study’s authors stress that more research is needed before they can recommend vitamin C supplements for high blood pressure. Researchers say the reviewed studies were often small and included instances where patients were taking supplements in addition to medication for their blood pressure. In America, one in three people has high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. More here.
Fish oil supplements consist of two omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in fish such as salmon and tuna. These fatty acids have been associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease since researchers began studying the effects of a fish-heavy diet on heart health. A new study, however, found no association between the use of fish oil supplements and a lowered risk of heart attack, stroke, or chest pains. The study, which examined 14 clinical trials, contradicts an earlier review that found fish-oil supplements reduced heart-related death risk by 13 percent. Still, experts say the study is far from conclusive and that fish oil likely plays a role in maintaining a healthy heart, though they recommend eating at least two servings of fish per week rather than taking supplements. More here.
The fact that people living with diabetes have a higher risk of suffering a stroke has been established. Whether that risk rises when an individual initially develops the disease or it builds slowly over time hasn’t been answered. But a recent study from Columbia University Medical Center in New York found that people who have had diabetes for 10 years have triple the risk of having a stroke compared to people without the disease. The research followed nearly 3,500 seniors, some of whom had diabetes and others who did not. Mitchell S.V. Elking, MD, MS, associate chairman of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia, said with obesity rates rising there are going to be more people living with diabetes for many years and that could have a large impact on the number of strokes that occur. More here.
A study which followed nearly 70,000 women over 14 years found participants whose diet included the highest level of a flavonoid known as flavanones had a 19 percent lower risk of suffering a blood-clot related stroke compared to the women with the lowest level of the compound. Flavanones, one of thousands of flavonoids, is found in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit and was specifically associated with a lowered risk of stroke. Previous research has suggested that flavonoids, which give fruits and vegetables their color, help to improve blood-vessel function and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Via WebMD.
If you have high-blood pressure, you have twice the risk of suffering a stroke compared to someone with normal blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. And a recent study of nearly 500 stroke survivors found 72 percent reported having been diagnosed with high-blood pressure at some point in their lives. Amy Towfighi, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Southern California, conducted the research and found nearly half of people that had a stroke had poorly controlled high blood pressure. Towfighi said high blood pressure is the strongest risk factor for stroke, which made it surprising that nearly half of stroke survivors had poorly controlled hypertension. More here.