While it is well known that genetics and family history have the larger play in the risks of heart diseases, lifestyle choices which include diet, exercise and environment, do play an influential role too.
The 56th annual scientific session of the American College of Cardiology looked at many studies detailing the influence of health related behaviors on a person's chances of being diagnosed with heart disease.
"Because scientific advances are pushing forward at such an incredible pace, our insight into the mechanism and progression of cardiovascular disease is growing exponentially," said Robert S. Rosenson, M.D., of University of Michigan, Preventive Cardiology, in Ann Arbor, Mich. "The research presented here today further demonstrates how researchers are beginning to understand the links between cardiovascular diseases and changes in lifestyle, including quitting smoking, geographic location, diet and weight, and other related factors."
Flavonoids, a group of antioxidant compounds found in fruits and vegetables, is not generally labeled as essential nutrients, but play an important role in maintaining one's health. In fact, studies indicate that there is a strong inverse correlation between the consumption of foods rich in flavonoids - such as wine, green tea, fruits and vegetables - and cardiovascular disease. Cocoa or dark chocolate products are considered one of the most concentrated sources of flavonoids among commonly consumed foods. Since endothelial function has been used extensively to evaluate the effects of foods and nutrients on cardiac risk, researchers at the Yale Prevention Research Center in Connecticut conducted a trial to assess whether the consumption of cocoa would provide any sustained benefits on endothelial function.
"While the findings from this study do not suggest that people should start eating more chocolate as part of their daily routine, it does suggest that we pay more attention to how dark chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods might offer cardiovascular benefits", said the researchers.
Coronary heart disease deaths are often caused by platelets sticking together and forming blood clots (thrombosis) that limit blood flow within heart arteries and result in heart attacks. The use of aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack by keeping platelets from sticking together, specifically by blocking an important enzyme, cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1). However, recent studies suggest that some diabetic patients may be less responsive to these important benefits of aspirin. To date, no prospective analysis of the effects of aspirin dose on platelet inhibition in diabetic versus non-diabetic patients has been conducted.
"Diabetic patients with coronary artery disease exhibited a higher prevalence of resistance than non-diabetics during therapy with low-dose aspirin, indicating a higher risk of thrombosis. However, at a higher aspirin dose we observed better platelet inhibition in the diabetic patient. Our hope is that this will lead to future studies looking at the best aspirin doses for diabetic patients, moving physicians away from the one-size-fits-all approach to aspirin therapy," according to Dr. Gurbel, one of the researchers.
Among the many damaging effects of traffic-derived air pollution, researchers have noted that exposure to air pollution may worsen symptoms of angina (chest pain) or even trigger acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) in people with existing heart conditions. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and Umea University in Sweden conducted a controlled-exposure study of dilute diesel exhaust to determine the direct effects of air pollution on myocardial ischemia in patients with stable coronary heart disease.
"While substantial evidence links exposure to air pollution with cardiovascular disease, these observations are limited by the effect of potential confounding environmental and social factors," said David Newby, M.D., of the University of Edinburgh and lead investigator on this study. "In a carefully controlled study, we report that brief exposure to diesel exhaust at levels encountered in urban road traffic promotes myocardial ischemia in patients with existing heart conditions. Our findings strengthen the observation that exposure to combustion-derived air pollution is associated with adverse cardiovascular events, including acute myocardial infarction. Environmental health policy interventions targeting reductions in urban air pollution should be considered in order to decrease the risk of adverse cardiovascular events."