Category Archives: Heart disease


17282121-woman-suffering-from-heart-gamesResearch headed by Canadian Martha Mackay, a cardiac nurse, concluded there were no gender differences in rate of chest or arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, clammy skin and feelings of indigestion during a heart attack.

She did find, though, that women were more likely than men to experience throat, jaw and neck discomfort.  And that women are less likely than men to believe they’re having a heart attack and are more likely to delay getting treatment.

Dr Weil’s take:  Doctors tend to treat women less aggressively than men.  Women are less likely to receive drugs such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors or even aspirin after a heart attack.

The incidence of bypass surgery and angioplasties are much lower among women than among men.

Women compose only 25% of all participants in research studies concerning the heart.

Dr Weil suggests that doctors and researchers are in need of consciousness-raising concerning women and heart disease.

SOURCE:   Dr Andrew Weil’s Weekly Bulletin, August 8, 2013



20412595-teenage-girl-eating-chocolate-barThe young woman mirrors my own enthusiasm and facial expression when I open a Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark candy bar.

In a new meta-analysis of recent studies, Luc Djousse, MD, DSc and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that consumption of dark chocolate significantly lowered LDL (Lousy) cholesterol.

Overall, eating dark chocolate resulted in average lowered rates of 6.23mg/dL in total cholesterol and 4.9 mg/dl in LDL.  The cocoa had no effect on HDL (Healthy) cholesterol or on triglycerides.  Consuming dark chocolate produced more beneficial results than did drinking hot cocoa.

Despite the saturated fat and calories in chocolate, researchers believe it’s the flavanols (antioxidants) in dark chocolate that inhibit cholesterol absorption as well as the body’s receptors for LDL cholesterol.

Also, it’s possible that the saturated fat in chocolate is different from the fats that boost LDLs.  Stearic acid makes up 33% of the total fat in cocoa butter and more than 50% of the saturated fat.  Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, observes, “Some lipid experts (and chocolate manufacturers) note that stearic acid is a ‘neutral’ saturated fat as it does not appear to increase LDL.”

He further commented that the new meta-analysis “ . . . “confirms earlier reports that dark chocolate/cocoa does not induce untoward lipid profiles and can even lower slightly LDL and total cholesterol as determined in randomized clinical trials.

“But note well that all these trials were essentially short-term in duration and some used quite high doses.”

OK, so how much dark chocolate can we consume without guilt?  Blumberg says, “The findings suggest that this indulgent treat can reasonably be included in a heart-healthy diet—in small amounts that do not increase body weight.”

 Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, August 12, 2013      Studies published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


12927129-sad-coupleThough discussions of erectile dysfunction (ED) are becoming more mainstream, many men and women don’t have a good understanding of the condition.

Here are 4 important facts about ED:

1.  ED is often caused by diseases or conditions associated with aging.  Or it may be caused by side effects of medications used to treat the conditions.  It can also be caused by prostate surgery, stress, depression and problems associated with relationships.

2.  ED may be caused by tissues’ loss of elasticity and by the slowing down of nerve communication.

3.  Cardiovascular disease often leads to ED because clogged arteries affect blood vessels throughout the body, not just vessels of the heart.  In 30% of the men who consult their doctors regarding ED, the ED is the first clue that they have cardiovascular disease.

4.  The Massachusetts Male Aging Study suggests that there may be a natural ebb and flow of ED.  For some men, ED may occur, last for a considerable amount of time and then partly or fully disappear without any treatment.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, August 3, 2013


images-41.  Swordfish  Swordfish, and all other large, bottom-feeder fish such as tuna, shark, king mackerel and tilefish are loaded with mercury.  Select from these smaller fish:  flounder, catfish, trout, sardines and salmon.

2.  Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese  At $22 a pound, you can find the same flavor for half the price in Pecorino Romano or SarVecchio.

3.  Smoked and Cured Meats  These processed meats are linked to cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and migraines.  Additionally, they’re full of artery-clogging saturated fats.  By law, fresh pork sausage may be up to 50% fat by weight.

4.  “Blueberry items”  Despite the name of products, such as cereals, muffins, granola bars and sauces, nary a real blueberry graces most of them.  Instead, you’ll find just artificial blueberry flavor and coloring.  Buy the real thing and add them to your food for a great source of the antioxidant resveratrol, as much as found in red wines.

5.  Multi-grain Bread  Could be junk food.  Make sure the first ingredient on the label is whole-wheat flour.  Consider skipping the bread and trying cooked barley, brown rice or other whole grains.

6.  Reduced-fat Peanut Butter  When companies reduce the fat in their products, the filler they replace it with is generally sugar, designed to make the product still taste delicious.  Buy regular peanut butter and enjoy the taste of the good fats and proteins without fake sweetness.

7.  Bottled Tea  Bottled teas often have more grams of sugar in them than sweetened soft drinks.  Brew your own tea and save on big bucks and an expanding waistline.

8.  Tomato-based Pasta Sauces  A jar of sauce generally costs $2-$6.  An equal amount of canned tomatoes costs under $1.00; make your own.  Another thought—cover fresh tomatoes with olive oil on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes at 425 F before making your own stovetop pasta sauce.

9.  Energy Drinks  Stick to a cup of tea or coffee for your afternoon boost.  Caffeinated energy drinks are often sugar bombs, and the FDA has numerous reports linking 5 Hour Energy and Monster Energy to heart attacks, convulsions and even death.

Coming Up:  9 more foods you should never buy again

SOURCE:  Reader’s Digest Slide Show


14706962-white-bowl-of-mixed-vegetables-about-to-be-eaten-with-spoon-in-handA study published in The British Journal of Nutrition in 2010 showed that persons eating a strict raw food diet had normal amounts of vitamin A and high levels of beta-carotene, but low levels of the antioxidant lycopene.

Lycopene is a red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, red bell peppers and papaya.  Recent studies link high intake of lycopene with lowering high cholesterol and a lower risk of heart attacks and cancer of the prostate, breast, colon and lung.

Because lycopene is a fat-soluble carotenoid, you’ll absorb more of it if you cook it and serve it with a healthy monounsaturated fat such as olive or canola oil.

According to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (JAFC), the level of lycopene in tomatoes rose 35% after cooking.

Similarly, Cornell University researchers found that the longer corn was cooked, the more cancer-battling compounds it released.  After 10, 25 and 50 minutes of cooking, the antioxidant content was boosted by 22, 44 and 53% respectively.

Another study published in JAFC reports that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene, another antioxidant substance called carotenoids.  The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, important for vision, reproduction, bone growth and regulating the immune system.

SOURCES:   Dr Andrew Weil’s Tip of the Day, August 2, 2013     Scientific American, March 31, 2009     PSA


16181270-baking-goods-breadWhole grains are a gut’s best friend.

British researchers at Imperial College (IC) in London found a 17% lower risk of colorectal cancer among those who consumed just an extra three daily servings of whole grains.

Nicola McKeown, PhD and director of Tuft’s Friedman School’s Nutritional Epidemiology Program, says, “Previous observational studies have seen improved health outcomes in people consuming, on average three or more servings of whole grains—for instance, reduced cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes risk and some cancers.”

Dagfinn Aune, PhD of IC, and colleagues conducted the largest analysis ever of fiber consumption and colorectal cancer.  They pooled results from 25 prior studies totaling some 2,000,000 participants and found that for each 5 slices of whole-wheat bread, cancer occurrence dropped 10%.

Whole grains contain all essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.  If the grain has been cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded and/or cooked, the food product delivers the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in its original grain seed.

The Whole Grains Council lists these sources as generally accepted whole grain foods and flours:  Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn, Millet, Oats, including oatmeal, Quinoa, Rice, both brown and colored, Rye, Sorghum, aka Milo, Teff, Triticale, Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, faro, einkorn, Kamut, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries, and Wild rice.

Aune observed, “Although we did not find an association between fiber from fruit and vegetables and colorectal cancer in this analysis, we have previously shown a protective effect for intake of fruit and vegetables.”

“Most people are consuming refined grain foods and missing out on the fiber and nutrients concentrated in whole grains,” says McKeown.  “So, increasing consumption of whole grains into one’s daily diet is important.

“The first step is to replace some of those existing refined grains with whole-grain equivalents—for example, brown rice for white rice, whole-wheat or whole-rye bread for white bread, whole-wheat pasta for regular pasta, and avoid refined grain products high in sugar and fat.”

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, July 1, 2013     Study published in British Medical Journal


ptg01194716Meat and poultry are sources of high-quality protein and vitamins and minerals, but research shows that animal-protein-centered meals are not healthful.   Numerous studies link meat-centered diets to a higher risk of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer—especially when the meat is processed into bacon, ham, smoked sausages, etc.

As a general rule, it’s best to shift toward a plant-based diet.  When you do eat meat and poultry, limit the portion to about 3 ounces, the size of a deck of cards.

Strategies for consumers who want to limit the saturated fat content of meat:

For the leanest cuts, buy “round” or “loin” cuts of beef, pork and lamb, cuts such as top round, bottom round, top sirloin, and tenderloin.

Buy USDA “Choice” grade meats, which have less fat and marbling for grilling or roasting.  Buy “Select” grade meats, the leanest grade for stews or to marinate.  “Prime” grade meats have the most marbling, meaning they are the most tender because they are the fattest.  And remember that unlike beef, pork isn’t marbled.  Its fat sits in discreet chunks so you can cut it off before eating.

Buy ground beef that’s at least 90% lean.

Buy ground turkey breast as a substitute for ground beef or pork, but avoid ground turkey—it contains fattier dark meat and skin.

Pay extra for special labels, such as “grass-fed” and “no antibiotics/hormones,” only if the designations have significance for you and if there are regulations to support their integrity.

Sources:  University of CA, Berkeley Special Summer Issue, Wellness Letter, 2013