Your heart beats more than 100,000 times every day. However, not all heartbeats are the same.
Your heart may beat abnormally—it may flutter and beat fast. If so, you might have a heart condition called atrial fibrillation or AFib. AFib is the most common heartbeat disorder but AFib can be tricky— you may have it and not even know.
Fact: Medical experts estimate that 15% of strokes are a result of untreated AFib.
During National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month we are raising awareness about this serious health condition and its strong connection to stroke. Don’t let AFib overwhelm you. Take control. Act.
The first step to take charge of your health is to learn more about AFib:
Know the Signs and Symptoms
Discover Treatment Options
Access Resources and Tools
This September don’t take your heartbeat for granted.
For many decades now mainstream medical advice has been that saturated fat is bad and should be lowered at all costs to prevent heart disease. Surely then there must be strong evidence that saturated fat is a primary cause of cardiovascular problems? Actually there isn’t.
Let’s look at the saturated fat myth, how it relates to heart disease and why low-fat diets, along with recommendations to replace meals containing saturated fat with more high carbohydrate foods, can lead to obesity and related diseases like diabetes.
Heart Disease and Saturated Fat
Approximately one third of all deaths in the USA are attributed to heart disease and health organizations like the American Heart Association advise that less than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat.
But is there any solid scientific evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease or is it a myth perpetuated by old and long since discredited research?
While it has been observed, in some short-term studies, that increasing the amount of saturated fat eaten can also increase blood cholesterol levels, longer-term studies do not show a strong association between blood cholesterol and saturated fat intake. There is also ample evidence in recent years that cholesterol is not the dietary villain it’s been made out to be.
We actually produced three quarters of the cholesterol in our bodies ourselves and it is a vital component of a well functioning body.
Only one quarter comes from dietary intake and for most people increasing saturated fat from healthy sources like free range eggs, grass fed meat or coconut oil will not increase blood cholesterol long-term as your body simply lessens the amount it makes.
A 2009 study entitled ‘A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and heart disease’ conducted a detailed examination of all the cardiovascular disease studies on Medline that met their strict criteria of good science and optimal research methodology.
This wide-ranging investigation found “strong evidence… of protective factors” for “an increased intake of vegetables, nuts and a Mediterranean-style diet” but “insufficient evidence” of an association between reducing dietary saturated fat and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
They did however find “associations of harmful factors, including intake of trans fatty acids and foods with a high glycemic index or load.” The pages on What Is Margarine? and Cutting Carbs to Lose Weight have more details on reducing these harmful factors in your diet.
Another large-scale meta-analysis of all the recent studies of the association between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease found “no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease).”
How the Saturated Fat Myth Leads to Weight Gain and Disease
While the mainstream medical community slowly comes around to the likelihood that its assumptions about heart disease, cholesterol and saturated fat may well have been a myth based on bad science, many cardiovascular experts are becoming vocal in their criticism of the saturated fat dogma.
Cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra said recently in the British medical Journal that recent studies “have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and risk of CVD.”
He also says that in the USA, the percentage of calories coming from fat has declined from 40% to 30% in the past three decades, yet obesity has rocketed. He believes the reason for this is that food manufacturers “compensated by replacing saturated fat with added sugar.”
Dr Malhotra concludes with, “It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that has contributed to obesity.”
In response to the same article, Professor David Haslam of the UK’s National Obesity Forum said: “It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body. The assumption has been made that increased fat in the bloodstream is caused by increased saturated fat in the diet, whereas modern scientific evidence is proving that refined carbohydrates and sugar in particular are actually the culprits.”
Even more scathing of mainstream medicine’s view of saturated fat is an excellent new investigation by the ABC’s Catalyst program called the Heart of the Matter. I’d highly recommend watching this video to understand just how saturated fat was demonized in the first place and what really causes cardiovascular disease.
Ultimately, the saturated fat myth looks to be an idea based on bad science that has remained dogmatically accepted and strangely persistent, despite a lack of any real evidence.
Large meta-studies in recent years have found no strong correlation between saturated fat intake and heart disease (unlike stress, sugar, smoking, trans fats, lack of exercise and several other factors), and yet this drive to reduce saturated fat in our diets has been damaging.
It’s led to low-fat versions of everything on the supermarket shelves, usually a simple switch from hunger satiating fats to hunger promoting sugar that increases the risk of diabetes.
And, despite the irony, eating less fat has definitely made people in Western countries fatter, as processed, high glycemic carbohydrate foods overtook more traditional meals with their higher saturated fats.
Do you still believe in the saturated fat myth? I be interested to hear different opinions and studies, but I would ask that you look at those listed on this page, and especially the Catalyst Heart of the Matter program above and see what the cardiologists and other cardiovascular specialists have to say about saturated fat and heart disease.
A medical device about the size of a quarter could help prevent stroke in people with atrial fibrillation (AFib) who are looking for an option to commonly-prescribed blood thinners. AFib is a significant risk factor for stroke.
The FDA approved the WATCHMAN device last year to be used in people whose AFib isn’t related to heart valve disease.
The WATCHMAN closes a small sack of tissue that comes off the heart. More than 90 percent of blood clots that form in the heart develop in that sack of tissue, called the left atrial appendage (LAA.) Those clots can break loose, travel through the blood stream and cause a stroke. The WATCHMAN stops clots from getting into the blood stream.
Blood thinners are considered the gold standard for treatment of AFib to prevent strokes, said Dr. Erik Altman, Chief of Electrophysiology at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, New York. But some patients, including older people prone to falls, aren’t good candidates for long-time use of blood thinners, he said.
“The LAA occlusion is a major advancement in the field of device therapy as another option to anti-coagulation and our ability to reduce the risk of stroke,” Dr. Altman said.
Dr. Altman has already performed 10 of these surgeries.
“All have done beautifully afterwards,” he said of his patients. “A handful are off blood thinners and over time, more will come off blood thinners.”
For 45 days after the procedure, patients have to take Coumadin (warfarin.) Patients then have a transesophageal echocardiogram to make sure the LAA is sealed off. If the results are positive, the patient can stop Coumadin.
“This offers a new opportunity to reduce the risk of stroke and offer a safe alternative through a minimally invasive procedure that takes less than an hour,” Dr. Altman said.
People with Afib are at a higher risk of stroke because they have irregular heartbeats that can cause blood to pool in the heart and possibly form a clot. People who have AFib are usually prescribed blood thinners such as warfarin.
The FDA says doctors should consider the risks and benefits of blood thinners compared to the device for each patient. The WATCHMAN is only recommended for patients who have an appropriate reason to seek a non-drug alternative to warfarin and who fit certain other criteria.
The WATCHMAN isn’t appropriate for several groups of people, including people with a blood clot in the heart, anyone who can’t tolerate blood thinners or anyone with nickel or titanium sensitivity, the FDA says.
If you know somebody with stroke or heart problems, sent this to them. You never know!
“Life is a one time gift” (Let’s forward and hope this will help save some!!!)
If you’ve seen this before, reading it again will just reinforce it!
Is that what I should do? Holy cow! Look at the response! My only problem: Everything I say doesn’t necessarily need to be forwarded. Maybe the world would like to hear more about my stroke. Or maybe the audiences are fascinated by me not being able to move my arm. Doesn’t that send chills to your spine?
I will keep at it. I will make it a point to look at the Mayo Clinic site more often.
Physical activity improves heart function and lipid profile by lowering total cholesterol. It lowers blood pressure and resting heart rate. Being active reduces the risk and severity of diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity, and it improves strength, balance, endurance and long-term brain health. For stroke survivors, these benefits can spell the difference between dependence and independence.
In addition to those physical benefits, exercise can enhance self-confidence and independence and reduce depression and anxiety. As survivor Lorraine Essig, 87, said, “I can be in a bad mood, but after I’ve done my exercises, that disappears.”
Since Lorraine’s stroke seven years ago, she works out three days a week, despite right-side weakness and challenges with her balance that require her to use a cane.
She starts with 10 minutes of pedaling on a portable exercise cycle she puts in front of her chair. Then she does a balancing exercise — standing on both feet, she raises her arms to shoulder height, closes her eyes and counts to 60. Holding onto her walker, she does 20 steps in place, bringing her knees as high as the handholds on her walker. Then she does a routine of 14 exercises 20 times each; she increases benefit by adding 2.5 lb weights, strapped to her wrists or ankles depending on the exercise. “I started out doing each one 30 times, but it tired me out too much,” Lorraine said.
Going Down Hill and Loving It: Snow Skiing
Survivor Toni Johnson of Elk Rapids, Michigan had a stroke while skiing in 2002 at age 75. She made skiing again a goal of her recovery, and she has worked hard at it, even after breaking a leg in her first year back on the slopes. With the help of an adaptive sports group, Toni is not only skiing again but riding a recumbent tricycle. She may be an 80-year-old stroke survivor, but she is determined not to act her age!
Making Golf Accessible
Saving Strokes, a golf therapy program developed and run by the Western States Affiliate of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, has grown so much. More than 550 survivors have been through the program, and almost 800 more are expected to participate in events this year at 13 sites in California, Nevada and Utah. We have highlighted three California golfers in our coverage: Carl Valdrow, Bill Dodd and John Castiglia. Martial Arts for Survivors!
Who’d have thought that an ancient Chinese martial art—tai chi—could improve the lives of modern-day stroke survivors? Tai chi consists of slow, coordinated movements of the head, trunk and limbs that require deep concentration and balance control.
Making a Splash
Water therapy may be a good alternative for survivors with balance problems and hemiparesis. This article explores this therapeutic option and gives resources for accessing it.
Adults who were born with heart defects are at increased risk for stroke, a new study finds.
“We knew there was a connection between heart failure and stroke in patients with heart defects, but we were surprised to discover it was the strongest predictor,” said senior study author Dr. Ariane Marelli, a professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
However, the study did not prove that heart defects cause stroke.
For the study, researchers looked at stroke rates among more than 29,000 adults born with heart defects, and compared them with rates among people in the general population of the province of Quebec, Canada.shutterstock_116455033 copy
Those with heart defects were nine to 12 times more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke (blocked blood flow to the brain) before age 55. In addition, they were two to four times more likely to have this type of stroke between the ages of 55 and 64, the investigators found.
The strongest predictors of ischemic strokes in adults with heart defects were heart failure, diabetes and recent heart attacks, the study authors said.
In addition, adults born with heart defects were five to six times more likely to have a bleeding (“hemorrhagic”) stroke before age 55, and two to three times more likely to have this type of stroke between the ages of 55 and 64.
Nearly 9 percent of men and 7 percent of women born with heart defects had at least one stroke before age 65, according to the study published online Nov. 23 in the journal Circulation.
“Our study also suggests that other well-known risk factors for stroke — such as irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure — may be under-detected in patients born with a heart defect,” study first author Dr. Jonas Lanz, a research fellow at McGill, said in a journal news release.
The findings show the need for adults born with heart defects to make regular visits to a cardiologist, to reduce their risk of stroke, Marelli said.
These patients, along with their family and friends, should also learn the signs of stroke and know how to get professional medical help quickly if a stroke is suspected, she added.
Every year, nearly 129,000 Americans die of stroke, which is the nation’s fifth leading cause of death.
You wake up in a hospital, unaware of what happened. Your family and friends gather around to help you any way they can. Your family can’t make sense of what happened, so they see what is available on the internet. That the problem!
You can’t find ANYTHING you need to do AFTER you had your stroke.
For me, that stroke was 7 years ago. Now, 7 years later, it is different. Now you can determine if your heart is stressing out.. You pay attention to FAST and you are aware of the stroke facts. You have the signs, and your friends and relatives noticed it..and they tell you.