How Nuts Can Protect Your Heart

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 4, 2016

Assorted Roasted Nuts in Small Bowl

BWH researchers discovered that greater intake of nuts is associated with lower levels of inflammation.

Contributors: Dr. Ying Bao is an epidemiologist in Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Dr. Paul Ridker is Director for the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at BWH.

In a study of more than 5,000 people, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that greater intake of nuts was associated with lower levels of biomarkers of inflammation, a finding that may help explain the health benefits of nuts. The results of the study appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Previous studies have consistently supported a protective role of nuts against cardiometabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, and we know that inflammation is a key process in the development of these diseases,” said corresponding author Dr. Ying Bao, an epidemiologist in BWH’s Channing Division of Network Medicine. “Our new work suggests that nuts may exert their beneficial effects in part by reducing systemic inflammation.”

Previously, Dr. Bao and her colleagues observed an association between increased nut consumption and reduced risk of major chronic diseases and even death, but few studies had examined the link between nut intake and inflammation. In the current study, the research team performed a cross-sectional analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which includes more than 120,000 female registered nurses, and from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which includes more than 50,000 male health professionals. The research team assessed diet using questionnaires and looked at the levels of certain telltale proteins known as biomarkers in blood samples collected from the study participants. They measured three well-established biomarkers of inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6 (IL6) and tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2).

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Recognizing American Heart Month

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 9, 2016

heart-stethoscope
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, but many advances are being made in the fight against heart disease. In recognition of American Heart Month, we have compiled videos from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Heart & Vascular Center experts to provide you with information on many of the latest approaches in heart disease treatment and prevention.

Targeting Inflammation– A Key to Preventing Heart Disease

Research led by Dr. Paul Ridker, Director of the BWH Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, determined that people with higher blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation, are at increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the future. In this video, Dr. Ridker discusses the role of inflammation in heart disease.

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Nanomedicine May Help to Prevent Heart Attacks

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 12, 2015

The nanoparticle's special surface is designed to stick to fatty deposits.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Columbia University researchers have developed a microscopic medicine that could be used to help prevent heart attacks caused by atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque (mainly cholesterol deposits) within the arteries. This thickening of the artery walls decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to vital body organs and extremities, which can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), carotid artery disease, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries continues to be the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S., and about one half of all strokes in this country are caused by atherosclerosis.

Through preclinical testing, the BWH and Columbia University researchers aimed to demonstrate that medical treatment of atherosclerosis can be significantly improved by significantly improving the precision of treatment. They designed nanometer-sized, biodegradable “drones” that are programmed to travel to the exact area of the artery where treatment is required, and, once there, deliver a precise dose of a special anti-inflammatory medication that promotes healing. The size of the nanomedicine particles – 1,000 times smaller than the tip of a single human-hair strand – helps them to maneuver to the inside of the plaque. The particles’ special surface, designed to stick to fatty deposits, helps to keep them there.

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Don’t Leave Women’s Health to Chance

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 30, 2015

Dr. Paula Johnson

The author of today’s post is Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Did you know that, 20 years ago, women and minorities were not routinely included in federally funded clinical trials? That changed in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed into law the historic NIH Revitalization Act, making inclusion of women in health research a national priority.

Today, we know that women are different from men down to the cellular and molecular level. We see these differences across all organ systems — from our hearts to our joints, lungs, and brains. The Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is dedicated to exploring and discovering why these differences occur, and translating those differences into clinical care. However, roadblocks remain in research and clinical care. Here are just a few examples:

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Rotating Shift Work May Increase Health Risks in Women

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 10, 2015

Rotating shift work may increase a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

New Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research has found that long-term rotating shift work may increase a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

To examine the impact of rotating night shift work on mortality, BWH epidemiologist Dr. Eva Schernhammer and her research team analyzed 22-year medical histories of nearly 75,000 female nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study. The composition of the Nurses’ Health Study – exclusively female nurses – was particularly advantageous for Dr. Schernhammer’s purposes, as many nurses have rotating-shift schedules.

Compared to nurses who never worked night shifts, the researchers found that nurses who regularly worked rotating shifts for 6 to 14 years were 19 percent more likely to die from heart disease. (For this study, a rotating-shift worker was defined as someone who worked at least three nights per month, in addition to shifts at other times of the day.) Women who worked rotating shifts for 15 years or more were 23 percent more likely to die from heart disease and 25 percent more likely to die from lung cancer. The study also found that rotating shift workers were slightly more likely to die sooner, regardless of the cause.

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Impact of Healthy Habits on Young Women’s Hearts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 10, 2015

Research shows that certain healthy habits have a significant impact on heart disease risk.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for your heart. It’s not a novel concept, but how much of a difference does it really make?

A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Indiana University, and Harvard Medical School recently set out to examine how certain lifestyle factors impact the risk of heart disease in younger women (ages 27 to 44 years). Examining this particular segment of the population is significant, as the mortality rate for coronary heart disease (CHD) has plateaued among young American women in recent decades, while the rate for the overall population has declined.

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Heart Failure Treatment Continues to Evolve

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 7, 2014

Ventricular assist devices soon may exist entirely within the body.

Heart failure patients have benefited greatly from treatment advances developed during the past several decades, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has long played a key role in this evolution of care. This includes the discovery that an ACE inhibitor could immediately stop the progression of heart failure and the first successful implantation of a total artificial heart in New England.

Dr. Mandeep Mehra, Executive Director of the BWH Center for Advanced Heart Disease, says that today’s heart failure patient has a number of options for effectively repairing, replacing, or recovering their heart function, and the future of heart failure care is similarly bright. Among his expectations is the gradual shrinking of ventricular assist devices, which will soon exist entirely within the body without the need for an external power source or any other external component. In the video below, Dr. Mehra further details how heart failure treatment has developed over the past 30 years and what we can expect for tomorrow.

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Taking Steps to Honor Mothers and Heart Disease Survivors

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 12, 2014

Sammie Lunt (right) is taking steps to a healthier future.

In 2012, wife and mother of three, Sammie Lunt, suffered a heart attack at the age of 53. Less than two years later, she courageously climbed to the top of 53 State Street alongside her husband and family to make a difference in the fight against heart disease. Now, they’re taking on Fenway Park to support survivors, like Sammie, and take steps toward a healthier future.

This past January, the Lunt family and friends participated in ClimbAmerica! – a unique stair climbing  event hosted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s ClimbCorps, which raises funds and awareness for heart disease. Led by Sammie’s son, Kyle, their team, the “Koala Kongs,” was one of the top fundraisers, raising $2,261 to support life-saving education, programming, and research for heart disease prevention.

“I always knew my parents made a good team,” says Kyle. “But after about 17 flights, they were both tired and ready to give up. Instead, they looked each other in the eye and decided that they’d keep going, one flight at a time, until they couldn’t go any farther. They were the last ones to finish, but they finally made it all the way up together.”

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Don’t Let Your Man Skip Breakfast, for His Heart’s Sake

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 24, 2014

Men who skip breakfast are putting their heart health at risk.

If the important men in your life are not eating breakfast, this might help you to convince them they should.

Men who skip breakfast have a 27 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or developing heart disease than those who start the day with something in their stomach, according to BWH and Harvard School of Public Health research that was published in Circulation.

“Men who skip breakfast are more likely to gain weight, to develop diabetes, to have hypertension, and to have high cholesterol,” says BWH researcher Eric Rimm, senior author of the study.

For example, breakfast skippers are 15 percent more likely to gain a substantial amount of weight and 21 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, earlier studies have reported.

This study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, found that these men also indulged more heavily in other unhealthy lifestyle choices. They were more likely to smoke, engage in less exercise, and drink alcohol regularly. The researchers analyzed data culled from a 16-year study of nearly 27,000 male health professionals that tracked their eating habits and overall health from 1992 to 2008. During the study period, 1,572 of the men developed heart disease.

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Defying the Odds: Heart Patient Welcomes New Baby

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 10, 2014

Ali Barton with her newborn son, Ethan.

When Ali Barton, 31, was about 18 weeks pregnant, she began experiencing “bizarre” swelling in her legs, sudden weight fluctuation, and intense nausea after just a few bites of food. Her local care team at the time attributed these symptoms to her pregnancy, but a few weeks later, Ali went to her community emergency department, worried that she may have a virus.

Following an echocardiogram, she was immediately transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), where a team of high-risk obstetricians and heart failure specialists were intensely focused on her care. Ali previously had been diagnosed with endomyocardial fibrosis, a rare disease that causes a thickening of the walls of the heart, resulting in difficulty pumping and fluid retention.

Ali’s physicians at BWH had never seen a case of endomyocardial fibrosis in a pregnant woman, and with no experience to go on, they were deeply concerned for the health of both Ali and her unborn baby.

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