heart-health

Health Check: Four Reasons To Have Another Cup Of Coffee

Some like it hot, some like it iced, and some just don’t like it at all. Until recently, coffee was on the list of habits to break if you really wanted to be healthy.

Not anymore. Systematic reviews of the research – the most powerful method to weigh up scientific evidence – judge the current evidence as mostly in favour of drinking coffee. Coffee drinking is linked to a decreased risk of premature death, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

However, some people will need to be cautious of the amount. Heavy coffee intake has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and can exacerbate heart problems.

Life Expectancy

Coffee drinkers live longer. A review of 20 studies including more than 970,000 people found those who usually drank the most coffee had a 14% lower risk of dying prematurely from any cause, compared with those who drank the least.

Even drinking just one to two cups a day conferred an 8% lower risk.

Decaffeinated coffee drinkers who had two to four cups a day still had a 14% lower relative risk of premature death than those who didn’t drink coffee at all.

Liver Cancer

Coffee drinkers, particularly men, have a lower risk of liver cancer. This is important as liver disease is the sixth-most-common cancer in the world and is more common in men.

Results from six studies, based on the total number of cups of coffee drunk per day, found the relative risk of liver cancer was 14% lower for every extra cup.

Research shows that naturally occurring coffee components, including kahweol and cafestol, have direct cancer-protection and anti-inflammatory properties. Coffee appears able to up-regulate biochemical pathways in the liver that protect the body from toxins, includingaflatoxin and other carcinogenic compounds.

Type 2 Diabetes

Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Across 28 studies of more than one million adults, those who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had a 21% lower relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who never or rarely drank it.

For those drinking six or more cups a day, the risk was lowered by 33%.

Interestingly, the risk was lower for both regular and decaffeinated coffee drinkers. For each cup of regular caffeinated coffee there was an extra 9% lower relative risk of developing diabetes and a 6% lower risk for each cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Many of the associations hold for decaffeinated coffee. Stuart Colville/Flickr, CC BY-NC

The active components of coffee help reduce oxidative stress, the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and caffeic acid, which increases the rate muscles use up blood glucose, as well as having immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.

Prostate Cancer

Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Across 13 studies that included more than 530,000 men, those who drank the most coffee had a 10% lower relative risk of developing prostate cancer than those who drank the least.

For every extra two cups of coffee drunk per day, cancer risk decreased by a small extra amount of 2.5%.

However, when prostate cancer grade was factored in, there was no protective effect for advanced or terminal types of prostate cancer.

Now, the reasons to watch your coffee intake.

Lung Cancer

Watch you total coffee intake to lower your risk for lung cancer. Studies of more than 100,000 adults found those with the highest coffee intakes had a 27% higher relative risk of lung cancer.

Every extra two cups of coffee per day was associated with an 11% greater risk of developing lung cancer.

There were only two studies on decaffeinated coffee and they had the opposite finding: a 34% lower relative risk for high decaffeinated coffee intakes.

Pregnancy

Drinking more that one to two cups of coffee when pregnant may not as be risky as once thought, but it’s worth being cautious.

The relationship between coffee and risk of miscarriage and other adverse pregnancy outcomes in older research studies was more likely to be seen in poorly designed studies, especially for outcomes like low birth weight and congenital anomalies.

Some of the risk of miscarriage was probably confounded by the fact that women with severe morning sickness, which is a sign of good implantation of the embryo, tend to cut down on coffee due to nausea.

The research on coffee comes from population-based observational studies that measure association and not causation. tico_24/Flickr, CC BY

It also appears that cigarette smoking, which tended to be associated with coffee consumption in older studies, was not always adjusted for, so some of the risk is likely to have been due to smoking.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women drink less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. This is equivalent to one to two cups of coffee a day (instant coffee has 50-100 mg caffeine per cup; brewed coffee about 100-150 mg).

Blood Pressure

The last caution relates to your heart. High intakes of caffeine can increase blood pressure in the short term and plasma homocysteine, another heart disease risk factor. Coffee is not associated, however, with the long-term risk of heart disease.

People with high blood pressure or heart conditions, older people, adolescents, children and those who don’t usually drink coffee will be more sensitive to caffeine found in “energy” drinks, cola and coffee, and it can take longer to metabolise. Switching to decaffeinated coffee will help.

It’s important to note that most of the research on coffee comes from population-based observational studies that measure association and not causation. That is partly because it would be very hard to do a randomised controlled trial of drinking more coffee and measuring health outcomes over many years. But there’s a thought – anyone like to volunteer for that study?

Clare Collins is Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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What is an EKG?

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG translates the heart’s electrical activity into line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in the line tracings are called waves. See a picture of the EKG components and intervals .

The heart is a muscular pump made up of four chambers . The two upper chambers are called atria, and the two lower chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart muscle to contract and pump blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body. See a picture of the heart and its electrical system.

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is done to:

  • Check the heart’s electrical activity.
  • Find the cause of unexplained chest pain, which could be caused by a heart attack, inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis), or angina.
  • Find the cause of symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath,dizziness, fainting, or rapid, irregular heartbeats (palpitations).
  • Find out if the walls of the heart chambers are too thick (hypertrophied).
  • Check how well medicines are working and whether they are causing side effects that affect the heart.
  • Check how well mechanical devices that are implanted in the heart, such aspacemakers, are working to control a normal heartbeat.
  • Check the health of the heart when other diseases or conditions are present, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, or a family history of early heart disease.

source

How To Read An EKG

An EKG is a graph (thusly named an electrocardiograph) tracing the strength and direction of this electrical signal. Leads equipped with conductive goo are placed on different parts of the body allowing a view of the heart from different angles.   If the electrical activity of the heart at any given moment is traveling toward the lead being viewed, the line on the graph goes up (positive deflection).  If the electrical activity is traveling away from the lead, the line goes down (negative deflection). This graph is being traced by a stylus on a moving piece of graph paper.  In a normal healthy heart, an EKG representing one complete heartbeat looks about like the second photo:

 That first petite little hump, affectionately called the P wave, represents the electrical signal that starts in a group of cells called the Sinoatrial Node. This signal then travels through the atria (the smaller and upper two chambers of the heart) causing them to contract and push blood in to the larger and more powerful ventricles below.

The “PR Interval” segment represents a delay in the signal at another grouping of cells called the AtrioVentricular Node.  This delay allows time for the atria to completely deliver their bounty into the Ventricles. With perfect timing this signal continues through the Bundle of His.  The signal splits and speeds along down the left and right bundle branches, making its way to the Purkinje fibers and turning north again. This stimulates those Ventricular beefcakes to contract and deliver their payload to the lungs and body (if hearts had biceps, the left ventricle would be the proverbial “gun show”….it’s such a glory hog!).

The journey causing this second contraction through the ventricles is represented by the QRS portion of the EKG. The larger T wave which then finishes off our heartbeat is the repolarization of the ventricles.  I know what you’re thinking, either “what in the what now goes where?” or hopefully, “what wave represents the repolarization of the atria”?  Well, the repolarization of the atria is buried in the larger signal of the QRS and therefore not visible on the graph.

This pattern is called normal sinus rhythm.  It is the basic EKG of any normal healthy heart.  Naturally, there are variations of normal within the healthy population. For example, my boyfriend is very fit and has a *huge* R wave (hands off his big left ventricle ladies, it’s all mine!  And don’t get me started on his early repolarization…and no…being early in this case is definitely not a bad thing).

**you can read more here but please note, I DO NOT like the way the article is written for a few reasons BUT it’s one of the easiest for people (who have not taken, or who have only had high school physiology) to understand and that’s why I used it. I never want someone to be looking at something that can be explained like it’s rocket science or anything.

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I haven’t posted much about this, but my cousin, Holly, is currently battling for her life. At the age of 23, three weeks after the birth of her second son, Holly suffered a heart attack. 

She has been diagnosed with Peripartum cardiomyopathy and has been in the hospital for congestive heart failure twice since then. Her father, who is a RN, left his job at the hospital to care for his daughter full time. 

Holly is currently out of the hospital, but is too weak to care for her children. Life doesn’t stop, as we all know, and things are getting tough for this family. I’m asking you guys to please help share and support this wonderful, caring family in this challenging time. 

Here is her GoFundMe page

DIY Heart Healthy Syrup

Yay! The first medicine I’ve prepared for my herbal first aid cupboard is a Heart Healthy Syrup! Here’s what I did, step by step. (Warning, Image heavy post!!)

The main medicinal ingredient in this syrup is chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum is a great overall healthy herb, it helps reduce fevers and infections and has lots of antioxidants.  It has also been known to lower blood pressure levels and increase blood flow to the heart. I’ll probably make a fever reducing syrup later on, but there are more herbs I’d like to add to that so today I focused on the heart aspect.

(**NOTE: Please do not change medication of a diagnosed illness without consulting an actual medical professional!)

Alrighty, so first you’ll need some stuff…

  • Chrysanthemum (I used dried flowers, the kind for making tea.)
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Small sauce pan
  • Small strainer
  • Something to stir with. A whisk will help later on too.
  • A funnel
  • Containers for storage (I used recycled brandy bottles.)

Step 1!

Add ¼ cup of chrysanthemum and a quart (4 cups) of cold water to your sauce pan. Its important for the water to be cold or room temp so everything infuses as it heats up together. 

Step 2!

Heat on medium temp. and bring to a simmer. Simmer liquid on med-low or low (depending on your stove) and reduce it to about ½ or a pint (2 cups.) This will take awhile so be patient. The important thing is to not heat to too high too quickly.

Step 3!

Strain your mixture into a separate container. Pour back into the pot. You don’t have to, but I added food coloring at this step to tell my syrups apart more easily.

Step 4!

Add two cups of sweetener. I used one cup of sugar and one cup of honey. You can use whatever sweetener you have, agave, sugar, honey, brown sugar, even maple syrup. Some recipes will say just use one cup of sweetener especially if you’re just going to refrigerate it, but I used more as a preservative and to make it shelf safe. Add the sugar first and whisk to dissolve, then add your honey.

Step 5!

Warm over low heat and stir well for about 30 minutes. Again this will be tedious, but slow and steady wins the race, you don’t want your sugars to burn. It will thicken and reduce to about half again.

Step 6! 

You’re almost done! Use a funnel to pour the warm syrup into empty, glass containers. Leave them on the counter to cool. After they’ve cooled, don’t forget to label and date them.

Treats high blood pressure/hypertension and heart irregularities

Directions: Take one spoonful by mouth daily, or add to warm tea.

Hope you enjoyed! I’ll add my tutorial for a stomachache syrup tonight! :)

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A Glue That Seals Heart Defects

The glue—which researchers showed is able to hold fast on live beating hearts—could be a gentler alternative to stitches.

Nearly a decade ago, Jeffrey Karp was playing around with a new, biodegradable polymer he’d made. He was a post-doctoral researcher at MIT. He ended up gluing together two pieces of glass… but later forgot about it. He ultimately developed the material for something else (as a scaffold for growing artificial organs, if you’re curious).

Read more 

Photo captions:

Image one - 

Leonardo da Vinci’s Drawings of the Heart  Digital file hosted on Wikimedia Commons

Image two - 

llustration of a Blood Vessel, Sealed with the New Surgical Glue  Image courtesy of Randal McKenzie (McKenzie Illustration)