cholesterol

  1. Heart risk for aspirin quitters

    Despite what you've heard from decades of TV commercials, the last thing your heart needs to help it keep beating is a daily dose of aspirin.

    But if you've already started on the so-called "aspirin therapy," don't stop -- not right away anyway, because a new study finds that quitting could bring on a heart attack.

    Researchers tracked 39,513 patients between 50 and 84 years old who had suffered a heart attack and were taking daily aspirin in the hopes of preventing a second one.

    The researchers found that those who stopped their aspirin therapy were 60 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack over three years than those who kept taking their pills.

    The researchers say the attacks were nonfatal -- but who knows what kind of hidden damage they did inside the heart, or if those second attacks set the stage for a third and possibly fatal event down the road.

    The researchers wrote in BMJ that the risks are "small," but I'd say they're not small enough to provide any degree of lasting comfort. The study found four extra heart attacks per 1,000 aspirin quitters.

    That's good enough for the researchers, who concluded that the benefits still outweigh the risks -- but let's not get carried away here, because there are much safer ways to protect your heart.

    Studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can not only keep your heart beating -- they can also pull off a few tricks that aspirin can't touch.

    For starters, fish oil can lower your triglycerides, boost good cholesterol, and reduce overall inflammation. It's also great for primary prevention, helping you to avoid that first heart attack. Aspirin, on the other hand, is actually worse. Studies have found almost no benefit to aspirin therapy for patients who've never suffered a heart attack.

    In one study, 3,350 men and women with a high risk of heart disease were given either aspirin or a placebo. Over eight years, there was no difference in heart attack or stroke risk.

    There is one area, however, where aspirin manages to distinguish itself, and it's a doozy: side effects.

    Regular aspirin use for any reason -- especially a daily dose for "therapy" -- can lead to serious and potentially deadly internal bleeding problems.

    Some studies have found that aspirin can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke -- and a study just a couple of years back found that aspirin therapy causes tiny "microbleeds" in the brains of seniors.

    I don't call that micro anything -- that's maximum risk, especially for a senior.

  2. Seaweed for heart health

    For most of us, seaweed is a nuisance: It can get in the way when you're trying to swim, and that's only if the smell of the stuff rotting on the beach doesn't chase you back home before you even dip a toe in the water.

    But in Asia, this nuisance is on the menu -- and with good reason, too: Seaweed is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and a new review of the research finds it can boost your heart health like nothing else.

    Researchers looked at about 100 studies on seaweed and found that it has a similar effect on blood pressure as ACE inhibitors -- but unlike prescription meds, seaweed comes with virtually no risks.

    But that's not all -- not even close.

    Researchers from the Teagasc Food Research Center in Dublin say the studies they reviewed show that seaweed and microalgae are as rich in bioactive peptides as dairy.

    They're also easy to cultivate, low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium.

    And once you get over the fact that you're eating beach debris, it can taste pretty good too. The Japanese use seaweed in nearly everything, including a simple salad of fresh seaweed tossed with healthy sesame oil and seeds.

    I don't know if seaweed is the reason they live longer than nearly anyone on the planet -- all the fatty fish in the diet there probably have just as much, if not more, to do with it -- but it's an easy enough dish to replicate at home if you're willing to give it a shot.

    Along with keeping blood pressure in check, a regular side of seaweed might even help keep your weight under control by blocking the absorption of fat. One study found that rats given seaweed lost 10 percent of their body weight.

    Seaweed also contains anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and antioxidant compounds. It can help beat pain, fight arthritis, lower your cancer risk, and keep cholesterol in check.

    I could go on, but I think you get the point: It almost doesn't matter what benefit you're looking for -- chances are, you'll find it in simple seaweed… if you can stand the smell, anyway.

  3. Next wave of meds aimed at HDL cholesterol

    Right now, trials are under way on the next wave of meds Big Pharma hopes everyone will take, including you: Drugs designed to raise levels of HDL cholesterol.
  4. Statins on the ropes

    Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration examined 14 trials involving more than 34,000 low-risk statin patients--influential studies used to push these drugs on millions--and found serious flaws in the research.
  5. Statins: They still don't work

    Since up to 75 percent of all heart attacks happen to people with normal cholesterol levels, the only surprise here is that this is somehow considered a groundbreaking discovery.
  6. The rising tide of metabolic syndrome

    It's metabolic syndrome, a perfect storm of the five risk factors that leads to diabetes and heart disease: belly fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  7. Repairing the heart—and the soul

    Many people who undergo heart bypass surgery find themselves battling an unexpected side effect: depression.
  8. War on fat is killing Americans

    We have more evidence that mainstream medicine's war on fat is not just misguided – it's killing us.
  9. The statins in your produce aisle

    A study has found that lycopene, an antioxidant, can cut the building up of plaque that leads to atherosclerosis.

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