Stories tagged heart disease

Students at Rice University are attempting to brew beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical that lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer. They plan to genetically engineer yeast, which is used in fermentation, to produce the chemical.

No word on how one can sign up to be a test subject.

Saturday night/Sunday morning we have the annual fall back of switching off of Daylight Savings Time. We've discussed that topic a bunch over the years here on the Buzz. But here's a new study that says heart attack risks drop significantly in the days after we fall back in the autumn. Conversely, heart attack rates go up in the spring in the week after springing ahead to DLS. So this Saturday, I'll guiltlessly eat a huge steak covered in bacon and real butter!!!!


Can you spot the nightmare?: There he is!
Can you spot the nightmare?: There he is!Courtesy FasterDix
Okay. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Every scene in Willow is frightening. Each scene is, in fact, somehow the most frightening scene. Will all of that become real too?”

Don’t worry, my doves, don’t worry.

You won’t be pursued through the forest by horrible pig dogs.

You won’t be puked on by a magic baby.

Your ethnicity won’t be slandered by drunks and soldiers.

You will not be captured and molested by hideous little rat men.

Monkeylike trolls will not chase you through derelict castles.

You won’t have to watch one of those awful trolls turn inside out and morph into a dragon. And you will not have to fight that dragon.

A shirtless Val Kilmer will not threaten you.

There will not be epic battles, nor attempted baby sacrifices.

You will not be stabbed by a man with a skull mask and an unspeakable caveman face.

A metal brazier will not chase you around a lightning-lit tower.

No wands will be brandished at you.

The town loudmouth will not belittle you in front of your family.

So, all in all, there’s relatively little to be concerned about. That said, there is one more most frightening scene to consider.

Do you remember when the army of Madmartigan and Airk Thaughbaer first laid siege to the fortress of Nockmark? Before Willow was able to fully control the powers of Cherlindrea’s wand and return Fin Raziel to her human, albeit greatly aged, form? You’ll recall that as soon as Airk, Madmartigan and Sorsha confront Bavmorda at the gates of Nockmark, the evil enchantress turns the whole of the attacking army into pigs. Once they were pigs things don’t seem so bad, but the process of turning into pigs was horrible to watch. There were hoof-hands everywhere, and emerging piggy snouts, and tusks, and oinking, and everybody looked really sweaty. It was very frightening to see, and it’s happening in our own plane of existence: human-pig hybrids have been given the go-ahead in England.

Careful examination of the story clearly indicates that half human, half pig creatures like those in Willow are neither the intent here, nor are they actually possible from these experiments. But I tend to believe what I imagine is the case more than what I’m old is the case.

If you do want to waste your time with what you’re told, however, listen up:
The aim of this research is in no way to create a weird pig man. Or a weird man pig. The goal is actually to put human DNA from skin cells into a pig egg that has had its chromosomes removed, and then let it develop into an embryo. In fact, the scientists involved are attempting to create an embryo with no animal DNA left in it at all (kind of ironic, I suppose).

There’s more to it, of course, but the idea is this: the human DNA put into the eggs will be DNA taken from people with a genetic heart disease. As the scientists observe the transformation from egg to embryo, they hope to better understand the molecular mechanics of the disease. That information could then be used to create better treatments for people living with related heart conditions. None of the “hybrids” will develop past the very first stages of being an embryo (basically a featureless sphere of cells).

Or, if you’re into letting your gut and imagination do your critical thinking for you…prepare yourself for Island of Doctor Moreau Earth.

A European study has found that women taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are at a higher risk for blood clots and heart disease.


Handy ultrasound: This new device on the market, the Acuson P10, is a handheld ultrasound machine that weighs less than two pounds. It's being marketed as a new way to detech artery blockages in the neck, a sign of heart attacks that might be coming. (Photo courtesy of Siemens Medical Solutions)
Handy ultrasound: This new device on the market, the Acuson P10, is a handheld ultrasound machine that weighs less than two pounds. It's being marketed as a new way to detech artery blockages in the neck, a sign of heart attacks that might be coming. (Photo courtesy of Siemens Medical Solutions)
Dr. Bones McCoy may have had some nifty gadgets to do quick diagnoses on the Starship Enterprise. One of his gadgets my soon be coming to a clinic near you.

Doctors are now able to buy a miniature ultrasound device. It weighs less than two pounds and can be simply held in one hand. Marketers describe it as a fast, easy way to do initial screenings for heart and circulatory problems.

By using the Acuson P10, medical professionals can quickly see if there are any blockages in arteries around a patient’s neck. When there are blockages there, there are very likely blockages in arteries around the heart, which can lead to heart attacks.

The first symptoms of heart trouble, in about one-third of cases, are a heart attack. So doctors are hoping this quick, easy scanning process could help eliminate a lot these difficult ways of finding heart problems. Women with heart problems are especially prone to not showing any physical signs of heart disease.

This is all a good thing, right?

Some critics aren’t so sure. Non-specialists using the equipment may over react to what they’re seeing, some doctors warn, and send patients on for costly, unnecessary treatment. Drug companies are promoting the new devices heavily, which some skeptics point out may be a way to get more patients prescribed on their medications.

The American Heart Association is among a group of cardiology concerns that say conventional ultrasounds are a great way to find coronary problems but are not convinced the new, smaller scanners are effective. Several medical groups are currently working to draft guidelines on who should use, and what types of patients should be scanned with, this new technology.

Also, few medical insurance companies have agreed to provide coverage on such treatments. And there are reports of some non-medical professionals setting up shop in malls to give people quick scans.

What would like to see develop with this mini-ultrasound technology? Does it need more regulation or research? Is it an idea ahead of its time? Or is this just the latest version of medical hoaxes? Share your thoughts here at Science Buzz.


Veggies: Vegetables are an important part of a low fat diet. Image courtesy Icarus Diving.

The Women's Health Initiative is a clinical trial sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, an institute of the National Institutes of Health. It included the largest ever study of a low-fat diet in postmenopausal women to see if such a diet reduced their rate of contracting certain diseases. 48,835 women aged 50-79 participated for an average of 8 years. The results of the low-fat diet trial showed no significant reduction in the rate of breast cancer, heart disease, or stroke and no effect on the risk of colorectal cancer. However, the women in the study had trouble sticking to the recommended amount of daily fat and they did not necessarily cut out the types of fat considered most harmful (saturated fats and trans fats).

What About Nutritional Supplements?

The study also followed 36,282 women of the same age range to find out if calcium and vitamin D supplements reduced the rate of broken bones from osteoporosis. Again the results appeared to show no appreciable advantage to taking the supplements, although there was an average of 1% gain in bone density.

X-Ray: Osteoporosis can lead to broken bones. Image courtesy Retrogradeheart.

Drop the Supplements and Forget the Low-Fat Diet?

Researchers found that the trend in positive results was going upwards for the group on the low fat diet enough to encourage the researchers that continued monitoring of the women over the next few years will show a positive result. And people connected with the calcium/vitamin D supplement study say that despite the slightly elevated risk of kidney stones that was seen in some women, the overall gain in bone density was great enough to make a difference for some women and to have a positive impact on money spent on health care for osteoporosis-related injuries.

The upshot is that there are still opportunities to learn more information about how diet and supplements affect the health of these postmenopausal women, including why some subgroups of women were affected in ways that others weren't. Doctors and researchers aren't changing their overall advice yet, although people should always discuss their diets with their doctors as cases can differ from person to person.