Daylight Saving Time May Increase Risks Of Heart Attacks

While daylight saving time might appear like a great way to save energy, research has not shown any clear results.  In fact, it actually has more negative consequences than benefits.  Recent studies have highlighted that clock changes increases the risk of heart attacks.  Slight sleep deprivation triggered by this time shift causes circadian misalignment, which increases the heart attack risks by almost 30%.

Clock Change Causes Heart Attacks

A recent paper1Manfredini, R., Fabbian, F., Cappadona, R. et al. Intern Emerg Med (2018) 13: 641. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11739-018-1900-4 written by the Universities of Ferrara and Florence in Italy, warned of the risk of biannual clock change, particularly during the first week of the time change.  According to the paper, for the majority of individuals, the tiredness caused by time change might seem like a small issue but for others, it can result in graver consequence.

Studies have highlighted the link between heart attacks and lack of sleep.  Less than six hours of sleep is associated with obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, and premature death.  Disrupted sleep leads to consumption of more calories and fewer calories burned.  Moreover, just one sleepless night is enough to enhance insulin resistance.

The research reviewed existing heart attacks and daylight saving time literature and found that the Monday after the time change has the most number of heart attacks.  The first day of the week is also a critical one for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also referred to as “broken heart syndrome”.  This is a condition where the heart muscle suffers a temporary and sudden weakness, which is caused due to emotional stress, increased blood pressure, and higher levels of catecholamine, the fight-or-flight hormones.

What’s the Reason?

Human bodies prefer a longer day as compared to a shorter day.  The research referred to travelling numerous time zones, which cause the worse possible jet lag.  The same pattern has been associated with daylight time change transitions.

The circadian rhythm of the human body controls the sense of night and day, time to sleep, eat and more.  The same rhythm helps in regulating the metabolism to body organs, including the heart.  The change in time causes an imbalance in your body clock, especially in sensitive people.  Merely an hour of lost sleep might enhance stress levels, blood pressure, heart rate, as well as chemicals promoting inflammation.

Other Consequences of Daylight Saving Time

Another study2American Academy of Neurology (AAN). “Does daylight saving time increase risk of stroke?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 February 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160229220653.htm presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, April 15 – 21, 2016, found that there is an 8% increase in cases of ischemic stroke in the first two days of daylight clock change as compared to the two weeks before and two weeks after the time change.

The Universities of Washington and Virginia published a study3Cho, K., Barnes, C. M., & Guanara, C. L. (2017). Sleepy Punishers Are Harsh Punishers: Daylight Saving Time and Legal Sentences. Psychological Science, 28(2), 242–247. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797616678437 which highlighted that the Monday after the daylight saving time switch, the legal sentences given out in courts were 5% longer as compared to the previous Monday and the following Monday.  This indicated that the time switch affected their sleep, making the judges less productive.

This was supported by research4Wagner, D. T., Barnes, C. M., Lim, V. K. G., & Ferris, D. L. (2012). Lost sleep and cyberloafing: Evidence from the laboratory and a daylight saving time quasi-experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 1068-1076 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0027557. published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, stating that this time switch promotes productivity-draining endeavors, referred to as cyberloafing (surfing the net, checking personal emails on work time).  The same was true for undergraduate students who were found to engage in cyberloafing 8.4 minutes more than usual after time switch.

While all these results have been observational, they strongly indicate that daylight saving time is causing more harm than benefits.  The research highlighted that merely one day (Sunday), is not enough time for people to get accustomed to the time switch, making it harder on them for the rest of the week.

Valsartan: Blood Pressure Drug Being Recalled Across Europe After US Recall

Over the past year, various blood pressure medicines have been recalled across the US and more recently in the UK and Europe after a cancer-causing contaminant was discovered in some of the batches.  Investigators believe that the medicines were contaminated in the manufacturing process.  Valsartan, which is one of the most commonly used blood pressure medicines, is also among those being recalled.

Valsartan

Valsartan is primarily used for the treatment of heart failure and high blood pressure.  It enhances the probability of the patient leading a longer and healthier life after suffering from a heart attack.  Valsartan is categorized under the class drugs known as Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs).  It relaxes blood vessels in order to help the blood flow easily.
There are various types of Valsartan currently available in the market and both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) have announced the recall of several of them.  Further details of the recall can be found on the websites of both organisations.

The Reason Behind the Recall

These recalled blood pressure medications have been found to be contaminated with either N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) or N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which are cancer-causing chemicals.  Moreover, research has also indicated that NDEA may also contribute towards blood cell and liver damage.

NDEA is utilized to create rocket fuel and has also been discovered in small amounts in certain foods and drinking water.  This chemical can be created via some chemical reactions and as industrial processes’ byproducts.

After the US recall, both MHRA and EMA have recalled all medication containing containing four other ‘sartans’, namely candesartan, irbesartan, losartan and olmesartan.  This precautionary recall has been announced because of the potential N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) contamination.

The Risk of Getting Cancer from These Medicines

According to the findings of all 3 agencies, the risk of getting cancer from using Valsartan is small since the NDMA discovered in the medicine only slightly exceeds the levels of acceptability.  According to the drug manufacturers’ records, this impurity might have been contained in Valsartan products since more than 4 years.

Investigations all over Europe have been initiated regarding this contamination.  According to the results so far, there hasn’t been any evidence indicating that any patients have been harmed and the agencies have stated that this contamination has not affected all of the sartan products.

What Should Blood Pressure Patients Relying on These Medications Do?

According to the medical experts, patients using these recalled drugs can continue taking them however, before doing so, it is highly recommended to consult your pharmacist or doctor immediately.  The threat of cancer from the contaminated batches of Valsartan and other sartans might be low as compared to the threat of not using them at all.

It is best to request your doctor to suggest an alternative.  These nationwide recalls have made it difficult to find Valsartan medicines in the market meaning that whether you want to use this drug or not, you might have no other choice but to use alternative blood pressure medications.   Therefore, ensure that you consult your doctor immediately before you switch to another medication or completely stop using it.

6 Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is the increased amount of blood pressure against your arteries.  With time, elevated blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and lead to a stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and other health serious issues.  Hypertension is also referred as a silent killer since it doesn’t have any unique symptoms and can go untreated for years.

There are certain risk factors not under your control, including gender, family history and age; however, there are still various risk factors that you can control, including diet and exercise.  Changes in your diet can drastically decrease high blood pressure.  There are various foods that can help in lowering your blood pressure, including the following:

1.   Berries

Strawberries and blueberries include anthocyanins, which are antioxidant compounds that help to lower the blood pressure.  Studies have shown that the intake of a high amount of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of hypertension by 8% as compared to a low anthocyanin intake diet.  Eat berries as dessert, a snack, or add them in a salad, oatmeal or smoothies.

2.   Fenugreek Leaves and Seeds

Fenugreek seeds and leaves are loaded with a high amount of soluble fiber, which aids in decreasing cholesterol level.  A diet that is high in fiber has been linked to steady levels of blood pressure.  Fenugreek seeds and leaves contain low levels of sodium.
However, keep in mind that while fenugreek is efficient in lowering blood pressure, it can also reduce your blood sugar, which means it is best not to consume it every day.

3.   Beetroot

Beetroot includes a high amount of nitric oxide which helps to open up the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.  Studies have found that nitrates in beetroot juice lowered blood pressure of participants in merely 24 hours.  It is therefore best to include beets in your diet by making beet juice, cooking the whole beetroot or eating it in salads.  It also tastes delicious when added in stews or stir-fries and when roasted or baked.

4. Leafy Green Vegetables

Loaded with nitrates, leafy green vegetables also help lower blood pressure levels.  Studies have suggested that consuming two servings of nitrate-rich vegetables daily can decrease hypertension.
The leafy greens you can include in your diet are:

  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Fennel
  • Lettuce
  • Collard greens
  • Cabbage

In order to consume the daily requirement of leafy greens, you can eat baked kale chips, add a side dish of sautéed Swiss chard and garlic to your main meal, add vegetables in stews and curries, or make a salad of raw leafy greens.

5. Salmon

Fresh fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein.  Salmon contains vitamin D, which has been reported to lower levels of blood pressure.  You can replace trans and saturated fats like fried foods and fatty beef with a serving of salmon weekly.

Just this simple swap once a week helps to reduce inflammation, lower arterial plaque buildup, and decrease triglycerides – all of these being the biggest contributors to heart disease.

6. Dark Chocolate

A piece of dark chocolate is effective in lowering high blood pressure.  Studies have suggested that chocolate rich in cocoa can help to reduce high levels of blood pressure in individuals with prehypertension or hypertension.

Make sure you select high quality chocolate, which includes at least 70% cocoa.  Eat one square or a 1oz piece every day.

A healthy diet and regular exercise can drastically decrease the risk of high blood pressure.  Start including these six foods that help in lowering blood pressure to maintain a stable blood pressure.  Other foods that lower blood pressure include various spices, herbs, lentils, nuts, oats and other vegetables and fruits.  Make sure you consult your doctor in case of any doubts or for more health tips in reducing your blood pressure.

Can Atrial Fibrillation Cause Dementia?

New evidence from recent research studies suggests that Atrial Fibrillation can put patients above 40 at the risk of dementia.  In Atrial Fibrillation, the heart’s upper chamber beats irregularly, leading to an abnormal heart rhythm and decreased blood flow.  The ineffective pumping of the heart causes blood clots, which can further lead to a stroke and dementia (cognitive decline).

Research studies have proven that the compromised blood flow due to Atrial Fibrillation affects the brain in numerous ways.  The beat-by-beat differences in the flow of blood to the brain negatively impacts brain functioning.  The irregular heartbeat causes blood to pool in the heart, which forms clots.  These clots have the tendency to travel to the brain and then get lodged in blood vessels, thus affecting cognition in more subtle ways.

The clots in the blood vessels can be detected initially from symptoms, such as sudden and small strokes, which may go undetected and unnoticed by the patient but over time, such activities can affect cognitive abilities in a more serious way.  The damage to the brain can add up, resulting in dementia.

Another way Atrial Fibrillation causes brain damage is the way it alters the blood flow through the body.  It disrupts the blood brain barrier.  This is a membrane that is responsible for separating blood from cerebrospinal fluid.  It also filters blood that comes in and out from the brain and to the spinal cord.  The disruption causes neuro-specific molecules to enter the bloodstream, thus resulting in brain damage and cognition decline.

Researchers at the Stockholm University, one of Europe’s leading centres for higher education and research in science, and Karolinska Institute, one of the world’s foremost medical universities, conducted a study5J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;61(3):1119-1128. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170575. in which they collected data of 2,685 participants above the age of 73.  These participants were followed for a period of 6 years. None of the participants had dementia at baseline, however with age, 9% of them were diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and over the follow up period 15% of them were diagnosed with dementia.  The study concluded that aging people with Atrial Fibrillation had a 40% higher risk of developing dementia than those without.  It also confirmed that patients with Atrial Fibrillation who took blood thinners to prevent blood clots were able to counteract the risk of developing dementia in comparison to the patients who were not on medication.

Blood thinners or anticoagulants not only protect patients from major strokes but also from long-term cognitive decline.  They should however, be taken in moderation and as prescribed by a doctor because some studies also indicate that high dosage of blood thinning medication can cause micro-bleeds in the brain.  Treatment plans need to be adjusted periodically to ensure that the dosage of blood thinner is sufficient, thereby protecting the affected individual’s heart and brain.

Depression can put you at a Higher Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder that accounts for 20% to 30% of all strokes.  It is also among the top causes of premature deaths in women.  Studies show that nearly 120,000 people are being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation annually.  Most of them complain of experiencing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Palpation
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain and
  • Shortness of breath.

In this condition, the atria or the upper two chambers of the heart start to beat chaotically or irregularly, and out of coordination with the ventricles (the heart’s lower two chambers).  Over time, Atrial Fibrillation can lead to blood clot formation in the heart, which may then circulate to other body organs and block the flow of blood, thereby resulting in stroke and sudden death.

Though many causes have been identified for the possibility of developing Atrial Fibrillation such as sinus syndrome, viral infections, sleep apnea, exposure to stimulants (caffeine and alcohol), stress, abnormal heart valves, and high blood pressure, recent studies have proven that depression is also a contributing factor.

Preliminary research reports published by leading sources in the field such as the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and the American Heart Association, have proven that depression is strongly linked to Atrial Fibrillation.  Taking into consideration the study6Fenger-Grøn, M., Vestergaard, M., Pedersen, H. S., Frost, L., Parner, E. T., Ribe, A. R., & Davydow, D. S. (2019). Depression, antidepressants, and the risk of non-valvular atrial fibrillation: A nationwide Danish matched cohort study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 26(2), 187–195. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487318811184 published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, research investigated the association of depression and antidepressants with Atrial Fibrillation in patients.  The study was conducted over a span of 13 years from 2000 to 2013 on the Danish population.  The risk of Atrial Fibrillation was assessed before and after starting the treatment for depression.

It was observed that the condition of Atrial Fibrillation was 7.65 fold higher and more common in patients with depression before they started taking antidepressants.  Furthermore, it was assessed that patients on antidepressants had nearly a 3.18 fold higher risk of developing Atrial Fibrillation during the first month of their treatment.  The association did however, gradually lower thereafter to roughly 1.37 fold by 6 months and 1.11 fold by 12 months.

The study concluded that depression can place an individual at a higher risk of developing Atrial Fibrillation, if treatment is not sought immediately.  In addition, antidepressant medication is not linked with the development of Atrial Fibrillation, contrary to what many assumed.  Make sure to visit your doctor for a full check-up and seek proper treatment for depression to minimise your risk of Atrial Fibrillation.

Study Reveals Blue Light is as Beneficial as Medication in Decreasing Blood Pressure

Did you know that light plays a major role in our circadian system?  It regulates our circadian system by communicating with our eye’s light sensitive cells, which then signals the body clock of our brain.  This is how your body knows what time it is so that your organs work accordingly.  These sensitive cells are even more sensitive to blue light.  Recently, it was discovered that blue light helps in decreasing blood pressure.

It has become a known fact that blood pressure stays low during summer months as compared to the winter months.  A recent study examined the impact of blue light on blood pressure and revealed surprising results.  There are numerous health benefits of blue light exposure, including an impact on high blood pressure.  The positive impact of blue light has been found to be as effective as any other hypertension medication available on the market today.

Blue Light And Blood Pressure

The study7Stern, M., Broja, M., Sansone, R., Gröne, M., Skene, S. S., Liebmann, J., … Heiss, C. (2018). Blue light exposure decreases systolic blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and improves endothelial function in humans. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 25(17), 1875–1883. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487318800072, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, reveals that blue light exposure is an effective treatment for lowering your blood pressure and simultaneously decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The participants in this study were exposed to the blue light for 30 minutes, followed by control light exposure on a different day.  The researchers examined the blood vessel dilation, arteries stiffness, blood pressure, and nitric oxide’s blood plasma levels of the participants during, before and after the exposure of both lights.

They found that whole body exposure to blue light drastically lowered the levels of blood pressure of the participants by around 8 mmHg. There was however, no impact on the blood pressure levels with the controlled light exposure.

Health Benefits of Blue Light

Aside from lowering the systolic blood pressure, exposure to blue light offers numerous health benefits, including the following:

  • Decrease in the stiffness of arteries.  The participants in the study experienced lowered pulse wave velocity and lowered forearm vascular resistance.
  • Enhanced flow of blood.  The participants in the study experienced an increase in flow-mediated dilation and forearm blood flow – the former refers to the artery’s capacity of widening in reaction to the increase in the flow of blood.
  • Encouragement of nitric oxide release.  The participants in the study showcased enhanced nitric oxide circulation and concentrations of nitroso species in their plasma.  Remarkably, the systolic blood pressure reduction after light exposure for 30 minutes was linked to the plasma nitroso species changes.

The best part is that all these health benefits of blue light exposure come with no side effects that have been linked to blood pressure medications8N Engl J Med 2015; 373:2103-2116, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1511939.  The light exposure levels in the study have been rather realistic and almost the same as the exposure you get during a typical sunny day.  Indeed, you would have to regularly experience the exposure to blue light in order to enjoy these health benefits long-term.

It is not unrealistic to assume that regular exposure to blue light, along with the consumption of healthy and antihypertensive foods like olive oil and cherries can result in making a major impact on the high blood pressure levels.