Decrease Your Risk of a Heart Attack – Issue 25

Dear Health-Conscious Friend,

Did you know statistics show every 34 seconds an American suffers a heart attack? Some of the main causes include high blood pressure… high cholesterol… smoking… and obesity…

…the last thing you need is to increase your risk of heart disaster by taking a dangerous prescription medication!

In today’s Monday Edition of Health News Weekly™, I’ll tell you why researchers say one popular pain drug could have increased your chances of experiencing heart problems.

You’ll also find out a surprising reason why some doctors decide not to replace some patients’ creaky hips or knees…

You’ll find these and other great tips you can put to use right away, so let’s get started!

Study Concludes Vioxx® Dangers May Have
Begun EARLIER than Stated!

Layne Lowery

Merck & Co’s withdrawn arthritis medicine Vioxx® may have increased the risk of heart disease much earlier than after 18 months of use. A study published July 25, 2007 in The New England Journal of Medicine contradicts claims previously made by the drug maker and its scientists.

According to a Reuters Health report, the 2,434-patient study was halted early when the medicine was pulled from the market in September 2004. Although the average treatment time was only 7.4 months—researchers concluded that Vioxx was associated with an increased frequency of fatal and nonfatal heart attacks… strokes… blood clots… and chest pain.

During the study, a relatively small number of adverse heart events occurred—15 in the Vioxx group and 6 in the placebo group, the researchers said.

“However, our findings suggest an increased risk of cardiovascular events in patients randomly assigned to receive rofecoxib” during or within 14 days after the treatment period, the researchers said.

Merck pulled the $2.5 billion a year pain drug after a different study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in those who took it continuously for at least 18 months.

The company is facing more than 27,000 lawsuits from people who claim to have been harmed by the drug. During trials, Merck’s lawyers and company witnesses have insisted that there is no scientific evidence suggesting increased risks from shorter-term use.

Opposing attorneys insist the risk begins well before 18 months.

While the shortened study found a statistically significant higher risk of adverse heart events among the Vioxx patients, researchers found no significant difference between the Vioxx and placebo groups during the 24 months following the end of the study.

Overall, 4 patients in the Vioxx group and 2 in the placebo group died as a result of heart disasters within 14 days after the treatment period. But during the 24-month period follow-up period, there were five deaths in the Vioxx group and seven from the placebo group—a difference researchers say is not statistically significant.

Got Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Get Some Exercise!

Roz Roscoe, Staff Writer

Adults with rheumatoid arthritis may be able to improve their physical and mental health with regular exercise, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that 12 weeks of low-impact aerobic exercise seemed to lessen fatigue, pain and depression among 220 men and women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The findings are published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

RA occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of your joints. This leads to chronic inflammation, pain and stiffness. Over time, the disease can deform your joints and leave you disabled.

Dr. Geri B. Neuberger and colleagues at the University of Kansas Medical Center conducted the study to examine factors that either encourage or discourage people with RA from exercising.

The research team recruited 220 RA patients between the ages of 40 and 70. They randomly assigned patients to one of three groups:

  1. One group took exercises classes for 1 hour, 3 times a week
  2. Another group exercised at home, using a videotape of the same activities used in the class, and
  3. A third group maintained their usual lifestyle.

The exercises consisted of low-impact aerobic activities, with no jumping or running.

After 12 weeks, participants in the exercise classes reported improvements in overall symptoms. Tests showed they also boosted their walking speed and grip strength.

The home-exercise group did not benefit to the same extent, though participants did improve their walking time and hand strength.

According to Neuberger’s team, the home group did not exercise as intensely as the group who took classes. They said this could account for the difference in results.

Researchers note the social aspects of taking a class may also have helped change participants’ perceptions of their symptoms.

Participants identified fatigue and doubts about the benefits of exercise as key obstacles.

But Neuberger and colleagues point out lack of exercise—and the resulting lower fitness levels—may be one of the reasons people with RA often feel weary.

The research team said their findings “reinforce the need for health providers to educate patients with RA about the many benefits of exercise, how to overcome barriers to exercise, and ways to manage fatigue.”

Fast Fact

Feeling frazzled? Try drinking a tea brewed with Valerian root. The herb contains a substance called Valepotriates that act as a natural sedative. Valerian root can also calm heart palpitations… lower your blood pressure…and ease the strain on your nerves!

100-Year Old Patients Frequently Denied
Hip and Knee Replacements

Tiffany Lowery

It’s probably no surprise that aging increases the possibility for developing fragile and brittle bones. But a new study published in the August issue of Arthritis Care & Research found that hip and knee replacements are rarely performed on centenarians.

And researchers found that decisions about who receives these surgeries are often based solely on the patient’s age!

U.S. Department of Census data show the number of centenarians could cross the 4 million mark by 2050. Although 40% of these centenarians are functionally independent—they are at high risk for bone fractures due to osteoporosis and for experiencing arthritis.

Dr. Eswar Krishnan, MD, MPH of the University of Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, PA and a team of researchers analyzed 10-year data (1993-2002) from the largest hospital discharge data set in the world. The study was the largest to date of hip and knee replacements among centenarians.

Of the 57 million hospitalization records housed in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample during the 10-year period, 41,335 were for centenarians.

The researchers identified 679 total hip replacements and 7 total knee replacements in patients age 100 or older. The research team concluded that the rarity of these surgeries could be due to assumptions—on the part of both doctors and patients—that the hazards are too great for potentially poor outcomes.

Some people may think that a relative short life expectancy for folks in this age group offsets any benefits of the surgery. Others have expressed the concern that health care resources should be spent on those who can potentially benefit the most.

Given the increasing trend of joint replacements over the last decade in the U.S. and the growing centenarian population, such procedures are likely to become more commonplace in the elderly population.

The study authors point out that centenarians live to the century mark by delaying or even avoiding many age-related diseases. They found that study data suggest centenarians should not be denied hip and knee surgeries solely based on age or the concern of high in-hospital mortality risk.

Health E-Hints

Healthy Ways to Take Flight!

The fall season ushers in a number of holidays—which could involve traveling to visit relatives. Many folks start and end their journey with at least one airplane flight. But cruising at 8,000 feet in a tight airplane cabin can be anything but a thrill a minute!

One common problem many air travelers experience is developing leg clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It’s also known as “economy-class syndrome”—a condition often brought about during long flights sitting in cramped seats.

The deep veins in your legs have one-way valves, which open to move blood back toward your heart. When your leg muscles contract, it forces blood in the veins of your lower body back up to the heart.

When you sit for long periods, your leg muscles contract less—and make it harder for your blood to circulate properly.

To help prevent harmful clots from developing, try these simple solutions:

  • Contract your calf muscles to help get the blood moving again. You can do something as simple as tapping your feet. This will help move muscles in your shins and thighs, and even in your hip joint!
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your body properly hydrated. Plus, drinking water will help keep your muscles moving—especially as your legs take you straight to the restroom!
  • Take a saline solution nasal spray to keep your nose refreshed and to eliminate germs. Pressurized cabin air can dry your nasal passages. Just a few squirts can help soothe the irritation.

These quick and easy suggestions can help make your flight time a refreshing journey to your chosen destination!