[COLUMN] Heart attack predictor

WOULDN’T it be wonderful if there was a way to predict a heart attack before it actually happens to provide physicians an opportunity to exercise pre-emptive measures?

Luckily for the world, blood tests that could help predict the likelihood of a heart attack is available, thanks to advances in medical science and technology.

The authors of a new study identified about 90 molecules that may serve as biomarkers of a cardiac event. One of the strongest indicators of an imminent heart attack is the brain natriuretic peptide — a diuretic — which lowers blood volume through increased urination. Blood tests already exist to detect this peptide.

Every 36 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack, the leading cause of death around the world, where over a million die each year, usually without a warning. So, the blood test to detect this peptide, this biomarker predictor, would literally be a life saver blood test.

This new study of 169,053 European individuals at Uppsala University in Sweden identifies the blood biomarkers that could be used to provide an “early warning” system that may allow time for preventive measures before a first heart attack.

Medical myths

February was the American Heart Month. Let us debunk some of the persistent myths, misconception, half-truths, and fake news about heart disease.

No sex after heart bypass

This is a myth. Following coronary bypass surgery, the circulation to the muscles of the heart is greatly improved. If a person was able to have sex before surgery, he should be able to do it more safely, with peace of mind. The aim of coronary bypass surgery is to bring the person back to the normal way of life, as much as possible, in more ways than one, and that includes the ability to have sex. Talk to your physician.

Vitamins will prevent heart disease

No, there is absent evidence to show vitamins can reduce the risk for heart disease. For those who do not eat properly, vitamins could be helpful by replacing what is not consumed as food. A 2018 meta-analysis of 18 existing studies with 2,019,862 volunteers concluded that “multivitamin and mineral supplementation do not improve cardiovascular outcomes in the general population.”

To prevent heart disease, a healthy diet (like the Mediterranean Diet), abstinence from smoking, a disciplined alcohol intake or abstinence, and regular exercise and good behavior, are highly essential. Vitamin D3 is a good supplement for the cardiovascular system, which helps in intrinsic natural insulin regulation; bone, dental, and lung health for better calcium absorption; aids in brain health; and also helps in cancer management.

Sleep apnea is not a risk

Not true. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is prolonged breath-holding, sometimes 100-200 times or more a night among individuals with OSA. Sleep Study is vital, whether one snores or not, for diagnosis. These breathless episodes deprive the body from getting enough oxygen during the night which severely increases the risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, even for cancer. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy is the gold standard of care for OSA.

Heart disease affects only the elderly

False. While heart disease affects people over the age of 65, 4-10 percent of heart attacks happen in persons under the age of 45, mostly among men. It is what we do from childhood, adolescence, to adulthood that lays the foundation of our future health, as explained in my book, “Let’s Stop ‘Killing’ Our Children” (Amazon.com), a pro-active and pre-emptive strategy in healthy lifestyle and diseases prevention starting from the DNA level. A diet high in trans and saturated fats (a lot of red meat and processed delis), and smoking tobacco increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer. A study of heart mortality in the United States, showed that “over 50% of counties (experienced) increase in heart disease mortality from 2010 through 205 among adults aged 35-64 years.”

Exercise is bad for heart disease

This is a big myth. To improve blood flow throughout our body, including our heart muscles, we must exercise. According to Prof. Sanjay Sharma, in the August 2020 European Society of Cardiology guideline on exercise for patients with cardiovascular disease, “The chance of exercise triggering a cardiac arrest or heart attack is extremely low.” However, he also adds a note of caution: “People who are completely inactive and those with advanced heart disease should consult their doctor before taking up sports.”

Bypass surgery is not safe

False. Coronary Bypass is one of the safest and most frequently performed surgeries today. The surgical mortality rate is about 1 percent, and in some series, zero post-op mortality. It is certainly less dangerous than not having bypass surgery when important coronary arteries are blocked, which could have mortality as high as 50 percent, like left main coronary (more than 50 percent) blockage. This lesion has caused sudden death and is popularly called “widow-maker.” Not having bypass in these cases is 50 times more dangerous than bypass surgery.

On statins? Eat whatever you like

Wrong. Simply because one is taking cholesterol-lowering drug does not mean a person can eat anything without care, foods with saturated fats, trans-fat, high carbohydrates (which increases the liver’s production of blood triglycerides, which, if higher than 175 mg/dL chronically, increases the risk for serious cardiac events). An unhealthy diet also exposes people to co-morbidities like, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Fats are all bad

False. We need good fat for our body. While saturated fats and trans-fats are unhealthy, polyunsaturated fats are the healthier option: the cardio-protective omegas-3 fatty acids from fish, salmon, sardines, and mackerel, lake trout, herring, small light tuna, etc., (consumed at least 2-3 times a week) olive oil, avocados, broccoli, kale, flaxseeds, chia, walnut, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995, conferred by then Indiana Governor, later Senator, and then presidential candidate, Evan Bayh. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali, Astronaut Gus Grissom and other leaders and educators (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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