04 March 2011

Healthy Patients Can Be at High Cardiac Risk

Now they are saying that otherwise healthy patients may be at high risk of cardiac death. If this got your attention, it should. Apparently there are people with problems that even they are not aware of, and serious problems even when other cardiovascular indicators are not present.

This little known cause is a type of irregular heart beat and apparently this does not show up on standard tests. Heart rate turbulence, which reflects how well the heart reacts of occasional premature contractions, is an even stronger heart disease risk factor than elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a potential heart disease biomarker that has emerged in recent years.

Among the almost 1300 study participants considered at low risk of heart disease based on traditional risk factors were more at risk to die of heart disease by a factor of almost nine times during the 14-year followup period if they had abnormal heart rate turbulence values.

Researchers don't yet know if abnormal heart rate turbulence can be treated or prevented. In the meantime, interest might grow within the medical community in measuring heart rate turbulence in clinical practice. Currently, this type of measurement is not widely available. This is the disturbing part of this discovery.

Heart rate turbulence refers to how smoothly the heart rate returns to normal after a premature ventricular contraction, a fairly common event in which the second portion of a heart beat is triggered too soon. Due to the improper timing between the atrial and ventricular contractions, the ventricles haven’t fully filled with blood, and therefore do not push out enough blood to the body. The brain detects this sub-optimal release of blood and instantly increases the heart rate to pump more blood. This overcompensation raises blood pressure, causing the brain to react again and lower the heart rate until blood pressure returns to normal.

Of all the heart problems that develop, this is a real bummer and the fact that most people are not aware they may have the heart rate turbulence is not good news. Hopefully, the heart doctors will move quickly in finding a treatment that will eliminate or at least mitigate the turbulence.

Read the article here and here.

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