Heart Beat

Dr. Zipes offers advice on toxic friendships, LifeVests that prevent against sudden cardiac arrest, and fitness.

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Say Goodbye to Toxic Friends

We frequently use this space to talk about heart-healthy behaviors. The first things that usually come to mind are good nutrition, physical fitness, and stress reduction. These are all vital to heart health, but one subject that doesn’t get as much attention is the importance of healthy social ties—more specifically building on positive relationships and letting go of toxic ones. A 2012 UCLA study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal suggests that a key factor in lowering the kind of stress that poisons your heart is extracting yourself from hurtful relationships. The study found that social friction causes a spike in the body’s production of pro-inflammatory proteins that raise cardiovascular risk.

What are toxic friendships? Anyone who’s survived the tortuous high school years should have a pretty good idea. One example might be a friend who drives you crazy with snide remarks, but always says he’s “just kidding” when you try to confront him. Another example: the narcissist whose every comment is about himself or who dominates conversations with self-centered tirades. According to the research, such people are more than just an annoyance: Spending time with them can stress the heart and clog the arteries!

It’s not always easy to extract yourself from toxic relationships. But, if you can muster the willpower, your heart will thank you for it!

Life Saver

Bypass surgery for clogged arteries can increase the odds of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)—the number one reason Americans die suddenly. To mitigate that danger, inventors have come up with a novel kind of defibrillator that slips on like a vest.

Current practice is to wait three months after bypass surgery before implanting a defibrillator because data now suggest the SCA risk can drop as the heart heals. But wearing the Zoll LifeVest protects patients who may still be at high risk during the 3-month window of time.

The Skinny on Fitness

Is it better to be fit or trim? New evidence declares that the winner is … being fit. Statistics clearly show that you’ll live longer (and feel better!) if you’re fit—even if you’re not completely happy with the digits that show up on the bathroom scale, according to recent research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. In the study of 14,345 men, being less fit was a more significant risk factor than being overweight for dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other cause. “This is good news for people who are physically active but can’t seem to lose weight,” said Duck-chul Lee, Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher and physical activity epidemiologist in the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health in Columbia. “You can worry less about your weight as long as you continue to maintain or increase your fitness levels.”

Heart Beat supplements the advice of your health care provider, whom you should consult for personal medical problems.

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