Abnormal heart rhythms

The Beat Goes On

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You’ve got the beat. That is, your heart does. But if your heartbeat
is abnormal, there’s an easy dietary change that may help keep the
beats in sync.

Last month, in the e-Alert “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” (10/25/04), I told
you about a German study that demonstrated how omega-3 fatty
acids from fish oil supplements may sharply reduce the risk of
arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) in patients who are prone to
this condition. Now a new study reveals another way to reduce the
risk of arrhythmias.

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Good-hearted nurses
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Arrhythmias can be triggered by a number of factors, including
diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, smoking,
drug and alcohol abuse, prescription drugs and even some herbal
supplements. There are several types of arrhythmias; some cause
only mild chest discomfort, while others prompt heart attacks and
strokes.

Earlier this month, researchers at the Harvard University Medical
School presented the results of a dietary survey at the annual
meeting of the American Heart Association. The Harvard team
gathered data from food intake questionnaires given to more than
76,000 women enrolled in the Nurse’s Health Study. The
questionnaires were updated every four years for 16 years.

Researchers analyzed the data to determine the intake of foods
containing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a precursor of
omega-3 fatty acids. The women were divided into five categories
of ALA consumption, ranging from the least intake to the most. A
daily intake of 0.7 grams was average for those in the lowest intake
group, while those in the highest averaged about 1.5 grams per
day.

Researchers reported these two striking conclusions:

* Subjects with the highest ALA intake reduced the risk of dying
due to sudden cardiac death by more than 40 percent, compared to
the lowest intake group
* Those same high-intake subjects also reduced their risk of dying
due to coronary heart disease by more than 20 percent, compared
to the lowest intake group

The lead author of the study, Christine M. Albert, M.D., told
NutraIngredients.com that because arrhythmias are usually to
blame for sudden cardiac death, the study supports the hypothesis
of previous research that found fish oil to protect the heart from
abnormal rhythms.

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Men, take note
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But alpha-linolenic acid’s heart benefits don’t stop at arrhythmia
control. In the e-Alert “Nutty Buddy” (6/8/04), I told you about a
Pennsylvania State University study that showed how an ALA-rich
diet may promote blood vessel resiliency while also improving
cholesterol levels.

So if you’re ready to join that group with the highest ALA intake,
just include more of these items in your daily diet: broccoli,
Brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables and walnuts. But the best
ALA source by far is flaxseed and especially flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed contains lignan, a fiber and phytoestrogen that’s rich in
ALA. Lignan is believed to help remove testosterone from the
body, and studies have shown that this may assist in suppressing
the growth of prostate cancer cells. But here’s where it gets tricky.

The lignan in flaxseed is found in the outer shell of the seeds.
When the seeds are refined into oil, only a trace of lignan ends up
in the finished product. But this same process dramatically
increases the concentration of ALA. And while some studies have
suggested that ALA may slow cancerous growth in the breast and
colon, the effect on prostate cancer is an entirely different story.
Out of six known studies that have examined the association
between the risk of prostate cancer and the intake of dietary ALA,
five of them found the cancer risk to increase with a high intake of
ALA. But even though flaxseeds have plenty of ALA, the content
is generally considered too low to be harmful to prostate cancer
patients.

There appear to be no harmful side effects for women who get high
amounts of ALA in their diets. But any man who’s in a prostate
cancer risk group might be wise to avoid large daily intakes of
ALA, especially from flaxseed oil. Meanwhile, men who wish to
address the risk of prostate cancer by increasing their flaxseed
intake should first talk with their doctor or a health care provider.

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and another thing
You see some interesting things when you feet are in the stirrups.

I’m not talking about trail riding – I’m talking about a recent
checkup from my OB/GYN. (Don’t worry, that’s as personal as
this is going to get.)

I like my doctor. He’s helped me with some health issues over the
years. But he doesn’t exactly embrace the concept of
complementary and alternative health care. And that is putting it
very mildly.

He does have a good sense of humor though. For the amusement of
his patients who have to stare at the ceiling during an exam, he’s
inserted buttons in the ceiling tiles – buttons printed with funny
messages, observations, etc.

While reading what looked like about a hundred buttons, I noticed
that the only one with a comment on natural health care took a
decidedly negative spin. It said, “Oh yeah? Well, cyanide is all-
natural too!”

Good to know he’s keeping an open mind.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

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Sources:
“ALA May Protect Against Sudden Cardiac Death”
NutraIngredients.com, 11/10/04, nutraingredients.com