Frontline: Calcium Scan; RA Symptoms Link to Diet; Hot Flashes & Cardio Risk

Calcium Scan May Be Useful in Assessing Heart Risks

A computed tomography (CT) imaging test called a coronary artery calcium (CAC) scan may be more accurate than other methods of determining the risk of coronary artery disease, according to a review published March 6, 2017 in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. A CAC scan can show whether calcium has built up where plaque is located in coronary arteries. Once a CAC scan is performed, results are then translated into a CAC score; the higher the CAC score, the greater the risk for future heart disease. The study authors noted that calcium in coronary arteries can be detected many years before any symptoms of heart disease appear, which can serve as a motivating factor to encourage heart-healthy lifestyle choices, as well as allowing for earlier, more effective treatment of heart disease. Other reported advantages of CAC scans include low radiation exposure during the scan and a lower cost than other types of imaging. Currently, coronary artery disease risk is often calculated based on factors including blood pressure, total and HDL cholesterol, blood glucose, age, sex, and tobacco use.

Some RA Patients Report a Link Between Diet and Symptoms

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), what you eat and drink may worsen or ease your symptoms, according to survey results published online Feb. 19, 2017 in Arthritis Care & Research. Out of a total of 217 study participants, 83 percent of whom were women, 24 percent reported that their RA symptoms were affected by their diets. They were given a list of 20 foods and asked whether consuming those foods had any association with their symptoms. Foods that are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, including blueberries, fish, and spinach, were cited as most likely to improve symptoms, while inflammatory foods—most notably, soft drinks and desserts with a high added sugar content—were associated with an increase in symptoms. The average duration of RA among all participants was 17 years, and 58 percent of the participants were taking a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, such as methotrexate, sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). The participants also reported that their symptoms improved if they were sleeping well, kept their living environments at a warmer temperature, and took vitamin and mineral supplements.

Hot Flashes May Signal Higher Cardiovascular Risk

Among women in their 40s and early 50s, hot flashes may signal impairment in blood vessel function that can lead to heart disease, according to research published online April 12, 2017 in the journal Menopause. The researchers found an association between frequent hot flashes and a lower degree of dilation in blood vessels, which indicates a higher risk of developing heart disease. However, they found no link between hot flashes and blood vessel dilation in women ages 54 to 60. The study authors suggest that the frequency and severity of hot flashes may be a factor to take into account when assessing a woman’s risk of heart disease. However, you don’t need to wait until you’ve been told you are at risk of heart disease to take preventive steps: Stay physically active, eat well, maintain a healthy weight, and manage conditions including hypertension and diabetes to protect your heart.

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