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7 Simple Steps for Heart Health

New studies on women and job stress, benefits of moderate alcohol, dangers of grief, and more

A toast to your heart

Moderate drinking offers real protection against heart disease.

  • Researchers in Italy studied men who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery and concluded that for most of them, two to three daily drinks reduced the number of subsequent surgeries, heart attacks, strokes and death compared with nondrinkers.

  • A study from Harvard University found that two to four drinks a day in midlife may be related to a modest increase in the overall health of women who survive to old age.

  • Harvard researchers also determined that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of stroke in women.

Popping supplements? Read this

Nearly half of all older adults use herbal and dietary supplements, yet the majority don't bother telling their doctors and in a great many cases doctors fail to ask. Unfortunately, people who take supplements without their doctors' knowledge may suffer dangerous consequences from interactions with common prescription medications.

The majority of the most commonly used herbal and dietary supplements interact with warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner, and can increase the risk of stroke. Of 100 warfarin users surveyed by Salt Lake City researchers, two in three said they used supplements, but only one in three reported that their doctors asked about it.

Healing a damaged heart

Scientists traditionally believed there was no way for damaged heart muscle to repair itself after a heart attack. But two preliminary studies now point out that a person's own stem cells may do the trick.

In one study, Harvard University researchers found that cardiac stem cells, even from aged, damaged hearts can generate heart muscle. The scientists removed tissue from a small part of the heart muscle of 21 men and women, average age 65, from which they were able to isolate and multiply cardiac stem cells. In the future, surgeons may be able to re-implant a person's own stem cells into the heart to heal it.

In the second study, carried out in the Netherlands, scientists filtered stem cells from fat deposits of 14 patients who had suffered a severe heart attack. They then injected the cells directly into the heart either while the men and women were undergoing a procedure to evaluate damage to the heart or within 24 hours. This initial step could pave the way for starting to mend a heart without delay.

How grief may increase heart attack risk. >>

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