Irregular heartbeat


Roundup: More Adults Under 65 Suffer from Higher-Risk Irregular Heartbeat (AFib) Than Previously Thought; and More News

Researchers: Irregular Heartbeat, or AFib, More Common and More Serious in Younger Adults Than Previously Thought

While advancing age is one risk factor, researchers find that atrial fibrillation, or AFib, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, is on the rise in people under the age of 65 and is “more dangerous in this increasingly younger population than previously thought,” states a news release on a new study authored by physician-scientists at the UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) Heart and Vascular Institute.

AFib is when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way. The condition is diagnosed when the beating in the upper chambers of the heart (the two atria) is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart (the two ventricles). AFib may happen in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition.

The risk for AFib increases with age. High blood pressure, the risk for which also increases with advancing age, accounts for about 1 in 5 cases of AFib. Moreover, AFib is associated with an approximately five-fold increased risk of stroke.

The new study, published in Circulation Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, is considered one of the first to focus on a large group of AFib patients younger than 65 in the U.S. Researchers found that these younger patients were more likely to be hospitalized for heart failure, stroke or heart attack -- compared to similarly aged and gender-matched people who do not have AFib. 

Researchers examined electronic health records of 67,221 UPMC patients seeking care for AFib from 2010 through 2019. They found that more than a quarter of them (17,335) were under the age of 65, “a stark contrast to the 2 percent prevalence commonly estimated.”

The UPMC team also found that survival rates for those with the arrythmia were 1.3 to 1.5 times worse for men with AFib, and 1.82 to 3.16 times worse for women, compared to similarly aged patients who did not have AFib.

“The patients studied also had high rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including smoking, obesity, hypertension and sleep apnea, which contribute to damaging structural and electrical changes in the heart over time,” states a UPMC news release on the study.

Learn about Cardiac Arrhythmia Services at Baptist Health Heart & Vascular Care.

Dietary Modifications More Effective Than Only Meds in Treating Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Study Finds

In more than 7 out of 10 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), dietary modifications were more effective than merely relying on medications, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

IBS is a common diagnosis –- effecting about 15 percent of U.S. adults –- but many people go undiagnosed because symptoms mimic those of other gastrointestinal disorders: diarrhea; constipation, abdominal bloating or gas; and abdominal discomfort or cramping. 

The new study, published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, compared three treatments: Two involving dietary modifications and one based on use of medications. The participants were adult patients with severe or moderate IBS symptoms at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg.

The first group was given “traditional IBS dietary advice, focusing on eating behavior combined with low intake of fermentable carbohydrates, known as FODMAPs. These include products with lactose, legumes, onions, and grains, which ferment in the colon and can cause pain in IBS,” states a news release from researchers.

The second group received a dietary treatment low in carbohydrates and proportionally high in protein and fat. In the third group, “the best possible medication was given based on the patient's most troublesome IBS symptoms,” researchers said.

Of those participants who received traditional IBS dietary advice and low content of FODMAPs, 76 percent had significantly reduced symptoms. In the group receiving low carbohydrates and high protein and fat, the proportion was 71 percent, and in the medication group the proportion was 58 percent.

“All groups reported significantly better quality of life, less physical symptoms and less symptoms of anxiety and depression,” conclude researchers.

Previous studies have mostly found that counseling by a medical professional which leads to lifestyle changes is more effective than medication alone to treat chronic IBS. Your doctor may recommend changes in what you eat and other lifestyle modifications. Customized treatment may also include medicines, probiotics, and mental health therapies. You may have to try a few treatments to see what works best.

‘Mentally Challenging’ Jobs Can Help Lower Risk of Dementia Later in Life, Study Says

Occupations that are mentally challenging over a person’s lifetime can lower the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia after age 70, according to a new study from researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, the Columbia Aging Center, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The findings, published in Neurology, are considered to be the first to “fully advance this association with objective assessments rather than subjective evaluations,” states a news release on the study. Researchers note that the study “identifies associations rather than direct causation of dementia.”

“Our study highlights the importance of mentally challenging job tasks to maintain cognitive functioning in later life,” said Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia Aging Center, who initiated the project, in a statement.

Jobs or professions that are mentally challenging may involve coming up with creative solutions or ideas, analyzing data or other information, detailed researching, solving a range of problems, and explaining ideas and information to others. Coaching, training or generally motivating others are also considered challenging – compared to repetitive or routine tasks.

The researchers examined data from the Norwegian administrative registry and focused on aspects of more than 300 jobs from the Occupational Information Network database of the U.S. Department of Labor. A Routine Task Intensity (RTI) index was configured as a measure of “occupational cognitive demands.” A lower RTI index score indicates more cognitively demanding occupations.

The researchers than looked at the association between these RTI scores and clinically diagnosed MCI and dementia in participants. They also accounted for dementia risk factors such as age, gender, educational level, income, overall health, and lifestyle habits from assessments made in 1984-86 and 1995-97.

“After adjusting for age, sex, and education, the group with low occupational cognitive demands (the high RTI group) had a 37 percent higher risk of dementia compared to the group with high occupational cognitive demands,” states the news release on the study.

“However, we recommend the commissioning of further research to validate these findings to pinpoint the specific occupational cognitive demands that are most advantageous for maintaining cognitive health in old age,” states Mr. Skirbekk.

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