Health Updates 14 August 2012

  • Apple slices sold at McDonald’s, Burger King pulled due to Listeria risk: “Ready Pac Foods Inc. is recalling apples shipped to restaurants and stores in 36 states due to fears they might be contaminated with Listeria.  Restaurant chains McDonald’s and Burger King sell the apples as slices, and the fruit was also sold to Wawa  Inc. convenience stores and Wegmans Food MarketsBloomberg News reported.  The recall occurred after Listeria was detected on equipment at Ready Pac’s Missa Bay unit, and includes over 293,000  cases and more than 296,000 individual packs of fruit, vegetable and sandwich products containing the apples, the company said in a statement.  No illnesses have yet been linked to the apples, according to Ready Pac, which is based in Irwindale, Calif.  In a statement, McDonald’s said it had stopped serving products originating at the Missa Bay unit out of an ‘abundance of caution’, Bloomberg said.  States to which the apple products were shipped include Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.  The products are also being recalled in Washington, DC.” (HealthDay)
  • Hot cocoa may boost seniors’ brain power: “Cocoa flavonols have shown some benefits for the heart, but they may also be good for cognitive function in older people, researchers found.  In a double-blind study, elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment who consumed high or moderate levels of cocoa flavonols for 2 months had significant improvements on certain cognitive assessment tests compared with those who took in only small amounts, Giovambattista Desideri, PhD, of the University of L’Aquila in Italy, and colleagues reported online in Hypertension.  ‘Although additional confirmatory studies are warranted, the findings…suggest that the regular dietary inclusion of flavonols could be one element of a dietary approach to the maintaining and improving not only cardiovascular health but also specifically brain health,’ they wrote.  Evidence suggests eating flavonoids, polyphenic compounds from plant-based foods, may confer cardiovascular benefits.  Flavonols are a subclass of these compounds that are abundant in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and cocoa products including chocolate….The study was limited because its short time-frame didn’t allow for conclusions about the extent of cognitive benefits and their duration.  Nor can it establish whether the observed benefits are a consequence of the cocoa itself or a secondary effect related to general improvements in cardiovascular function or health.  Also, participants were in good health overall and without known cardiovascular disease, so the population may not be representative of all subjects with MCI.  Still, the researchers concluded that the data ‘are suggestive of a possible clinical benefit derived from the regular dietary inclusion of cocoa flavonol-containing foods in subjects with MCI’.  The study was supported by a grant from Mars, Inc., which supplied the standardized powdered cocoa drinks used in the study.  The co-author is an employee of Mars, Inc.” (Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today)
  • Strategy may help ER docs spot heart attacks within an hour: “A test based on certain cardiac enzymes could help emergency department staff spot heart attacks in incoming patients within an hour, a new study finds.  The test, called high-sensitivity cardiac troponin (hs-cTn), would be used along with electrocardiography and physical exams to improve the early diagnosis of heart attacks for patients coming to the ER complaining of chest pain, the Swiss researchers said.  As one expert not connected to the study explained, cardiac enzymes called troponins can point to heart attack.  ‘Cardiac troponins are highly specific for the presence of myocardial cell necrosis (death of heart muscle),’ said Dr. Hal Chadow, co-director of the Division of Cardiology at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in New York City.  Although troponins are most often elevated in people who have suffered a heart attack, he said, they also can be linked to other conditions such as heart failure, pulmonary embolisms (clots in the lungs) and stroke.  Chadow said accurate, rapid means of confirming heart attacks in the ER are needed.  ‘Approximately 5.5 million patients are seen in [US] emergency departments annually for chest pain,’ he said, and ‘rapid diagnosis and early risk stratification are important goals’.  Cardiac troponin measurement may be a key ingredient to this process, he added, since ‘previous studies have demonstrated very low 30-day event rates in patients with no elevation in cardiac troponin’.  The new study was led by Dr. Tobias Reichlin of University Hospital Basel in Switzerland and published Aug. 13 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. Reichlin’s team tracked nearly 900 patients with severe chest pain who visited the emergency room, including almost 150 for whom heart attack was confirmed as the final diagnosis.  About half of all patients were assessed using the new method.  The new formula gauged the patients’ troponin value upon arrival and then tracked changes in troponin over the next hour.  Using the method, the researchers ruled out heart attack in 60 percent of the patients, found evidence of heart attack in 17 percent and put the other 23 percent into a group to be ‘observed’ over the next hour.  The 30-day survival rate was 99.8 percent among the patients who did not have a heart attack, 98.6 percent among those who were placed under observation and 95.3 percent in the patients who had a heart attack. ‘The use of this [formula] seems to be safe, significantly shortens the time needed for rule-out and rule-in [heart attack], and may obviate the need for prolonged monitoring and serial blood sampling in three of four patients with chest pain,’ the authors concluded.”  Of course more research is needed before this approach becomes routine.  The troponin tests should be part of the process for spotting heart attacks, but not the only process, and more studies are needed in a larger number of patients to confirm these findings. (
  • Really?  Your heart skips a beat when you sneeze: “Some old wives’ tales contain only a kernel of truth, if any.  But the one about your heart skipping a beat during a sneeze is not completely unfounded.  Just before sneezing, most people take a deep breath.  This increases pressure in the chest and briefly inhibits the flow of blood to the heart, which can lower blood pressure and increase the heart rate.  But as you exhale, your blood pressure increases and heart rate, in turn, goes down.  At the same time, sneezing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain through the abdomen.  In general, any time the vagus nerve is stimulated, the body’s response is to reduce the heart rate.  The effect of this is minimal, however, slowing the heart perhaps only a single beat.  This phenomenon is not unique to sneezing, said Dr. Christopher Magovern, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.  Coughing, gagging and other acts can have a similar effect on the vagus nerve.  ‘There’s nothing special about the sneeze,’ he said.  ‘It’s almost like a cough through your nose.  It increases vagal tone, and that stimulation causes your brain to program your heart to slow down.  Your heart can slow down, skip a beat, or stop momentarily.  But it resumes’.  For most people this goes unnoticed.  But in extremely rare cases, sneezing can slow the heart rate or lower blood pressure to such an extent that it causes a person to pass out.  In the medical literature, this is known at sneeze syncope.  Some people may also have an exaggerated response to a sneeze or cough if they have a congenital heart abnormality, Dr. Magovern said, or if they are taking medications that affect their heart rate, like beta blockers.  The bottom line: Sneezing can slow heart rate, but the effect is minimal.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s