The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) brings together healthcare professionals from more than 140 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine – helping people lead longer and healthier lives. An annual major event, this year the ESC Congress took place from 26 – 30 August, at the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain.

The ESC Congress 2017 congregated more than 20,000 healthcare professionals from various EU countries, as well as other parts of the world—to contribute and gain awareness about the latest breakthroughs and clinical trials in this year’s theme, “40 years of Percutaneous Coronary Interventions” (PCI).

Here are the five findings that were presented at ESC Congress 2017:

1. High salt intake doubly increases the risk of having heart failures

Professor Pekka Jousilahti, from the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki led a research that tracked 4,630 healthy adults aged between 25 and 64 for an average of 12 years. Their dietary habits were compared with their cardiac problems.

Participants were divided into five groups. The study then measured salt levels in the participants’ urine. It was revealed that those with high salt intake of more than 13.7g daily were 110% more likely to develop heart failure—subjecting the heart to a struggle in pumping blood to the body.

“This salt-related increase in heart failure risk was independent of blood pressure,” said Jousilahti. “People who consumed more than 13.7g of salt daily had a two times higher risk of heart failure, as compared to those consuming less than 6.8g.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also recommends not more than 5g of salt intake daily.

2. Four cups of coffee daily lower the chance of early deaths

Dr Adela Navarro, a cardiologist at Hospital de Navarra, Spain led a research that observed 20,000 middle-aged participants over a 10-year period. The study found that participants who consumed coffee regularly were 64% less likely to die from early deaths than participants who weren’t coffee drinkers.

“Our findings suggest that drinking four cups of coffee each day can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people,” stated Navarro. “I think it's the polyphenols. They have an anti-inflammatory effect. I would advise people to drink plenty of coffee, it could be good for your heart.”

Previous studies have also found coffee protects against stroke, liver disease and gut problems, as well as several cancers—thanks to the naturally-occurring polyphenols in coffee that promotes wellbeing. The presented study was observational and did not point out that coffee was the main reason for longer lives. It does tally with a UK study which showed two cups of coffee daily lowers the risk of early deaths by one fifth.

3. Poor sleep patterns increase risk of heart failures by two-fold

Dr Nobuo Sasaki of Hiroshima University, Japan led a study of nearly 13,000 participants and found that participants who struggled to sleep through the night were almost 100% more likely to suffer from heart attacks or severe angina. Those who took more than half an hour to fall asleep had a 52% increased heart attack risk and 48% increased risk of a stroke—while those who got less than six hours of sleep a night were 24% more likely to have a heart attack.

The reasons for the link was not observed. However, Sasaki revealed that it was possibly due to the extra strain placed on the heart from over-activity in the nervous system from constantly waking up, that raises heart rates and blood pressure.

Sasaki concluded, “our results support the hypothesis that sleep deterioration may lead to cardiovascular disease. Poor sleep in patients with ischaemic heart disease may be characterised by shorter sleep and brief moments of waking up.”

This study also tallies with one study last year by researchers from University of California, San Francisco, which revealed that people who did not sleep through the night were at 29% increased risk of having irregular heartbeats. Sleep problems have also been linked to increased risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and Parkinson’s.

4. Fruits and vegetables: “3 a day” is enough

Dr Andrew Mente, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada led a study that tracked the eating habits of more than 135,000 adults aged between 35 and 70 – across 18 countries, over a period of 7.5 years. The study found that three portions of fruits and vegetables were as good as eating five portions a day in terms of life expectancy. Those eating three portions a day could expect to live as long as those who had five portions or more a day.

In the study, a portion was defined as 125g or fruits or vegetables, or 150g of legumes. The study also noted that the benefits were better reaped if the vegetables were eaten raw – instead of cooked.

As long as the three portions were generous, it was enough to cut down mortality rates. The participants who ate a modest level of fruits and vegetables lowered their risk of death by one fifth. Once raw vegetables were introduced in the diet, mortality rates were slashed by almost one third.

“This is good news, because it is much more feasible to achieve three to four servings than it is to achieve more than five servings a day,” asserted Mente. In developing countries where food is scarce, this is especially good news. Researchers also urged health officials across the world to revise guidelines on the “5 a day” to a lower number and advise on increased consumption of raw vegetables.

5. High carbohydrate intake risks more lives than high fat intake

Dr Mahshid Dehghan from the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada led a study that documented diet in 135,335 individuals aged between 35 and 70 years, across countries in North America and Europe, South America, the Middle East, South Asia, China, South East Asia and Africa. The study showed that high carbohydrate intake is linked to worse total mortality and non-cardiovascular mortality outcomes; while high fat intake is associated with lower risk.

“Limiting total fat consumption is unlikely to improve health in populations, and a total fat intake of about 35% of energy with concomitant lowering of carbohydrate intake may lower risk of total mortality,” Dehghan said. “In fact, individuals with high carbohydrate intake, above 60% of energy, may benefit from a reduction in carbohydrate intake and increase in the consumption of fats.”

The 7.5-year study was unique as such that it studied the impact of diet on total mortality and cardiovascular diseases in diverse settings, as opposed to previous studies done only in Western countries where over-nutrition is apparent. In some settings of this study, over-nutrition is common and others, under-nutrition is of greater concern. The researchers call for a dietary guideline revisit based on the new findings. MIMS

Read more:
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The lesser-known factors of cardiovascular disease
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