Tag Archives: heart attacks

Beta Blocker Drugs Are Not All Equivalent

An article at MedPageToday suggests that carvedilol may be superior to other beta blockers for patients with heart failure and heart attacks.  Other beta blockers would include metoprolol, bisoprolol, propranolol, and nadolol.  It’s difficult to come up with reliable results in this arena.

Do Eggs Cause Heart Attacks and Premature Death?

At the beginning of my 30-year medical career, egg consumption was condemned as a cause of heart attacks.  Heart attacks can kill.  How did eggs kill?  It was thought to be related to the cholesterol content – 200 mg per egg – leading to higher serum cholesterol levels, which clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to heart attacks.

Fifteen years ago the pendulum began to swing the other direction: Egg consumption didn’t seem to matter much, if at all.

The evidence is usually collected in observational, epidemiologic studies of large groups of people.  The groups are analyzed in terms of overall health, food intake (e.g., how many eggs per week), healthy lifestyle factors, etc.  Egg consumption of the group is broken down, for example, into those who never eat eggs, eat 1-4  eggs per week, eat 5-10 per week, or over 10 eggs weekly.  A group is followed and re-analyzed over 10-20 years and rates various diseases and causes of death are recorded.  Researchers don’t follow just 25 people like this over time.  You need thousands of participants to find statistically significant differences.

The debate about eggs was re-opened (although never really closed) by the publication in April, 2008, of an article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Scientists of the Physicians’ Health Study suggest that consumption of seven or more eggs weekly is associated with significantly increased risk, over 20 years, of all-cause mortality.  Interestingly, this level of consumption did not cause heart attacks or strokes.  Study participants, by the way, were 21,327 Harvard-educated male physicians.  5,169 deaths occurred during 20 years of follow-up.  If you’re not a Harvard-educated male physician, the study results may not apply to you.

When physicians with diabetes  – type 2’s mostly, I assume –  were analyzed separately, consumption of even less than seven eggs per week was associated with higher all-cause mortality.

Several other observational studies looking at this same issue have found no association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and all-cause mortality.

Bottom line?  If you worry about egg consumption, limit to 7 or less per week.  If you have type 2 diabetes, consider limiting to 4 or less per week.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a study were published next week saying “eat as many eggs as you want; they don’t have adverse health effects.”

Remember, all the cholesterol is in the yolk.  Try making an omelet using the whites only.  But in our lifetimes you’ll never see an observational study looking at egg white consumption and mortality rates.

I’m still not convinced egg consumption is worth losing sleep over.  “More studies are needed…”

Steve Parker, M.D.References:

Djousse, L. and Gaziano, J. M.  Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (2008): 964-969.

Dawber, T.R, et al.  Eggs, serum cholesterol, and coronary heart disease.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36 (1982): 617-625.

Nakamura, Y., et al.  Egg consumption, serum cholestrol, and cause-specific and all-cause mortality: the National Integrated Project for Prospective Observation of Non-communicable Disease and Its Trends in the Aged, 1980.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80 (2004): 58-63.

Calcium Supplementation Linked to Heart Attacks

A new European study suggests that calcium supplements almost double the risk of having a heart attack, at least in Germans.  You can read the full report in the current issue of Heart.

The medical literature on this issue is a confusing mess.  In other words, lots of conflicting results.

Huge numbers of women in the U.S. are taking calcium supplements either to treat or prevent osteoporosis and the associated broken bones (e.g., hips, wrists, spine).

What I’d like to know, and what nobody knows, is what is the effect of calcium supplementation on average longevity and quality of life.  Maybe I’d accept a higher risk of heart attack if calcium supplementation prolonged lifespan by two years.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll just say that the best way to get your calcium is probably through food rather than supplements.

Shereen Jegtvig has an article at About.com listing foods rich in calcium.

Exercise can also help keep your bones strong and break-resistant.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If your doctor has you on a calcium supplement, you’d best get his blessing before you stop it.