The Handoff: Your Week in Cardiology News - 5/19/17

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The Handoff is a weekly roundup of cardiology news covering various developments in subspecialties, as well as pharmaceutical industry, association, and society news.

  • In related news, the American Heart Association is encouraging people to “break up with salt” as part of their Sodium Reduction Initiative. Check out the latest blog post on the 20th anniversary of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
  • While death rates have declined for heart disease and stroke in the United States, there are substantial differences in these rates across the country. For example, as the findings in JAMA report, a person is more likely to die from ischemic heart disease in Louisiana than someone in Colorado. Fatal stroke rates also vary across the southern US, West Coast, and Midwest.
  • In addition to geographic location, racial residential segregation may also increase blood pressure, specifically among black adults, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. However, moving away from a segregated neighborhood had a positive effect: systolic blood pressure dropped 3 to 5 mm Hg.
  • Scientists recently discovered a 2-part system that appears to protect the heart's “power grid” from disease-related damage. Their findings, which may help us understand how both heart and skeletal muscle function under healthy and unhealthy conditions, were published in Cell Reports.
  • Hispanic patients with ischemic strokes have longer door-to-needle times, as reported at the recent American Academy of Neurology meeting and simultaneously published in Neurology. The average delay was 12 minutes, compared with non-Hispanic white patients.
  • Researchers in Germany found alcohol consumption is associated with cardiac arrhythmias, particularly sinus tachycardia. More than 3000 participants at the 2015 Munich Octoberfest volunteered to receive smartphone-based ECGs and breath alcohol concentration tests. Cardiac arrhythmias occurred in more than 30%, according to findings published in European Heart Journal.
  • Both unprocessed and processed red meat can increase all-cause mortality and death from 9 different diseases, including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. White meat, however, had an inverse effect.
  • In other dietary news, millions of Americans drink alcohol at unsafe levels, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Aaron White, PhD, senior author noted, “Drinking at such high levels can suppress areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions such as breathing and heart rate, thereby increasing one's risk of death.”
  • The antibiotic azithromycin has been linked to an increased risk of ventricular arrhythmia. However, according to research published in CMAJ, azithromycin does not increase the risk of ventricular arrhythmia when compared with amoxicillin. The study involved more than 28 million patients throughout Europe, and of those who developed ventricular arrhythmia, 1221 were current antibiotic users (azithromycin, amoxicillin, or another antibiotic). 
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