New research is suggesting possible preventative measures for a common type of heart arrhythmia.
Known as “heart block,” it is a disruption in the normal electrical signaling between the four valves of the heart. The crossed signals lead to irregular heartbeats which are often treated by a pacemaker. But new research published in JAMA is saying it might be preventable.
According to cardiologist and researcher Dr. Gregory Marcus, part of the reason why heart block prevention methods have previously gone unnoticed has to do with the reliability of pacemaker treatment. But the research is showing a pacemaker, and heart block, might be avoided altogether.
A team from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) identified that blood pressure and blood glucose levels (blood sugar) play a significant role in heart block risk. Keeping these factors in control may significantly reduce your risk of the condition.
Data from over 6,000 Finnish people was analyzed over a 25-year follow-up period. At the outset, participants were aged 30 and older. Researchers found that 58 of them went on to develop heart block.
The analysis indicated that every 10-millimeter increase in systolic blood pressure created a 22-percent higher risk of heart block, while every millimeter in fasting glucose boosted risk by 19-percent. Researchers estimated that 47 percent of the heart block cases they observed could have been prevented with an ideal blood pressure of about 120/80 and fasting blood sugar at 11 percent.
Other risk factors include age and a history of heart attack or heart failure.
Heart block prevention, therefore, may involve eating less processed sugary foods and refined grains. Instead, opting for higher-fiber options like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a good decision. Fiber intake is closely associated with heart health and can promote healthy blood pressure. Getting more activity may also help by promoting lower blood pressure, weight loss, and improved glucose metabolism.
There are different degrees of heart block, and each can present a little differently. While first-degree heart block may cause no symptoms, second or third degree might lead to:
- Dizziness of lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
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