Are you a fish fan? You should be!

Dear Dr. Mo: I keep reading and listening about how fish oils are good for your health. I’m not really a fish fan but should I reconsider?

Dear reader: What you’ve been hearing and reading about  is correct. Fish contains oils that are rich in polyunsaturated essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are also called a “healthy fat.” People whose diets are rich in omega-3s seem to have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Now, why is that?

There are several good things that omega-3s do for our bodies.

Like eating fish – great! That’s awesome news for your heart and wits

They help to reduce high blood pressure and high blood pressure is one of the most dangerous things for our overall health.

They guard platelets from forming clots in the blood and clots may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

They help to regulate blood fat levels and keep them within limits by raising HDL also called the “good cholesterol” and lowering triglycerides. This helps to prevent buildup of dangerous plaques on the walls of blood vessels, and plaques may cause angina and lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Another important effect they have is protection against dangerous and even lethal heart-rhythm disorders that can result in cardiac arrest – I’d even say that this may very well be the most important health benefit of Omega-3s. Continue reading

Aching hearts – anginas

Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve recently been diagnosed with a Prinz-Metal angina and I’ve been told this type is somewhat unusual – what does it mean? And what exactly is angina?

Dear reader: Angina is a clinical syndrome resulting from a transient reversible cardiac ischemia – this means that blood flow through the coronary artery to one part of the heart, carrying all important oxygen, temporarily and reversibly becomes dangerously low leaving that part of the heart undernourished and basically starving – we call that segment of the heart a vulnerable myocardium (myocardium means a heart muscle). Coronary arteries are the ones responsible for feeding the heart.

Clinical presentation of angina is a central chest discomfort or pain – less like a pain, much more like a weight or pressure at times also described as a burning sensation. This intense discomfort and/or pain may radiate to one or both arms, neck, jaw, epigastrium (upper part of the stomach), may not radiate at all or may be felt only in the area of radiation.

This anginal sensation occurs when current oxygen supply to the heart is less than the demand for it and the suffering undernourished (ischemic) heart muscle cries, which causes symptoms felt in angina.

When hearts cry – it’s angina

We say that a tissue is ischemic when the blood supply to it drops below a minimum required level to provide oxygen and other nutrients necessary for normal function. If ischemia is prolonged, and depending on the type of tissue and its oxygen demand, cells die and in some tissues like in the heart or the brain, these cells cannot be replaced.

Duration of each episode of discomfort and/or pain typically shouldn’t last for longer than maximum 20 minutes and it usually spans from anywhere between 15 seconds to 15 minutes.
I am saying that 20 minutes of duration is maximum time within which we are talking about angina because longer ischemia causes myocardial infarction (death of heart cells which is irreversible as these cells are lost).  Continue reading