LOS ANGELES & BOSTON- Independent published studies each identified important aspects of serious heart risks.
A study, which followed the January, 17, 1994 earthquake in Los Angeles, suggests that emotional stress can precipitate sudden death associated with atherosclerotic heart disease. A study published simultaneously demonstrated that men with a high intake of fiber in their diets have a definite decreased risk of heart attack.
In the United States, approximately one million people suffer heart attacks annually. Over 300,000 people die each year as result of sudden death due to heart disease. The definition of triggering mechanisms of heart disease and prevention methods can lead to treatments and lifestyle modifications that can save lives.
Jonathan Leor, M.D. and associates at the University of Southern California reviewed records of the Department of Coroner of Los Angeles County from the before and after the January 17, 1994 LA County earthquake. Their results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that sudden deaths that occur in persons with atherosclerotic heart disease are caused by "triggering" mechanisms, one of which is activated by emotional stress.
In a second study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Eric B. Rimm, ScD and associates at the Harvard School of Public Health described their data which evaluated 43,757 males over 6 years. Their results suggest that increasing fiber intake in the diet decreases the risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction). Those men whose diets were highest in fiber (average of 28.9 grams daily) benefited most. Among the three main dietary fiber options (vegetable, fruit, and cereal), cereal fiber had the strongest effect in reducing risk of heart attack. In an accompanying editorial, Ernst L. Wynder, M.D. and associates of the American Health Foundation emphasized that dietary fiber can be recommended as a part of heart disease prevention "provided that dietary fat is also considered." They further recommend no more than 25% of dietary calories be derived from fat.
These two studies point out important aspects of short-term and long-term prevention of heart risk. New treatments and lifestyle recommendations to abort "triggering" mechanisms that lead to sudden heart death are likely in the near future. In the meantime, the Medical Editors of MedicineNet.com echo Dr. Wynder's recommendations above.