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Aspirin, coffee and exercise - which benefits heart?

Monday August 31st, 2009

The role of aspirin, coffee and exercise in heart disease were all under discussion at a conference of European experts yesterday.

A major study by Scottish researchers concludes that aspirin should not be taken to prevent heart disease in healthy people.

The pill has been widely used as a standard treatment for people with heart disease.

But the Scottish study, involving nearly 29,000 volunteers thought to be at risk from heart disease, found it made no difference to people in preventing heart attack, death or stroke.

The findings were reported to the conference of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, Spain.

Participants were identified through a screening programme known as the low ankle brachial index or ABI - which measures blood pressure at the ankle.

Researcher Professor Gerry Fowkes from the Wolfson Unit for Prevention of Peripheral Vascular Diseases in Edinburgh said: "It is possible that in the general population, aspirin could produce a smaller reduction in vascular events than this trial was designed to detect.

"But it is questionable whether such an effect, together with aspirin related morbidity, would justify the additional resources and health care requirements of an ABI screening programme."

A second study from Italy warned of the dangers of coffee in upsetting the rhythm of the heart.

Researchers from the University of Modena, Italy, linked coffee drinking to atrial fibrillation, a common kind of irregular rhythm. They also found that eating the so-called Mediterranean diet seemed to help prevent it.

Researcher Professor Anna Vittoria Mattioli said: "Our study suggests that high intake of coffee increase the risk of arrhythmias in people without known cardiac disease."

* A third study from Germany suggests that a programme of exercise may often be more effective than medical intervention in dealing with heart disease.

German researchers say they have conducted trials showing that 12 months of exercise therapy is more effective at saving the life of people with stable heart disease than percutaneous coronary intervention, the angioplasty procedure which clears blocked arteries.

Researcher Professor Rainer Hambrecht, of Klinikum Links der Weser in Bremen, Germany, said: "Before time runs out, we must make physical activity and health education a number one priority of our public health system.

"Interventions need to start as early as in childhood, when unhealthy eating habits are coined and sedentary lifestyle is copied from adults."

Tags: Diet & Food | Europe | Fitness | Heart Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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