Heart Health Awareness Month

Before this month comes to a close, let us not forget to honor February as American Heart Month.

According to the CDC, heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease,  claims 600,000 lives in the U.S. each year. Heart disease refers to the plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Other heart conditions include arrhythmia, congenital defects, heart failure and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Researchers continue to study the best ways to properly care for and treat the beating organ within us. Last September, we discussed cardiovascular heath among women, and highlighted related articles published. Today, in honor of American Heart Month, we bring you recently published research that increases awareness and insight to heart health.

Did you ever feel there was a connection between your heart beat and self-image? PLOS ONE authors have attempted to answer this question by investigating the relationship between self-objectification and the beating heart in a recent article. Using a heartbeat perception task and questionnaire, researchers found that women who were able to hear their own heart beat were less likely to objectify themselves, proving yet another link between heart health and overall wellbeing.

In another recently published study, researchers explored the connection between white blood cell count and heart disease risk in young adults. The authors tested the white blood cell counts for over 29,000 healthy young men over an average of seven and a half years and also screened the participants for signs of coronary artery disease. Their investigation found that a higher white blood cell count correlated with coronary artery disease risk in young men. They concluded that white blood cell count may help in identifying young men with low or high risk for heart disease progression.

In a third article published by PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Granada investigated heart rate variability and cognitive performance. Participants were divided into a high-fit group and a low-fit group, and the authors measured the effects of three cognitive tasks on the participant’s heart rate variability. The researchers found that cognitive processing has an effect on heart rate variability, and the main benefit of fitness level was associated with processes involving sustained attention.

These articles are just a taste of the PLOS ONE research into cardiovascular health and the prevention of heart disease. As American Heart Month comes to an end, explore more research on the topic here.

Citations:

Ainley V, Tsakiris M (2013) Body Conscious? Interoceptive Awareness, Measured by Heartbeat Perception, Is Negatively Correlated with Self-Objectification. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055568

 Twig G, Afek A, Shamiss A, Derazne E, Tzur D, et al. (2012) White Blood Cell Count and the Risk for Coronary Artery Disease in Young Adults. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47183. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047183

 Luque-Casado A, Zabala M, Morales E, Mateo-March M, Sanabria D (2013) Cognitive Performance and Heart Rate Variability: The Influence of Fitness Level. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56935. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056935

Image Credit: natalie419 on Flickr

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