Today there is no technology that can treat the underlying cause of the No. 1 cause of sudden death, ventricular arrhythmias.
These arrhythmias happen when:
—The impulses from the heart's lower chambers are disorganized
—People have a heart attack before
—People have scarred heart tissue due to other conditions such as congestive heart failure
However, a recent study proved that flexible fibers made of carbon nanotubes can bridge damaged heart tissues and deliver the electrical signals that are needed to keep hearts beating.
The carbon nanotubes study
Scientists at Texas Heart Institute (THI) found that sewing these carbon nanotubes directly into damaged tissue can restore electrical function to hearts and keep hearts beating.
Researchers didn't shock or defibrillate the heart to let it beat regularly, instead, they corrected the diseased conduction of the major pumping chamber of the heart by creating a bridge to bypass and conduct over a scarred area of a damaged heart.
This study provided the first scientific support for using a synthetic material-based treatment rather than a drug to treat the leading cause of sudden death in the U.S.
Before carbon nanotubes procedure being tested on human beings, many questions still remain:
① How to sew the nanotubes in place with a minimally invasive catheter.
② How to make nanotubes strong enough to keep a constantly beating heart in a long term.
③ How to make good interfacial contact in order to pick up and deliver the electrical signal.
④ How to maintain the flexibility of nanotubes. It is important because the heart is continuously pulsating and moving, so anything that's attached to the heart's surface is going to be deformed and flexed.
Although ventricular arrhythmias may sound horrible, there are drugs that are available to control this condition.
Drugs that are used to treat arrhythmias
—Antiarrhythmic drugs. These drugs include beta-blockers. They can control heart rate.
—Anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy. These drugs include warfarin or aspirin. They can reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.
How to protect your heart
It is worth noted that while there are effective drugs available, patients after a heart attack are often not allowed to take them. What is most needed is to prevent ventricular tachycardia and to reduce your risk of having heart disease.
A good lifestyle can help you keep your heart healthy. You may:
① Take regular exercise
Physical activities can increase blood flow to your whole body including your heart. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You can try brisk walking for the former and jogging for the later.
② Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet might be good for your heart. You should eat:
—Low-fat protein sources such as fish, beans and skinless poultry
③ Maintain a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control
Excess weight and high blood pressure as well as cholesterol level may increase the risk for heart diseases and strokes. They may also contribute to liver diseases and kidney diseases.
④ Stop smoking
People who smoke are two to four times more likely to get heart disease. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills will have even higher risk. Secondhand smoke can also cause heart diseases.
⑤ Limit alcohol and caffeine
It is suggested to drink no more than one to two caffeine beverages a day. As for alcohol, women of all ages and men older than 65 are suggested to drink up to one cup. Men younger than 65 are suggested to drink up to two.
⑥ Have regular physical checks
A physical exam is recommended at least once a year, especially in people over 50. In addition, if you have any signs or symptoms, you should report to your doctor ASAP.
If you have heart disease already, don't worry, you just need to monitor it and follow your treatment plan so as to lower your ventricular tachycardia risk.