Harvard Heart Letter

Follow-Up

Follow-Up

  • Eye checks. The eyes of people with high blood pressure or diabetes often reflect the damage of these diseases: narrowed arteries, ballooned-out areas (aneurysms) along blood vessel walls, blocked veins, and areas of dead or dying tissue that appear as fluffy white spots ("Looking into heart disease," March 2005). A handful of studies has linked these changes with an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Italian researchers add another. Among more than 2,000 people with diabetes who were initially free of cardiovascular disease, those who developed microscopic eye trouble (called retinopathy) were more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke, to have needed a procedure to open or bypass a clogged coronary artery, or to have died over a five-year period than those without these eye changes. If you have diabetes, a yearly eye exam is a must. The same holds true if you have trouble keeping your blood pressure in check. (Diabetes Care)

  • Substituting pills for food. Eating foods fortified with plant sterols is one way to lower your cholesterol. But since they haven't really caught on yet with American consumers, there are only a few such products on the market ("Eating your way to lower cholesterol," April 2006). Tablets containing plant sterols or stanols might do just as well. In a study done at Washington University in St. Louis, daily tablets containing 1.8 grams of plant stanols lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol an extra 9% (about 12 mg/dL) in volunteers with high cholesterol who were also taking a statin. That's about the same as doubling the statin dose. (American Journal of Cardiology)

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