Health Buzz: Researchers Devise Test to Predict Heart Attack

Red meat shortens life? What to do. Plus, diet tips for business travelers

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Blood Test Could Provide Early Heart Attack Warning

A simple blood test could soon predict whether a patient is about to have a heart attack. Researchers compared blood samples of 50 heart attack patients and 44 healthy volunteers, and found that those with a heart attack had more than four times the concentration of abnormal circulating endothelial cells, or CECs. By analyzing blood for the presence of these cells, which flake off damaged blood vessels before a heart attack, scientists say they could predict who is in imminent danger. What's unclear, however, is whether the cells appear days or weeks before a heart attack. "When someone is having the real deal, we know that," study author Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times. "The real question is, is something percolating in their artery? We'd like to prevent the heart attack from happening. These cells shouldn't be in the blood. If you have them, you have trouble lurking." Findings were published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

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  • Red Meat Shortens Life? What to Do

    The craving for a juicy double-bacon cheeseburger or salty-crusty slab of ribs can be difficult to resist. But research increasingly links red meat consumption to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart problems, and certain cancers, and now there's more bad news for carnivores: A single daily serving of processed or unprocessed red meat—a couple of bacon slices, a hotdog, or an iPhone-size hamburger—may boost your risk of dying before your time, especially from cancer and heart disease.

    That's because red meat contains lots of saturated fat, heme iron, sodium, nitrites, and certain carcinogens that form during cooking, according to a study published this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed nearly 30 years of data on more than 120,000 adults. The dangers, they found, were more pronounced for processed products, such as salami, than for unprocessed meat. A daily dose of processed red meat, for example, was linked with a 20 percent increased risk of death compared to 13 percent for unprocessed meat.

    Cutting back can help you maintain your health without giving up burgers and chops completely. "The overall message is to try to reduce red meat intake, and for a lot of people it might be very difficult. But maybe they could limit it to two to three servings per week. We think that's reasonable," says An Pan, a Harvard research fellow and the study's lead author. [Read more: Red Meat Shortens Life? What to Do.]

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    • Diet Tips for Business Travelers

      Toothbrush? Check. Dress shoes? Check. Your diet? That's all too easy to forget. For those whose jobs require frequent travel, a balanced diet all too often goes right out the window along with a balanced work-home life. A study published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that frequent travel not only expands the waistlines of businesspeople, it can also lead to weight-related medical conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, especially in those who spend at least 21 nights away from home each month. You're hardly to blame: A hectic schedule coupled with limited dining options on the road are enough to derail the most determined dieter.

      But even with the odds stacked against you, there are ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the go, says Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. Planning ahead can go a long way. "If you have a plan, you're likely to do better because you're not letting your environment control you," she says. Here are a few tips to keep your regimen on track while you're on the road.

      Pack some snacks. When packing your bags, make sure to throw in some healthy munchies. "We approach the food environment passively, and we don't do that with any other aspect of the environment," says David Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. "If it's cold, we pack warm clothes, and if it's raining, we don't just hope to stay dry. We deal with environmental changes all the time when we travel, and food is no different." Katz recommends that alongside your dress shoes and tie, you throw in some wholesome snacks—like granola or fruit—to help you curb hunger pangs while you're in transit. This will help you stay in control of what you eat. "If I get hungry, the person who's in control of my dietary destiny is me," Katz says. "Not some nincompoop who stocks the vending machine." [Read more: Diet Tips for Business Travelers.]