Could sound waves lower cholesterol? A blast of ultrasound may be the new way to tackle high blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease
- A one-off, painless blast of ultrasound may be a new way to lower cholesterol
- Currently, treatment involves a healthy lifestyle — not smoking and eating well
- But researchers are investigating a new approach that blasts fat around kidneys
A one-off, painless blast of ultrasound may be a new way to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease.
Around 60 per cent of people in England have high cholesterol (a reading of five or above) and more than one in four has high blood pressure (above 140/90 mmHg). Both are key risk factors for heart disease.
Currently, treatment involves adopting a healthy lifestyle — not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising and limiting alcohol — and medication such as cholesterol-lowering statins.
A one-off, painless blast of ultrasound may be a new way to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease
But researchers are investigating a new approach that blasts fat around the kidneys with ultrasound. This excess fat — known as perirenal fat — has been shown to be a key player in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is linked to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and destroying much of that fat significantly lowers cholesterol in the long-term, animal studies have found.
Now, researchers at Nanjing Medical University, in China, are carrying out a trial to see if blasting this fat with ultrasound will have benefits in humans, too.
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A hand-held device is used to fire a beam of highly focused, high-intensity ultrasound at the fatty tissue around the kidneys.
The one-off procedure lasts a few minutes.
Eighty-four patients with a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, who also have significant deposits of perirenal fat, are taking part in a trial where the treatment will be compared to a placebo.
Doctors will check their cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings before — and three months after — treatment.
Perirenal fat is a form of visceral fat — fat stored within the abdominal cavity close to internal organs, including the liver.
It is sometimes referred to as active fat, because research has shown that it plays a key role in affecting how hormones work.
For example, high quantities of visceral fat are associated with insulin resistance. This can lead to the onset of diabetes.
Fat around the kidneys is thought to be a unique type of visceral fat, as it has a network of blood vessels and nerves which researchers suggest means it may be especially active.
It secretes compounds called adipokines, some of which cause inflammation that can lead to a narrowing of blood vessels.
‘Perirenal fat is thought to contribute to cardiovascular disease, and a better understanding of the mechanisms may provide insight into new cardiovascular treatments, so I look forward to the results of this trial,’ says Dr Punit Ramrakha, a consultant cardiologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London.
The BCG jab against tuberculosis might reduce the risk of dementia. For years, doctors have also used the vaccine to stop bladder cancer returning as it encourages the immune system to destroy tumour cells.
Now scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found 2.4 per cent of those given the BCG jab went on to develop dementia, compared with nine per cent in those who didn’t get the jab, reports the journal PLoS One.
The vaccine may dampen brain inflammation, thought to contribute to the condition.
The vaccine may dampen brain inflammation, thought to contribute to the condition (file image)
Gum disease risk for men
Men with gum disease are more likely to have erectile dysfunction, reports the British Dental Journal, with the risk up to six times greater for men with periodontitis (inflammation of the gums).
Research has found that inflammation is linked to a build-up of fatty deposits in arteries that impedes blood flow.
Inflammation may also lead to the narrowing of blood vessels that supply the penis.
These findings could encourage male patients to visit the dentist ‘and, if indicated, be treated for periodontitis, which may help in managing impotence,’ say the researchers from the University of Amsterdam.
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