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YOUR HEALTH | What's in your gut could impact heart disease

An FDA-approved drug to treat inflammatory bowel disease could aid in the prevention of heart disease.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lots of junk food and lots of sugar.

These are staples in the standard American diet. 

In fact, 63% of calories consumed by Americans come from refined and processed foods, 25% come from animal-based foods and only 12% come from plant-based foods.

"That diet is changing how the microbes that live in your gut work," said Marianna Byndloss, an assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt Medical Center. 

They're using components of that diet and then producing some products that induce inflammation in your heart and in your arteries and cause cardiovascular disease."

That's why researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are looking at a drug used to treat inflammatory bowel disease to fix the microbes, or bacteria, in the gut.

"A drug called five-amino salicylic acid, or 5-ASA, which is a drug that restores the health of the intestines and prevents the microbes from producing these bad metabolites," Byndloss explained.

In animal studies, the drug increased the levels of good bacteria and decreased the bad bacteria in the gut. 

The researchers are also looking at how improving the health of these gut microbes can lower the risk for colorectal cancer. Professor Byndloss says the best diet for healthy gut microbes is rich in vegetables, grains and fiber.

COVID's lasting impact on the heart

The first large study to assess cardiovascular outcomes one year after SARS-CoV-2 infection have demonstrated that the impact of the virus is often lasting.

In an analysis of more than 11 million U.S. veterans' health records, researchers found the risk of 20 different heart and vessel conditions was substantially increased in veterans who had COVID-19 one year earlier, compared with those who didn't. 

The risk rose with severity of initial disease and extended to every outcome the team examined, including heart attacks, arrhythmias, strokes, cardiac arrest and more. 

Even people who never went to the hospital had more cardiovascular disease than those who were never infected.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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