Heart Health

Your resting heart rate can reflect your current — and future — health

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

How many times your heart beats per minute when you’re resting — also known as your resting heart rate (RHR) — can provide important clues to your current overall health and even predict possible future health problems.

Farewell to the fasting cholesterol test?

Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD
Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD, Contributor

If you’ve ever fasted overnight before having blood drawn, you know how uncomfortable and inconvenient this can be. But for many people, fasting blood draws might be a thing of the past. Recent guidelines reinforce that fasting is not required to have your cholesterol levels checked. This move, along with the advent of a non-fasting test to monitor diabetes, means you might not have to skip breakfast before your next visit to the doctor.

Silent heart attacks: Much more common than we thought in both men and women

Deepak Bhatt, MD, MPH

We typically think of heart attacks as sudden, chest-clutching agony. But the reality is that nearly half of all heart attacks have no symptoms at all and go completely unnoticed by the people experiencing them — and, alarmingly, these “clinically silent” heart attacks are nearly identical to more overt heart attacks in terms of the damage they cause and the risk to a person’s future health.

The many ways volunteering is good for your heart

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

If you’ve ever volunteered for a school, community center, or other nonprofit organization, you’ve probably felt the emotional reward that comes with helping others. But volunteering has other benefits, too. Multiple studies have confirmed that volunteering is, quite literally, good for your heart — and for the rest of your body. We’ve described the positive effects of volunteering on your health, plus listed some organizations that can help you get started.

Can aspirin protect against cancer?

Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH
Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

You may have heard somewhere that an aspirin a day can prevent cancer. It almost sounds too good to be true. For many people, it is, but for a select few, it might not be. We’ve taken a look at the (often confusing) evidence that gave rise to this statement.

Managing your emotions can save your heart

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Phrases like “I almost died of fright” aren’t just hyperbole. The heart and brain are actually intimately connected, and emotions that are strong enough to disrupt the brain’s function can also take a measurable physical toll on the heart. Of course, this means that if you can change your brain’s responses to these emotions, you can get a healthier heart in the process, too. We’ve listed some ways you can get started.

High blood pressure: Why me?

Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD
Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD, Contributor

It can be tough to accept a diagnosis of hypertension. It often causes no symptoms, and when doctors diagnose it, they often mention the consequences that may someday happen if it isn’t controlled. This can be a lot to take in if you’re feeling fine! Fortunately, hypertension is easily controlled — and staying on top of the treatment is the first step toward taming this “silent killer.”

Understanding the heart attack gender gap

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

We tend to think of heart attacks (and heart disease) as primarily happening to men. That might be because women tend to minimize any heart attack symptoms they experience — and to delay seeking treatment much longer than men. Recent studies on this “heart attack gender gap” have revealed several things that can help make sure every patient with heart disease gets the best treatment possible.

How useful is the body mass index (BMI)?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The body mass index (BMI) has long been considered an important way to gauge your risk for many chronic conditions, from arthritis to sleep apnea to heart disease. But like all medical measures, BMI is not perfect — and a recent study has revealed that BMI alone may not be a solid measure of cardiovascular health. Here, we’ve examined the pros and cons of the BMI, and whether it’s a number worth knowing.

A twist on the genetic link between Alzheimer’s and heart disease

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Although the two conditions seem unrelated, Alzheimer’s and heart disease actually share a genetic link. People who have a certain gene variant have both a somewhat elevated heart disease risk and a significantly elevated Alzheimer’s risk. Fortunately, a recent study has suggested that when people know they have this variant, they’re more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices that benefit their heart — and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.