Heart Health

Heart disease, sleep apnea, and the Darth Vader mask too?

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

A study questions whether CPAP helps to slow the progression of coronary artery disease in those who already have it, but use of the device has still been shown to have quality of life and other health benefits in those with sleep apnea.

Gut reaction: How bacteria in your belly may affect your heart

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Research suggests that the bacteria in your gut may also impact your heart health. Collectively known as the gut microbiota, these microbes assist with digestion, but also make certain vitamins, break down toxins, and train your immune system. These microbes also play a role in obesity and the development of diabetes, both of which can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

For the good of your heart: Keep holding the salt

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

A recently published study claimed that people who ate a low sodium diet were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and death. However, there were problems with this study – including difficulty with accurately measuring each study volunteer’s daily intake of sodium. Low sodium diets may be harmful for small subsets of people, but for the majority of people restricting salt intake is still important for cardiovascular health.

The whole grain goodness of modern and ancient grains

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Whole grains are important for a healthy, nutritious diet. Eating whole grain foods improve your cholesterol, and decrease your risk of drying from cardiovascular disease and cancer. There are different types of whole grains; modern grains are the grains we eat today like wheat, corn and rice, and ancient grains, which include grains like black rice, quinoa, and emmer. These foods are grown just as they were a thousand years ago. Although they offer different benefits, eating a variety of ancient and modern grains are important for a nutritious diet.

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.