Update on genetic testing for heart disease

  Genetic testing has several uses. One is to determine if someone has inherited a condition caused by a problem with a single gene, like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Another is to determine how a person might respond (or not respond) to a particular drug. So far, though, genetic testing doesn't add much—yet—to determining a person's risk for having a common disease, such as a heart attack.   More »

Ask the doctors: Is a high potassium level bad?

  Kidney disease and some medications, like ACE inhibitors and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, can cause potassium levels to be high. It is almost impossible to achieve high potassium levels simply by eating foods rich in potassium.   (Locked) More »

The dangers of pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary arterial hypertension occurs when arteries that supply the lungs become stiff and thick. The most common symptom is mild shortness of breath, although women tend to feel fatigued as well. Other symptoms can include dizziness, fainting, chest pain, and swollen legs and ankles. Because the symptoms are common, individuals are often diagnosed first with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is not until they fail to improve with treatment that pulmonary artery hypertension is considered. New medications plus fluid management, exercise, a low-salt diet, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, and adequate sleep are extending life for people with this chronic condition. (Locked) More »

When a clot interferes with blood flow

Blood clots that form in the legs (deep-vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism) can be painful, and even deadly. Deep-vein thrombosis typically causes pain and swelling in the affected limb. The sensations are uncomfortable enough that most people are compelled to seek medical care. If the clot travels to the lungs, it can be fatal: 25% of people die before—or shortly after—they seek help. Prompt treatment and good follow-up can minimize the danger. The clot is treated with anticoagulants, first in the hospital, then at home. Once the clot is dissolved, attention turns to preventing another one from forming. (Locked) More »

Viagra and Cialis for heart failure?

Drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction (Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra) may also help ease heart failure. These drugs cause arteries to relax, which could help a failing heart pump more effectively. A grant of $26.3 million to a Harvard team will be used to determine if these drugs (known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors) can help people with heart failure live longer and reduce heart failure-related hospitalizations. (Locked) More »

A pacemaker to prevent fainting

For people who faint because their heart rates suddenly plummet (a condition called cardioinhibitory syncope), a dual-chamber pacemaker has been shown to reduce fainting episodes by 57%. (Locked) More »

Use food to hold off vascular damage

Antioxidants from food—not from pills—can protect arteries and other tissues from damage caused by highly reactive compounds created when oxygen combines with other molecules. Colorful fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. Foods contain thousands of different phytonutrients, each with its own benefits. Some are more powerful antioxidants than others. They almost certainly need to work together, which is why you can't get the same benefit from a pill. Dietitians recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables to maximize your intake of potentially beneficial phytonutrients. How many servings a day do you need? As many as you can handle—and probably more than you are eating now. (Locked) More »

High HDL may not protect the heart

People with naturally high levels of protective HDL cholesterol have lower rates of cardiovascular disease. New studies suggest that boosting low HDL with medication may not pay off as much as lowering harmful LDL cholesterol. (Locked) More »

The promise of a total artificial heart

  A growing number of people with failing hearts are being given total artificial hearts as they wait for donor hearts to become available. To implant one of these, surgeons remove the recipient's heart and replace it with a mechanical one. Its portable driver allows the wearer to move about freely, without being tethered to a stationary pump. The total artificial heart beats 140 times a minute, restoring normal blood pressure and allowing organs to recover. By the time a donor heart is found, total artificial heart recipients are healthier and better able to withstand transplant surgery.   (Locked) More »

Heart attack accelerates plaque

A heart attack or stroke triggers an immune response that boosts inflammation and speeds the development of atherosclerosis in artery walls. This may explain why heart attack or stroke victims are at risk for repeat events. (Locked) More »

Drug-eluting stents being misused

Many people who don't need a drug-eluting stent during angioplasty get one anyway. More appropriate use would save $200 million a year in the cost of the stents plus the medications that must be taken afterwards. (Locked) More »