Balancing bleeding vs. stroke risk when you have atrial fibrillation

People with atrial fibrillation who are at risk of stroke should be taking a kind of anti-clotting drug called an anticoagulant: warfarin (Coumadin), for example. If stroke risk gets even higher, such as after a heart attack or unstable angina, your doctor may prescribe another kind of anti-clotting drug called an antiplatelet agent. These drugs include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), and prasugrel (Effient). This combination therapy is very good at preventing stroke, but it increases the risk of dangerous bleeding. People taking anticoagulant-antiplatelet combinations can lower this risk by avoiding big doses of vitamin E, drinking little or no alcohol, avoiding NSAID painkillers, and avoiding supplements and herbs that increase bleeding. (Locked) More »

Eat blueberries and strawberries three times per week

Blueberries and strawberries are rich in chemical compounds called anthocyanins, which lower blood pressure and make blood vessels more elastic. A long-term study of young and middle-aged women found that those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a lower risk of heart attack than those who ate the least. Just eating berries once in a while didn’t count—it took at least a half-cup serving three times weekly. But don’t cheat by taking anthocyanin supplements. Real fruit is your best bet. More »

Bypass or angioplasty with stenting: How do you choose?

Up to a third of people with coronary artery disease have blockages in all three of the arteries that feed the heart muscle. For them, bypass surgery usually is the best treatment option. For those with a blockage only in the LAD, the coronary artery that feeds the entire front of the heart, bypass is also the best treatment. But when the LAD isn’t involved, blockage in one or even two of the other coronary arteries usually is treated with balloon angioplasty to widen the artery and placement of a mesh tube called a stent to hold it open. (Locked) More »

Sleep problems may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke

People who sleep poorly or too little have high levels of stress hormones and more inflammation throughout the body. Stress and inflammation each increase risk of heart disease and add to diabetes risk by increasing insulin sensitivity. One sleep problem—sleep apnea—is especially hard on the heart. Sleep apnea sufferers actually stop breathing from 15 to more than 100 times an hour during the night. Blood oxygen levels drop, making it hard for the heart to do its job of pumping oxygen-rich blood through the arteries. Studies are under way to see whether treating sleep apnea improves heart health. (Locked) More »

The science of exercise shows benefits beyond weight loss

Exercise is good for you—in ways that go far beyond weight control and muscle building. Scientists are finding that the bodies of people who stay active throughout their lives improve all the way down to the insides of their cells. For example, active people’s mitochondria—the energy-producing power plants within each cell—become highly efficient at burning fatty fuel, even when that person is at rest. This doesn’t mean you have to run marathons—just 30 minutes of moderate activity nearly every day will do the trick. (Locked) More »

More evidence red meat may be bad for your heart

Deep in the bowels of meat eaters live bacteria that gobble up a natural compound called L-carnitine and turn it into TMAO, a substance linked to clogged arteries. Red meat is rich in L-carnitine, and after eating a steak or taking an L-carnitine supplement, TMAO levels soar in people who eat meat. This does not happen to vegetarians, who don’t carry the same kinds of gut microbes. While the link between TMAO and heart disease remains unproved, it’s probably a good idea for people who eat red meat to avoid L-carnitine supplements. (Locked) More »

Old hearts made young by natural substance

Harvard researchers led by Harvard Heart Letter Co-editor in Chief Dr. Richard Lee have found a naturally occurring substance in the blood of young mice that rejuvenates the hearts of old mice. (Locked) More »