Make peace with your prescriptions

About 80% of people do not take their medications as prescribed, possibly making them sicker and shortening their lives. Drug costs, pharmacy access, and regimen complexity are major parts of the problem. Making drugs more affordable and accessible would help. But people’s beliefs and behaviors also are important barriers. Making peace with one’s medications means accepting that one has a chronic disease and understanding both one’s personal risks for heart disease and the importance of evidence-based drug regimens. More »

Ask the doctor: Vitamin E for the heart

Vitamin E was once recommended by doctors to prevent heart attacks, but the studies supporting that advice are contradicted by newer and better research. Vitamin E supplements are no longer recommended for prevention of either heart disease or cancer. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Smoking: cut back or cut it out?

It's important to quit smoking. It's not clear whether there's a benefit to merely cutting back on the number of cigarettes smoked. Smoking-cessation methods are most effective in the context of a comprehensive cessation program. (Locked) More »

Don't skip cardiac rehab after a heart event

Most people think cardiac rehabilitation is all about exercise. Learning how to start and maintain a personalized physical activity regimen is only part of the program. The cardiac rehabilitation team takes a personalized approach to helping people understand their disease, their medications, the psychological issues that accompany heart problems, and necessary lifestyle changes. Cardiac rehab is proven to reduce cardiac risk factors and increase quality of life, and it’s covered by Medicare and most insurance plans. Yet fewer than 20% of people who would benefit actually enroll in a program. Work is under way to create cardiac rehab programs that are more accessible to a greater number of people with heart disease. (Locked) More »

For a healthy brain, treat high blood pressure

Fighting high blood pressure also fights dementia—and studies hint that antihypertensive drugs may lower a person’s risk of cognitive impairment and even Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not yet clear whether this is true, or whether some antihypertensive medications might be better than others in this regard. Even if blood pressure medications do help prevent dementia, they will not be a silver bullet. Many different factors and many different pathways lead to dementia, and most risk factors for heart disease are risk factors for dementia as well. Heart health takes a multifactorial approach—lowering cholesterol, watching your blood pressure, eating healthy foods, staying active—and so does brain health. (Locked) More »

Aortic valve disease: Surgical or transcatheter replacement?

Some 1.5 million Americans have aortic valve stenosis—calcification of the valve that must open for blood to surge from the heart to the rest of the body. As the valve stiffens, blood flow slows. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting; once symptoms occur, the two-year death risk is 50%. Valve replacement via open-heart surgery is the gold standard, but 30% to 40% of people cannot withstand the procedure. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement now is available for them. Although the new procedure greatly shortens recovery time, U.S. cardiologists consider it too soon to offer the approach to people capable of undergoing surgery. (Locked) More »

8-step plan for heart-healthy holiday dinners

Here’s an eight-step plan for heart-healthy holiday meals: 1. Snack before the meal. Having a little protein and carbohydrate on board will keep you from overeating. 2. Limit appetizers; they tend to be fatty and salty. If you’re a guest, bring a platter of colorful raw vegetables. 3. Eat only foods important to you; skip everyday stuff like rolls and butter. 4. Savor each bite; talk to others. It should take 25 minutes to finish your meal. 5. If dessert is important to you, have a small portion or share one. If not so important, finish the meal with a cup of tea or coffee. 6. Easy on the alcohol. It’s high in calories—and might make you lose track of your plan. 7. Walk away from uneaten food on the table. 8. Stay active throughout the holiday. Plan fun activities with your loved ones. (Locked) More »

Pacemaker safe after age 90

Age alone should not be a barrier to pacemaker implantation—even for some people over age 90, according to a Harvard-based study. It’s one of a few studies to guide clinical decisions for people in their 90s—a population that will quadruple to eight million Americans by 2050. The data suggest that a person’s health status and other underlying conditions are more important for determining the success of pacemaker implantation than age itself. (Locked) More »

Fruit fights aortic aneurysms

People who eat more than two servings of fruit each day have a 25% lower risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and a 43% lower risk of having a ruptured AAA than people who eat the least fruit, a Swedish study suggests. (Locked) More »

Obese teens' hearts in trouble

Using a newly developed cardiac MRI technique, Harvard researchers found that obese teens' hearts already are undergoing changes that if left untreated will lead to irreversible heart damage and ultimate heart failure. (Locked) More »

From the cutting edge: Patch heals heart

A bioengineered collagen patch allows the heart to do something it can't do by itself: regenerate heart muscle killed by a heart attack. It works in mouse studies, and may in the future be used to deliver stem cells or medicines directly to the heart. (Locked) More »