Sugar substitutes: Just sweet nothings?

Sodas and other sweetened beverages are the biggest contributors to a high-sugar diet, which may raise the risk of dying of heart disease. But sugar-free diet sodas aren’t necessarily a good substitute. Calorie-free sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose appear to be safe and may help with short-term weight loss. But long-term reliance on these high-intensity sweeteners may train people to crave very sweet foods instead of more healthful but less-sweet fruits and vegetables. Diet soda drinkers may also be more likely to eat high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods like ice cream, cookies, and French fries.  (Locked) More »

When to treat a narrowed heart artery

The procedure to open a narrowed heart artery (angioplasty plus a stent) carries small but serious risks, so doctors don’t usually perform it unless the artery is at least 70% blocked. With less severe blockages, the risks of the procedure typically outweigh the benefits. (Locked) More »

What is masked hypertension?

Blood pressure that’s normal at the doctor’s office but high at home is known as masked hypertension. This condition may boost the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular problems.  (Locked) More »

Artery disease below the belt

In peripheral artery disease (PAD), the arteries below the heart become clogged with fatty deposits. The main symptom (pain in the calf, thigh, or buttocks with walking that goes away with rest) doesn’t always occur or is mistaken for something else, so PAD often goes unrecognized. But people with PAD likely have narrowed heart and brain arteries as well, putting them at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Treatments include regular walking, medications, and for severe cases, a procedure to open a blocked artery in the leg. (Locked) More »

Exercising in water: Big heart benefits and little downside

Swimming may be a good alternative to walking for people who find walking difficult, such as those who have achy knees, sore hips, or excess weight. Recreational or slow lap swimming counts as moderate exercise. But because water offers resistance, it also enables people to work out more vigorously. The meditative, relaxing aspect of doing laps may also relieve stress, which may add to swimming’s cardiovascular benefits.  More »

Sleep apnea solutions that lower cardiovascular risks

In obstructive sleep apnea, the tongue or throat tissue blocks the airway. This causes the person to briefly stop breathing many times a night. Sleep apnea also appears to raise the risk of cardiovascular problems. Therapies that help keep airways open during sleep, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), can improve quality of life and lower cardiovascular risks. (Locked) More »

Replacing an aortic valve without open-heart surgery

For people with a stiff, failing aortic valve, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) offers a shorter, easier recovery than surgical replacement of the valve. TAVR is currently approved only for people in whom surgery is too risky. But refinements to the devices and the procedure itself (which is increasingly being done without general anesthesia) are driving a trend toward the use of TAVR in a broader group of people.  (Locked) More »

Step up to better heart health

Older adults who walk at a pace of at least 3 mph may have a lower risk of heart disease than those with a 2 mph pace. Those who walk at least seven blocks a day also have a lower risk than those who walk five blocks per week. More »

Peer support good for the heart

For people prone to heart disease, monthly peer-group support meetings may help them make lifestyle changes to improve their risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking and being inactive. More »