Salt shakedown: A boon for lowering blood pressure

Health experts say the FDA’s proposed guidelines to scale down sodium levels in processed and restaurant food is a long-awaited step in the right direction. Lowering dietary sodium lowers blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease. Current federal guidelines advise getting no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium (one of the main components of salt) per day, but most Americans consume about 3,500 mg a day. About 75% of the sodium people consume comes from processed foods; the biggest sources include breads and rolls, pizza, and cold cuts and cured meats. (Locked) More »

Daily aspirin for disease prevention: When do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Aspirin is known as a powerful painkiller and fever reducer. In addition, a daily low-dose aspirin (81 mg) dramatically reduces the risk of a second heart attack or certain types of stroke. Research also shows that aspirin might help fight colorectal cancer and possibly inhibit other cancers as well. However, aspirin can cause bleeding that can be dangerous for some people. New guidelines help doctors determine who is a good candidate for daily aspirin therapy.   More »

Fasting before a cholesterol test

Fasting for eight to 12 hours before a cholesterol test doesn’t seem to be necessary. But for now, people should continue to follow their physicians’ advice on this matter. (Locked) More »

Understanding silent heart attacks

Nearly half of all heart attacks are silent, meaning they are not associated with any reported symptoms. Silent heart attacks, which can be detected on electrocardiograms, should prompt people to follow the same prevention steps as with a more typical heart attack. (Locked) More »

The perks of group fitness classes

Group exercise classes may offer certain benefits—such as motivation from fellow participants and trained instructors—that can help improve fitness. Classes that emphasize aerobic exercise, which boosts a person’s heart and breathing rate, include dancing, water aerobics, spinning, and kickboxing. Greater cardiorespiratory fitness lowers the risk of heart disease and may prolong life. Classes such as yoga and tai chi, which incorporate movement, breathing, and meditation, may also improve risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure. (Locked) More »

Should you join a research study?

Volunteering for a study can help advance knowledge that may help people with heart disease in the future. Cohort studies follow people over time and gather information on different things like diet, exercise habits, or blood pressure. Other studies, known as clinical trials, compare new therapies against existing ones or a placebo. Potential benefits include extra medical attention and possible earlier access to new treatments; downsides include the inconvenience and unpredictable side effects. (Locked) More »

Weight-loss surgery: Moving into new dimensions?

About one in 10 women and one in 20 men in the United States are considered extremely obese and may qualify for weight-loss (bariatric) surgery. These surgeries can dramatically improve type 2 diabetes and other problems linked to heart disease. The growing use of the term “metabolic surgery” for these procedures reinforces their importance for improving health, not just body size. Gastric bypass, once the most popular surgery, has the best results for both weight-loss results and improving type 2 diabetes. But it is being increasingly replaced by the less-invasive gastric sleeve procedure. (Locked) More »

At-home testing for sleep apnea

Home sleep tests to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may reliably detect the disorder even if a sleep specialist is not involved. Marked by loud snoring and breathing lapses during sleep, OSA can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. More »