Heart Health

The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products of metabolism. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly.

Given the heart's never-ending workload, it's a wonder it performs so well, for so long, for so many people. But it can also fail, brought down by a poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, infection, unlucky genes, and more.

A key problem is atherosclerosis. This is the accumulation of pockets of cholesterol-rich gunk inside the arteries. These pockets, called plaque, can limit blood flow through arteries that nourish the heart — the coronary arteries — and other arteries throughout the body. When a plaque breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Although many people develop some form of cardiovascular disease (a catch-all term for all of the diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels) as they get older, it isn't inevitable. A healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, goes a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle changes and medications can nip heart-harming trends, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, in the bud before they cause damage. And a variety of medications, operations, and devices can help support the heart if damage occurs.

Heart Health Articles

How to stick to a low-salt diet when dining out

Most restaurant offerings are very high in sodium, a known contributor to high blood pressure. But people can limit their sodium when eating out by checking online nutrition information, which is required by law in restaurants with more than 20 locations. Other tips include avoiding foods that are smoked or cured, as well as processed or instant food commonly found in fast-food restaurants. Another strategy is to frequent farm-to-table establishments that serve fresh, locally produced foods, and asking the chef to grill, broil, or steam the food with no added sauces or seasonings. (Locked) More »

Power up your heart health

With age, much of the body’s muscle is replaced by fat. This shift can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. Strength exercises increase muscle mass and burn body fat, thus reducing the risk for obesity. This type of workout also helps manage type 2 diabetes by decreasing abdominal fat and improving blood sugar control. In addition, strength training can reduce blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which further lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. (Locked) More »

Putting the brakes on a racing heart

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a rapid heart rhythm caused by an electrical glitch in the upper part of the heart. During an episode, the heart may beat 250 times or more per minute. With a doctor’s approval, people with long-lasting SVT episodes can try coughing, gagging, or other special maneuvers that sometimes help slow down the heart. Some people with frequent, bothersome episodes take medication or opt for catheter ablation. This procedure detects and destroys the area of tissue causing the problem, using instruments passed through a leg vein up to the heart. (Locked) More »

Recognizing the most common warning signs of a stroke

The most common symptoms of a stroke—Facial drooping, Arm weakness, and Speech difficulty—are included in the mnemonic “FAST” (the “T” stands for Time to call 911). Balance problems may also occur, but this is less common and often accompanied by other symptoms, such as leg heaviness or trouble seeing. Visual problems can include blurred vision, double vision, or trouble focusing. Rapid recognition of these signs and prompt treatment can prevent a potentially devastating disability or death due to a stroke. More »

The sweet danger of sugar

Americans consume way too much added sugar—estimates suggest an average of 24 teaspoons per day—which can have a serious impact on heart health. Consuming natural sugar is better, as plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants. But even so called healthy carbs can have added sugar—extra amounts that food manufacturers add to products to increase flavor and extend shelf life. (Locked) More »