Recent Blog Articles
Improving access to hearing aids
Can mindfulness change your brain?
Five lifestyle factors that can help prevent gastroesophageal reflux disease
Transient ischemic attacks: Varied symptoms, all important
5 inflammation-fighting food swaps
Is IBD an underrecognized health problem in minority groups?
Sickle cell disease in newborns and children: What families should know and do
COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens: What we do — and don’t — know
Happy trails: Take a hike, now
Sleep well — and reduce your risk of dementia and death
Opening blocked coronary arteries: New questions about the old answer
The facts are so familiar (and so depressing) that they hardly need repetition. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Despite all the marvelous advances in diagnosis and treatment, it's held that dubious distinction every year since the 1918 influenza pandemic. In most cases, the culprit is coronary artery disease, which is responsible for the heart attack that strikes an American every 26 seconds the year round. In all, about 650,000 Americans will die from coronary artery disease this year.
While these facts have not changed substantially, the scientific understanding of heart disease has evolved. The disease is caused by cholesterol-laden blockages (plaques) in the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. It seemed obvious that big plaques, which produce the most narrowing, would be the most hazardous. Research has challenged that view, but aggressive treatment is often aimed at clearing the most tightly blocked arteries. Remarkable technical advances have made these treatments routine, but studies show that not all patients benefit equally.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.