Fainting: Frightening, but seldom serious

Fainting occurs when something interrupts blood flow to the brain, causing a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness. Although usually harmless, fainting can cause injuries and sometimes signals a problem with the heart or circulatory system. Some faints result from a strong emotion (from getting bad news, for example) or excessive straining or coughing. Older people may faint because of low blood pressure when standing up, known as orthostatic hypotension. Other possible causes include a heart rate that’s either too fast or too slow, which may result from electrical abnormalities in the heart, thyroid problems, or certain medications. (Locked) More »

Clot prevention with a mechanical heart valve

For people with mechanical heart valves who must take clot-preventing drugs, warfarin is currently the only option. Newer anti-clotting drugs known as NOACs have not been proven safe for people with mechanical valves. (Locked) More »

Tennis, anyone?

People who play tennis a few times a week may lower their chances of dying of heart disease or a stroke compared with inactive people. Tennis provides an upper- and lower-body workout, as well as intermittent, high-intensity activity, both of which are thought to be good for the heart. Tennis playing also has been linked to other factors associated with heart health, including a lower body-fat percentage and more favorable cholesterol levels. Finally, the game encourages mindfulness and strengthens social ties, which may lower stress levels. (Locked) More »

Rethinking good cholesterol

Long known as the “good” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol seems to be more of a bystander than a beneficial molecule when it comes to preventing heart disease. People with genetic mutations that cause high HDL don’t have fewer heart attacks than those without those mutations. And five major clinical trials that sought to raise HDL levels with drugs have failed to lower heart disease risk. More »

Weight-loss devices: How they work

Weight-loss devices—including gastric balloons, a vagus nerve stimulator, and an external stomach pump—may help people eat or absorb less food. They may appeal to people who don’t want to undergo weight-loss surgery, which involves a permanent change to the gastrointestinal tract. But the devices don’t come close to providing the same weight-loss benefits, and their long-term effectiveness and safety remains unknown. (Locked) More »