Air pollution: A threat to your heart and longevity?

Air pollution can trigger heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart rhythms, especially in people who already have or who are at risk for heart disease. Tiny particles (known as PM2.5) spewed from power plants, factories, and vehicles seem to be the most dangerous to health. These particles pass thought the lungs into the circulation, activating immune cells involved with the creation of artery-clogging plaque inside arteries. To limit air pollution exposure, people should avoid exercising outdoors near busy roads and industrial areas. (Locked) More »

What is vasculitis?

Vasculitis, which means inflammation of blood vessels, can affect vessels that supply one part of the body or many different organs. The cause is often undetermined, but it may result from an autoimmune response. (Locked) More »

Not so fast: Pros and cons of the newest diet trend

The obesity epidemic has spawned a cottage industry of weight loss schemes.  Currently in vogue is intermittent fasting, which involves alternating intervals of extreme calorie reduction with periods of normal eating. Proponents of this regimen claim that it helps shed pounds faster traditional diets as well as reduce inflammation and other heart disease risks. While getting rid of excess body fat will improve a person’s metabolic profile and lower cardiovascular risk, there is no strong evidence that fasting adds health benefits beyond any other weight loss strategy. More »

Seeking a second opinion: When, why, and how?

If a physician recommends a heart-related surgery or procedure, patients might consider seeking a second opinion, especially if they have questions they feel are not being addressed in a way they can understand. Two common examples include a coronary artery bypass and a heart valve repair or replacement. Most doctors are not offended when this happens and may even welcome another expert’s thoughts in high risk cases. Health insurance companies rarely refuse to cover a second opinion consultation, but people should check their plans to see if the visit and any additional costs will be covered. (Locked) More »

Taking a look at the latest trends in heart rhythm monitoring

Bulky external devices with many wires that record a person’s heart rhythm for several days or longer are being replaced by small patches and implanted devices. The patches, which resemble large Band-Aids, are placed on the chest and can record heart activity up to 30 days. Their main role is for people with frequent palpitations. The internal devices, called implantable loop recorders, are inserted under the skin to the left of the breastbone and work for about three years. They are mainly used to help diagnose people with unexplained fainting or strokes. Some of these new devices can transmit data wirelessly in real time to a doctor. (Locked) More »

Anxiety and heart disease: A complex connection

Small amounts of anxiety can spur people to take better care of themselves. But excessive worrying may signal an anxiety disorder, which may increase a person’s risk for heart disease. One common form is generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by at least six months of excessive worrying or feeling anxious about several events or activities almost every day. Other people have panic disorder, which is marked by bouts of intense anxiety (panic attacks) that may cause chest pain that is mistaken for a heart attack. Both therapy and medications can effectively treat anxiety disorders. (Locked) More »

Shingles may raise heart attack risk

The painful, blistering rash known as shingles may increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke, especially in the first year after the onset of shingles. Most people over age 60 should get a shingles vaccine, which lasts about five years. More »