Small diet tweaks can help your heart and overall health

Small, gradual diet changes—such as swapping out chips, crackers, or cookies for a handful of mixed nuts—can help lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Other suggestions include replacing one fast-food hamburger per week with a sandwich (either from a supermarket or homemade); eating an extra serving of fruit per day by adding fresh, frozen, or canned fruit to a serving of yogurt; and adding vegetables such as spinach or kale to a fruit smoothie. The idea is to work on incorporating just one change for a week, then gradually adding more changes over time. The potential benefits may also include weight loss, improved quality of life, and health care cost savings. (Locked) More »

Non-HDL cholesterol, explained

 Image: © jarun011/Thinkstock Q. My recent cholesterol test result included "non-HDL cholesterol." What is the significance of this number? A. Your non-HDL cholesterol result refers to your total cholesterol value minus your HDL cholesterol. When you get your blood drawn for a cholesterol test (also known as a lipid profile or lipid panel), the report usually includes four numbers: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol; triglycerides; and total cholesterol. (Locked) More »

Thinking about training for a triathlon?

The odds of sudden death or cardiac arrest during a triathlon are very small—less than one in 50,000. Most fatalities occur during the swimming segment of the competition and are more likely to occur in men who are middle-aged or older. People with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or other risks for heart disease should check with a doctor before starting triathlon training. (Locked) More »

Stem cells to repair heart damage? Not so fast

Stem cells, which can be derived from embryos or made from other cells, have the potential to grow into a variety of heart cell types. Although more than 100 clinical trials have shown that delivering stem cells to the heart is feasible and safe, there is no evidence that this therapy helps people with heart disease. Yet some 61 centers throughout the country market stem cell therapy for people with heart failure. The FDA has shut down several of these unregulated clinics and sent warning letters to others. (Locked) More »

Carotid artery ultrasound: Should you have this test?

 Image: © VILevi/Thinkstock For years, for-profit companies have mailed offers for health screening tests to homes across the United States. For about $150, you can undergo a series of ultrasound scans, which the companies claim can uncover potentially dangerous cardiovascular conditions. One scan looks at your carotid arteries, which run up either side of your neck. Just like arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body, the carotid arteries can become clogged with fatty deposits. Narrowing of a carotid artery (also called carotid artery stenosis) can increase the risk of stroke — the narrower the artery, the higher the risk. (Locked) More »

If exercise feels like work, make it more like a game

Making exercise more fun by introducing aspects from games may help encourage people to be more physically active. This “gamification” helps motivate people through collaboration, competition, and team spirit. For example, members of families who turned their daily step counts into a competition boosted their daily walking distance by almost one mile, or more than twice as much as families who didn’t gamify their exercise routine. (Locked) More »