Beyond the morning buzz: How does coffee affect your heart?

People who drink about three cups of coffee a day are slightly less likely to develop heart disease or to die from it than people who don’t drink coffee. In sensitive people, the caffeine in coffee may trigger a pounding, irregular heartbeat. Drinking unfiltered (French press or Turkish) coffee may slightly raise cholesterol levels. But in general, even for people with heart disease, modest coffee consumption appears to be safe. However, people should not rely on coffee to spend less time sleeping, because sleep deprivation is very hard on the heart. (Locked) More »

Valve replacement: Mechanical or tissue?

For an aortic valve replacement, experts usually recommend mechanical valves for people under age 50 and tissue valves for those over age 70. For people between those two ages, neither type has a clear advantage over the other. (Locked) More »

The many ways exercise helps your heart

Over the long term, exercise protects the heart in a number of ways, such as encouraging the heart’s arteries to dilate more readily and helping the sympathetic nervous system (which controls the heart rate and blood pressure) to be less reactive. But a single bout of exercise may protect the heart right away through a process called ischemic preconditioning. This phenomenon, which involves molecular and metabolic changes that help the heart adapt to inadequate blood flow, seems to protect the heart if a heart attack does occur, reducing damage by as much as 50%. (Locked) More »

Stepping up treatments for PAD

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) happens when fatty deposits clog the arteries that supply blood to the legs. The hallmark symptom—leg cramping and pain—is called claudication (from the Latin word claudicatio, meaning “to limp”). People with PAD are also likely to have similar clogging (atherosclerosis) in their coronary arteries. One of the best therapies for PAD, called supervised exercise training, is now covered by Medicare. The therapy involves meeting with a trained exercise therapist to walk on a treadmill several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes over a 12-week period. More »

Gum disease and heart disease: The common thread

People with gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. Both conditions involve chronic inflammation, which contributes to many health problems. The connection suggests another reason why people should be vigilant about preventing gum disease, which is characterized by swollen, red, or tender gums that bleed easily. Daily toothbrushing and flossing can prevent and even reverse early signs of gum disease, known as gingivitis. (Locked) More »

Tracing the heart’s electrical signature

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a quick, painless, noninvasive test that can help diagnose dozens of heart conditions. For people who are 50 or older, getting an ECG as part of an annual physical exam makes sense, according to some cardiologists. The test records the heart’s electrical activity through 10 small electrodes placed on the chest, arms, and legs. The resulting squiggly lines represent the electrical impulses in the heart that activate the heart muscle and its blood-pumping action. An ECG may reveal damage from a previously undetected heart attack, abnormalities in heart rhythm, or an enlarged heart. (Locked) More »

Vegetable of the month: Artichokes

Artichokes contain cynarin, a biologically active chemical that seems to increase the liver's production of bile, which helps remove cholesterol from the body. (Locked) More »

Mental stress, gender, and the heart

In people with heart disease, mental stress can lead to reduced blood supply to the heart, a phenomenon known as mental stress–induced ischemia. This problem seems to result from different physiological effects in women and men. More »