The lowdown on low-calorie sweeteners

An advisory from the American Heart Association says beverages with low-calorie sweeteners are an acceptable way to curb the use of regular sugar-sweetened beverages, which are linked to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and other risks for heart disease. Short-term studies suggest that replacing regular sugary soda with diet soda helps people control their weight, while longer-term studies are less definitive. But two large, long-running Harvard studies found no increased risk of obesity and diabetes among people who regularly drank beverages with low-calorie sweeteners. (Locked) More »

Understanding ejection fraction

An ejection fraction is the percentage of blood that leaves the heart each time it contracts. The most common way to measure the ejection fraction is with an echocardiogram. A normal value is 55% to 65%. (Locked) More »

Strategies for sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, which often causes loud snoring and daytime sleepiness, is closely linked to cardiovascular problems. The gold standard treatment, called positive airway pressure, can be challenging for people to use. Tips for using the bedside machine may help people use the treatment more consistently. These include making sure the mask fits properly and treating nose, mouth, or throat discomfort caused by the treatment. (Locked) More »

Heartburn vs. heart attack

Heartburn, a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, causes a painful sensation in the middle of the chest that is often mistaken for a heart attack. Drugs to treat these common problems are often taken together intentionally. The widely used heartburn drugs known as proton-pump inhibitors may help reduce gastrointestinal bleeding—a possible side effect of aspirin, which is sometimes taken to prevent heart attacks. More »

What to expect during an exercise stress test

Exercise stress tests, also known as treadmill tests, are done mainly in people with symptoms suggestive of heart disease. That usually means stable angina, or chest pain that occurs in predictable patterns during physical activity. The test uses an electrocardiogram to record the heart’s electrical activity while a person walks on a treadmill that gradually increases in speed and incline. Changes to the ECG can signify blood flow abnormalities caused by blockages in the heart’s arteries or other problems in the heart. (Locked) More »

Rethinking low-dose aspirin

Because low-dose aspirin helps thwart dangerous blood clots, it remains a cornerstone for heart attack and stroke survivors. But aspirin may do more harm than good for people who’ve never experienced a heart-related event. People with diabetes appear to gain heart protection from aspirin, but the risk of bleeding offsets some of that benefit. For who don’t have diabetes—as well as anyone who is 70 years of age or older—aspirin seems to provide no heart benefit. And it increases the odds of dangerous bleeding that requires transfusions or hospitalization. As a result, some people currently taking low-dose aspirin should consider stopping it. (Locked) More »