Your heart’s desire: A daily practice to relieve stress

Chronic stress has physical effects that can harm the heart. Frequent psychosocial stress raises blood pressure and heart rate. But it also stimulates the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells that contribute to inflammation, which over time can encourage the buildup of fatty plaque inside artery walls. Stress-easing practices that help people let go of everyday worries may counteract those negative effects. These include practicing mindfulness while engaged in an engrossing hobby (such as playing an instrument or gardening). Other techniques include focused breathing, body scans, guided imagery, yoga, and tai chi. (Locked) More »

An unusual type of heart attack

Sometimes, people have heart attacks that occur in the absence of a blocked heart artery. These unusual events can result from a number of causes, including a spasm or tear in one of the heart’s arteries or inflammation of the heart. (Locked) More »

How to spot questionable nutrition advice

People can be easily confused or misled by questionable nutrition and diet advice on the Internet. A new resource co-developed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers advice on how to identify trustworthy research about healthy food choices. Some of the key attributes of high-quality nutrition research are studies that include large numbers of human participants (not animals) who are followed over many years. The best—those that assign people to different diets and track them over time—are difficult to carry out because people don’t always stick to the diet. (Locked) More »

Walk this way

A walking cadence of about 100 steps per minute may be a good way to gauge moderate-intensity exercise, but not necessarily for everyone. That pace might feel a little slow for fit people who exercise regularly. But it may be too fast for people who are not exercising regularly or who have illnesses or injuries. A different measure, the “rate of perceived exertion” scale, may be a better guide for determining whether someone is exercising intensely enough. More »

Avoid these common blood pressure measuring mistakes

During a blood pressure measurement, seven common errors can artificially elevate a person’s reading. They include sitting incorrectly, having an unsupported arm, using the wrong size blood pressure cuff, and engaging in conversation during the measurement. Current guidelines also recommend averaging two blood pressure readings taken a minute apart if the first reading indicates high blood pressure (defined as 130/80 mm Hg or higher). (Locked) More »

Managing mitral valve disease: Progress and promise

Severe mitral valve disease happens when the mitral valve can’t close properly, causing blood to flow backward during heartbeats. Common symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue, cough, and swollen feet or ankles. Most cases are treated with open-heart or minimally invasive surgery. But a catheter-based device called MitraClip can repair some faulty valves. And a number of other devices—including some that can replace the entire valve—are under development. (Locked) More »