The high cost of a poor diet

What people choose to eat has a big impact on their cardiovascular health. The dietary habits of the nation as a whole also have a major effect on the country’s economic health. About 45% of the costs associated with heart disease, stroke, and diabetes is related to unhealthy diets. The dietary habits that appear to have the biggest effect are not eating enough nuts, seeds, and seafood omega-3 fatty acids. Among foods to avoid, sugary beverages and processed meats seem to contribute the most to higher costs. Each year, unhealthy diets cost the United States an average of about $300 per person in medical costs, which translates to $50 billion nationwide. (Locked) More »

What does an enlarged atrium mean?

An enlarged left atrium can be caused by elevated pressure or a higher-than-normal blood volume in the left atrium. Possible underlying causes include high blood pressure or a problem with the mitral valve. (Locked) More »

Can stronger muscles pump up your heart health?

Just like aerobic exercise, targeted exercises to strengthen muscles throughout your body may also help stave off heart disease. Strength training helps burn calories and may help prevent harmful belly fat accumulation. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active, so it helps control blood sugar and lowers insulin resistance. That helps prevent type 2 diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease. Strength training can be done with resistance bands, small hand weights, or weight machines. More »

Understanding sudden cardiac arrest

Coronary artery disease is the underlying cause of most cases of sudden cardiac arrest, which means the heart abruptly and unexpectedly stops beating. Most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. But sometimes, the heart’s ventricles quiver rapidly and irregularly during a heart attack, and this lethal rhythm causes most sudden cardiac arrests. Heart attack survivors who experienced significant muscle damage are also at risk for cardiac arrest. Other possible causes of cardiac arrest include inherited abnormalities of the heart’s electrical pathways or structural changes in the heart, such as those caused by heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). (Locked) More »

Heart tests before surgery: When are they necessary?

A preoperative evaluation (sometimes called "clearance" for surgery) helps assess a person’s chances of experiencing a heart-related problem during surgery. These check-ups typically involve a physical exam and may include blood tests, x-rays, and an electrocardiogram (ECG). Some major surgeries, such as a hip replacement, can tax the cardiovascular system, possibly uncovering previously undiagnosed heart disease. Other minor, low-risk procedures, such as cataract removal, put very little strain on the heart and usually don’t require a preoperative ECG. (Locked) More »

New hope for an unusual form of heart failure

Long summary: Up to 15% of people with a stiff, thickened heart (known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction) may have cardiac amyloidosis. Advances in cardiac imaging have improved the ability to diagnose the condition, which is caused by clumps of an abnormal protein (amyloid) deposited in heart tissue. Most cases are known as ATTR amyloidosis, which has an inherited form and a non-inherited form. Tafamidis (Vyndaqel), the first drug to treat ATTR cardiac amyloidosis, was approved by the FDA last year. (Locked) More »

Seed of the month: Sunflower

Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E and several minerals. Hulled, roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds can be added to soups, salads, and trail mixes. More »

Taking heart medications? Don’t forgo healthy habits

People who take drugs to lower blood pressure and cholesterol still need to exercise regularly and strive for a healthy body weight to avoid heart disease. But many may let those healthy habits slide after starting prescription heart medications. More »

How accurate are wearable heart rate monitors?

Smart watches and wrist-worn fitness trackers that estimate a person’s heart rate appear to be reliable in people with a range of different skin tones. But their accuracy may vary during different types of everyday activities. More »