Coffee: A heart-healthy brew?

Coffee drinking has been linked to a lower risk of dying of heart disease. Coffee contains potent anti-inflammatory substances called polyphenols that may improve blood sugar control and help blood vessels contract and relax. Although the caffeine in coffee may help people control their weight, it can trigger a short-term rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Filtered coffee, which removes substances that may raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, appears to be a better option than unfiltered coffee. (Locked) More »

Racquet sports: A good way to ramp up your fitness

Playing tennis and other racquet sports can be a fun, effective way to improve fitness. Tennis engages muscles throughout your upper and lower body, which challenges the heart. The sport also features short bursts of high-intensity activity interspersed with less vigorous movements. This type of exercise, known as high-intensity interval training, seems to be a good way to boost cardiovascular fitness. Pickleball and badminton, which are less physically demanding than tennis, may be a good option for people who are older or less fit. Racquet sports have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a longer life. (Locked) More »

Lowering blood pressure may help prevent dementia

Even slightly elevated blood pressure in middle age has been linked to a 30% higher risk of dementia two decades later. High blood pressure accelerates atherosclerosis and leaves people prone to an ischemic stroke, which may contribute to vascular dementia. But high blood pressure can also cause the walls of smaller arteries to thicken, raising the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Minor strokes in smaller vessels may go unnoticed, but the damage from many small, silent stokes may accumulate, leading to cognitive problems. Taking blood pressure drugs may help people avoid these risks. More »

New advice about a common heart variation: Patent foramen ovale (PFO)

About 25% of people have a patent foramen ovale or PFO, a flaplike opening between the heart’s upper chambers. Most people never know they have it, because a PFO doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms. For the most part, the condition is harmless. But it may allow small amounts of blood to leak across the heart from the right atrium to the left atrium without getting filtered by the lungs. PFOs may be responsible for up to 10% of strokes among people younger than 60. Guidelines now recommend a procedure to close a PFO for young stroke survivors with no other obvious risk factors for stroke. (Locked) More »

How do doctors evaluate treatments for heart disease?

Research on drugs, diets, and devices to treat or prevent cardiovascular disease includes clinical trials and observational studies. In clinical trials, volunteers are randomly assigned to receive either the new treatment or the comparison, which may be a placebo (an inactive therapy) or a treatment that’s already available. Observational studies follow a large group of people over a long period of time and gather information on diet, exercise, and medical and family history, for example. All studies have strengths and weaknesses, but the evidence from clinical trials is the most trustworthy. (Locked) More »

FDA approves broader use of clot-prevention drug

Ticagrelor (Brilinta), a drug that prevents dangerous blood clots, was granted an expanded approval by the FDA. Doctors can now prescribe the drug in people at high risk of a heart attack as well as those who have already had one. More »