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Heart Attack Archive


Matters of the heart: Sex and cardiovascular disease

Updated May 8, 2014

Image: Thinkstock

Cardiovascular disease may change many aspects of your life, but sexual intimacy does not have to suffer as a result.

Thanks to early screening, lifesaving interventions, and sophisticated pharmacology, millions of people live full, active lives after a heart disease diagnosis. That can include sex. Although the physical and emotional strains of cardiovascular disease often take a toll on a couple's intimate activities, there is ample reason to persevere. "Sexual activity and sexual function are major quality-of-life issues for both men and women with cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Joanne Foody, director of cardiovascular wellness services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Ask the doctor: What is Prinzmetal's angina?

Updated May 8, 2014

Q. A doctor recently told my wife that she might have Prinzmetal's angina. What is this condition, and how is it treated?

A. Prinzmetal's angina is an older term for a type of chest pain more commonly known as a coronary artery spasm—a tightening of the muscles within the arteries of the heart. These brief, temporary spasms block blood flow to heart muscle, triggering chest pain. It's similar to angina that happens to people with cardiovascular disease whose arteries are clogged with cholesterol-laden plaque. But while people who have coronary spasms may have some arterial plaque, their arteries may be completely clear.

Heart attack and stroke: Men vs. women

Updated April 9, 2014









Photo: Thinkstock

The average age for a first heart attack in women is seven years older than in men.

For both men and women, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. But their risks and symptoms can differ.

Taking Lyme disease to heart

Updated April 9, 2014

Enjoy the great outdoors, but be on the lookout for disease-carrying pests.

Most summer insect bites can be forgotten as soon as the itching fades away. Not so with a bite from a tick harboring the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The infection—which has potentially serious heart consequences—is transmitted via deer ticks most commonly found in wooded areas in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest.

Big arm-to-arm difference in blood pressure linked to higher heart attack risk

Published March 5, 2014

The next time you have your blood pressure checked, ask your health care to check it in both arms, rather than just in one. Why? A big difference between the two readings can give you an early warning about increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study suggests. Harvard researchers found that people who have a 10-point difference in blood pressure from one arm to the other are 38% more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or a related problem than those with arm-to arm differences less than 10 points. Small differences in blood pressure readings between the right and left arm are normal. But large ones suggest the presence of artery-clogging plaque in the vessel that supplies blood to the arm with higher blood pressure. Clogging there means there’s a good chance the arteries in the heart and brain are also clogged, boosting the odds of having a heart attack or stroke.

Ask the doctor: Exercise versus pharmacologic stress testing

Updated March 1, 2014

Photo: Thinkstock

An exercise stress test done on a treadmill.

Q. I was having occasional chest pains, and my primary care physician recommended a stress test. Because I have bad knees, the cardiologist had me take a stress test using a medication instead of doing exercise. Fortunately, the results were normal. But it made me wonder: is one type better than the other?

5 Action Steps for Early Heart Failure

Updated March 1, 2014

Early heart failure may be mild but can worsen quickly. Learn what you can do to keep symptoms in check.

Heart failure may start with injury from a heart attack, develop as a result of damaged valves, or be brought on by underlying disease. Many times, it is the product of years of toil by the heart against high blood pressure and clogged arteries. Regardless of what sets the process in motion, heart failure culminates in a progressive weakening of your heart's power to pump. Consequently, blood circulates through your heart and body more slowly; your cells thirst for fresh oxygen and nutrients.

Borderline hypertension: When do you need treatment?

Updated March 1, 2014

Many people develop high blood pressure during their lifetime. These steps may delay your need to take medicines.

Hypertension, defined as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or above, is the primary risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Additionally, it sets the stage for other serious conditions, such as kidney failure, blood vessel damage, vision loss, and dementia.

Understanding angioplasty: When you need it and when you may not

Updated March 1, 2014

Angioplasty can save lives, but it isn't always urgent. For some people, optimal medical therapy makes sense.

Each year, about 600,000 people in the United States undergo an angioplasty to widen a narrowed coronary artery, nearly always with a tiny wire mesh tube (stent) left inside the artery to keep it open. About two-thirds of these procedures are done in people experiencing a potentially life-threatening event—a heart attack or unstable angina, defined as severe, worsening chest pain during exertion or stress, or chest pain that happens at rest.

Research we're watching: Vitamin supplements no help against heart disease

Updated March 1, 2014

Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements." This stark advice, from an editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine, stems from two new studies that found no clear evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements can prevent cardiovascular disease.

Photo: Thinkstock

In one study, researchers pooled findings from 27 trials of multivitamins or vitamins A, C, or D; folic acid; selenium; or calcium, taken alone or in combinations. Together, the trials included more than 400,000 older people; none had known nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin use did not lower rates of heart disease, cancer, or death over all.

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