Heart Health

The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products of metabolism. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly.

Given the heart's never-ending workload, it's a wonder it performs so well, for so long, for so many people. But it can also fail, brought down by a poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, infection, unlucky genes, and more.

A key problem is atherosclerosis. This is the accumulation of pockets of cholesterol-rich gunk inside the arteries. These pockets, called plaque, can limit blood flow through arteries that nourish the heart — the coronary arteries — and other arteries throughout the body. When a plaque breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Although many people develop some form of cardiovascular disease (a catch-all term for all of the diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels) as they get older, it isn't inevitable. A healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, goes a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle changes and medications can nip heart-harming trends, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, in the bud before they cause damage. And a variety of medications, operations, and devices can help support the heart if damage occurs.

Heart Health Articles

11 foods that can help lower your cholesterol

People with elevated LDL cholesterol values may be able to reduce their LDL levels by eating more foods that are rich in fiber and lower in saturated fats. High-fiber foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Saturated fats are found mainly in meat, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products such as butter, half and half, and ice cream. More »

Can high-tech heart scans help prevent heart attacks?

Cardiac CT angiography (CCTA) is gaining ground as a fast, effective way to diagnose coronary artery disease. The noninvasive test uses multiple high-speed x-rays to create three-dimensional views of the blood vessels and structures of the heart. Unlike stress tests, CCTA can detect non-obstructive plaque, which is plaque that blocks less than half of the inner diameter of an artery and is responsible for most heart attacks. (Locked) More »

Exergaming: Fitness and fun in front of your TV?

Exergaming, or active-play video games, may encourage adults (including those with heart disease) to be more active. They can offer a convenient, light- to moderate-intensity workout and feature an array of different simulated sports and recreational activities, including bowling, golf, tennis, dancing, and martial arts. But they shouldn’t replace traditional outdoor exercise or recreational activity. (Locked) More »

Grain of the month: Barley

Barley contains more than three times as much fiber per serving as oats and is particularly rich in a type of soluble fiber known as beta glucan, which is recognized for its cholesterol-lowering abilities. More »

Healthy habits may lower harmful inflammation

Healthy lifestyle changes may lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance linked to heart disease risk. CRP is a byproduct of inflammation, an immune-related response involved in the formation of artery-clogging plaque. More »

How serious is bundle branch block?

A bundle branch block refers to a small glitch in the heart’s electrical conduction system, which can occur on the right or left side of the heart. Possible symptoms include shortness of breath, lagging energy, and fainting. (Locked) More »

Updated advice for people with both diabetes and heart disease

Among people who have heart disease, those who also have diabetes may need more aggressive treatment than people who don’t have diabetes. This may include newer drugs that lower blood sugar levels and help people live longer. High blood sugar—the hallmark of diabetes—can injure the inner walls of arteries throughout the body, leaving them more prone to a buildup of fatty, artery-clogging plaque. Elevated blood sugar also stiffens the arteries so they don’t expand as well, and it makes blood platelets stickier and more likely to form blood clots. (Locked) More »

When an infection invades the heart

Although uncommon, heart infections may trigger inflammation that can damage the heart. People should be aware of the risks and symptoms of the three main types: pericarditis (swelling and irritation of the protective, double-layered membrane that surrounds the heart, called the pericardium), myocarditis (inflammation in the middle, muscular layer of the heart), and endocarditis (inflammation that affects the heart’s inner lining or one or more of the heart’s valves). (Locked) More »