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

Choosing an appropriate heart test

People with stable angina (chest pain that occurs during certain activities and goes away with rest) may be evaluated with a number of different tests. The choice depends the doctor’s level of suspicion that the person has coronary artery disease. (Locked) More »

Legume of the month: Peas

Fresh peas are considered starchy vegetables by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Dried, split green peas similar to other beans  are classified as legumes. More »

Protect your heart, preserve your mind?

People who have a heart attack or angina (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart) may face a faster drop in thinking skills than people who don’t experience those heart-related problems. The underlying cause of this long-observed connection between the heart and brain is not exactly clear. But high blood pressure and other factors that damage arteries to the heart may also harm vessels in the brain. Regular exercise, along with controlling other risk factors for heart disease—especially high blood pressure—may help prevent cognitive decline. (Locked) More »

The trouble with watching too much TV

Sitting while watching TV may be more detrimental to heart health than sitting while at work. But getting the recommended levels of physical activity may protect against watching more than four hours of TV daily. More »

Transforming the treatment of diabetes

A program that uses a smartphone app and telemedicine to provide frequent virtual office visits for people with diabetes may help them manage their disease more effectively. People in the program also receive a glucose monitor to test their blood sugar and use the app to send their results to a cloud-based server, where clinicians can review the results. The app also provides detailed lifestyle intervention plans, including an animated figure that demonstrates exercises and menus that include common foods that people eat everyday but with less carbohydrate, more protein, and smaller portions. (Locked) More »

Why you should care about your core

Core muscles—which include those in the abdomen, back, sides, pelvis, and buttocks—are important for many sports, including golfing, tennis, biking, and swimming. A strong core may also prevent falls and other injuries that may derail exercise efforts. The best exercises to strengthen core muscles include those that target several groups of muscles at a time. The plank, for example, builds muscles in the abdomen, back, and side. More »