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

Aiming for ideal improves heart health

The American Heart Association hopes that its definition of ideal cardiovascular health will encourage people to strive to be healthier. The AHA defines "ideal cardiovascular health" as the combination of four healthy behaviors and three health measurements. Ideal cardiovascular health is an excellent benchmark and a goal to strive for.  Aim for what's possible instead of what's perfect. If you don't currently qualify for any of the seven ideal categories, working to achieve one of them will improve your odds of avoiding a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or other cardiovascular event. More »

No connection between ARBs and cancer

The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that angiotensin-receptor blocker medications used to treat high blood pressure do not increase the risk of developing lung cancer. (Locked) More »

Trial clouds use of niacin with a statin

A large clinical trial dubbed AIM-HIGH was designed to gauge whether adding a prescription form of niacin (Niaspan) to a cholesterol-lowering statin makes sense for people with low HDL. When the trial's safety panel analyzed preliminary results, niacin didn't offer any additional benefit. A small and highly unexpected difference in the rate of ischemic (clot-caused) stroke — 1.6% in the niacin group versus 0.7% in the statin-only group — contributed to the panel's decision to halt AIM-HIGH early. (Locked) More »

Update on aspirin

For people who have not had a heart attack, the question of whether or not to take a daily aspirin is a matter of weighing potential benefits against potential harm. More »

With rising, a fall in blood pressure

With age, the heart and blood vessels weaken, leading to lower blood pressure when standing up, a condition known as orthostatic hypotension. Insufficient blood to the brain can cause dizziness and blurred vision, and an increased risk of falls. But there are often simple ways to counter the problem. Here are eight things you can do to counter orthostatic hypotension: (Locked) More »