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

Testosterone and the heart

Testosterone has been linked to cardiac risk factors like peripheral artery disease (PAD). The most serious long-term complications of testosterone therapy include an increased risk of prostate diseases, both BPH and possibly prostate cancer. But researchers are beginning to examine the possibility that testosterone therapy might be beneficial for men with heart disease. Do the benefits outway the risks? More »

Premature heart disease

  Coronary artery disease is the biggest cause of heart attacks in younger men, but other causes include defective arteries, clot disorders, and drug abuse.   More »

Sporadic high blood pressure deserves attention

Monitoring your blood pressure by taking daily readings at home over a period of time can provide a more accurate sense of your true pressure than a reading in the doctor's office, which may be artificially high or low. More »

Blood pressure and your brain

  High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke and plays a role in cognitive decline. Simple lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and losing weight can lower blood pressure.   More »

Peripheral artery disease: Leg pain and much more

Peripheral artery disease gets less attention than strokes or heart attacks, but like those conditions it is a cardiovascular condition caused by blockages in the arteries, in this case the ones that supply blood to the legs and other parts of the body. (Locked) More »

Experts call for home blood pressure monitoring

  About 73 million Americans — nearly half of them women — have hypertension (high blood pressure), a condition that propels blood too forcefully through blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney damage. If you have hypertension or borderline hypertension, you should be checking your blood pressure at home on a regular basis. That's the major recommendation in a joint statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Society of Hypertension (ASH), and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA). The expert panel that issued the statement was chaired by Dr. Thomas G. Pickering of Columbia University. The statement itself was jointly published online May 22, 2008, in the journal Hypertension and the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing and in print in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension (May 2008) and the Journal of Clinical Hypertension (June 2008). Although other guidelines on managing hypertension have endorsed home blood pressure monitoring, this is the first time experts have given detailed advice about its use. More »