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

Weight-loss diets that keep your heart happy

People should be cautious about weight-loss diets that restrict a specific category of food (such as carbohydrates, fats, or even animal products) without focusing on the overall quality of the foods. Diets with lots of ultra-processed foods or red meat may contribute to poor heart health. But people can lose weight on less-extreme versions of either low-carb or low-fat diets, as long as they focus mostly on unprocessed or minimally processed foods. (Locked) More »

Depression and heart disease: A double-edged sword?

Depression and cardiovascular disease are common conditions that often occur together. People with depression can find it hard to muster the energy to stick to healthy habits, including choosing and preparing healthy foods and taking prescribed medications on schedule. Three lifestyle changes can improve both illnesses: doing regular exercise, getting plenty of high-quality sleep, and practicing mindfulness meditation. Antidepressants such as sertraline (Zoloft) and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors help ease depression in people with cardiovascular disease. So can cognitive behavioral therapy, which is designed to help people recognize and change ingrained, negative thoughts or behaviors. (Locked) More »

Genetic testing to tailor heart drug prescriptions?

Pharmacogenomic tests can reveal how your body may respond and react to different medications, including some that help lower cholesterol or prevent blood clots. People who have taken direct-to-consumer genetic tests may have information about how they metabolize clopidogrel (Plavix) or simvastatin (Zocor). But so far, there’s no evidence that the results offer any benefit for the average person who has or is at risk for heart disease. (Locked) More »

How much will fried foods harm your heart?

A study published online Jan. 18, 2021, by the journal Heart found that people who ate the most fried foods each week were 28% more likely to have heart problems, compared with people who ate the least. More »

The story on heart stents

Close to a million stents to open blocked or narrowed coronary arteries are implanted each year, and as people age the odds of being added to the list increases. A stent can save a person’s life during a heart attack, but also may be needed if someone has significant plaque blockage. Knowing what to do before and after the procedure can help with recovery and support future heart health. (Locked) More »

What’s for dinner?

Even people who enjoy cooking sometimes need inspiration for heart-healthy dinner ideas. But there are many options, including those for people who follow a vegan, pescatarian, or omnivorous diet. The two main guidelines: include plenty of plant-based foods (especially fruits and vegetables), and choose mostly unprocessed or minimally processed foods. More »

Why you should consider hiring a personal trainer

A personal trainer can provide a safe, effective, and well-rounded exercise routine that is customized to a person’s age, health conditions, and goals. Many people who exercise in gyms don’t get any formal instruction about how to use the machines. Learning the correct body posture, body mechanics, and breathing techniques can provide a more balanced workout. A varied routine can help prevent overuse injuries, stave off boredom, and improve a person’s ability to do other activities, from carrying groceries to swinging a tennis racquet or golf club. (Locked) More »