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

Replacing a failing aortic valve: No surgery needed?

A technique called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) may soon replace surgery as the best way to replace a failing aortic valve. The procedure delivers a new valve to the heart through a catheter that’s passed through an artery in the upper leg. Most valve replacements are done to treat aortic stenosis, which usually results from an age-related buildup of calcium deposits on the valve. TAVR offers an easier, shorter recovery than surgery and is also more cost-effective. But TAVR has some disadvantages, including a higher risk of needing a pacemaker after the procedure, and it might not be appropriate for everyone who needs a new aortic valve. (Locked) More »