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

Is it time to rethink how much you drink?

Contrary to popular belief, moderate alcohol use might not benefit cardiovascular health, especially for people who are 65 and older. People also often miscalculate what counts as a single drink and don’t recognize that many mixed drinks contain more than one serving of alcohol. In addition, they may not appreciate that alcohol affects people differently with increasing age. Tips for cutting back on alcohol include limiting drinking to restaurants and social occasions and diluting wine or cocktails with sparkling water and ice. More »

Were the old aspirin studies wrong?

Over the past 50 years, changes in lifestyle and new treatments have been lowering rates of heart disease. That’s led to new evidence and advice about aspirin therapy. The new advice suggests that people between ages 40 and 70 with no known heart disease may not need aspirin. Those who have a high risk for heart disease who don’t have special risks for bleeding should talk to their doctor about taking aspirin. People who do have heart disease should take low-dose aspirin unless their doctor recommends against it. (Locked) More »

When the heart beats too slowly

Bradycardia, defined as a heart rate is below 60 beats per minute, is common in older adults, usually after age 70. Most people don’t experience symptoms, but those who do may feel dizzy, lightheaded, fatigued, breathless, or confused, and may faint. The condition may result from normal, age-related degeneration of the sinoatrial node, the heart’s natural pacemaker. Another underlying cause is a problem with the atrioventricular node, located in the center of the heart. (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 »

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 »