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

Get moving to slow cardiovascular aging

As people age and become less active, the muscle in the heart’s left ventricle—the chamber that pumps oxygen-rich blood back out to the body—becomes stiffer. But as with other muscles, it’s possible to keep your heart muscles in shape longer and perhaps even reverse some of the effects of age by getting regular cardio exercise of sufficient intensity and duration. More »

Overcoming your barriers to exercise

Only about half of adults in the United States meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. Lack of time and joint pain or other health issues are common excuses. Piggybacking activities onto daily habits, such as standing or walking while on the phone and walking to do errands can help. People with health problems that limit mobility can do non-weight-bearing exercises, such as swimming or water aerobics. (Locked) More »

What is long QT syndrome?

Long QT syndrome is a rare disorder of the heart’s electrical system that can be caused by a genetic abnormality or certain medications. It may trigger a fast, erratic heartbeat that can lead to breathlessness, fainting, and sometimes, sudden death. (Locked) More »

Can the flu increase my heart attack risk?

A new study found that a person’s risk of heart attack is six times more likely to occur within the week following an influenza diagnosis. However, getting a flu vaccination can reduce the risk of illness and death from heart disease. (Locked) More »

Heart attacks: Clarifying the causes and consequences

The descriptions used to describe different types of heart attacks (such as “massive” or “widow maker”) can be unhelpful or confusing. Even small heart attacks can have serious outcomes—but most heart attacks are not fatal. Another common source of confusion is the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. In addition, doctors are increasingly realizing that many heart attacks do not result from a blockage in one of the heart’s arteries. Some heart attacks result instead from an imbalance in blood supply and demand. These are most likely to occur in older people with other health problems in addition to heart disease. (Locked) More »

Pedal your way to better heart health

Riding a bike can be a good way to exercise at different levels of intensity. Cycling also enables people to travel faster and farther than jogging but places less pressure on their joints. Indoor cycling options include a stationary bike at home or at a fitness center. Some centers also offer spinning classes, which are group indoor cycling classes led by instructors accompanied by motivating music. (Locked) More »