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

5 habits that foster weight loss

Everyday habits like making time to plan, shop for, and prepare healthy meals can help foster weight loss. Another beneficial behavior change is eating slowly and mindfully, which helps people make healthier food choices and know when they are full without overeating. Getting plenty of sleep and eating regular, similar-sized meals may also be helpful. And people who weigh themselves frequently are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. More »

Are you on the road to a diabetes diagnosis?

Having a higher-than-normal blood sugar level (100 and 125 mg/dL) is known as prediabetes, a condition that puts people at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Most people with prediabetes are overweight, and excess fat in the abdominal area is especially risky. Belly fat makes hormones and other substances that trigger chronic inflammation, which contributes to insulin resistance and sets the stage for prediabetes. Weight loss and exercise can help reverse the problem. (Locked) More »

Avoiding atrial fibrillation

To help avoid atrial fibrillation (afib) or reduce its impact, people should attain and stay at a healthy weight. Excess body weight can cause the heart’s upper left chamber (atrium) to enlarge, which can raise the risk of afib. Other afib prevention tips include getting regular exercise and keeping alcohol intake to a moderate or low level. People who eat fish a few times a week may have less afib, but taking fish oil supplements has no clear benefit. (Locked) More »

Is a new tool for fitness research already in your own pocket?

Real-word tracking of activity levels using a smartphone app may one day help guide people to patterns of activity that provide the most cardiovascular benefit. Challenges to this type of research include engaging a diverse range of participants and motivating them to keep using the app. Possible solutions include using a wristband fitness tracker or smartwatch in addition to a smartphone, and adding “gamification” features to the app that give feedback and rewards for greater activity and participation. (Locked) More »

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction against injury and infection. But chronic inflammation can contribute to the buildup of fatty plaque inside arteries, setting the stage for heart disease. More »

What you may not know about your heart

Although cardiovascular disease is diagnosed later in women than men, it can begin to develop in early adulthood. The disease is more likely to affect the heart’s network of microscopic vessels and to have more subtle symptoms in women. (Locked) More »