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

Legume of the month: Pinto beans

In some countries, pinto beans are cooked with epazote, an herb that purportedly helps reduce beans’ flatulence-producing properties. Gradually adding beans to the diet and eating them regularly may also help avoid that problem. (Locked) More »

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease: What's the difference?

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease often are used interchangeably although cardiovascular disease includes heart and blood vessel disease while heart disease is limited to conditions affecting the heart. Knowing how the two terms overlap can help people better understand why common prevention methods work so well. (Locked) More »

Even light physical activity may help your heart

Growing evidence suggests that any type of activity—even low-intensity activity such as light housework or gardening—may help to lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Historically, light activity hasn’t been accurately reported in studies, but new research that uses a device to track body movements can assess light activity more precisely. The cardiovascular benefits of light activity may result in part from decreasing time spent sitting, a known contributor to poor heart health. (Locked) More »

For most people, no need for niacin

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is unlikely to provide any heart-related benefit for most people. Its only possible role is for people who cannot tolerate statins, but other, newer medications would likely offer greater benefits. More »

Hands-only CPR: A lifesaving technique within your reach

Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) appears to be just as successful as standard CPR, which uses mouth-to-mouth breathing. Learning the simpler, hands-only version seems to make people more likely to perform the potentially lifesaving technique. Doing hands-only CPR eliminates the fear of contracting a disease, one of the main reasons people say they hesitate to perform CPR. Other barriers people cite include fear of injuring a person by doing compressions incorrectly and not knowing how to perform the technique. The American Heart Association, American Red Cross, and other organizations offer classes in CPR and the use of a public-access defibrillator, another critical step in the chain of survival if someone needs CPR. (Locked) More »

Legume of the month: Mung beans

Many Asian cuisines use olive-green mung beans in soups, curries, and savory pancakes. Americans may be more familiar with slender, white mung bean sprouts, which are used in Chinese and Thai stir-fries. More »

Pacemaker concerns

The latest pacemaker models not only help people stay active later in life, they’re also more compatible with today’s technology. But people with pacemakers should take precautions when lifting weights and in certain airport security situations. (Locked) More »

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 »