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

Are there any health benefits to fish oil?

Fish intake remains an important part of a healthy diet, but the enthusiasm for fish oil supplements has been dampened by several recent studies that showed no benefit for protecting against heart disease, relieving dry eye, or reducing arthritis pain. (Locked) More »

Eggs might help your heart, not harm it

A study found that people with diabetes or prediabetes who ate 12 eggs a week saw no increase in their cardiovascular risk factors compared with those who ate two eggs or fewer. Another study found that people who ate an egg per day had a lower risk of heart disease compared with those who did not eat any eggs. More »

Getting the most out of your heart medications

Medications used to treat cardiovascular disease can help prevent life-threatening events, so people should make sure they’re taking them correctly. Understanding the reasons behind specific prescribing instructions may help. Examples include finding the best the timing for blood pressure medications, taking medications with food, and avoiding or minimizing alcohol use while taking certain medications. (Locked) More »

Narrowed aortic valve with no symptoms

People diagnosed with aortic stenosis (when the valve in the heart’s largest vessel stiffens and narrows) may not have any noticeable symptoms. An exercise stress test may help detect early symptoms or signs that warrant more attention. (Locked) More »

Simple swaps to eat less salt

The top 10 sources of sodium in the American diet include processed foods that contain several high-sodium ingredients, such as cheese and cured meats. Examples include pizza, sandwiches, and burritos and tacos. The leading source of sodium is bread and rolls, not because these foods are especially high in salt but because people eat them frequently. More »

The importance of bystander CPR

CPR can keep a person experiencing a cardiac arrest alive until paramedics can arrive. Traditional CPR involves chest compression to manually keep the heart pumping, and also mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to provide oxygen to the person in cardiac arrest. Bystander CPR involves only the chest compressions. They’re both important, but when cardiac arrest occurs, there’s already some oxygen in the blood. Doctors say it’s much more important to immediately pump that blood to the brain than spend extra time trying to give the patient more oxygen. (Locked) More »

Vegetable of the month: Tomatoes

Eating tomatoes and tomato products may help lower cholesterol and improve blood vessel function. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps eliminate cell-damaging free radicals in the body. (Locked) More »

Guard your heart during the dog days of summer

Heat, humidity, and haze can put stress on the cardiovascular system. People who have or are at risk for heart disease should drink plenty of water and be careful when exercising outdoors during hot, humid weather. Those who sweat a great deal might consider consuming sports drinks, which contain electrolytes to replenish the minerals they lose when sweating. People who take blood pressure medications (especially diuretics) should ask their doctor about possibly adjusting their dosage on days when they are outside in the heat. (Locked) More »

How atrial fibrillation may affect your brain

People with atrial fibrillation—a heart rhythm disorder that causes a rapid, irregular heart rate—may face an increase risk of thinking and memory problems. Atrial fibrillation causes blood to pool in the heart’s upper left chamber, which may form clots that can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. But tiny clots can cause silent, unnoticed strokes. Over time, these stroke gradually injure part of the brain involved with thinking and memory. (Locked) More »