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Heart Health Archive


Danger from unneeded defibrillation?


Using an automated external defibrillator or AED on a person in cardiac arrest delivers a shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. These devices provide step-by-step instructions and include safety features that prevent the delivery of unneeded shocks. 

Clogged arteries in the gut?


Known as intestinal angina, this rare but serious condition causes severe belly pain after eating.

Cholesterol-filled plaque and clots can lurk in blood vessels throughout the body. While the arteries that supply the heart are by far the most common hiding place, arteries elsewhere in the body can also become severely narrowed by plaque.

Clogged vessels in the legs (and less commonly, the arms) can lead to limb pain during exercise, because the nearby muscles don't get enough blood to work properly. People with this problem—called peripheral artery disease, or PAD—are also at risk for narrowing in the arteries that feed the intestines.

Revamp your snacking habits


Ditch the low-fat chips and pretzels in favor of snacks that contain a combination of whole or minimally processed foods.

 Image: iStock

If late afternoon hunger pangs leave you longing for a snack, there's no reason to deny yourself. Just be sure to choose foods that fit into a heart-healthy eating pattern.

"Snacks help bridge the gap between meals," says Liz Moore, a dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A small snack in the afternoon curbs your appetite so you're not completely starving when you sit down to dinner, she explains. That can help you control your portion sizes and avoid overeating—a common cause of weight gain. "If you eat lunch at noon and are planning to meet a friend for dinner at 7 or 8 p.m., have a snack between 4 and 5 p.m.," she suggests.

New insights about an inherited form of high cholesterol


Although uncommon, this genetic condition is responsible for most heart attacks that occur at a young age.

Very high LDL cholesterol levels usually result from dozens of genetic mutations that each raise LDL by a little bit.
Image: jarun011/Thinkstock

About one in 250 people has a genetic mutation that causes dangerously high cholesterol levels. Known as familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, this condition can raise levels of harmful LDL cholesterol as high as 350 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)—more than three times higher than the desirable level of less than 100 mg/dL.

When an infection attacks the heart


The resulting inflammation can cause debilitating pain and may damage different parts of the heart.

People with certain heart valve problems should take antibiotics before dental procedures to lower their risk of endocarditis.
Image: Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock

Nestled deep in the chest and covered in a protective layer of tissue, your heart usually fends off infections. But bacteria and viruses in the blood occasionally invade the heart, creating inflammation and other problems. Often, these problems are short-lived and relatively benign. But sometimes, the infection and resulting inflammation are more worrisome.

Owner of a lonely heart?


Loneliness and social isolation have been linked to higher risk of having a heart attack, needing a procedure to clear blocked heart arteries, or experiencing a stroke. 

FDA withdraws approval for two older cholesterol drugs


The FDA has withdrawn its approval for two older cholesterol-lowering medications, niacin and fenofibrate, for use in combination with a statin. Several large clinical trials found no heart-related benefits from the drugs. 

Early signs of heart disease in people who drink sugary sodas


People who drink more than five sugar-sweetened sodas a week may be more likely to have signs of early heart disease compared with people who drink just one soda a week. 

Atrial fibrillation: Diagnosing and treating an abnormal heart rhythm

Updated November 15, 2016

An abnormal heart rhythm — when your heartbeat is too slow, too fast, or irregular — may be a fleeting, harmless event. But it may also be a symptom of a more serious heart condition. One of these common abnormal heart rhythms, known medically as arrhythmias, is atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation

In atrial fibrillation (afib, for short), the heart's upper chambers, or atria, quiver instead of beating normally. The result is a fast, irregular heartbeat, which may lead to dizziness and fatigue but is often symptomless. A related condition is called atrial flutter.

Controlling blood pressure with fewer side effects

Updated October 14, 2020

Lower doses of a combination of drugs may be effective.

Approximately one in three Americans has high blood pressure, but only about half of those who do have the condition under control. One common reason: they stop taking their medications, often because of troublesome side effects such as weakness, fatigue, or a dry cough. However, taking smaller doses of several different blood pressure drugs may be a good way to address these issues, a new analysis suggests.

Researchers pooled findings from 42 studies involving more than 20,000 people with high blood pressure. All had been randomly assigned to take a placebo or one or more blood pressure drugs in varying combinations and dosages. (For the American Heart Association's list of common blood pressure drugs, including their possible side effects, see

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