Medical Tests & Procedures Archive

Articles

Gene tests for some, not all

Genetic testing helps some people glimpse their cardiovascular future.

The announcement in April 2003 that scientists had worked out the order of the three billion letters in the human genetic code revved up the hopes and imaginations of many people, cardiologists included. Personal genetic report cards, mused a few, will someday help each of us better understand our heart disease risk and point the way to new treatments. They're right, of course. But "someday" will be a while coming "" the human genome isn't giving up its secrets easily, and some of what we're learning we don't quite know what to do with.

Medication vs. stents for heart disease treatment

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

What's the best way to "fix" a narrowed coronary artery? That question was the crux of a multimillion-dollar trial dubbed COURAGE, short for Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation. Its results, presented in the spring of 2007, stunned some doctors and seemed to shock the media, but we hope they won't come as a surprise to readers: For people with stable coronary artery disease (clogged arteries nourishing the heart), artery-opening angioplasty was no better than medications and lifestyle changes at preventing future heart attacks or strokes, nor did it extend life.

Skipping a beat — the surprise of heart palpitations

Interesting heart palpitations causes and treatment for a case of the heart flutters

Does your heart unexpectedly start to race or pound, or feel like it keeps skipping beats? These sensations are called heart palpitations. For most people, heart palpitations are a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. Others have dozens of these heart flutters a day, sometimes so strong that they feel like a heart attack.

Most palpitations are caused by a harmless hiccup in the heart's rhythm. A few reflect a problem in the heart or elsewhere in the body.

Cholesterol testing at home: It may be faster, but is it better?

If you don't mind pricking a finger, you can check your cholesterol without sitting around in a doctor's waiting room or laboratory. Devices available in pharmacies or through the Internet make this easy to do at home. But is it worth doing?

The makers of home cholesterol tests rightly tout their products as faster than visiting a doctor. You prick your finger, gently squeeze a few drops of blood onto a test strip or into a small "well," and you get the results in a few minutes, instead of waiting a few days.

Blood pressure screening

 

High blood pressure may be the most common chronic condition plaguing adults. Physicians need to know the best method for screening patients to identify and treat those patients with hypertension.

According to previous studies, ambulatory monitoring of blood pressure is the most accurate method. The patient wears a portable device programmed to automatically measure and record blood pressure at frequent intervals. But the device is expensive.

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.

Should my doctor take out my ovaries during my hysterectomy?

Ask the doctor

Q. I'm having a hysterectomy for uterine prolapse. Are there advantages to leaving my ovaries, or should they be removed as well?

A. It depends on your age. In the past, it was common to recommend that women who were planning hysterectomies for benign problems to have their fallopian tubes and ovaries removed to greatly decrease the risk of ovarian cancer—a deadly cancer for which there is no good screening test. If you are nearing or have completed menopause, there is little disadvantage to this approach.

Understanding COPD from a cardiovascular perspective

Some of the causes and symptoms of this common lung disease overlap with those of heart disease.


Even though chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the nation's leading causes of death, many people don't know much about it. What's more, they may mistakenly attribute COPD symptoms — such as trouble breathing, fatigue, and chest tightness during physical activity — to either heart disease or aging.

But recognizing this common condition is important, because treatment and lifestyle changes can help quite a bit, says Dr. Marilyn Moy, a pulmonologist at the VA Boston Healthcare System and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "There is far more awareness about heart disease than COPD, so when people have breathing-related symptoms, they often assume it's their heart," she says. Because the breathing challenges caused by COPD appear gradually, people may overlook them or simply adjust their activities to them. People may notice they can't walk as far as they used to, or do other things they enjoy, such as playing with their grandchildren or gardening, Dr. Moy says.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.