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

Deep-vein blood clots: What you need to know

A blood clot that forms in a vein, known as venous thromboembolism (VTE), is the third most common cause of cardiovascular death. Most of these fatalities occur when a clot travels from the leg to the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism. VTE occurs in an estimated one in 1,000 people in the United States every year. Factors that increase a person’s risk of heart disease, such as age, smoking, and being overweight or obese, also raise the risk of VTE. Other contributing factors include recent surgery, hospitalization, injury to a vein, and decreased blood flow, usually caused by immobility. (Locked) More »

Heart rhythm monitoring with a smartwatch

Some smartphones now feature sensors and apps that detect atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder. But these devices are not yet accurate enough to use for screening purposes. About 30% of the data are uninterpretable or inaccurate, in part because of factors such as movement, lighting, temperature, and skin color. In addition, doctors cannot be fully available to review information generated from these devices. Finally, the health consequences of occasional, brief episodes of atrial fibrillation (which causes a rapid, irregular heartbeat) are unknown. (Locked) More »

How yoga may enhance heart health

Practicing yoga promotes overall physical fitness, but it also includes breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. The combined effect of these practices may improve a number of factors connected with cardiovascular health. For example, yoga helps lower blood pressure, improves sleep, and may dampen artery-damaging inflammation. By evoking the “relaxation response,” yoga may encourage emotional resilience, which can help counteract the heart-damaging effects caused by everyday (and largely unavoidable) stress. More »

Meal delivery plans: Should you give one a try?

For people who don’t have the time, energy or interest to plan, shop, and prepare meals, subscription meal-delivery plans may encourage healthier eating and sometimes weight loss. Some plans feature low-sodium or vegetarian meals, which may benefit people with heart disease. Meal-kit plans deliver pre-portioned, mostly fresh ingredients with detailed preparation instructions, which may help people become more comfortable trying new foods and cooking techniques. Plans geared toward weight loss provide microwavable meals and pre-packaged snacks so people don’t have think about portion size or count calories. (Locked) More »

What happens if my stent stops working?

Complications with stents—the tiny wire-mesh tubes used to prop open blocked arteries—are less common than in the past. When problems occur, possible treatments include medications, re-stenting, or bypass surgery. (Locked) More »