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Your Stressed Out Heart

All of us experience stress—such as before a test, when we are late or working under a deadline, or in traffic. Stress is a way for your body to adapt to changes in the environment. Although some stress is considered usual, research shows that prolonged stress or chronic stress can negatively impact your heart.

How does stress affect the heart? When we are under stress, our body responds by releasing a cascade of stress hormones and other chemicals that help the body prepare for the “fight or flight” response. Some of the most notable changes are an increased heart rate and breathing rate. Both of these responses increase blood flow to your tissues and make you more alert. Read more

Liver Disease and Heart Disease: It’s A Two-Way Street

fatty liver diseaseNonalchoholic fatty liver disease is a risk factor for the development of heart disease, and vice versa.

This is the conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Hepatology that investigated the link between nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a chronic liver disease that occurs in people who do not drink alcohol. The disease is characterized by the storage of large amounts of fat in liver cells, which do not allow liver cells to function properly. A similar type of liver disease is seen in people who drink alcohol. Read more

How Alzheimer’s Disease Affects the Heart

Alzheimer's disease heart diseaseAlzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, characterized by difficulty with memory, thinking, and behavior that gets progressively worse over time. Researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a build-up of amyloid beta proteins in the spaces between brain cells. Although the brain is where symptoms of the disease are first noticed, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than just the brain—it is a systemic disease that can affect the heart too. Read more

Where in the Body are the Carotid Arteries?

disease in the carotid arteriesCarotid arteries are the arteries that supply the brain with oxygen and nutrients. There are two carotid arteries, one on either side of your neck that provide blood to the brain, neck and face.

Carotid arteries can become clogged and blocked with plaque, just like other arteries in your body. However, if blood flow through the carotid arteries is limited, the brain may not receive sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients and there is a higher chance of stroke.

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Why People With Depression Have a Higher Risk of Heart Disease

depression and heart diseasePeople with depression have an increased risk of stroke and dying from heart disease.

This is the conclusion of a recent study that investigated the association between depression and heart disease. The study began with 22,666 participants without heart disease. Each participant was evaluated for depression by completing a depression screening questionnaire. The average age of participants at the beginning of the study (baseline) was about 63years.

The researchers gathered information on risk factors for heart disease that included high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Participants were interviewed at the beginning of the study and 5 and 7 years later. Cardiovascular events included heart attack, stroke, and heart disease-related death. Read more

How Low Blood Pressure Contributes to Coronary Heart Disease

low blood pressure and heart diseaseBlood pressure measures the force or pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

Normal blood pressure for an adult is considered to be 120/80. The first number, 120, represents systolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure measures the force with which the heart pumps blood around the body. The second number, 80, represents diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats, when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. A diastolic blood pressure below 60 is considered to be low.

Maintaining normal diastolic blood pressure is important for heart health. This is the conclusion of research studying the effects of low diastolic blood pressure on heart disease. The study followed 11,565 American adults about every 5 years for 21 years. The average age of participants at the beginning of the study was 57 years. Blood pressure and levels of blood troponin, a marker of heart damage, were measured at each visit. Read more

Know the Signs of Stroke and How to Protect Your Heart

signs of a strokeMs. Hernandez was nervous and stressed because she had an important presentation at work. In the middle of her presentation she stopped talking, stared at her coworkers, lost her balance, and the right side of her face drooped. One of her coworkers recognized the symptoms of stroke and called 911. An ambulance came and took Ms. Hernandez to the emergency room.

One of her coworkers called her husband, who met her in the emergency room. In the emergency room, the doctors confirmed that Ms. Hernandez had had a stroke, which occurs more often in women. Ms. Hernandez and her husband want to learn more about stroke and what they can do to prevent future strokes. Read more

How Important Are Heart Valves?

how heart valves workMr. Blum, a 78-year-old man with a history of heart disease couldn’t walk very far without feeling short of breath. He scheduled an appointment with his cardiologist. His cardiologist checked his heart function, in particular his aortic valve, which had been replaced before. The cardiologist thought Mr. Blum might be having symptoms indicating his heart may not be functioning properly.

The heart is important because it pumps blood around your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells and removing waste products. The heart has four chambers: two upper chambers called the right and left atria (singular: atrium) and two lower chambers called the right and left ventricles. There are valves between the atria and ventricles that make sure blood flows in one direction through your heart. Read more

Eating Less Sugar Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

less sugar reduces risk of heart diseaseEat less sugar. That’s the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Atherosclerosis that investigated the effects of sugar consumption on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cholesterol and triglycerides are markers of heart disease, which is the number one killer of Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Cholesterol and triglycerides are fats made by your body and ingested in the food you eat. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Your body needs both types of cholesterol along with triglycerides to function properly. However, the amounts of these substances in your body need to be balanced. The desired balance of cholesterol and triglyceride levels for adults is: LDL less than 100 mg/dl, high levels of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides below 250 mg/dl. When triglyceride and cholesterol levels are out of balance, your risk of heart disease is increased. Read more

Gut-Heart Connection

gut heart connectionThere are many microorganisms or microbiota living in our gastrointestinal tract. These microbiota help with digestion, and interact with each other to influence our immune system and our health, including our cardiovascular system. The types of microorganisms that inhabit your gut may be determined by the food you eat. People who eat a diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables tend to have more intestinal bacteria than people whose diets include more red meat, sugars and refined carbohydrates.

Why does this matter? Current research indicates gut microbiota may be able to influence the cardiovascular system by reducing inflammation and metabolizing specific chemicals that reduce the formation of plaque as well as the amount of cholesterol and other fats in the bloodstream. All of these processes may be interrelated. For example, the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels may cause an inflammatory response, which may increase your risk of narrowed arteries. By reducing inflammation as well as specific chemicals that form plaque, and lower cholesterol and fat levels in your body, you decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. Read more