Heart Health

Diet, disease, and the microbiome

A healthy microbiome — the genes of tiny organisms living in the digestive tract — helps protect its human host from chronic diseases. Researchers do not yet fully understand the connection, but it appears that eating unprocessed plant-based foods allows the gut microbiome to thrive.

Omega-3 fatty acids and the heart: New evidence, more questions

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil have been recommended by the American Heart Association for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular events in people who already have cardiovascular disease. But the results of studies of omega-3 supplements have been mixed, leaving both doctors and patients still wondering what to do.

Lowering cholesterol protects your heart and brain, regardless of your age

Studies have consistently shown that lowering LDL cholesterol reduces the risk of cardiovascular events and death. But do older adults — even those with existing cardiovascular disease — get the same benefits from lowering cholesterol, and do they face any additional risks from taking cholesterol-lowering medication? An analysis of data from previous studies reached some favorable conclusions.

Does your health monitor have device bias?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The accuracy of health monitoring devices available to consumers varies, and in some instances skin tone may make a difference –– a problem called device bias. Yet proper function of such devices can have significant implications for the health of those using them.

Flowers, chocolates, organ donation — are you in?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

February 14th is more than Valentine’s Day –– it’s also National Donor Day, when health organizations sponsor sign-ups for organ and tissue donation. For those in need, such a donation can be life-changing — or lifesaving. If you wonder what can be donated or how, read on.

How does sleep affect your heart rate?

During waking hours you may feel your heart rate fluctuating, and activity or intense emotions can cause it to spike. But what happens to your heart rate when you sleep? It varies then too, depending on the phase of sleep you are in.

Are early detection and treatment always best?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The culture of American medicine has long believed and supported the idea that more early detection and treatment is best. But some testing is costly, invasive and carries needless risks, and some conditions go away on their own. Early detection and treatment can be lifesaving — just not for every health issue.

Exercise matters to health and well-being, regardless of your size

Regardless of your size or fitness level, exercise has multiple benefits. Almost anything that gets you moving counts, and some activity is always better than none. These suggestions can help you make exercise work for you.

3 simple steps to jump-start your heart health this year

Several habits can improve your heart health (and, as a side effect, may make you less vulnerable to infections like the flu or COVID-19). Focusing on a few of these is an excellent way to take care of your heart — and boost your overall health in the process.

COVID-19 and the heart: What have we learned?

Death rates from COVID-19 have dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic, but people with cardiovascular disease are at much higher risk of having a severe form of it. It’s now clearer why this is so, and how the virus can cause heart damage.