Heart Attack Archive

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The mental side of cardiac rehab

If you have experienced a heart attack or undergone a heart procedure, don't neglect your mental health during recovery.

Recovery from a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty, or heart surgery — what doctors call heart events — can be stressful. Depending on your condition, it may also involve cardiac rehabilitation. This medically supervised program focuses on exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes. While the primary focus is to help you physically, you also need to address your mental and emotional health.

"It's normal to have some anxiety and stress after a heart attack or heart surgery," says Dr. Christopher Celano, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "But how long these feelings linger, and whether they are also associated with symptoms of depression, can affect your rehab recovery success and potentially increase your risk of future problems."

How does sleep apnea affect the heart?

 

Ask the doctor

Q. My husband is reluctant to get tested for sleep apnea. But I'm pretty sure that he has it, and I'm concerned because I've heard that it can contribute to heart disease. How are these two conditions connected?

A. As you likely know already, people with sleep apnea may snore loudly and may also periodically gasp for breath throughout the night. These explosive snorts often wake up bed partners or roommates — although not necessarily the person with apnea.

How serious is bundle branch block?

Ask the doctor

Q. A recent electrocardiogram showed that I have a right bundle branch block. My doctor says it's fairly common and nothing to worry about, but I'm a bit concerned. What is it, exactly? And what specifically can cause this problem?

A. Bundle branch block refers to a small glitch in the heart's electrical conduction system. The term "bundle" refers to a collection of nerve fibers that receive the "contract now" signal from the atrioventricular node and relay it to the ventricles, the heart's lower chambers (see illustration).

11 foods that can help lower your cholesterol

People with elevated LDL cholesterol values may be able to reduce their LDL levels by eating more foods that are rich in fiber and lower in saturated fats. High-fiber foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Saturated fats are found mainly in meat, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products such as butter, half and half, and ice cream.

How stress can harm your heart

Stressful experiences are hard to avoid and impossible to predict. But taking steps to bolster your resilience may help.

The palpable stress stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has made things once considered stressful — such as deadlines or traffic jams — seem pretty trivial in comparison. But while you may not be able to avoid the stressful situations that come your way, there are ways to mitigate your body's response to those events.

So far, the evidence that stress management strategies can protect your heart is limited but growing. Yet there's no doubt that stress contributes to heart problems. "The link between stress and cardiovascular disease is well established," says cardiologist Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Is your home blood pressure monitor accurate?

Research we're watching

Most home blood pressure monitors sold in Australia are not carefully tested for accuracy, according to a study published online April 10, 2020, by the journal Hypertension.

Because more than 90% of the devices the researchers studied were purchased from international online platforms such as Amazon and eBay, that means many devices purchased in the United States and elsewhere might give inaccurate readings, the authors say.

Yoga-based cardiac rehabilitation: A promising practice?

Research we're watching

A yoga-based rehabilitation program may be a safe alternative to conventional cardiac rehab, a new study suggests. A customized program of exercise and education, conventional rehab helps people recover from heart-related problems.

The study included nearly 4,000 heart attack survivors in India, where cardiac rehab programs are uncommon. Half took part in a program featuring 13 weekly sessions of gentle yoga exercises. The other half received standard care, which included three sessions of advice and handouts.

The questions about fish oil supplements

Some research says taking a daily fish oil supplement can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while other studies say the evidence remains thin. While fish oil is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids (essential nutrients that the body cannot make on its own),  taking an over-the-counter fish oil supplement probably provides no extra heart benefit beyond a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of omega-3-rich fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.

Two clot-prevention drugs for people with heart disease and diabetes?

Research we're watching

People with clogged arteries in their hearts (coronary artery disease) or legs (peripheral artery disease) face a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, particularly if they also have diabetes. For such people, a combination of clot-preventing drugs lowers the risk of those dangerous outcomes, according to a study published online March 28 by the journal Circulation.

The study included just over 18,300 people with coronary or peripheral artery disease; about 38% also had diabetes. They all took low-dose aspirin daily, but half also took 2.5 milligrams of rivaroxaban (Xarelto) twice daily while the others took a placebo. Like aspirin, rivaroxaban helps discourage blood clots, but through a different mechanism.

The facts about testosterone and sex

Can boosting testosterone levels improve your sex life?

The hormone testosterone plays a big part in men's health, but perhaps its most meaningful role is to fuel sex drive and performance.

Testosterone levels tend to decrease with age. They peak by early adulthood and then can drop by up to 1% per year beginning around age 40. Sometimes an abrupt fall occurs because of an injury or illness (such as an infection), chemotherapy or radiation treatment, or certain medications.

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