Heart Attack Archive


How a sleep shortfall can stress your heart

Getting less than six hours of sleep on a regular basis can boost levels of stress hormones, which can strain your cardiovascular system.

Find out if your sleeping habits put you at risk—and what to do about it.

More people are using aspirin therapy

Daily aspirin use has increased among U.S. adults, according to a survey published May 2015 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The survey asked more than 2,500 people ages 45 to 75 about their current aspirin use. The overall use was 52%, up from 41% in a similar survey in 2004. The most common reasons for taking daily aspirin were prevention of heart attack and stroke. Eighteen percent of aspirin users cited cancer prevention as their reason for taking aspirin. And while most users said they'd talked to their doctor before starting aspirin therapy, 25% of the respondents had not. That finding is troubling, since aspirin is a blood thinner. "Aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding in the brain or elsewhere in the body. This risk might be justified if there is a good reason for aspirin use, but might be entirely unjustifiable if not. That is why I always recommend discussing any medication or supplement use with one's primary care provider," says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. 

Image: Thinkstock

Cardiac arrest during sports is rare, and there may be warning signals

Reports that someone thought to be "perfectly healthy" collapsed while playing sports may instill fear in middle-aged men who want to stay physically active. However, a study in Circulation found that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) during sports activities is uncommon and is often preceded by possible symptoms of heart problems.

Researchers have tracked cases of SCA in Oregon since 2002 in adults ages 35 to 65. As of 2013, only 63 of the 1,247 SCAs they found, or 5%, happened either during or within one hour of engaging in activities such as jogging, bicycling, basketball, golf, or tennis. It occurred more often in men, although it's possible this was because the men were more likely to engage in sports than women.

High-tech heart scans: Who might need one?

CT angiography is one of several tests doctors can use to assess your heart's arteries.

For more than half a century, cardiologists have relied on a procedure known as invasive coronary angiography, a test that can reveal dangerous narrowings in the arteries that supply the heart. The test uses a special dye that shows up on x-rays, which is delivered to the heart through a thin tube (catheter) that's snaked through a blood vessel in the leg or arm. As a result, rare but sometime serious complications can occur, including bleeding at the insertion site or damage to the artery.

Divorce linked to higher risk of heart attack

Divorce—especially for women—appears to boost the odds of having a heart attack, a new study finds.

The study, in the April 14, 2015, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, included nearly 16,000 adults ages 45 to 80 who had been married at least once. By the end of the 18-year study, more than a third had gone through at least one divorce. Heart attacks were 24% more common in once-divorced women and 77% higher in those divorced at least twice.

Lowering blood pressure: How low should you go?

Blood pressure that is
neither too low nor too high nets better health.

Image: Thinkstock

The dangers of hypertension are well documented, but low blood pressure levels can cause problems, too.

People with high blood pressure need this B vitamin

It appears that people with high blood pressure who take folate along with the blood pressure medicine enalapril (Vasotec) may be less likely to have a stroke than people who take enalapril alone.

Ask the doctor: Did I have a heart attack?

Q. The other night I woke up at about 2 a.m., and my heart was pumping hard and my lower jaw ached. It lasted about an hour, even though I took aspirin. Then I fell asleep. In the morning everything was fine. Was that a heart attack?

A. If you were my patient and you called my office and told me this, I would tell you to come right in and let me check you out. Probably it was not a heart attack, but the chance that it might have been is high enough that you need to be examined and tested. I hope that's what you did. If you didn't then, you should check with your doctor now.

Ask the doctor: High-elevation hiking with heart attack history?

Acclimate before hiking at high elevations.

Q. I had a mild heart attack a few years ago but am now feeling fine. I'm planning a trip to Colorado. Is it safe for me to hike at high elevations?

A. If you're feeling well and don't have any cardiovascular symptoms, hiking in the Rocky Mountains should probably be fine, though you should check with your cardiologist first. Doctors used to advise people with cardiovascular conditions—even just high blood pressure—not to spend time at high altitudes. But there wasn't much evidence behind that recommendation. Now, there's a general consensus that ascending up to 12,000 feet should be fine for most people with heart disease. Exceptions include people with unstable cardiac disease, heart failure, or severe lung disease, such as pulmonary hypertension.

One in 10 men may be taking aspirin unnecessarily

Many men consider taking a daily low-dose aspirin to reduce the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. You should do so only if the chance of being helped outweighs the chance of triggering unwanted bleeding, since aspirin interferes with normal clotting. But about one in 10 men who take protective aspirin may not really qualify, according to a national study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Experts recommend that aspirin might be considered in someone whose chance of experiencing a cardiovascular problem is at least 6% in the next 10 years. At that tipping point, the chance of being helped is great enough to justify the risk of unwanted bleeding.

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