It’s Never Too Soon to Take Care of Your Heart

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 5, 2014

David is getting his heart health back on track.

You’ve probably heard this statistic before – heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Yet many of us may not pay attention to this statistic, believing a healthy diet and plenty of exercise are adequate protection from heart disease. However, paying attention to your risk factors also is key in preventing heart disease.

David Wang was in his forties, a healthy eater, and a regular at the gym. David also had high cholesterol, a fact which, unaddressed, led to serious consequences. During a business trip, David started experiencing sweaty palms, numb fingertips, and shortness of breath – classic heart attack symptoms. With no family history of heart disease, he thought he was having an allergic reaction. But colleagues brought him to an emergency room, where a physician confirmed he was having a heart attack.

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Aspirin and Your Health: Past, Present and Future

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 30, 2014

Aspirin, used for centuries as a pain reliever, has only been recognized as having benefits for the heart in the past several decades. In the following video, Dr. JoAnn Manson, Chief, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Division of Preventive Medicine; Co-Director, Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology; and Co-investigator, Nurses’ Health Study, Physicians’ Health Study, and Women’s Health Study, describes the discovery by BWH researchers that aspirin could prevent first heart attacks, saving lives worldwide.

Heart Attack Prevention in Men

Due to aspirin’s ability to thin the blood and prevent platelets from clumping, clinical researchers concluded, in the late 1970s, that aspirin could help prevent heart attacks in people who had suffered them previously. Several randomized trials demonstrated this benefit in high-risk individuals.

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Get a Leg Up on Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 9, 2014

Chances are you know someone who has been affected by heart disease, America’s leading cause of death in both men and women. More than 1,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur each day in the United States, and nine out of 10 occur at home. Unfortunately, only one in three people survive sudden cardiac arrest.

Derek Daly beat the odds. In August 2009, Derek suffered cardiac arrest at home. Fortunately, his wife was able to immediately start CPR and, with the help of his family and first responders, he survived. Derek was brought to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) for treatment.

While visiting BWH during his recovery and rehabilitation, Derek heard about ClimbCorps. Founded at BWH, ClimbCorps is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and improving individual health by transforming the stairwells of Boston’s tallest office buildings into fitness venues.

As someone who was always active, Derek wanted to get back to the activities he loved as quickly as possible. He decided to participate in ClimbCorps’ January 2013 event called ClimbAmerica!, which raises funds and awareness for heart disease prevention. Along with 1,600 other participants, he successfully reached the top of Boston’s Prudential Building in support of this important cause.

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Morning Heart Attacks: Blame It on Your Body Clock

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 4, 2013

Have you ever wondered why most heart attacks occur in the morning?

Have you ever wondered why most heart attacks occur in the morning? According to recent research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Oregon Health & Science University, it turns out that your body clock may play a contributing role.

“Our findings suggest that the circadian system, the internal body clock, may contribute to the increased risk for cardiovascular events in the morning,” says study author Frank A.J.L. Scheer, PhD, MSc, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at BWH.

Your circadian system regulates and coordinates many of your body’s functions, including metabolism. It tells your body when you should sleep and when you should eat. In this particular study, the researchers found that the body clock drives day/night variations in the quantity of a protein known to be a risk factor for heart attacks and ischemic strokes. The protein is called plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1). It inhibits the breakdown of blood clots and, thus, is a major risk factor for blood clotting.

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Improving America’s Heart Health, One Step at a Time

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 26, 2013

The BWH ClimbCorps team is dedicated to fighting heart disease.

Last fall, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) launched an innovative program called ClimbCorps to improve America’s health and prevent heart disease. The goal of ClimbCorps, the nation’s first service corps dedicated to fighting heart disease and improving America’s health, is to train aspiring public health leaders to educate, engage, and empower others in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

Through organized stair climbs, educational workshops, and fundraisers , ClimbCorps members are raising awareness about heart disease and improving America’s health, one step at time. In its first year alone, ClimbCorps has transformed the stairwells in Boston’s largest office buildings into fitness venues, with participants climbing over eight million steps. In addition to educating thousands of people on heart disease prevention, ClimbCorps also has hosted two Climbathon fundraising events , which brought together more than 1,800 climbers and volunteers to raise more than $120,000 for heart disease prevention.

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Management of Atrial Fibrillation

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 24, 2013

Catheter ablation involves guiding a small tube through the veins and into the heart, where electrodes are used to eliminate the heart cells causing arrhythmia.

Atrial fibrillation describes an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) wiggle ineffectively without pumping properly, and with chaotic rather than orderly contraction.

Often, but not always, people with atrial fibrillation experience a rapid, irregular heartbeat that can be bothersome or even frightening, and also can sometimes cause low blood pressure, low heart output, and faintness or fatigue. Left unchecked, prolonged rapid heart beating can lead to formations of blood clots in the atria that can travel to the brain causing a stroke. A prolonged, uncontrolled heart rate can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in heart failure.

Dr. Peter Libby, Chief of the Division Cardiovascular Medicine, and Dr. Laurence M. Epstein, Chief of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offer insight into management of atrial fibrillation.

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The Sour Side of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 12, 2013

Sugar-sweetened beverages can have a sour impact on your health.

Today’s post is written by Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Director of Nutrition. The post originally appeared in the newsletter, published by the Osher Clinical Center for Integrative Medicine.

The next time you reach for a nice cold soda or juice, consider this – each 12 ounce can of a sugar-sweetened drink or juice contains 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar, amounting to 150 to 175 calories. Though it doesn’t sound like much, it will take about 20 minutes of casual biking, walking, or yoga just to burn these extra calories!

Obesity is a growing problem in the US (no pun intended), and there are many contributors to the crisis. One is the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), as well as the increase in beverage portion sizes. These two factors have led to a greater percentage of calories consumed each day via beverages.

Sugar-sweetened beverages currently account for about 10 percent of total calories consumed in the US diet. Today, 63 percent of adults and 80 percent of youth consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day. Americans consume about 250 to 300 more daily calories today compared to the seventies, and about half of this increase is due to the greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

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What’s the Big Deal about Salt?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 28, 2013

Excess sodium intake not only increases blood pressure, but also increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Today’s post is written by Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Director, Department of Nutrition and Nutrition Director, Program for Weight Management. The post originally appeared in the Healthy 850 Newsletter, published by the Osher Clinical Center for Integrative Medicine.

Some consumers believe that dietary salt (sodium) is only a concern if they have high blood pressure; not true. Excess sodium intake not only increases blood pressure, but also increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in the US. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that 97 percent of children and adolescents eat too much salt, putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease as they age.

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A New Heart – It’s Worth the Trip

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2013

Heart transplant recipient Kelly Belanger is thankful to be healthy and active again. (Photo by Blake Belanger)

People will travel great distances for a wide variety of things – to see a loved one, to get a deal on a car, even for a special meal. For Kelly Belanger of Sutton, Vermont, traveling 200 miles to connect with the right heart specialist was well worth the trip. Getting a new heart was even better.

Being active always has been important to Kelly, now 48 years old. Even as her health slowly degraded over the years, she still headed out for hikes, swims, and other outdoor adventures. But eventually her physical abilities no longer matched her desire.

After being diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat), Kelly was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to regulate her heart’s rhythm. The device helped save her life several times, but her health continued to decline.

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Clinical Research: What You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 30, 2013

A great deal of clinical research takes place at our Watkins Cardiovascular Clinic.

Do you ever wonder why most doctors now recommend aspirin for heart attack prevention? The answer is more straightforward than you think: clinical research.

Clinical research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital revealed the effectiveness of aspirin as a first-line defense against heart attack in people who are at risk. Once broadly proven, the treatment was adopted and has helped thousands avoid the devastating effects of heart attack.

BWH is an international leader in cardiovascular research. With over 150 cardiovascular clinical research studies being conducted at any one time, there are opportunities for patients to participate in studies that may change cardiovascular care for millions. Before making a decision on whether to participate in clinical research, it’s important to understand what’s involved.

Clinical research involves studies led by doctors and researchers who are trying to answer specific scientific questions with the goal of finding better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat diseases, and improve health care. Trials also are conducted to collect information on the safety and effectiveness of various treatments.

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