Health Conditions / Cardiovascular Health / Heart Disease

Al Roker Hospitalized for Multiple Blood Clots Amid ‘Today’ Absence

Al Roker Hospitalized for Multiple Blood Clots Amid ‘Today’ Absence

Today show weatherman Al Roker shared an update on his health with his Instagram followers Friday morning. He posted a picture of a bouquet of flowers and wrote, “So many of you have been thoughtfully asking where I’ve been. Last week I was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot in my leg, which sent some clots to my lungs.”Roker, 68, hasn’t appeared on the Today show in two weeks, People reports. He explained on Instagram that it took his care team some time to figure out exactly what was going on: “After some medical whack-a-mole, I am so fortunate to be getting terrific medical care and on the way to recovery,” he wrote.Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Roker has a history of being vocal about his health: In 2020, he shared he’d been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, for which he underwent surgery. Earlier this year, he also talked about the 20th anniversary of his gastric bypass surgery on Instagram, writing: “I have setbacks and struggle every day, but I never forget how far I’ve come.” So, it’s not surprising that he decided to be transparent about his absence from the show.When a blood clot breaks loose and creates a sudden blockage in the lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism (PE), according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). This often happens the way Roker said it did for him: A clot that originally formed in another part of the body, usually in the leg, travels to the lungs through the bloodstream.A PE can damage the lungs or other organs and can be life-threatening, particularly if multiple clots travel to the lungs or if the clot is especially large. While a PE can happen to anyone, certain people face a higher risk, including those who have been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, as well as people who recently had surgery. A broken hip or leg bone—or other injury or physical trauma—can also boost your risk of a PE, as can not moving for a long period of time (say, during a really long flight), pregnancy and childbirth, being older than 40, or having a higher weight, per the NLM.Many people who develop a pulmonary embolism don’t have symptoms, but it’s possible to experience shortness of breath and chest pain or cough up blood. If you notice these symptoms and they’re not typical for you, you should see a doctor as soon as you can since a pulmonary embolism needs to be treated quickly. Depending on the severity of the clot and your health history, you may need a combination of medications or procedures to break up the clot and hopefully stop new ones from forming. Roker thanked his followers for their support on Instagram, but didn’t say when Today fans can expect him back on the show, writing: “Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers and hope to see you soon.”Related:

I Thought Pneumonia Was Causing My Strange Symptoms. Turns Out I Had Heart Failure.

I Thought Pneumonia Was Causing My Strange Symptoms. Turns Out I Had Heart Failure.

Glenda Sexauer, 59, was diagnosed with heart failure when she was 46. But, it took nearly a year—all while her heart health was steadily declining—for doctors to realize what was wrong.She had several symptoms, including relentless fatigue, bloating, nausea, and weight gain she couldn’t explain. Initially, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and pneumonia before her doctor referred her to a cardiologist. She was hospitalized for several weeks and had a pacemaker and defibrillator placed in her chest. Her road to recovery took several years—she still takes multiple medications each day and relies on her pacemaker—but she credits her active lifestyle for getting her through it all.Heart failure affects about 3.6 million women in the United States—but there is a huge disparity in research between men and women with heart failure. Nearly 50% of people admitted to the hospital with heart failure are women,1 yet only 25% of women are involved in heart failure studies.2After her experience, Sexauer became a community educator with WomenHeart, a nonprofit organization that educates women with heart disease about the signs of heart failure. Here’s her story, as told to writer Erica Sweeney.—I’ve always been active. I exercised regularly, ran marathons, and once did a two-day, 150-mile bike ride. But, when I was 46, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore. I had gained some weight and was tired all the time. I slept a lot and felt bloated. I just knew something wasn’t right. I went to my gynecologist first, thinking my symptoms could be pointing to menopause, but my hormone testing ruled that out. Then, I researched my symptoms online and thought it might be my thyroid acting up. My doctor diagnosed me with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition that can cause symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and muscle weakness. I thought, “OK, that’s what it is.”I continued feeling tired all the time, though, despite taking medication for Hashimoto’s. I had a lot going on in my life then, too. My son had just gone away to college and my mother-in-law was living with us. I was working as a vice president of a financial services company. My mom was also really sick; she had Alzheimer’s and was nearing the final phase of her life. So, I thought maybe I was just experiencing anxiety.Then, I started feeling a funny sensation in my chest when lying down. It was kind of like I could hear my heart gurgle. A couple of nights I had to sit up to sleep. After my mother passed away, something else gave me pause. I was at her funeral when I coughed up some stuff that didn’t look right. I saw my primary care doctor and told him I thought I had pneumonia. He confirmed I had a little bit of fluid in my lungs and prescribed medication. I never had a fever, which, looking back now, was a big hint that I didn’t have pneumonia. No one ever thought I had heart disease.Then, I finally got a heart failure diagnosis.To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband and I planned a trip to Hawaii. We decided to go, even though I wasn’t feeling great. I couldn’t eat much and felt nauseated. When we got there, I slept so much. I had to sit and rest after walking up just two steps. We had all these activities planned and had to keep canceling because I just couldn’t do them—and that’s not like me. On the day we came home, I put all of my symptoms into a health checker online and it suggested I had a heart problem. At the time, we laughed because I was really pretty healthy.

Here’s Why Black People Are Disproportionately Impacted by Heart Failure

Here’s Why Black People Are Disproportionately Impacted by Heart Failure

Because of this, race itself isn’t the end all be all when it comes to heart failure risk. It is in no way as simple as “heart failure is passed on genetically in certain groups,” says Dr. Morris. Here’s why: Since some genetic mutations that are linked to heart failure—such as transthyretin amyloidosis, which can cause a buildup of proteins in the body that can lead to heart failure—are most commonly found in people of African ancestry, it follows that this mutation may be more prevalent in people who self-identify as Black, she explains. But there are many other complex factors at play, including generations of social dynamics, like racism and segregation. “As an African American, I am more likely to have inherited certain traits,” Dr. Morris explains, but that is, in part, because society “kept races apart from each other—intentionally.”There are also “traditional” risk factors to consider.“Traditional” risk factors refer to the more common things we know contribute to the risk of heart failure, thanks to evidence gathered in research, says Dr. Khan. For example, we know that high blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart failure—your heart has to work harder if your blood pressure is high, which can stiffen it or weaken it over time, according to the Mayo Clinic. And about 55% of Black Americans have high blood pressure, per the American Heart Association (AHA).Other conditions and risk factors that fall into this category include having type 2 diabetes; carrying extra weight; not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and being sedentary. These factors can help your doctor evaluate whether you’re at an increased risk of heart failure, Dr. Khan says. And nearly all of them also disproportionately affect communities of color, per the AHA.Of course, there isn’t a simple explanation as to why high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, for example, are so prevalent in Black communities. “It’s very hard to separate the reasons out because they are very interconnected,” says Dr. Khan. Again, some of it may come down to genetics. Additionally, these so-called traditional risk factors are prevalent in communities of color because of societal factors.Social determinants of health are a big deal.The term social determinants of health refers to “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks,” per the US Department of Health and Human Services.Social determinants of health include things like someone’s financial stability, their access to and quality of health care, their ability to find nutritious foods and exercise opportunities in their community, as well as the likelihood of facing racism, discrimination, and violence in their everyday life. In a 2022 paper coauthored by Dr. Khan and published in Clinical Cardiology, researchers note that a variety of social determinants of health have been associated with heart failure risk, including things like a lack of quality education, living in a low-income household or community, living in a region with a poor public health infrastructure, and a lack of health insurance, among others.2

Here’s Why It Might Feel Like Your Heart Is Racing Super Fast

Here’s Why It Might Feel Like Your Heart Is Racing Super Fast

Sprinting through the final minutes of your run, the stressful seconds leading up to a big presentation, or watching Stranger Things alone in the dark: These are all times when you might feel like your heart rate won’t go down. But just going about your daily life shouldn’t lead to a racing heartbeat. Typically, your heart is part of a fine-tuned system that keeps the essential organ beating at a certain rhythm. So when the beats unexpectedly speed up, it’s understandable to feel concerned that something more serious might be happening to you.Your heart performs an incredible daily balancing act that’s crucial to keeping you alive and healthy. “The heart beats because of electricity,” Shephal Doshi, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. No, not the type that keeps your lights on, although that would be interesting. Instead, these are electrical impulses from a group of cells in your heart’s right atrium (chamber) that act like your own internal pacemaker. These cells, known as your sinoatrial (SA) node, tell your heart when and how to beat in order to send oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.Sometimes, your body can signal your heart to beat faster, and the SA node responds. Other times, signals start coming from other parts of the heart, causing it to speed up. Whatever the reason, a racing heart rate, or heart palpitations, can make you feel anxious, among other unpleasant symptoms.A racing heart rate has many potential causes, very few of which signal something life-threatening like a heart attack or heart failure. What is important, however, is how your racing heart makes you feel and how often this switch in pace happens. Here are the most common reasons it feels like your heart rate won’t go down—and when you should consider seeing a doctor.What is a “healthy” resting heart rate? | Common causes of a fast heart rate | When to see a doctorFirst, how do experts typically define a “healthy” heart rate?A “normal” or healthy resting heart rate for most adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Between these rates, your heart can pump the oxygen-rich blood it needs to your vital organs. If you’re very physically active—say, you’re an avid runner—you may find your resting heart rate is much lower (sometimes as low as 40 beats per minute). This is because exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, helps your heart work more efficiently, meaning it can squeeze out more blood at a slower rate, per the Mayo Clinic.A resting heart rate that’s consistently higher than 100 beats per minute or lower than 60 beats per minute (if you’re not an athlete) can signal an underlying health issue, according to the Mayo Clinic.Back to topWhat are the most common causes of a fast heart rate?Normally, your body’s systems run on autopilot, thanks to your autonomic nervous system, which regulates all the vital functions you don’t really need to think about. “This includes things like your heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, urination, and various gastrointestinal functions,” Brent Goodman, MD, a board-certified neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, tells SELF.Sometimes, though, certain lifestyle habits, situations, or even health conditions can cause your heart to start beating very rapidly or irregularly. Here are a few common culprits to keep on your radar.1. You’re feeling very stressed.Let’s be real: With everything going on in the world, there’s an extremely good chance you’re stressed right now. When you encounter something stressful, your body releases a surge of norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline, Camille Frazier-Mills, MD, a cardiologist at Duke Electrophysiology Clinic, tells SELF. Receptors in your heart respond to this trigger and can make your heart rate pick up.1If you can’t immediately solve whatever’s making you stressed (which is hard to do on a good day, let alone in the chaotic reality we live in), try deep breathing exercises to at least help you feel better in the moment. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking deep breaths through your nose so that you feel your stomach rise instead of your chest, and exhaling through your nose as well. Focus on your breath and the rise and fall of your abdomen throughout. (If you’re looking for a more detailed exercise to try, check out these relaxing deep breathing videos.)2. You’ve had a lot of caffeine.While most people can handle a certain level of caffeine just fine, overdoing it can make your heart rate speed up. “A bunch of patients come to see me with an elevated heart rate, then they tell me they drink multiple highly caffeinated beverages daily,” Dr. Mills-Frazier says. “They’re revving themselves up.” This is most likely to happen if you’ve had too much caffeine, but it could also happen in response to small amounts if you’re just sensitive to this stimulant.According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s technically safe for adults to have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or around the amount in four or five cups of coffee. If that sounds like a lot to you, it may be, since there is a wide range in how sensitive certain people are to the effects of caffeine and in how fast it gets broken down in the body. Certain medications and health conditions may also make you more sensitive to caffeine, including being pregnant. Try cutting back on caffeine gradually to see if it reduces your racing heart (just don’t try to cut it out cold turkey if you rather not deal with the unpleasant side effects of caffeine withdrawal). If that doesn’t help, get in touch with your doctor.3. You smoke.Smokers (tobacco, cannabis, marijuana, you name it) tend to have higher resting heart rates than those who don’t smoke, according to a 2015 study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. Although doctors don’t exactly know why this happens, an increase in heart rate from smoking could come with other cardiovascular complications, including a heart attack.24. You have cold- or flu-like symptoms, like a fever.If your pounding heart is accompanied by typical cold- or flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, coughing, and sneezing, a viral illness might be the likely culprit. Battling any type of infection requires your body to work harder than usual, and that includes making your heart beat faster in order to fight for homeostasis (its usual stable condition) and kick the infection to the curb, Dr. Mills-Frazier says.

I Was Diagnosed With Heart Failure at 26. Here’s the First Symptom I Experienced.

I Was Diagnosed With Heart Failure at 26. Here’s the First Symptom I Experienced.

Tiara Johnson, 32, was diagnosed with heart failure when she was just 26 years old. At first, her doctors wrote off her symptoms and told her it was nothing to worry about.Those symptoms—high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and fatigue—set in toward the end of her pregnancy. She was put on blood pressure medication and sent home after her daughter was born. When she went back to the hospital with persistent symptoms, she was told they were normal for someone who was postpartum. So Johnson just kept pushing through, hoping things would improve with time.Instead, everything just got worse. After passing out in the parking lot at work and being sent to the ER, she learned the true cause of her symptoms: end-stage congestive heart failure. Here’s her story, as told to health writer Korin Miller.It all started at the end of my pregnancy with my second child. I had a completely normal experience—until the last week. My blood pressure skyrocketed out of nowhere and my fingers became so puffy that I couldn’t wear my wedding ring. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and signs of liver or kidney damage; I was given medication to control hypertension—it didn’t work. A few days later, my doctor decided to induce me, but during labor I felt like something still wasn’t right and I couldn’t catch my breath properly. I expressed my concerns to the medical staff, but I was repeatedly told that everything was fine. So I assumed I was just overreacting, even though I truly felt like something was off.I had my daughter on July 31, 2015. When we went home, I still felt like I couldn’t breathe and it didn’t get better when I laid down or sat up. A few days later, I was in the shower and I felt like I was drowning, so I went back to the hospital. There, I was told I was fine and that this was a normal feeling after you have a baby due to fluid buildup in the body.I felt a little bit better when I went home, but I kept dealing with shortness of breath. I couldn’t lift my baby, I felt exhausted all the time, and I was sleeping a lot. I couldn’t walk for any long periods of time. But, because I was told that this was normal, I just dealt with it.Things changed on October 9, 2015. I passed out in the parking lot where I worked and was sent in an ambulance to a different hospital’s ER. There, I was given a series of tests and finally found out why I had been feeling unwell for the past three months: I had congestive heart failure and it was end-stage, meaning my heart was barely functioning. In fact, it was functioning at just 10% of its normal capacity.

Do You Really Need to Care About Your Daily Sugar Intake?

Do You Really Need to Care About Your Daily Sugar Intake?

The good news is that these sources of added sugar are not the ones that most nutrition experts and health organizations are taking fire at, even though they’ve gotten swept up in the anti-sugar crusade. “There are people who are very health-conscious coming to me worried about the added sugar in tomato sauce or yogurt,” Dr. Tewksbury says. “But that’s not the source of added sugars that major organizations and dietitians are worried about.”What experts are sounding the alarm on is the foods and beverages that offer sugar (and calories) in high concentrations, and not much else. Added sugars in and of themselves are not unhealthy—in fact, they’re the same as naturally occurring sugars in terms of their chemical structure and how the body processes them. It’s the large amounts of added sugar and the nutrition-lacking foods people regularly consume them in that are an issue.“These products that are basically nothing but added sugar in high concentrations and little other nutritional value are the sources of the vast majority of the added sugar individuals consume,” Dr. Tewksbury says. According to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines2, created by both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the top offenders by far are sugary beverages (sodas, fruit drinks that are not 100% fruit juice, sports drinks) and processed sweets (cookies, candies, pastries, ice cream). This absolutely does not mean you can never have these items or should feel guilty about enjoying the hell out of them when you do have them! Sugary foods and drinks can absolutely be part of a healthy lifestyle. Health and nutrition experts are generally most concerned about people consistently bypassing daily sugar intake recommendations in a way that can put their health at risk. What are the daily sugar intake recommendations? The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines advise capping your daily added sugar intake at 10% or less of your total calories. Each gram of sugar equals 4 calories, so if you eat about 2,000 calories a day (we’re using this general number just for math’s sake), the recommendation is to aim for under 200 calories worth of sugar every day, or 50 grams.Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends keeping consumption of “free sugars” (which includes everything that falls under added sugars, plus sugars from 100% fruit juice) at 10% or less of caloric intake. But WHO takes it a step further by saying that reducing intake of free sugars even further, to 5% or less of caloric intake, would offer additional health benefits. No matter the exact number you go by, the general spirit of these recommendations is clearly that “most of us could probably stand to cut back a little bit,” as Dr. Tewksbury puts it.What are the health concerns around added sugar? These numbers may seem arbitrary, so let’s go over why these guidelines exist. Broadly speaking, these recommendations are based on the fact that (a) high added sugar intake over time is associated with negative health outcomes, and (b) most people are eating high amounts of added sugars. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consuming too much added sugar is associated with cardiac and metabolic health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. That said, multiple studies have found that some of the strongest evidence for the relationship between sugar consumption and weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease applies to added sugar that comes from sugar-sweetened beverages only. And according to the Dietary Guidelines, sugar-sweetened drinks account for over 40% of the average American’s added sugar intake. 

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

The majority of us don’t purposefully eat plastic, but that doesn’t mean we’re not consuming it every day. Microplastics, which are tiny plastic fragments, are everywhere—including inside of our bodies, according to mounting research. For the first time, researchers found that 17 out of 22 people had microplastics originating from common products in their blood, according to a May 2021 paper published in the journal Environment International1.“This is the first study to identify plastics that we know are in containers, plastic bottles, clothing, and other products that we use, inside of people,” Andrea De Vizcaya-Ruiz, PhD, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of California Irvine, tells SELF. The two most common types of plastic found in the study were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic water bottles and clothing fibers, and polystyrene, which is found in food packaging, disposable utensils, and straws.In March 2022, researchers published a paper with another original discovery: 11 out of 13 people had microplastics in their lungs, according to the study published in The Science of the Total Environment2. Numerous other studies support that we’re regularly consuming plastic, Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center, tells SELF. “Microplastics have been found in human saliva, scalp hair, and feces, suggesting that we are all likely exposed to these plastic fragments on a regular basis,” she says.Researchers are still exploring what this means for human health, but SELF talked to experts about what we do know.What are microplastics?Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic, less than 5 mm long, that are created in two ways. Primary microplastics3 are manufactured to make things like microfibers4, which are found in synthetic fabrics, or plastic microbeads, which are in some cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are formed after breaking off from larger plastic products like water bottles, car parts, and product packaging.Biodegradable items such as a banana naturally break down until they finally dissolve. But many plastics never decompose completely. They get smaller and smaller over time, but the pieces remain in our environments as pollution for hundreds of years, resulting in secondary microplastics, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says.Ok, but why are microplastics inside our bodies?Microplastics can be found in our water, air, food, and soil, so they’re unavoidable.“When humans consume food, drink water, or breathe air that is contaminated with microplastics, the plastic fragments can enter the body,” Dr. Johnson-Arbor says. Some estimates show that people in the U.S. consume and breathe in between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic fragments each year5, according to Dr. Johnson-Arbor.But how exactly do these plastics get into our blood? After consuming food or water containing microplastics, researchers suspect those tiny particles make their way to the gut, through the intestinal membrane, and into the bloodstream, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says. Something similar may happen when microplastics enter the bloodstream after being inhaled and passing through the membrane of the lungs.How are microplastics affecting human health?Plastic may be ubiquitous now, but it’s only been widely used for the past 70 years or so6, meaning there aren’t a lot of studies examining what types of plastics may affect human health and in what quantities.

Experts No Longer Recommend Preventive Daily Aspirin for Heart Attacks

Experts No Longer Recommend Preventive Daily Aspirin for Heart Attacks

In 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that adults aged 50 to 59 years who were at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) should take daily low-dose (75 to 100 milligrams) aspirin for heart attacks. But a lot can change in six years. On Tuesday, the USPSTF—an independent panel of national experts in disease prevention—issued a major update to the recommendation, saying that they no longer advise people to follow this preventive measure. “The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that aspirin use for the primary prevention of CVD events in adults aged 40 to 59 years who have a 10% or greater 10-year CVD risk has a small net benefit,” a USPSTF statement reads. As for people aged 60 years or older, there was “no net benefit.” This update is the final version of the draft guidelines that the USPSTF released in October, when they first recommended that most people over 40 not take daily aspirin for heart attack prevention. This version contains minor updates to the original draft version, according to a USPSTF press release. The final recommendations grant a “C” letter grade to the recommendation that those aged 40-59 with a 10% risk of developing CVD use preventive daily aspirin, and a “D” letter grade to adults aged 60 or older. The update found that the benefits of daily aspirin use were greater for people who faced a 15-20% risk of CVD, but that decisions should be made “between clinicians and patients” and that “potential benefits and harms” needed to be explored on an individual basis.The USPSTF’s new recommendation came after the panel analyzed data from 14 randomized controlled trials, which showed that sustained use of the drug could “lead to a variety of outcomes,” some of which include major bleeding. As a result, the USPSTF noted that only those who are “not at increased risk for bleeding and are willing to take low-dose aspirin daily are more likely to benefit,” a USPSTF statement reads. The update notes that if you face a higher risk of heart attack, it’s more likely that “the benefits of daily aspirin therapy are greater than the bleeding risks.” However, for people who face a low risk of heart attack, the benefits of taking a daily aspirin “don’t outweigh the risks of bleeding,” the recommendations state. According to the USPSTF, the risk of internal bleeding or hemorrhaging increases with age. As such, these risks should be factored into whether an individual should continue taking aspirin as a preventive measure, and they should discuss it with their doctor.Moreover, the USPSTF notes that the new update may not apply to those who already have heart disease or have had a stroke, the recommendations to take preventive aspirin may not apply. “We want to emphasize that these recommendations are focused on starting aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Anyone who already takes aspirin and has questions about it should speak with their healthcare professional,” said Task Force member John Wong, M.D.CVD is the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for more than a quarter of deaths. The most common kind of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which can result in a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In some circumstances, aspirin has been found to help prevent heart attacks because it can reduce the clotting of vessels that transport blood to the heart.Related:

12 Things That Could Increase Your Heart Failure Risk

12 Things That Could Increase Your Heart Failure Risk

Heart failure is one of those conditions that you rarely (or ever) think about—until it personally affects you. Maybe someone you love was recently diagnosed with heart failure or your doctor warned you about it during a recent physical. Whatever the reason is for it to be on your radar, heart failure sounds pretty scary. You might think it means that your heart suddenly stops working, but heart failure is actually a gradual process in which your heart doesn’t work as efficiently as it should, and it affects roughly 6.2 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s everything you need to know about this condition, including what causes heart failure in the first place.What is heart failure? | What are the risk factors for heart failure? | Who is at risk for heart failure? | What are the heart failure stages?What is heart failure?Your heart is tasked with a big job: pumping oxygen and nutrients to all of your organs. Heart failure happens when your heart muscle can’t keep up with the demands of its role, and the rest of the body starts failing, Tariq Ahmad, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at Yale Medical School and medical director of advanced heart failure at Yale Medicine, tells SELF.Heart failure can involve the left, right, or both sides of a person’s heart. Left-sided heart failure happens when things go wrong in the left ventricle, which is the muscle’s main pumping chamber. There are two types of left-sided heart failure: systolic heart failure, which means the left ventricle can’t push blood out very well, and diastolic heart failure, which is when the heart is stiff so it can’t relax and fill with enough blood in between beats, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). When blood doesn’t pump in and out of the heart effectively enough, “congestion” can happen. (That’s why heart failure is also sometimes called congestive heart failure.)Right-sided heart failure usually occurs as the result of left-sided heart failure. When both sides are affected the condition is called biventricular heart failure. That said, right-sided heart failure can happen on its own if you have a condition that affects the lungs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes lung damage.1As the heart gets weaker, people who have developed heart failure may experience the following symptoms, per the National Library of Medicine (NLM):Swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen: This can happen because poor circulation causes water and other fluids to build up in the body.Wheezing or coughing: Fluid may build up in the lungs when the heart doesn’t contract properly, causing coughing fits.Shortness of breath: You may be huffing and puffing more than usual when doing everyday activities like walking. This can result from fluid build-up in the lungs or from a lack of oxygen-filled blood.General fatigue: Being robbed of oxygen can really deplete your body.2 “It’s like going from an 800-horsepower engine to one with 100 horsepower,” Dr. Ahmad says.Because heart failure can affect different parts of the heart, symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people might not have any symptoms at all. Heart failure happens in stages, so symptoms can change or worsen over time, according to the Cleveland Clinic.Back to topWhat are the main causes and risk factors of heart failure?Heart failure can happen any time the heart is severely strained or damaged. And that can happen in numerous ways:Coronary artery diseaseThis is the most common form of heart disease, and it occurs when cholesterol, which is a type of fat, builds up in the arteries. As cholesterol continues to accumulate, the coronary arteries narrow and start to inhibit blood flow, according to the CDC.DiabetesDiabetes happens when a person’s blood-glucose (or sugar) levels are higher than the recommended range. This occurs when your body doesn’t make enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) or when your body can’t use the hormone efficiently, according to the CDC. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to complications such as high blood pressure and heart disease.High blood pressureMedically known as hypertension, high blood pressure is used to describe the force of blood against artery walls. Hypertension is one of the most common causes of heart failure because it makes the heart work so much harder than it should need to, according to the NLM.Heart attackA heart attack occurs when the heart doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen. “The heart muscle needs oxygen to live,” Dr. Ahmad explains. “If the heart doesn’t get that blood flow, the muscle will die and it won’t be able to come back.” After a heart attack, some people’s hearts may be working at a reduced capacity, which can lead to heart failure.Congenital heart defects (CHD)Sometimes, a person’s heart doesn’t develop properly before birth, resulting in a congenital heart defect, according to the CDC. There are numerous types of CHD, and some may be minor, while others can negatively affect blood flow.InfectionsThe immune system fends off viruses by triggering inflammation throughout the body. In rare cases, that inflammation can damage the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is called myocarditis, and it most often leads to left-sided heart failure.Infection can also affect the heart more directly. For example, bacterial infections may cause germs to stick to and ultimately damage the heart valve, which is known as endocarditis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Generally, this happens when people already have heart damage.Heart valve diseaseSometimes, the heart valves have a hard time opening and closing. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as being born with a heart defect or getting a severe infection like the flu, which can lead to heart inflammation.ArrhythmiasAbnormal heart rhythms, medically known as arrhythmias, simply mean the heart beats very quickly or slowly at rest. According to the Mayo Clinic, a fast resting heart rate is defined as greater than 100 beats per minute, while a slow resting heart rate is below 60 beats per minute. Everyone experiences a fast or slow heart rate at some point. For example, heart rate generally declines during sleep. But sudden consistent changes in heart rate can indicate an underlying issue, like diabetes or coronary artery disease, which can potentially cause arrhythmias.Sleep apneaSleep apnea (when you stop breathing periodically throughout the night) deprives the body of oxygen, which can eventually lead to heart failure, according to the NHLBI. There are three types of sleep apnea, and they can all contribute to developing high blood pressure and structural heart changes due to oxygen deprivation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Sleep apnea can often cause right-sided heart failure, but it can worsen left-sided heart failure as well.Metabolic SyndromeMetabolic syndrome refers to several conditions, including high blood pressure, excess body fat around your stomach, elevated blood sugar, high triglycerides (a fat found in the blood), and low HDL cholesterol levels. Together, these issues can increase your risk of developing medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, according to the NHLBI.Peripartum cardiomyopathyAlso known as postpartum cardiomyopathy, this is a rare form of heart failure that can impact people who are pregnant during their last month of pregnancy and up to several months after giving birth, according to the American Heart Association. The heart chambers get bigger and the heart gets weaker, decreasing blood flow and oxygen to other organs. People with elevated blood pressure, Black people, and people who are medically considered overweight have a higher risk of developing this form of heart failure.MedicationsCertain medications can potentially damage the heart muscle, Sanjiv J. Shah, MD, director of the Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, can cause water retention, which interferes with blood flow, increasing your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Even certain meds to treat high blood pressure can actually increase the risk of heart failure, as can some chemotherapy drugs. Talk to your doctor to understand the risks versus the benefits of taking these medications.

25 Healthy High-Fat Foods to Keep You Full and Satisfied

25 Healthy High-Fat Foods to Keep You Full and Satisfied

Healthy high-fat foods are a wonderful way to incorporate more flavor, satisfaction, and nutrition into every snack and meal. Along with making food taste richer and more tasty, of course, this macronutrient rocks for a few reasons. So before getting into a lengthy, mouthwatering list of fantastic high-fat foods to incorporate into your diet (many of which you probably already have in your pantry or fridge), let’s touch on the benefits of fat and the different types. The important of giving fat a place in our diets may seem like common nutrition knowledge today. But before the days of the keto diet, high-carb low-fat foods and high-protein low-fat foods were widely considered better for you than any high-fat foods. The truth is that health-wise, fats play a vital role in numerous body functions, like cell growth and turnover, brain growth and development, and digestion, as SELF has reported. Fats are also responsible for keeping us full and satisfied for longer periods of time. Plus, a lot of good fat sources are also naturally rich in other essential nutrients, like fiber, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals. What do people mean when they talk about healthy high-fat foods, though, as opposed to unhealthy ones? First of all, it can be dicey to divide foods into discrete categories of “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Our tendency to label foods this way is a practice supported by diet culture as much as (or more than) science, and generally speaking, all foods can have a place in a varied, balanced diet. Also, like many topics in nutrition, the research into the effects of the various types of fats on our health is evolving, and sometimes a source of disagreement among experts. That said, people generally use the term healthy fats as a simple way to refer to the unsaturated fats that we know are great for us, and unhealthy fats to refer to the saturated fats you may want to moderate. Here’s a brief rundown of saturated vs. unsaturated fats. (And if you want a more in-depth primer on the topic—along with answers to questions like how many grams of fat per day is ideal—check this piece out.)Fats considered ‘healthy’The science here is actually pretty substantial—these are the types of healthy fats we generally want more of. There are two kinds: Monounsaturated fats: “These are among the healthiest of all fats,” Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, tells SELF. Monounsaturated fats help develop and maintain your cells, and can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says. They are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados (some of the best high-fat foods for vegetarians).Polyunsaturated fats: The two main types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which our bodies cannot make on their own but need for many essential functions, the American Heart Association (AHA) explains. Omega-3 fatty acids especially are beneficial for heart health, including reducing blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Omega-3s are mostly found in foods like fish, nuts, and seeds, while omega-6s are found in certain plant-based oils, Hunnes says.Fats experts recommend eating lessAlthough the science here is less clear-cut, there are two main types of fats that are not thought to be as healthy. Nutrition and public health experts generally advise either minimizing or moderating your intake of them. There are two kinds: 

PHP Code Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com