All About The Heart

February 23, 2010

The human heart is what keeps your body moving, much like the engine of a car. Blood pumped by the heart is delivered to cells, organs, and tissues in the body. Like your engine, if you do not take proper care of your heart, it will not continue working correctly.

Dr. Denton A. Cooley, founder, president-emeritus, and surgeon-in-chief of the Texas Heart Institute, says some people will care for their car better than their own bodies. He says medical advances cannot rid heart disease, but prevention and good health can.

Taking care of your body is key to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Research indicates that it is necessary to exercise aerobically (brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, for example) at least three times a week for 30 minutes to condition your heart. Eating a low fat diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and grains can help reduce your blood cholesterol.

Stress and alcohol are two factors that can affect your heart. Moderate amounts of alcohol are acceptable (one to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women), but drinking more than the moderate amount can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeats, and cardiomyopathy.  When feeling stressed, your heart races and blood pressure rises. Extra hormones and increased blood flow during the stress can injure the arteries. Being aware of heart disease risk factors before any signs of illness is essential. By reducing your risk, you can add more years to your life.

Visit Texas Heart Institute’s Healthy Heart Guide for more information.

New Tool for Pediatric Heart Surgery

February 16, 2010

Researchers in California have developed a way to simulate blood flow on a computer to optimize surgical designs. This is a new tool that might help surgeons plan for a life-saving operation named the “Fontan” surgery, which is performed on babies that are born with severe congenital heart defects.

The Fontan surgery is one of three surgeries performed after birth to replumb the circulation of children born missing their left ventricles. The goal is to redirect the blood flow so it becomes properly oxygenated, allowing the patient to survive with only one functional pumping chamber. These types of  heart conditions were consistently fatal before this surgery in the 1970s.

This tool uses imaging data to make a model of an individual baby’s heart and allows doctors to input their surgical designs. Then it applies fluid dynamics to simulate the blood flow after reconstruction. By using this type of technology, surgeons are able to test their plans before operating.

Find out more about Fontan surgery:

Heart Disease FAQs

February 5, 2010

What are some risk factors for heart disease?

High blood cholesterol, smoking tobacco, inactive lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are all major risk factors for heart disease. However, these are all factors that you can modify, treat, or control by changing your lifestyle.

What are some risk factors that cannot be changed?

Increasing age, heredity, and male sex (gender) are factors that cannot be changed. According to the American Heart Association, over 83 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women do and have attacks earlier in life. African Americans have more severe high blood pressure than Caucasians and a higher risk of heart disease. Heart disease risk is also higher among Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans.

What are other contributing factors?

Drinking too much alcohol and stress are some other contributing factors. Scientists have found a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life, their health behaviors and socioeconomic status.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It can also contribute to cancer and other diseases, high triglycerides, and produce irregular heartbeats. Drinking too much alcohol also contributes to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.
For more information visit:

American Heart Association

Heart Defect Awareness

February 1, 2010

The National Institutes of Health reports that congenital heart defects are responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

These types of heart defects are structural problems with the heart present at birth. They result when a mishap occurs during heart development after conception and usually before the mother knows she is pregnant. Defects range from simple problems, such as “holes” between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves.

Not all heart disease in children is congenital. Occasionally, heart disease is not congenital but “acquired,” (Kawasaki disease and rheumatic fever) and may occur during childhood such as heart damage due to infection.  Children also can be born with or develop heart rate problems such as slow, fast, or irregular heart beats, known as “arrhythmias”.

Anyone can be at risk to have a child with a heart defect. Out of 1,000 births, nine babies will have some form of congenital heart disorder, most of which are mild. Your risk may be higher if you or other family members have a baby with a heart defect.

For more information, please visit:

American Heart Association