What You Need to Know About Heart Health

5 Facts About Heart Health

  • Thirty-eight percent of all U.S. deaths are caused by heart disease or stroke, making cardiovascular disease the single most common cause of death in the country.
  • Most cardiovascular disease is caused by high blood pressure or atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty plaque and other cells inside blood vessels.
  • Smoking, the single most heart-unhealthy behavior, doubles your risk of having a heart attack. Smoking raises cholesterol and blood pressure, and causes inflammation, clotting, narrowing of arteries and arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems).
  • Exercise, the single most heart-healthy behavior, reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Exercising for 30 - 45 minutes five times a week lowers weight, blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol, stress and fatigue, while raising mood, “good” cholesterol and your body’s ability to use insulin and oxygen.
  • Cardiovascular disease may begin at a young age, but exercise and other healthy behaviors can improve heart health at any age.

Resources for You


We’re all guilty of making and breaking promises. But the person you can’t afford to shortchange — especially when it comes to health — is yourself. Make a health promise to yourself and keep it. If you don’t already have your own, here are 15 health promises that can help you maintain your health and feel good about it. Share your health promise to show you mean to keep it, and inspire others to do the same by using #MyHealthPromise.

Share Your Health Promise

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Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Blood pressure can be controlled with a healthy diet, exercise and, if necessary, medication.

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LDL (“bad” cholesterol) contributes to the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries. HDL (“good” cholesterol) helps prevent the fatty buildup and formation of plaque. To keep your LDL low and your HDL high, don’t smoke, avoid saturated fats and excess calories, get exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. Medications also may be prescribed if necessary.

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Heart Health

Heart disease remains the number one killer nationwide. To help prevent heart disease or catch symptoms early, adults over 50 should have a full cardiovascular assessment. A coronary calcium scan can show just how at risk you are for a heart attack or other heart issues before other signs and symptoms occur. This is particularly useful for those with a family history of heart disease or other significant risk factors.

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Woman eating yogurt

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health

Bacteria may benefit heart health in surprising ways. Here’s what Johns Hopkins researchers are learning about that connection and the power of probiotics—and prebiotics—in your diet.

Doctor talking to a patient about medication options

How to Reduce Cholesterol: New Medication Options

PCSK9 inhibitors are a new class of medication that shows a lot of promise for lowering cholesterol. But is there more that you need to know? A Johns Hopkins expert suggests questions to bring to your doctor.

A salad with fruit

Berry Good for Your Heart

Many kinds of berries are high in heart-healthy antioxidants. Meet some of the top varieties and get delicious ideas for enjoying them from a Johns Hopkins expert.

Healthy Heart

Discover: Healthy Heart

Discover how to improve your cardiovascular — and overall! — health with heart-smart insights and tips from Johns Hopkins experts in our online health section,  Healthy Heart. Start with these illuminating articles:

Interact: Johns Hopkins Cardiologists Answer Your Questions

These chat are over, but you can read the questions and answers by clicking through to the archive page. Please check the Johns Hopkins Medicine Facebook Page to learn about future chats — on a variety of topics — and to submit your questions to our experts.

Read the Facebook Q&A — Chiadi Ndumele: Promoting Better Heart Health

Cardiologist Chiadi Ndumele, M.D. took questions in a live Facebook chat held Feb. 18, 2015. Read the questions and answers.

Read the Facebook Q&A — Doctor's Orders: Physician's Secret to Losing Weight is All in the Numbers

What happens when a cardiologist starts to follow the advice he gives his patients? Johns Hopkins cardiologist Jeff Trost, M.D. told his story and took live questions in a Facebook chat held Feb. 24, 2015. Read the questions and answers.

Watch the Webinar — Management Options for Hypertension

Did you know that some types of hypertension do not respond to traditional medications? Cardiologist Oscar Cingolani, M.D. discusses the risks, warning signs and treatment options for hypertension and resistant hypertension.
Presented by Oscar Cingolani, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director of the Center for Resistant Hypertension
Recorded: April 9, 2015
Running time: 58:07

Read: Heart Research News

Heart cells firing out of sequence after heart attackAfter a simulated heart attack and treatment, mitochondria in laboratory heart cells signal randomly from multiple locations (yellow flashes).

Higher Fitness Linked to Reduced Risk of Death after First Heart Attack

Researchers report evidence that higher levels of physical fitness may not only reduce risk of heart attacks and death from all causes, but also possibly improve the chances of survival after a first attack.

Male and Female Hearts Don't Grow Old the Same Way

A Johns Hopkins-led analysis f MRI scans of the aging hearts of nearly 3,000 adults shows significant differences in the way male and female hearts change over time.

Unsynching the Heartbeat a Bit Each Day Halts Worsening Heart Failure 

Researchers have demonstrated in animals that applying a pacemaker’s mild electrical shocks to push the heart in and out of normal synchronized contraction for part of each day may be an effective way to slow down the progression of heart failure.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Heart

Johns Hopkins researchers have identified one protein that performs two incredible tasks — preventing depression and strengthening hearts. Their findings may explain the mysterious connection between depression and heart disease, and lead to new treatments for heart failure.


Visit: The Heart and Vascular Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine

Need a heart or vascular procedure? First, pay a virtual visit.

Take a virtual tour of the Heart and Vascular Institute at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Meet our compassionate and highly trained staff, learn what to expect during your visit, and get a look at some of our procedure and surgical areas, patient rooms and on-site amenities.

Interested in an appointment at the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute?

Watch this short video to learn how to make an appointment with the Heart and Vascular Institute.

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