The Heart Foundation Blog

Adult Vaccinations

September 1st, 2017

Before you know it, winter and flu season will be here. Each year thousands of adults in the United States get sick from diseases that are could be prevented by vaccines. Heart disease can make it harder for you to fight off certain diseases, and those with heart disease or who have suffered stroke are at a higher risk for contacting certain vaccine-preventable diseases, like the flu. If you have cardiovascular disease, talk with your doctor about making sure your vaccinations are up-to-date.

Why are Vaccines Important?

  1. Vaccine-preventable diseases haven’t gone away. The viruses and bacteria that cause illness and death still exist and can be passed on to those who are not protected by vaccines. In a time when people can travel across the globe in just one day, it’s not hard to see just how easily diseases can travel too.
  2. Vaccines will help keep you healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations throughout your life to protect against many infections. When you skip vaccines, you leave yourself vulnerable to illnesses such as shingles, pneumococcal disease, influenza, and HPV and hepatitis B. 
  3. Vaccines are as important to your overall health as diet and exercise.
    Like eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting regular check-ups, vaccines play a vital role in keeping you healthy. Vaccines are one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available.
  4. Vaccination can mean the difference between life and death. Vaccine-preventable infections are dangerous. Every year, approximately 50,000 US adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases in the US.
  5. Vaccines are safe. The US has the best post-licensure surveillance system in the world making vaccines extremely safe. There is extraordinarily strong data from many different medical investigators all pointing to the safety of vaccines. In fact, vaccines are among the safest products in all of medicine. Vaccines are one of the safest ways for you to protect your health, even if you are taking prescription medications. Vaccine side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Severe side effects are very rare.
  6. Vaccines won’t give you the disease they are designed to prevent. You cannot “catch” the disease from the vaccine. Although some vaccines contain “killed” virus, it is impossible to get the disease from them. Others have live, but weakened, viruses designed to ensure that you cannot catch the disease.
  7. Young and healthy people can get very sick, too. Infants and the elderly are at a greater risk for serious infections and complications in many cases, but vaccine-preventable diseases can strike anyone. If you’re young and healthy, getting vaccinated can help you stay that way. 
  8.  Vaccine-preventable diseases are expensive. An average influenza illness can last up to 15 days, typically with five or six missed work days.
  9. When you get sick, your children, grandchildren and parents are at risk, too. A vaccine-preventable disease that might make you sick for a week or two could prove deadly for your children, grandchildren, or parents if it spreads to them. When you get vaccinated, you’re protecting yourself and your family. For example, adults are the most common source of pertussis (whooping cough) infection in infants, which can be deadly in infants.
  10. Your family and coworkers need you. In the US each year, millions of adults get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases, causing them to miss work and leaving them unable to care for those who depend on them, including their children and/or aging parents. 

Vaccines for Adults:

  1. Influenza (Flu) Vaccine:  This immunization helps protect against seasonal flu viruses.  Flu viruses are always changing, so the flu vaccines are updated every year. Protection lasts up to a year for each flu vaccine type. People with heart disease or who had had a stroke are at high risk of developing complications from influenza.
  2. Pneumococcal Vaccination: This vaccination can prevent some of the serious complications of pneumonia, such as infection in the bloodstream (bacteremia) or throughout the body (septicemia). Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease causes thousands of infections, such as meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and ear infections. Those who have heart disease should be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. 
  3. TDaP Vaccine: This vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).  Tetanus and diphtheria shots need to be repeated every 10 years throughout adulthood in order to keep your immunity.
  4. Zoster Vaccine: If you are 60 years or older, you should get a one-time dose of this vaccine to protect against shingles. In the U.S., currently 1 million people get shingles every year, and about one out of every three people will get shingles in their lifetime. Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. However, for some people the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. This long-lasting pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), and it is the most common complication of shingles.

Getting Vaccinated:

Vaccinations are readily available and adults can get vaccinated at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, health departments and other locations. Click here to find a place near you to get a vaccine. Most health insurance plans cover recommended vaccines. Check with your insurance provider for details and for a list of vaccine providers covered by your plan. If you do not have health insurance click here to learn more about health insurance options.





Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases: 

Five Daily Heart Healthy Habits

August 18th, 2017

The heart is the hardest working muscle in the human body. Every single day, the average heart beats 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. In an average lifetime, that’s 2.5 billion beats! You know that keeping your weight down, exercise, and a good diet can keep your heart healthy. But what else can you do to keep your ticker pumping? Here are five simple things to do every day that will keep your hard-working heart strong!                                                        

1. Eat healthy fats. We need fats in our diet, including polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats, and a limited amount of saturated fats. One fat we do not need is trans-fat. Trans-fat clogs your arteries by raising the bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering the good cholesterol levels (HDL), which can increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. By cutting trans-fats from your diet, you improve the blood flow throughout your body. So, what are trans-fats? They are industry-produced fats often used to add flavor and texture to packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarine, and fried fast foods. Read the labels on all foods. Trans-fat appears on the ingredients list as partially hydrogenated oils.

* Stick to a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish, and limit sugars, sodium, processed and red meats, and make it a point to avoid eating foods with trans-fat.                  

2. Practice good dental hygiene, and floss your teeth daily. Your dental health is a good indication of your overall health. Many researchers have concluded there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Though not conclusive, studies suggest that the bacteria from gum disease in your bloodstream can trigger inflammation throughout the body (systemic inflammation). This inflammation may in turn, increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

* Floss and brush your teeth daily to prevent a build-up of bacteria-laden plaque, which can lead to gum disease. It’s more than cavities you may have to deal with if you are fighting gum disease.

3. Get enough sleep. Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits. One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.

* Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If you or your partner snores and wakes up feeling tired, talk with your doctor. You may have sleep apnea, and you should be treated, as this condition is linked to heart disease and arrhythmias.

4. Keep moving – don’t sit for too long at one time. In recent years, research has suggested that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health no matter how much exercise you get. This is bad news for the many people who sit at sedentary jobs all day. When looking at the combined results of several observational studies that included nearly 800,000 people, researchers found that in those who sat the most, there was an associated 147 percent increase in cardiovascular events and a 90 percent increase in deaths from those cardiovascular events. In addition, sitting for long periods of time, especially when traveling, can increase your risk of a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis).

* It’s important to move throughout the day. Park farther away from the office, take a few shorter walks throughout the day, stand while talking on the phone. Break the TV habit in favor of exercise, or, if you have room, exercise in front of the TV. And remember to exercise regularly, 30 minutes a day, seven days a week.

5. Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is as bad for the heart and arteries as it is for the lungs. Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease and many other life–threatening disorders and diseases. If you smoke, stop. Studies have shown that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25 to 30 percent higher for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work. According to the American Heart Association, exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year. This is because the chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the development of plaque buildup in the arteries.


* Secondhand smoke is toxic. Be firm with smokers and let them know that you do not want to breathe their smoke, and keep children away from secondhand smoke.





You can dramatically reduce your chances of heart disease or a heart attack by following healthy lifestyle habits. Pay attention to good habits early in life and incorporate these habits into your lifestyle and your heart health will be the best it can be for you.




The Cleveland Clinic:

Harvard Health Publications: 



Exercise leads to a healthy heart

August 4th, 2017

A bathroom scale measures how much there is of you on the planet – not how healthy you are. Research shows that a regular exercise regime may not result in weight loss, but it can drastically reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Click here to learn more.


Congestive Heart Failure: Symptoms & Treatments

July 23rd, 2017

Heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans and is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than age 65.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a type of heart failure that occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should to meet the needs of your body. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, will gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently. When the heart cannot pump and circulate blood normally, the kidneys receive less blood and are unable to filter fluids out of the circulatory system and into the urine. The extra fluid in the circulatory system builds up in the lungs, the liver, around the eyes, and in the arms, legs, ankles and feet. Congestive Heart Failure is the term used to describe the condition when the body becomes congested with the buildup of fluids.  

Click here to learn more on Congestive Heart Failure, its symptoms and treatments. 



July 7th, 2017

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. Sodium controls the amount of water in your body and maintains blood volume and blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. Too much sodium, or salt, can increase blood pressure levels.  When you have a high sodium diet, the extra sodium builds up in your bloodstream and attracts water, which causes the total volume of blood inside your blood vessels to increase. With more blood flowing, blood pressure increases and over time, the walls of the blood vessels become stronger and thicker, making the space inside the vessels narrower. The heart then has to work harder to pump blood through the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, increases the risk for heart attack and stroke, and is a leading cause of kidney failure. High blood pressure is also linked to osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches, and the extra water leads to bloating and weight gain.

The amount of sodium you eat directly affects your blood pressure and the health of your heart.  U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that the average adult consume a maximum of 2,300 mgs (milligrams) of sodium a day. That’s the amount in just one teaspoon of table salt. For children and for people who are middle-aged, elderly, or African-American, or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, the American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium a day.  However, most Americans consume much more sodium than they should. The average American consumes about 3,400 mgs of sodium per day!

The most common form of sodium is table salt (sodium chloride – NaCl). However, only 10% of the sodium Americans consume comes from table salt. Most of the sodium we’re eating is added to our food before we buy it. Approximately 75% of sodium in the American diet is from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods. Sodium is used to cure meats, mask off-flavors, retain moisture, and to enhance flavors. In addition to table salt, other sources of sodium in the American diet include MSG (monosodium glutamate), sodium citrate, sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate, baking powder, and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Be aware of foods that are high in sodium, even if they don’t taste salty. Hidden sources of sodium in the American diet include:

  • Processed foods such as lunch meats, sausage, bacon, and ham. If a food item keeps well in the fridge for days or weeks, that’s a indicator that the sodium content is high. Two ounces of deli sliced turkey can contain 620 milligrams of sodium – that is more that 25% of the 2,300 mg recommended amount.
  • Pizza. Half of a ready-made pepperoni pizza might contain as much as 1,350 milligrams of sodium.
  • Canned soups, bouillon, dried soup mixes. A serving of canned chicken noodle soup may contain 400 to 900 milligrams of sodium per serving. Read the label and opt for canned soups that are “low sodium” or “reduced sodium.”
  • Condiments (catsup, soy sauce, salad dressings). One tablespoon of soy sauce has about 1,000 mg of sodium.
  • Frozen and boxed mixes for potatoes, rice, and pasta.
  • Snack foods (pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, chips, nuts).
  • Food pickled or marinated in brine. Vinegar and lemon juice based marinades are okay.

Eat less salt to lower your blood pressure.  Salt preference is an acquired taste that can be unlearned. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of salt, but once it’s done, it’s actually difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste way too salty. Follow these guidelines to reduce your sodium intake:

  • Prepare your food from scratch so you know exactly what’s in your food. 
  • When preparing food, replace salt with lemon juice, ginger, chilies, spices, and herbs. Be sure to read labels and select spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels, i.e. choose garlic powder over garlic salt.
  • Use fresh, rather than packaged, meats. Fresh cuts of beef, chicken or pork contain natural sodium, but the content is still much less than the extra sodium added to products like bacon or ham.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables are very low in sodium. If you’re cooking veggies, don’t add salt.
  • When buying frozen vegetables, choose those that are labeled “fresh frozen” and those that do not contain added seasoning or sauces.
  • Read nutrition labels – the sodium content is always listed on the label. The amount of sodium in some of your favorite prepackaged foods can be surprising. Even bread and cereal contain sodium.
  • When you do opt for packaged foods, choose products that are marked “sodium-free,” “low sodium,” and “unsalted.”
  • When dining out, do your research. A restaurant’s website often lists the sodium content of dishes. Alternatively, when you’re at the restaurant and ready to order, you can request that the dish be served without salt. Fresh steamed veggies and roasted entrees are often the smartest choices.
  • Increase your potassium: Potassium also affects the balance of fluids in the body and the more potassium we eat, the more sodium we pass out of the body through urine. Potassium also helps relax blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure. Some of the best sources are bananas, potatoes, dried fruit, avocados, kidney beans and tomatoes. However, before taking potassium supplements, check with your doctor, as an overdose from potassium supplements is dangerous.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other health problems. By reducing your sodium intake you can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.





American Heart Association:

CDC –  Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention:

Cleveland Clinic:                                                               

Harvard Health Publications:                                        

National Kidney Foundation:                 


June 23rd, 2017

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in adults. Cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. The lack of oxygenated blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes and a person could die within 8 to 10 minutes. According to the American Heart Association, about 90 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest at home, at work or in a public location die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene.

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a lifesaving technique that is used when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

In emergency situations, such as in cardiac arrest or drowning, the American Heart Association recommends that everyone, untrained bystanders and medical personnel alike, begin with HANDS-ONLY CPR (chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth breaths). Even if you’re fearful that your knowledge or abilities aren’t 100 percent complete, it’s far better to do something than to do nothing at all. 75% of all cardiac arrests happen in people’s homes and the difference between doing something and doing nothing could be your loved one’s life. CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until more definitive medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm.

HANDS-ONLY CPR consists of two easy steps and is recommended for use by people who see a teen or adult suddenly collapse in an “out-of-hospital” setting, such as at home, at work or in a public location:

  1.  Call 9-1-1 (or send someone to do that).       When you call 911, you need to stay on the phone until the 911 dispatcher (operator) tells you to hang up. The dispatcher will ask you about the emergency and other details, like your location. It is important to be specific, especially if you’re calling from a mobile phone as that is not associated with a fixed location or address. Remember that answering the dispatcher’s questions will not delay the arrival of help.
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest with minimal interruptions to the beat of any tune that is 100 to 120 beats per minute.      People feel more confident performing Hands-Only CPR and are more likely to remember to push on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute when they push to the beat of a familiar song. The Bee Gees’  classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.” is 100 beats per minute – the minimum rate you should push on the chest during Hands-Only CPR.  Other songs with 100 to 120 beats per minute include: “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira” or “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that any attempt to provide CPR to a victim is better than no attempt to provide help. Don’t be afraid to act in an emergency:

  • Untrained: If you’re not trained in CPR, call 911, then provide HANDS-ONLY CPR. That means uninterrupted chest compressions 100 to 120 times a minute until paramedics arrive. You don’t need to try rescue breathing.
  • Trained but rusty.If you’ve previously received CPR training but you’re not confident in your abilities, then just do HANDS-ONLY CPR -chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 a minute.
  • Trained and ready to go.If you’re well-trained and confident in your ability, start CPR with 30 chest compressions before checking the airway and giving rescue breaths. The AHA recommends CPR with compressions and breaths for infants and children, and for victims of drowning, drug overdose, or people who have collapsed due to breathing problems.



Watch a 90-second Hands-Only CPR video. Hands-Only CPR is a natural introduction to CPR, and the AHA encourages everyone to learn conventional CPR as a next step. To watch the Hands-Only CPR instructional video visit:                                                    For video in Spanish visit:

Watch a 22 minute video for more in depth CPR training: The AHA’s 22-minute CPR Anytime™ program  ( ) is a very short CPR training program that you can do at home. The video provides skills training and practice that can prepare you to perform high quality chest compressions.

Take a CPR class: Take an accredited first-aid training course, which includes CPR, rescue breaths, and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). CPR is a psychomotor skill. People who have had CPR training are more likely to give high-quality chest compressions and are more confident about their skills than those who have not been trained (or have not trained in the last 5 years). You can find a CPR class near you at:

Learn CPR – you can save a life!


American Heart Association:                                                                            
Mayo Clinic:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 \
University of Washington: