Heart Health

Premier Health doctors answer frequently asked questions about Heart Health.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a condition in which plaque builds up in the artery walls, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA). Heart disease is also known as cardiovascular disease.

As the plaque builds, it causes the arteries to narrow and make it hard for blood to flow throughout the body. This causes a risk for heart attack and stroke, according to the AHA.

Types of heart disease, according to the AHA, include:

  • Arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat)
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve problems.

For more information about asthma and its causes, talk with your physician.

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What determines a person’s ongoing treatment after a heart attack?

Treatment after a heart attack will depend on the type of heart attack you had, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

A heart attack can occur when there is either a complete blockage of the coronary artery – called a STEMI heart attack – or a partial blockage – called an NSTEMI, according to the AHA.

Treatments can include anything from medication to an angioplasty to surgery – or a combination of these or other treatments.

For heart attacks with only a single blood vessel blocked, it is common for an angioplasty stent procedure to be done to help clear the blocked artery, according to Premier Health Specialists' (PHS) physicians.

After a heart attack with multiple vessels blocked, stenting might not be enough, PHS physicians say. In some of these cases, the patient might need open heart surgery.

On an ongoing basis, a regimen of beta blockers and aspirin have been clinically proven to be a highly effective treatment after a heart attack, PHS physicians say.

Some kind of statin cholesterol-lowering medication and a cardio rehabilitation program also are common ongoing treatments for most patients after a heart attack, according to PHS physicians.

Patients who have had a heart attack should make sure to have regular, close follow-up visits with their physician to ensure their long-term treatment is working for them.

Talk to your doctor about what determines ongoing treatment after a heart attack.

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How can a person’s life change after a heart attack?

After a heart attack, many people can return to their full, active lives, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA). However, there are some important things you need to do to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself.

To prevent future heart attacks, you’ll need to visit your doctor to be treated for coronary heart disease, according to the AHA. For most people, this includes the following:

  • A cardiac rehabilitation program, which typically includes education, counseling, training, and exercise guidance
  • Lifestyles changes, including a healthy diet, physical activity, a healthy weight, and no smoking
  • Medication to help control your heart’s workload, for high blood pressure, for high cholesterol, and for chest pain – some of which might be needed for the rest of your life

Before returning to any physical activity after a heart attack, make sure to talk with your doctor.

Most people can at least begin walking again right away after a heart attack, according to the AHA. After a few weeks, most people can safely return to their other activities, as long as they don’t have pain.

Sexual activity should wait for a few weeks following a heart attack, and you should talk with your doctor about when this will safety fit back into your schedule, according to the AHA.

For some people, anxiety and depression can become common after a heart attack, according to the AHA.

Some of these feelings can stem from the multiple lifestyle changes you take on at once. Others can come from the stress and worry about having another heart attack, according to the AHA.

Finding supportive family and friends and joining a patient support group both can help you manage these emotions, according to the AHA.

For more information about how your life might change after a heart attack, talk with your doctor.

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How often will patients be monitored after a heart attack?

Patients typically follow up with their doctor one to two weeks after the leave the hospital following a heart attack, according to Premier Health Specialists'.

Another visit is usually scheduled about three months after that, but these visits might be more or less frequent depending on each individual patient’s need, PHS physicians say.

After that, patients should expect to see their doctor once or twice a year for the rest of their life to follow up on their heart health, PHS physicians say.

Talk with your doctor about what type of medical follow up schedule is right for you after a heart attack.

What is AFib, and how common is it?

AFib, or atrial fibrillation, is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart-related issues, including stroke, blood clots and heart attack, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

A healthy heart will contract and relax for a regular heartbeat. However, AFib patients will experience a heart “quiver” in the upper chambers of the heart, according to the AHA. The lack of effective contractions in the upper chamber of heart can cause stagnation of blood and predispose to clot formation in the upper chamber of the heart. This can potentially dislodge and cause strokes. 

Symptoms of AFib may include palpitations (racing of the heart, skipping beats, irregular heart rhythm), shortness of breath, lightheadedness, chest tightness, according to the AHA, but sometimes there are no symptoms.

AFib is the most common of heart arrhythmias, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). It increases with age and most often affects people over 65. About 15 percent to 20 percent of stroke patients suffer from AFib.

Talk to your doctor for more information about AFib.

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What is Stereotaxis, and how does it benefit AFib patients?

Stereotaxis technology is a computer-aided robotic surgery system that allows electrophysiologists and surgeons to guide catheters into heart tissue with greater accuracy than manual methods, such as cardiac ablation, according to Stereotaxis.comOff Site Icon.

Stereotaxis is precise with soft, flexible catheters, and Premier Health physicians say the procedure can reduce the chances of damaging the heart wall. The procedure is safer, with better patient outcomes and shorter recovery times. 

For more information about Stereotaxis, talk with your doctor.

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What is arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is a problem with the rhythm of your heart rate, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

There are different types of arrhythmias. Your heart might beat too quickly, too slowly or in a completely irregular pattern, according to the NIH.

For more information about what in arrhythmia is, talk with your doctor.

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What are the signs and symptoms of an arrhythmia?

Many times, arrhythmias can occur without any signs or symptoms, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

When there are symptoms, however, the most common ones, according to the NIH, include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations, which means feeling your heart beating in a different rhythm than it usually does or should be
  • Pauses between heartbeats
  • Slow heartbeat

Some arrhythmias can cause more serious signs and symptoms, according to the NIH, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Weakness, dizziness and light-headedness

Talk with your doctor for more information about the signs and symptoms of arrhythmias.

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What are the different types of arrhythmias?

There are a few different types of arrhythmias that can affect people, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Some types of arrhythmia, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA):

  • Atrial fibrillation – The most common type of arrhythmia.
  • Bradycardia – This is when your heart rate is too slow, at less than 60 beats per minute.
  • Premature contraction – This is an early beat in the rhythm of your heart that makes you feel like your heart has skipped a beat.
  • Tachycardia – This type of arrhythmia is when your heart beats too fast, at more than 100 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular fibrillation – Also known as v-fib, ventricular fibrillation is the most serious type of arrhythmia. With v-fib, the lower chambers of the heart quiver and can’t pump blood, which causes cardiac arrest.

For more information about the different types of arrhythmias, talk with your doctor.

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What are the risk factors of arrhythmias?

There are a variety of risk factors that can lead to arrhythmias, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Diseases and conditions that can put someone at risk of an arrhythmia, according to the NIH, include:

  • Congenital heart defect
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure (cardiomyopathy)
  • Heart tissue that did not form normally and is too thick or stiff
  • High blood pressure
  • Infections that damage the heart muscle
  • Leaking or narrow heart valves
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Sleep apnea

Older age also increases the risk of most serious arrhythmias, which are most common among people older than 60, according to the NIH.

For more information about the risk factors of arrhythmias, talk with your doctor.

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What is a pacemaker? How does it work, and what does it do?

Dr. Krebs discusses pacemakers, how they work, and their purpose. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A pacemaker is a small device that helps the heart to beat more regularly, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). It is used to regulate and treat rhythm problems of the heart.

A pacemaker is implanted by a doctor. It is placed under the skin on the upper chest, just under the collarbone, and it hooks to the heart with up to three tiny wires, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

The wires monitor and record the heart’s electrical activity and rhythm, according to the NIH. The pacemaker helps the heart beat properly when it senses an arrhythmia.

Pacemakers can relieve some arrhythmia symptoms, including fatigue and fainting, and can help someone with abnormal heart rhythms live a more active lifestyle, according to the NIH.

For more information about pacemakers and how they work, talk with your doctor.

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What could interfere with a pacemaker’s function?

Dr. Krebs discusses things that can interfere with the function of pacemakers. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though pacemakers are not typically bothered by many common daily-use devices, some things can interfere with how pacemakers work, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA). Some things that could interfere include:

  • Anti-theft systems, such as those in businesses
  • Arc welding equipment
  • Cell phones
  • Extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy (EWSL), which is hydraulic shock treatment option to fragment kidney stones
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Metal detectors used for security
  • MP3 player headphones
  • Powerful magnets
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
  • Therapeutic radiation, such as that used for cancer
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is a device used to relieve pain with electrodes placed on the skin

The AHA recommends that anyone with a pacemaker use their cellphone on the ear on the opposite side of their body from the pacemaker.

Talk to your doctor for more information about things that can interfere with a pacemaker functioning correctly.

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What steps should someone take to reduce their risk of technological interference with their pacemaker?

Dr. Krebs discusses steps to reduce the risk of technological interference with a pacemaker. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Pacemakers have built-in protection to help avoid some types of interference, but there are steps you can take to help also.

The American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) recommends taking the following steps to help protect your pacemaker from interference:

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Carry a pacemaker ID card to prove you have a pacemaker, especially in airports or other places with metal detectors
  • Check with your doctor before having any medical procedures

Many household items do not cause issues with pacemakers. The AHA states those include microwaves, TVs, radios, stereos, vacuums, toasters, food processers, electric razors, gardening machinery, food processors, electric blankets, and can openers.

Talk to your doctor for more information about steps to help protect your pacemaker from interference.

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What is the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health?

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heartbeats all are forms of cardiovascular disease that people who suffer from sleep apnea are at increased risk of suffering from, according to the CDC. Hardening of the arteries has been shown to occur in patients with sleep apnea free of any other significant risk factors.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health.

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How does a healthy sleep routine benefit a person’s cardiovascular health?

While the “right” amount of sleep varies from person to person, the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) recommends that people need six to eight hours of sleep daily.

Getting too much or too little sleep can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular health problems, according to the AHA. The heart is significantly affected by a lack of sleep.

We immediately benefit from good sleep by waking up feeling refreshed and energized for the day, according to the AHA. Having a good sleep routine has benefits throughout the body, including:

  • Alertness
  • Anxiety
  • Better focus
  • Breathing
  • Decreased depression
  • Heart health
  • Immune system
  • Mental status
  • Metabolism
  • Stress hormones
  • Weight loss

For more information about the importance of having a good sleep routine, talk with your doctor.

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What is a cardiac stress test, and what happens during it?

A cardiac stress test is a test used by doctors to determine how well your heart is working, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA). The test is a functional assessment of the blood flow to the heart, and can also give additional information of heart function.

Sometimes people call the test a treadmill test or an exercise test. As you exercise, your doctor can evaluate whether there is a lack of blood supply through the arteries to the heart, according to the AHA.

Your heartbeat and heart waves are recorded in an electrocardiogram (ECG) during the test, according to the AHA. Wires will be hooked to your chest and arms that connect to the ECG machine to collect the information.

During the test, you can stop at any time, if you need to. Just tell your medical provider to stop the test.

Talk to your physician for more information about cardiac stress tests.

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Why does someone need a cardiac stress test?

There are a variety of reasons a doctor might decide someone needs a cardiac stress test.

The American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) states the test could be used to find out:

  • How hard you should exercise when starting an exercise program
  • If heart disease treatments you have undergone are working
  • If you have an irregular heartbeat
  • If you need other tests to detect narrowed arteries
  • If your symptoms, such as chest pain or difficulty breathing, are related to your heart
  • What your exercise level should be when joining a cardiac rehab program

Talk to your doctor to learn more about reasons someone would have a cardiac stress test.

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How should a person prepare for a stress test?

It’s important to take a few steps to prepare when you are going to have a stress test.

Before the test, the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) and the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH) recommend that you:

  • Continue taking any medications unless your doctor recommends that you stop
  • Do not drink beverages with caffeine (including tea, coffee, and soda) or alcohol for at least three hours before the test
  • Do not smoke
  • In most cases, avoid all caffeine for 24 hours before the test, including drinks (even soda labeled caffeine free), chocolate, and pain relievers with caffeine in them
  • Talk to your doctor about any medicines that you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbs, and vitamins. You might be asked not to take them before the test
  • Tell your doctor if you have taken Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra (or any generic forms of these drugs) within 24 to 48 hours of the test
  • Wear comfortable shoes such as jogging shoes or tennis shoes
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes, such as shorts or sweatpants

You are allowed to drink water leading up to the test.

For more information about stress tests, talk with your doctor.

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What role does aspirin play in preventive health?

Dr. Davenport discusses the role of aspirin in preventive health. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Aspirin can be beneficial to some patients by helping them to prevent cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) recommends that people who are at high risk of heart attack should take low-dose aspirin daily, if supported by their health care provider.

People who previously have had a heart attack also should take aspirin regularly, according to the AHA.

By thinning the blood, aspirin helps to prevent blood clots, which in turn helps prevent heart attack and stroke, according to the AHA.

As with any medication or change to your health care routine, talk to your doctor before starting to take aspirin preventatively.

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What are the benefits and risks of using aspirin as part of a preventive health routine?

Dr. Davenport discusses benefits and risks of using aspirin for preventive health. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Using aspirin can be helpful as a preventive measure for some people, but there can also be risks involved with taking it.

Taking a daily low-dose aspirin – if recommended by your doctor – has been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

If someone has had a prior heart attack, the aspirin will be beneficial to prevent future issues, according to the AHA

It is recommended that women age 55 and older and men age 45 and older who are at risk of cardiovascular disease should take aspirin preventatively because the benefits greatly outweigh the health risks, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

The main health risk from aspirin is gastrointestinal bleeding, according to the HHS.

Because aspirin acts as a blood thinner, helping to prevent blood clots, it also can cause bleeding from minor injuries that might otherwise just cause bruising, according to Premier Health Specialists’ (PHS) physicians.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the risks and benefits of taking aspirin.

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When should a person ask their medical provider if aspirin would be beneficial to them?

Dr. Davenport discusses what to ask a medical provider about the benefits of aspirin. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

People who have a cardiovascular risk that is higher than the risk of side effects from taking aspirin could cause should talk to their physician about the benefits of taking the medication, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

If you have had a heart attack before, the benefits of aspirin would outweigh the risks, according to the HHS.

It is recommended that women age 55 and older and men age 45 and older who are at risk of cardiovascular disease should take aspirin preventatively because the benefits greatly outweigh the health risks, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

If you have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, talk to your doctor about whether aspirin use would be the right option for you.

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The American Heart Association has a goal of 20 percent improvement in the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 2020. Is this goal attainable?

The American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) has set a goal of improving “the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent” – all by 2020.

This goal was set by the AHA in 2011. According to statistics reported by the AHA in 2013, steps that need to be taken to reach the goal include:

  • Emphasizing the importance of treating minor heart issues and the importance of prevention by controlling and treating behaviors and risks
  • Improving health behaviors such as diet, physical activity and body weight
  • Making even modest shifts toward improved health will lead to major progress in improved health of Americans

For more information about achieving the AHA’s goal, talk with your physician.

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How are biomarkers and lifestyle behaviors used to identify risk for heart disease?

Both biomarkers and lifestyle behaviors can play important roles in your risk of getting heart disease.

Though not every behavior or biomarker causes an equal risk of heart disease, they do each have an effect, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

For example, your family history can be one of the foremost issues when it comes to risk of heart disease, according to the NIH.

Tobacco use is a lifestyle behavior that poses a major risk of heart disease, according to the NIH. Not managing diabetes well also can be a behavior that leads to a high risk of heart disease.

Other behaviors, such as obesity and stress, are still risk factors, but don’t create quite as high a risk.

As for biomarkers, two in particular have been found to place you at a higher risk of heart disease – C-reactive protein (CRP) and BNatriuretic peptide (BNP), according to the NIH.

Though there are another almost 60 biomarkers being studied for their relation to heart disease risk, no others have been found yet to have the same specific risk, the NIH states.

Talk with your physician for more information about how biomarkers and lifestyle behaviors affect risk factors for heart disease.

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What things can people do to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease or help in recovery of cardiovascular disease?

While some risk factors of heart disease – such as family history - cannot be controlled, you can reduce the risk of heart disease with medications and lifestyle changes, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Many of the things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and recovery are changes to your lifestyle and daily behaviors, according to the NIH. While these can be difficult habits to change, they are important to work toward a full, healthy life.

Some lifestyle changes that will help reduce heart disease risk and help in recovery of cardiovascular disease, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon(AHA), include:

  • Being physically active daily
  • Choosing good nutrition
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Getting involved in a cardiac rehabilitation program, if you are recovering from cardiovascular disease
  • Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Lowering blood cholesterol
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Managing diabetes
  • Managing stress
  • Quitting smoking

By making these lifestyle changes, you can do your best to work toward preventing a future or another heart attack, according to the AHA.

For more information about the importance of lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of and aid in recovery from cardiovascular disease, talk with your doctor.

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What is metabolic syndrome?

Dr. Mark Moronell discusses metabolic syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe a group of health risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease and other health problems, including diabetes and stroke, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

About 34 percent of adults are affected by metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA). The underlying causes of metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance, obesity, genetics and physical inactivity.

Talk to your doctor for more information about metabolic syndrome.

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What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?

Dr. Mark Moronell discusses the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Metabolic syndrome typically is diagnosed when people have three or more of the following symptoms or risk factors, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA):

  • Waist measurement of more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women
  • Fasting blood triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or more
  • Low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels of less than 40 mg/dL in men and less than 50 mg/dL in women
  • High blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or more
  • Fasting glucose (blood sugar) of 100 mg/dL or more

When doctors find that you have metabolic syndrome, it is a sign to alert them and you as the patient that there are not only visible health issues, but also indirect health issues that need to be investigated and managed, according to the AHA.

For more about symptoms of metabolic syndrome, talk with your physician.

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What is the treatment for metabolic syndrome?

Dr. Mark Moronell discusses the treatment for metabolic syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The first step to treating metabolic syndrome is to change unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Making changes in daily habits and using doctor-prescribed medications can help patients with metabolic syndrome lose weight, be more physically active, eat a heart healthy diet, quit smoking, lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, improve HDL cholesterol levels and lower blood sugar, according to the NIH.

The main goal of treating metabolic syndrome is to reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the NIH, and the best way to do that is to focus on improving the risk factor you can control with lifestyle behavior changes, such as losing weight, eating a healthy diet and living an active lifestyle.

Talk to your physician for more information about treating metabolic syndrome.

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Is metabolic syndrome a serious health issue?

Dr. Mark Moronell discusses how serious a health issue metabolic syndrome is. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Metabolic syndrome is a serious health issue because it is a combination of risk factors for heart disease, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

When a patient has a variety of these risk factors instead of just one, it creates a greater chance of future cardiovascular issues, according to the AHA.

Metabolic syndrome affects about 34 percent of adults, putting them at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and other diseases related to fatty buildups in artery walls, according to the AHA.

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Can inflammation in the heart be diagnosed or detected?

A test, called a CRP (C-reactive protein) test, can be used to diagnose inflammation in the body, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

A high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) test, however, is able to determine a person’s risk for heart disease, according to the NIH.

A high CRP level if often thought to be a risk factor for heart disease, according to the NIH. But it’s not known for sure if a high CRP is just a sign of heart disease or if it is a factor that causes heart problems.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about detecting inflammation in the heart.

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Can inflammation damage the heart?

Studies have not proven that inflammation damages the heart by causing cardiovascular disease, but inflammation is a common symptom of both heart disease and stroke patients, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

Damage to the artery walls seems to cause inflammation and help plaque grow, which can lead to a coronary heart disease, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

For more information about inflammation damaging the heart, talk with your doctor.

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What can be done to lower the risk of inflammation in the heart?

It’s important to your health to lower the risk of inflammation in the heart.

According to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA), you can help lower the risk of inflammation in the heart by:

  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Quitting smoking
  • Taking cholesterol-lowering medications (statins)

The AHA also recommends the following to help reduce your overall risk of heart disease and stroke:

  • Be active
  • Eat better
  • Lose weight
  • Lower high blood sugar

Working toward a healthier lifestyle will help not only to reduce the risk of inflammation in the heart but also to improve your overall quality of life.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how to reduce your risk of inflammation in the heart.

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What role does inflammation play in the body’s healing process?

Inflammation is when an injury to the body swells some, gets red and hurts. It happens when the immune system is trying to fight against something that could be harmful to the body, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Inflammation, according to the NIH, is most often caused by:

  • Effects of chemicals or radiation
  • Germs, such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses
  • Injuries, such as a scrape or a splinter

The inflamed area of the body gets more attention from the defense cells in the body to help with the healing process, according to the NIH. The defense cells focus on the affected tissue and carry more fluid there. The extra blood and fluid in the area are what cause the redness and swelling.

Diseases and other conditions also can cause inflammation. According to the NIH, some of those include:

  • Bronchitis – inflammation of the bronchi
  • Cystitis – inflammation of the bladder
  • Dermatitis – inflammation of the skin
  • Otitis media – inflammation of the middle ear (an ear infection)

For more information about how inflammation helps with healing, talk with your doctor.

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How does hypertension affect the heart?

Dr. Sadhu discusses how hypertension affects the heart. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Hypertension is a word that means you have high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

High blood pressure is considered 140/90 and over, and pre-hypertension is anything between 120/80 and 140/90, according to the NIH.

Hypertension has no symptoms, but it can damage your heart and can lead to death if left untreated, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

The heart can be affected by hypertension in the following ways, according to the AHA:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Development of atherosclerosis
  • Heart attack
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of heart muscle)

Lowering your blood pressure through treatment and behavioral changes can help you reduce your risk of these heart issues, according to the AHA.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how hypertension affects the heart.

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Can hypertension be controlled without medication?

Dr. Sadhu discusses how to control hypertension. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

With hard work to change lifestyle behaviors, you can control your hypertension without medication.

The American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA) recommends eight ways to control your blood pressure:

  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Use hot tubs safely

Also, keeping track of your blood pressure and staying informed about your overall health is a great way to manage hypertension, according to the AHA.

Talk to your doctor for more information about controlling hypertension without medication.

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What are the risk factors for hypertension?

Dr. Sadhu discusses risk factors for hypertension. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Hypertension means you have high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). High blood pressure is considered 140/90, according to the NIH.

There are a variety of risk factors for high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site   Icon (CDC), which include:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Pre-hypertension (a blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90)
  • Tobacco use
  • Too much alcohol
  • Unhealthy diet

Some risk factors for hypertension, such as your diet and tobacco use, can be controlled, but other risk factors, including family history, cannot, according to the CDC.

For more information about risk factors for hypertension, talk with your doctor.

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What is venous disease, and what are its symptoms?

Dr. Abdelhamed discusses venous disease and its symptoms. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Venous disease starts when the valves inside the veins that allow blood to flow only one way become damaged, according to National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). The damaged valves cause the veins to stay filled with blood instead of working correctly to pump the blood back to the heart.

Symptoms of venous disease, according to the NIH, include:

  • Bleeding from damaged veins
  • Discolored skin
  • Foot swelling
  • Hard, thick skin on ankles
  • Heavy feeling in the legs
  • Itching
  • Large varicose veins
  • Leg cramps
  • Leg swelling
  • Lessened pain when sitting with legs up
  • Pain when standing
  • Redness on ankles
  • Skin damage from varicose veins
  • Slow healing sores
  • Tingling

For more information about venous disease and its symptoms, talk with your doctor.

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What are the treatments for venous disease?

Dr. Abdelhamed discusses treatments for venous disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Treatment for venous disease often starts with disease management, depending on how severe it is, according to National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Typically, according to the NIH, a starting point will be to make lifestyle changes and take self-care steps to try to manage the disease. These steps could include:

  • Caring for wounds, including open sores and infections
  • Exercising regularly
  • Losing weight, if you are overweight or obese
  • Wearing compression stockings to limit swelling

If the venous disease is more severe, the NIH states that your doctor might recommend one of these options:

  • Ablation – heat is used to close off the vein by destroying it, and the vein disappears over time
  • Angioplasty and stenting – a narrowed or blocked vein is opened with a tiny medical balloon used to widen the vein
  • Bypass – blood flow is rerouted around a blocked vein with this surgery
  • Microphlebectomy – small cuts are made in the leg near the damaged vein, which is removed through one of these incisions
  • Sclerotherapy – the vein is injected with salt water or a chemical mixture, which makes the vein harden and disappear

For more information about treatment options for venous disease, talk with your doctor.

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What is the risk of untreated venous disease?

Dr. Abdelhamed discusses this risk of untreated venous disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When venous disease is left untreated, it can worsen, and the symptoms can become more severe, according to the American Venous ForumOff Site Icon (AVF).

Health problems that can arise, according to the AVF, if venous disease is not treated, could include:

  • Ongoing painful rashes, swelling, and other irritation on the legs
  • Severe venous insufficiency – pooling of blood in the veins that slows the return of blood to the heart, which can cause deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • Skin ulcers
  • Sores on the skin

Talk to your doctor for more information about what can happen if venous disease is left untreated.

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What can increase a person’s risk for developing blood clots during travel?

Dr. Gupta discusses what can increase the risk of blood clots during travel. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

In general, a person’s risk for blood clots – even while traveling – is very small, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon(CDC).

However, if you will be traveling for more than three to four hours sitting, and you have other risk factors for blood clots, your risk during travel increases, according to the CDC.

Risk factors that can increase a person’s risk for blood clots during travel, according to the CDC, include:

  • Active cancer
  • Catheter in a large vein
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Obesity
  • Older age, with risk increasing after 40
  • Postpartum period of up to six weeks after birth
  • Pregnancy
  • Previous blood clots
  • Use of contraceptives that contain estrogen
  • Varicose veins

Talk to your doctor about what can increase the risk of blood clots during travel.

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How are blood clots treated?

Dr. Gupta discusses how blood clots are treated. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Blood clots are frequently treated with anticoagulants – also known as blood thinners, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon(CDC).

These medicines reduce the ability of the blood to clot, which prevents a clot from becoming larger while the body has time to reabsorb it, according to the CDC. Blood thinners also reduce the risk of more clots forming.

Other treatment options, according to the CDC, include:

  • Inferior vena cava filter – inserted inside the vena cava (the large vein that brings blood back to the heart) to capture the clot
  • Thrombectomy – surgical procedure used in rare cases to remove a clot
  • Thrombolytics - work to dissolve the clot

Staying mobile and active, and using compression stockings, are also great ways to prevent blood clots from forming, according to Premier Physician Network’s (PPN) physicians.

Talk to your doctor about how blood clots are treated.

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How can people reduce their risk for developing a blood clot?

Dr. Gupta discusses how people can reduce their risk for developing a blood clot. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

There are simple steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing a blood clot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon(CDC).

Those steps, according to the CDC and Premier Physician Network’s (PPN) physicians, include:

  • Know the symptoms – These include swelling of arms and legs, unexplained pain, warm skin, red skin, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, chest pain, and lightheadedness.
  • Medication – Blood thinners might be an option.
  • Move your legs frequently – Extend your toes forward and back to stretch your calf muscles. Pull each knee up to your chest and hold for 15 seconds to help improve blood flow. 
  • Take a walk – If traveling or sitting down while working, stop and walk around every couple of hours. On a plane or bus, walk the aisle a few times.
  • Wear compression stockings – These help, especially if you have a history of blood clots.

And if you have concerns about blood clots before traveling, talk with your doctor for specific recommendations about your movement, risk, and medications you take. 

Talk to your doctor about how people can reduce their risk for a blood clot.

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What is vascular disease?

The vascular system is your body’s network of blood vessels, which includes arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Vascular disease can be common and serious, including blood clots, stiffened arteries, and weakened blood vessels, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The Society for Vascular SurgeryOff Site Icon (SVS) says the three most common vascular diseases are:    

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm – A bulge that forms in a weakened area of the largest artery in the abdomen
  • Carotid artery disease – This happens when the main blood vessels to the brain develop a buildup of plaque caused by hardening arteries and can lead to a stroke
  • Peripheral arterial disease – Also known as PAD, this happens when hardening of the arteries causes a buildup of plaque in blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

For more information about vascular disease, talk with your doctor.

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How is vascular disease diagnosed?

Vascular disease can include many of variety of conditions affecting the body’s blood vessels and caused by blood clots, stiffened arteries, and weakened blood vessels.

One type of vascular disease – peripheral artery disease (PAD) – is diagnosed using your medical history, family history, physical exam, and test results.

Your physical exam will include a check of the blood flow to your legs and feet, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Additional testing might include:

  • Ankle-brachial index
  • Arteriogram
  • Blood tests
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)
  • Treadmill test

Another kind of vascular disease, called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), is often diagnosed with an abdominal ultrasound.

Your doctor might also find this while doing a test for other issues, like an unrelated abdominal pain, according to the Society for Vascular SurgeryOff Site Icon (SVS).

Other testing that might need to be done to see inside your body better includes:

  • Angiography
  • CT scan
  • MRI

A third type of vascular disease is called carotid artery disease, which can lead to a stroke. This happens when the main blood vessels to the brain develop a buildup of plaque caused by hardening arteries.

To diagnose carotid disease, your doctor will take your medical history and do a physical exam. While listening with a stethoscope, they will listen for a whooshing sound that can be a sign of reduced blood flow from plaque buildup, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).  Some other tests might also include:

  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Carotid angiography
  • CT angiography
  • MRA

For more information about how vascular disease is diagnosed, talk with your doctor.

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How is vascular disease treated?

Vascular disease can include many conditions affecting the body’s blood vessels and caused by blood clots, stiffened arteries, and weakened blood vessels.

Treatment for three of the most common types of vascular disease includes:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) – Treatment depends on the size of the aneurysm. If it is small, it might not need to be treated. But if your doctor is concerned, he might want you to take some medicine to help lower your blood pressure or relax your blood vessels, according to the Society for Vascular SurgeryOff Site Icon (SVS).

    The goal is to keep the AAA from rupturing.

    If the aneurysm is too big or growing too fast, a surgeon will have to do one of two types of surgeries:

    • Endovascular repair
    • Open abdominal surgery
     
  • Carotid artery disease – The goal of treatment for carotid disease is to keep it from getting worse and to prevent a stroke or an additional stroke.

    Treatment might include healthy lifestyle changes, like eating a heart-healthy diet, working toward a healthy weight, managing stress, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking.

    Your doctor will also likely recommend medication. To help prevent a blood clot, he might say to take aspirin or clopidogrel.

    To help control cholesterol levels, you might need a statin. And, you might need other medications to help:

    • Lower your blood pressure
    • Lower your blood sugar
    • Prevent blood clots
    • Reduce inflammation
    You might also need these medical procedures:

    • Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting
    • Carotid artery stenting
    • Carotid endarterectomy
     
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD) – This is treated by making lifestyle changes, using medications, and possible surgery.

    The goal of treatment is to slow or stop the progression of PAD with the goal of reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other medical issues.

    The National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH) says the following are common treatment options for PAD:
    • Angioplasty and stent placement – Used to restore blood flow through narrowed or blocked arteries. A balloon is inflated in a blocked artery to widen it and allow blood to flow.
    • Atherectomy – This procedure removes plaque buildup from an artery. A catheter is used to insert a small device into the artery to shave off the plaque and unblock the artery.
    • Bypass grafting – A blood vessel from another part of your body is used to replace a vessel in one of your limbs that is blocked or almost blocked.
    • Heart-healthy lifestyle changes – These include increased physical activity, quitting smoking, and heart healthy eating.
     

For more information about treating vascular disease, talk with your doctor. 

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What is calcium scoring? 

Calcium scoring is a screening test you can have done to check the amount of hard plaque in your arteries that lead to your heart, according to the American College of CardiologyOff Site Icon (ACC).

The more coronary calcium you have means the greater likelihood of future coronary artery disease.

You can have the simple scan done quickly. The amount of radiation exposure is low, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

For more information about calcium screening, talk with your doctor.

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Who should consider having calcium scoring done?

If you have some risk factors of heart disease, calcium scoring can be helpful in working to prevent major heart issues in the future.

Some of those risk factors, according to the Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site Icon (HMS), include:

  • Being female and over age 55
  • Being male and over age 45
  • Family history of coronary artery disease
  • Health history including high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Overweight
  • Past or present smoker
  • Personal history of coronary artery disease

For more information about who should consider having calcium scoring, talk with your doctor.

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What can be done once a woman finds out she has a high calcium score?

Does your screening show a high calcium score? If so, now you can take steps to help reduce your risk of coronary artery disease. 

For some of us, that might include starting on medication – such as a statin to help control cholesterol, according to the Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site Icon (HMS). 

For others, more serious steps such as a stress test or a heart catheterization might be needed, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians. 

In almost every case, women with a high calcium score can benefit from being more active, eating better, quitting smoking, and making other positive lifestyle changes. 

Talk to your doctor about what can be done once a woman finds out she has a high calcium score.

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Is calcium scoring an important part of heart disease treatment and prevention? 

Though calcium scoring is not part of heart disease treatment, it is an important part of heart disease prevention, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Once we know our calcium score is high, we can take steps to keep the amount of plaque stable to postpone having a stent, having bypass surgery, or even having a heart attack.

For more information about whether calcium screening can be important in heart disease treatment and prevention, talk with your doctor.

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Is there anything a woman can do to reduce her risk for a high calcium score? 

The more calcium from plaque in the arteries leading to your heart, the higher your calcium score, according to the American College of CardiologyOff Site Icon (ACC).

Making healthy lifestyle choices and changes is the best way women can reduce their risk for a high calcium score.

Some of those healthy lifestyle changes include:

  • Being physically active
  • Choosing to quit smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Proactively caring for diabetes
  • Working to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level

Talk to your doctor to learn more about how to reduce your risk of having a high calcium score.

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Source: George Broderick, MD, Premier Heart Associates; Aaron Kaibas, DO, Upper Valley Cardiology; Mark Krebs, MD, Miami Valley Cardiologists; Timothy Markus, MD, Dayton Heart Center; Mark Moronell, MD, Miami Valley Cardiologists; Srikanth Sadhu, MD, Advanced Cardiovascular Institute; Abdul Wase, MD, The Premier Heart Associates; Eddie Davenport, MD, Miami Valley Cardiologists; Abdelhamed Abdelhamed, MD, The Premier Heart Associates; Thomas Kupper, MD, Upper Valley Cardiology; Sandeep Gupta, MD, Middletown Cardiology; Srikanth Sadhu, MD, Miami Valley Cardiologists; Hema Pandrangi, MD, FACC, Miami Valley Cardiologists

Content Updated: February 11, 2018

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