Keeping Your Heart Healthy
Cardiology is a sub-specialty of Internal Medicine that focuses on diseases and overall function of the heart. Since the heart is responsible for pumping blood around your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells and removing waste products, this area of medicine is of critical importance.
During your visit to VHI, our cardiologists will assess your risk for heart disease based on family history, test results, or other signs, symptoms and risk factors. In addition to a comprehensive physical exam and assessment, they may order tests to assess your heart health and prescribe a treatment plan custom tailored to your needs.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease, also known as “ischemic heart disease”, is a group of diseases that includes: stable angina, unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death. It is within the group of cardiovascular diseases of which it is the most common type. A common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Occasionally it may feel like heartburn. Usually symptoms occur with exercise or emotional stress, last less than a few minutes, and get better with rest. Shortness of breath may also occur and sometimes no symptoms are present. The first sign is occasionally a heart attack. Other complications include heart failure or an irregular heartbeat
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high. The primary way that high blood pressure causes harm is by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels — making them work harder and less efficiently. You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage that can threaten your health. The best prevention is knowing your numbers and making changes that matter in order to prevent and manage high blood pressure.
When it comes to cholesterol, there are two terms worth knowing. Hyperlipidemia means your blood has too many lipids (or fats), such as cholesterol and triglycerides. One type of hyperlipidemia , hypercholesterolemia, means there’s too much LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. This condition increases fatty deposits in arteries and the risk of blockages. If you’re diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, your overall health and known risks (such as smoking or high blood pressure) will help guide treatment. These factors can combine with high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol levels to affect your cardiovascular health. Your doctor may use the National Institutes of Health’s Estimate of 10-Year Risk for Coronary Heart Disease Framingham Point Score to assess your risk of a coronary event in the next 10 years.
By assessing the motion of the heart wall, echocardiography can help detect the presence and assess the severity of coronary artery disease, as well as help determine whether any chest pain is related to heart disease. Echocardiography can also help detect hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The biggest advantage to echocardiography is that it is noninvasive (doesn’t involve breaking the skin or entering body cavities) and has no known risks or side effects.
Cardiac Stress Test
A stress test, sometimes called a treadmill test or exercise test, helps a doctor find out how well your heart handles work. As your body works harder during the test, it requires more oxygen, so the heart must pump more blood. The test can show if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart. It also helps doctors know the kind and level of exercise appropriate for a patient. A person taking the test: is hooked up to equipment to monitor the heart. walks slowly in place on a treadmill. Then the speed is increased for a faster pace and the treadmill is tilted to produce the effect of going up a small hill. may be asked to breathe into a tube for a couple of minutes. can stop the test at any time if needed. afterwards will sit or lie down to have their heart and blood pressure checked. Heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), and how tired you feel are monitored during the test. Healthy people who take the test are at very little risk. It’s about the same as if they walk fast or jog up a big hill. Medical professionals should be present in case something unusual happens during the test.
The term “heart failure” makes it sound like the heart is no longer working at all and there’s nothing that can be done. Actually, heart failure means that the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be. Congestive heart failure is a type of heart failure that requires seeking timely medical attention, although sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably. Your body depends on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s cells. When the cells are nourished properly, the body can function normally. With heart failure, the weakened heart can’t supply the cells with enough blood. This results in fatigue and shortness of breath and some people have coughing. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries can become very difficult. Heart failure is a serious condition, and usually there’s no cure. But many people with heart failure lead a full, enjoyable life when the condition is managed with heart failure medications and healthy lifestyle changes. It’s also helpful to have the support of family and friends who understand your condition.
Cardiac arrhythmia, also known as “cardiac dysrhythmia” or “irregular heartbeat”, is a group of conditions in which the heartbeat is irregular, too fast, or too slow. A heart rate that is too fast – above 100 beats per minute in adults – is called tachycardia and a heart rate that is too slow – below 60 beats per minute – is called bradycardia. Many types of arrhythmia have no symptoms. When symptoms are present these may include palpitations or feeling a pause between heartbeats. More seriously there may be lightheadedness, passing out, shortness of breath, or chest pain. While most types of arrhythmia are not serious, some predispose a person to complications such as stroke or heart failure. Others may result in cardiac arrest. There are four main types of arrhythmia: extra beats, supraventricular tachycardias, ventricular arrhythmias, and bradyarrhythmias. Extra beats include premature atrial contractions, premature ventricular contractions, and premature junctional contractions. Supraventricular tachycardias include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Ventricular arrhythmias include ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. Arrhythmias are due to problems with the electrical conduction system of the heart. Arrhythmias may occur in children; however, the normal range for the heart rate is different and depends on age. A number of tests can help with diagnosis including an electrocardiogram (ECG) and Holter monitor.
Your doctor may order a preoperative exam to determine whether you are stable enough for an upcoming procedure or surgery. Our team will perform a complete physical examination which specifically focuses on the systems in your body that are affected by anesthesia or surgery. Tests including Cardiac Stress Tests or an Echocardiogram might be performed. Out team will make sure that you understand the tests your doctor orders, how to prepare, and what to expect.