Patient Education Library
Our team of specialists and staff believe that informed patients are better equipped to make decisions regarding their health and well being. For your personal use, we have created an extensive patient library covering an array of educational topics. Browse through these diagnoses and treatments to learn more about topics of interest to you. Or, for a more comprehensive search of our entire Web site, enter your term(s) in the search bar provided.
As always, you can contact our office to answer any questions or concerns.
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Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when heart muscles don't receive enough oxygen-rich blood flow. Symptoms of angina include a feeling of pressure or squeezing pain in the chest. The pain may also appear in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, upper abdomen or back.
Why Worry About Angina?
In many cases, angina is a sign of coronary artery disease, which occurs when the blood vessels leading to the heart are blocked and oxygen flow is decreased. When the heart is deprived of oxygen, chest pain is often a symptom.
Angina can be either 'stable' or 'unstable'. Stable angina has a predictable pattern, and can be more easily managed because you can determine what triggers the pain and how to relieve it. Unstable angina is less predictable and more severe. It may also be a warning sign of a heart attack. Remember, not all chest pain is angina. Always seek medical attention at the first sign of chest pain.
If you already have angina, you can help prevent symptoms by recognizing what triggers the condition. If you don’t have angina, preventing coronary artery disease may reduce your chance of getting it. Follow a healthy diet, exercise, quit smoking, manage your cholesterol and blood pressure, and maintain a healthy weight to fight heart disease and angina.
Did you know that about one in every 13 adult Americans has coronary artery disease? It occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart start to narrow and harden. The narrowing is caused by a buildup of cholesterol, or plaque, on the walls of the arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis). As the plaque builds up, it becomes harder for blood to reach the heart muscles. This increases a person’s risk of angina or a heart attack.
If your cardiologist has diagnosed you with coronary artery disease, chances are good that you will need an angioplasty to restore blood flow through these arteries. Angioplasty is often recommended for those who are experiencing chest pain, or if the blockage increases their chances of having a heart attack.
How Does an Angioplasty Work?
During the angioplasty, your cardiologist will numb a region in either the groin or the arm. They will place a small tube (or catheter) into the artery. The catheter is then directed through the arteries until it reaches the coronary artery. An X-ray screen is used to help your cardiologist carefully guide the catheter where it needs to go in the arterial system. Once the catheter is in the coronary artery, we will thread a thin wire with an expandable balloon through the catheter to the blockage.
The balloon is then inflated to push away plaque and to expand the artery. This will allow more blood to flow through it. The balloon catheter may be inflated several times during the procedure to get enough blood flow to the artery. In many cases, during the angioplasty, as the balloon is inflating the artery, we will place a stent (or mesh tube) into the wall of the artery using the balloon. The stent will lock in place and ensure that the artery stays open. Once complete, the catheter and balloon are removed.
An angioplasty is not painful, and can even be performed while the patient is awake. Medications can be prescribed to help you relax. We will numb the area prior to placing the catheter, so you may feel some slight pressure as the catheter is placed. Typically, patients stay overnight following the procedure.
If you have any questions about angioplasty or coronary artery disease, contact us today!
Cardiomyopathy is a broad term that refers to a disease of the heart muscle. The heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick or abnormally rigid, and as cardiomyopathy progresses, the heart becomes weaker. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart rhythm problems, heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest.
Symptoms of cardiomyopathy generally get worse as the disease progresses. In some cases, patients may not experience any symptoms in the early stages.
Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the ankles, feet and legs
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Concerned that you might have cardiomyopathy? Contact us immediately. Treatment can help halt the progression of the disease.
EKGs and Stress tests
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women worldwide. According to the American Heart Association, about 2,150 Americans die each day from heart disease or stroke. This equates to one person dying every 40 seconds. Your cardiologist can determine your risk of developing heart disease or a heart attack through EKGs and stress tests.
What Kind of Tests are Performed to Check for Heart Disease?
An EKG, also known as an electrocardiogram, measures your heart's activity. EKGs can be administered while you are lying on a table to take a 'snapshot' of your current heart rate, or may be administered as part of a stress test.
Your cardiologist may recommend a stress test if you have heart disease or are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Stress tests allow cardiologists to pinpoint whether you are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat. They are often conducted while you exercise, but can also be performed a number of other ways, including by administering medicine to make your heart react as if you were exercising.
In some cases, a nuclear stress test is recommended. This is a great diagnostic tool for checking blood flow to the heart. During this test, a small amount of radioactive tracer is administered into the vein through an IV. Then, a camera is used to detect the tracer and produce images of the heart. This test is allows us to determine whether you are getting adequate blood flow to the heart while active.
How Do These Tests Work?
Before the test begins, we will place electrodes on your chest, arms and legs. These electrodes are connected to a machine that will monitor and record your heart activity.
During typical exercise stress tests, you may either use a treadmill or a stationary bike. The EKG will monitor you from baseline, while you are active, and after you finish exercising. The test has different phases, each of which lasts about three minutes. After each phase is complete, the speed or resistance will be increased.
Both your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored throughout the exercise. The test ends either once you reach your maximum heart rate, when there are symptoms of stress on the heart or lungs, or when we find that there is decreased blood flow to the heart muscles. We will also stop the test if you experience an irregular heartbeat or if your blood pressure drops. The entire test will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Your cardiologist will look at the patterns of electrical activity in the heart and contact you within a few days with the results. In some cases, we may even be able to tell you the results immediately following the test.
If you are at risk of heart disease or are experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, or chest pain, call us today.
Heart Rhythm Conditions
Heart rhythm conditions are often a sign of an underlying issue, and may even pose problems in themselves. So what are some of the most common heart rhythm conditions?
Atrial fibrillation (AF) occurs when the atria, or upper chambers of the heart, begin to beat out of sync with the ventricles, or lower chambers of the heart. Characterized by a rapid rhythm, AF reduces the heart's effectiveness at pumping blood. As a result, blood clots can form in the heart chambers, potentially reaching the brain and causing a stroke or heart failure.
AF is typically due to an existing heart condition. Other causes include high blood pressure, heart attack and coronary artery disease. Dizziness, feeling out of breath, tiredness, a feeling that the heart is racing or fluttering, uneven heartbeat, and chest pain are all common symptoms.
Atrial fibrillation is common in older adults and may not present obvious symptoms. Seeing a doctor at the first onset of AF symptoms is important to avoid serious complications. The typical goals of treatment are restoring rhythm to as close to normal as possible and preventing the formation of blood clots.
Arrhythmia is a problem with the rhythm of the heartbeat-beating too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. Many arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be life-threatening, especially since a lack of blood flow to the body can damage the brain, heart and other organs.
Noticeable symptoms of arrhythmia include fainting, dizziness, heart palpitations, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain. Arrhythmia can be caused by heart disease, stress, smoking, heavy alcohol use and certain medications.
Treatment for arrhythmias depends on the type and severity of irregular heart rhythm. In most cases, people with arrhythmias can live normal, healthy lives, but never take the risk of a 'wait-and-see' approach.
Remember, anything other than your usual, steady heartbeat could be a sign of a dangerous heart condition. Always discuss irregular heartbeat symptoms with your cardiologist.
If there is a concern that you have a slow, fast or irregular heartbeat, your cardiologist may recommend wearing a Holter monitor. This portable device is worn continuously for about 24 to 48 hours or longer, depending on the type of monitoring needed. The device is small, and attaches to your chest with electrodes to record the electrical activity of your heart throughout the day.
Aside from checking the regularity of your heartbeat, your cardiologist may recommend wearing a Holter monitor to see if your medicines are managing your health problems. The results will help your cardiologist decide whether you need additional testing and medication, or if you require a pacemaker to repair your irregular heart rhythm. And if you have a pacemaker, Holter monitoring can help us determine whether it is working properly.
How Do Holter Monitors Work?
When you get an electrocardiogram (EKG) from your cardiologist, it allows us to see your heart's activity at that specific moment. Unfortunately for those with abnormal heart rhythms, their symptoms often come and go, and may not be caught by an EKG. That's why your cardiologist may recommend wearing a Holter monitor while you go about your normal daily activities.
When you come in for your monitor, we will talk to you about how to record your symptoms while you wear it. Then we will attach the electrodes to your chest. Once the electrodes have been placed, we will help you put the monitor on and talk to you about how to care for it.
The monitor can easily fit into a pocket or hang around your shoulder like a purse. While you can go about your normal day-to-day activities wearing the monitor, don't bathe or shower while wearing it, and stay away from metal detectors and X-rays.
Once the test period is over, you will return the monitor to us and we will create a report based on your results. You'll come back for your results in a week or two.
Questions about Holter monitors? Coping with an irregular heartbeat? Then it's time you called our cardiology office today!
How to Prepare For Your Visit
Whether you're getting ready for your first visit or your tenth, it's always important you know what you should do to prepare for your next trip to the cardiologist. After all, you want to get the most from your appointment, and that means preparing ahead of time.
Here are some things to consider before your next visit to our office:
Your Current Medications
Make a full list of all your current medications, including their name, dosage and frequency. This is important information for your cardiologist, particularly when creating a treatment plan. You should also make a list of any allergies you may have. Don't just assume you'll remember it off the top of your head. Having this information written down prior to your appointment will make the process a lot easier.
It's never a bad idea to have a list of your health care providers available at your visit. It's important to include your doctors names, contact information, and what conditions you are seeing them for. We may need to contact your doctors to discuss your current conditions, medications and treatments. This is done to provide you with a more thorough treatment plan.
Your Medical History
This is one of the most obvious ones, but it's necessary that we know about any preexisting health problems. This includes any surgeries (and their dates) and any major procedures or tests within the last year. Knowing your health history, we can help make a proper diagnosis and also determine the best course of action for treating your condition.
Just as your medical history is important, so is your family's health history. From siblings and parents to uncles and children, we particularly want to know if there is a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Knowing the health issues and illnesses of family members can help us monitor your health and prescribe preventive measures.
Any Questions You May Have
Before your appointment, you may realize you have some questions for your cardiologist. It's a good idea to jot them down so you don't forget. This appointment is about your health, and we will take time out to address your questions and concerns to make sure that you have a productive and valuable visit.
If you need to schedule your next cardiologist appointment, call our office today!
Heart Attack and Heart Failure
We've all heard the dreaded names heart attack and heart failure. So what sets these two frightening conditions apart?
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when a blood clot develops at the site of plaque in a coronary artery, suddenly cutting off most or all blood supply to that part of the heart muscle. If the blood supply is not restored quickly, the heart muscle will begin to die due to lack of oxygen. This can cause permanent damage to the heart, and, in worst cases, death.
Heart attacks should not be confused with heart failure. Heart failure is typically a chronic, long-standing condition, while heart attacks generally come on suddenly.
Know the Symptoms
Symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. If you think you may be having a heart attack, seek medical help and call 911 immediately.
The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major symptoms of a heart attack:
- Tightness and discomfort in the chest area. Most heart attacks cause pain in the center of the chest, lasting for more than a few minutes. Discomfort may subside for a minutes and then return. The sensation is an uncomfortable pressure, a feeling of swelling, fullness, or a painful squeezing.
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This symptom may occur before any feeling of discomfort arises in the chest, but most often accompanies it.
- Sweating and nausea. Breaking out in a cold sweat and feeling nauseated or lightheaded are also common symptoms of a heart attack.
To improve your heart health and prevent a heart attack, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, manage blood pressure and cholesterol, and visit your doctor or cardiac specialist for regular medical checkups.
Heart failure (congestive heart failure) occurs when the heart fails to pump enough blood to maintain the needs of the body. A highly common condition, it affects an estimated 5 million people in the United States each year.
The best way to prevent heart failure is to manage risk factors that lead to it, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, obesity, and diabetes. Lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery can all relieve and improve symptoms.
Heart failure is a serious condition, but when the symptoms are managed with proper treatment, patients with heart failure can lead a normal, active life.
While heart failure can be less dramatic than heart attack, it can also be just as lethal. If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from either heart failure or a heart attack, seek medical care immediately.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition that can lead to serious health problems, such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.
Most people with high blood pressure are unaware, since the symptoms can stay below notice for years at a time. For this reason, it’s important to visit your doctor regularly for a general medical check-up.
When blood pressure reaches life-threatening levels, the following symptoms may be noticeable:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Pounding in the head or chest
- Sharp chest pains
Elevated blood pressure may be inherited or related to other factors including:
- Being overweight
- Diet high in saturated fat and/or sodium
- Excessive drinking
- Physical inactivity
- Being male
- High stress levels
You can manage your hypertension and lower your risk of stroke with lifestyle changes and medications prescribed by your cardiologist. So don't hesitate! Get checked for hypertension today.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is suddenly interrupted. When the brain lacks sufficient blood flow for a long enough period of time, brain damage or even death can result. Immediate medical attention and early treatment are critical to help minimize damage to brain tissue and improve the outcome.
Types of Strokes
There are two major types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes, the most common type, occur when which a blood clot blocks the arteries leading to the brain and cuts off blood flow. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain.
At the first sign of a stroke, patients should seek medical care immediately. Symptoms of a stroke vary, but typically occur suddenly and include:
- Weakness, tingling or numbness in a limb
- Partial loss of vision
- Inability to move a limb
- Double vision, vertigo or loss of balance
- Difficulty swallowing
- Memory loss
- Drowsiness or loss of consciousness
- Uncontrollable eye movements
What Causes Strokes?
Smoking is the number one risk factor for strokes, and indeed, making basic lifestyle changes like quitting smoking can significantly reduce your overall risk. These include:
- Weight loss
- Cholesterol and blood pressure management
- Reducing alcohol intake
Aside from lifestyle changes, managing any underlying health conditions, including hypertension and diabetes, also reduce your risk of stroke. If you are concerned about your stroke risk, talk to your cardiologist about what more you could be doing to keep your risk low.
What Does a Cardiologist Do?
If you are looking for a doctor that uniquely specializes in diseases and conditions of the heart and blood vessels, you want to see a cardiologist. A cardiologist goes through four years of medical school and then three years of training in general medicine before spending three years or more in specialized training to handle heart and vessel related health issues.
When Should You See a Cardiologist?
If you have seen your general practitioner and they believe that you have symptoms that are indicative of a heart problem, they may refer you to a cardiologist.
Symptoms of heart problems include:
- Chest pain
- Fainting spells
- Heart murmur
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
What Does a Cardiologist Do?
Cardiologists diagnose heart disease, and help those who have it to manage their condition and live a healthier life to prevent other complications. They also handle heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. A cardiologist is also the doctor that determines whether angioplasty or heart surgery is necessary to correct an issue.
What Happens at an Appointment with a Cardiologist?
Your cardiologist will take your vitals when you visit, including your blood pressure and heart rate, and perform a physical examination. They will also discuss your detailed medical history to pinpoint your risk factors for developing certain conditions.
Some conditions can be diagnosed through a physical exam. Other issues will require additional testing, like an EKG or a blood test. Aside from discussing treatment options like medications or procedures, we may also recommend lifestyle changes. This may include increasing exercise or improving your diet.
If your general practitioner has referred you to a cardiologist, or you feel you may be experiencing heart-related symptoms, call our office today to schedule an appointment. The health of your heart is too important to hesitate over.