Heart Disease and When to See Your Doctor?

When Should I See My Doctor?

Don’t diagnose yourself or take any symptoms for granted. Whatever your age or physical condition, be sure to report any chest pain, pressure, discomfort, shortness of breath, or palpitations to your doctor. Call your local emergency services if these feelings persist for more than five minutes.

Heart disease can remain silent for years. But its presence can often be identified in numerous ways:

  • A thorough assessment of family and personal history.
  • A careful physical examination. After the age of 20, certain measures should be checked during a routine examination, such as Body Mass Index (the ratio of your height to your weight), blood pressure, and a blood analysis that includes sugar and cholesterol values.
  • A stress test. Normal results from an electrocardiogram (ECG) don’t always mean a healthy heart. If a doctor suspects significant blockages in your coronary arteries, then he or she will usually order a stress test, which involves challenging your heart by performing some physical activity, such as walking on a treadmill at a brisk pace. An ECG taken during and/or after such exercise can reveal abnormalities that confirm the arteries are unable to deliver the extra blood required by that exertion.

If the answer is still not clear, you might have to undergo one of several other procedures:

  • An echocardiogram uses sound waves reflected from the heart to produce images that show how the heart is contracting. When coronary arteries are blocked and cannot deliver the extra blood needed, abnormal heart contraction is visible.

If the result is inconclusive, the next step is a radionuclide stress test, which is more expensive but also more accurate. The image is examined for “cold spots”-scarring that indicates old damage caused to the heart muscle. The appearance of a new “cold spot” (or any change in an existing one) after exercise on a treadmill can mean there is a blockage in one or more of your coronary arteries.

If a patient is unable to walk on a treadmill, due to an orthopedic condition for example or a stroke, that person can be injected with substances that make the heart work harder without actual exercise. If this test shows abnormalities, an angiogram is usually required. This requires dye to be injected into the cardiac blood vessels through a catheter, which reveals any blockages.

Happy FamilyThe subject of damage to the cardiovascular system leading to heart disease can be unsettling. But the good news is that any obstructed coronary arteries, which can cause heart attacks, can be diagnosed very accurately and treated.

Always remember: it’s never too late or too early to start taking care of your heart.

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*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Combating Heart Disease

combating heart diseaseNearly all of us are born with immaculate arteries. But as soon as we learn how to feed ourselves, our arteries begin to go from clean to clogged. Taking better care of our cardiovascular system by watching our weight via a balanced diet and regular exercise goes a long way towards countering this effect. Adopting a healthier lifestyle will add years to your life as well as improving its quality.If you pass this information on to your children, they, too, can take steps to avoid premature heart disease.

It isn’t just adult men who are especially prone to heart disease. Even pre-menopausal women, who were long considered resistant to “heart trouble”, should learn to reduce the risk factors that may cause damage to their cardiovascular systems later in life.

When it comes to heart disease, there are factors that you can’t influence, like genetic vulnerability – we can’t choose our ancestors or alter our genes – and the aging process. But there are plenty more areas where the effectiveness of taking preventable action is documented by facts and figures.

Stop SmokingStopping smoking is a prime example. More than 400,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette smokers are four times more likely to have heart attacks and develop cardiovascular diseases than non-smokers. Men have a slightly higher risk than women. On average, lifetime smokers have a 50% chance of dying from a smoking-related disease. But quitting can quickly begin to nullify the risks – it’s never too late to stop. One year after quitting, your risk of heart disease drops by 50%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Within 15 years, a former smoker’s risk of dying from heart disease approaches that of a lifetime non-smoker.

Lowering your LDL “bad” cholesterol has enormous benefits. Doctors and nutritionists have a wealth of information about low cholesterol diets. Almost everyone who has a heart attack or undergoes bypass surgery is now given a statin, a type of cholesterol-lowering agent, regardless of his or her cholesterol level. The statin drugs that reduce cholesterol also reduce the level of C-Reactive Protein, a marker for inflammation of the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Switching to low cholesterol food is highly advisable.

Controlling Your Blood Pressure and getting it to normal levels greatly reduces the risk of both stroke and heart attack by slowing down the formation of arterial plaque that narrows the blood vessels everywhere in the body – especially in the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and legs.

Managing Your Blood Sugar is vital to avoiding Pre-Diabetes, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. (See Insulin Resistance, Diabetes and Heart Disease.) Although Type 2 Diabetes can be managed over a long life, almost 80% of Diabetics eventually die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

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