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Cut Your Risk of a Stroke

Posted on in Heart Health

May is National Stroke Awareness Month  Medically Reviewed by Nicolette Naso, MD

All of a sudden you feel dizzy. You try to talk, but it doesn’t come out right. Your leg (or arm or face) feels weak and numb. A splitting headache hits you out of the blue.  Your vision blurs. The symptoms of a stroke seem simple and straightforward.  However, a survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 38% of people could correctly identify all 5 symptoms of stroke. If these appear SUDDENLY, call 911 immediately. Stroke is the leading cause of death and long-term disability in the US. 

Unique Heart Risks for Women

Posted on in Heart Health

Medically Reviewed by Alan Blaker, MD

Not only do heart attacks in women exhibit with symptoms different from men, but women are different from men in the way some risk factors affect them. “Most coronary heart disease risk factors affect men as well as women,” says McLeod Cardiologist Alan Blaker, MD. “Three risks unique to women are related to birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause.”

Are You Too Old for Heart Valve Surgery?

Posted on in Heart Health

Medically Reviewed by Cary Huber, MD

Fact: More than 300,000 people worldwide have heart valve surgery annually. Fact: Valve Replacement and Heart Bypass surgery (or a combination of the two) are the most common procedures in the “elderly.” Fact: More than 30% of the patients having heart valve surgery are over 70. Fact: More than 20% of heart valve surgical patients are over 75 years of age. 

5 Weird Heart Risks You May Not Know About

Posted on in Heart Health

Medically reviewed by Anil OM, MD

Baldness. Earlobes. Airports. Bowling Alleys. Breakfast. Yes, real scientific studies have shown that these 5 things are related to your risk of heart and vascular disease.  Here are some fun facts that have a serious side.

Medically reviewed by Michael Carmichael, MD

Koreans would tell you that Kimchi – a spicy, fermented CABBAGE dish – can change your life. However, our apologies to Kimchi. In this article we are discussing the Coronary Artery Bypass Graft surgery, also known by its initials CABG and pronounced “cabbage.” It is also known as heart bypass surgery.

Medically Reviewed by Michael Carmichael, MD

Want to have something in common with TV personality Barbara Walters? She had a TAVI.The most common heart valve problem is a narrowing of the aortic valve – the gateway for blood leaving the heart for the rest of the body. Aortic stenosis reduces the amount of oxygenated blood that reaches organs.

In 1831, a veterinarian described a condition of lameness that hit horses after exercise defining the problem as “claudication” from the Latin word meaning “to limp.”

These days, claudication describes a similar problem that affects 10% of people over 70, as well as about 2% of people aged 37-69. Men are twice as likely as women to suffer this health issue. Claudication symptoms are described as aching, burning, weakness or “dead weight” in their legs when walking.

Aortic Aneurysm - Screening Is Important.

Posted on in Heart Health

QUESTION: What can we do about a medical issue that 1) involves the largest, most important blood vessel in the body, 2) has few, if any, symptoms and 3) has a 90% risk of death if it ruptures?

ANSWER: If you are a man, a smoker and are age 65-75, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends an immediate ultrasound screening by your physician or a vascular specialist for an aortic aneurysm.

Healthcare Ratings: How They Stack Up.

Posted on in Heart Health

Over the years, most people have relied on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a doctor or hospitals. With the rise of the Internet, easily and often accessed by health consumers, ratings and rankings boomed. To be an informed consumer, it’s good to understand what information each rating uses and how it is compiled. Here’s a brief overview.

Organizations compile their ratings with different information, from different sources with different formulas to make the data consumer-friendly. Here are the most common ways in which ratings are generated:

Medically Reviewed by Scot Schultz, MD

Over 300,000 patients with coronary artery disease undergo heart bypass surgery each year. Hear the words “heart bypass surgery,” you might think of the traditional approach which includes stopping the patient’s heart for about an hour.  During this time, blood is diverted into a heart-lung machine that keeps the patient alive, while the surgeon sews arteries or veins from the leg or arm beyond the blocked arteries on the heart.

Atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for stroke, making a person 5 times more likely to suffer stroke. 

WHAT IS IT?  Atrial Fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat. It is caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing a changeable heartbeat. 

A temporary fluttering in the chest.  An extra or skipped beat.  This is something that almost everyone has experienced.  It's usually nothing but could be a sign of something more serious. 

The Problem. Think of the heart like a machine that requires electrical impulses to travel through it in a certain path to keep blood pumping regularly.  When the impulses don’t travel in the correct path, the heart’s chambers (2 upper atriums, 2 lower ventricles) don’t expand and contract in a coordinated manner. A rapid beating in the upper chambers prevents the heart from pumping blood adequately to the lower chambers. At times the heart may beat too fast or too slowly. 

A person’s heart has four valves. Two of them do the most work.  The mitral valve pumps blood between the heart’s two left chambers. The aortic valve controls blood flowing from your heart into the body’s main blood vessel. 

Two common problems happen with valves.  In one case, the valve can’t close properly.  In the other, the valve opening narrows, limiting the amount of blood that can flow through.

“The heart’s 4 valves can malfunction in two primary ways,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Scot Schultz.  “A valve can fail to open all the way or a narrowing can block the flow of blood. Or a valve may fail to close all the way, allowing some blood leak the wrong way.”

Many people with heart valve disease have no symptoms.  Fatigue or tiredness is one of the most common, along with heart irregularities that some people may describe as “palpitations.”

This article is one of three outlining signs & symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of heart valve problems.

“Your heart has 4 valves that are essentially flaps of tissue,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Scot Schultz. “The main job of the valves is keeping the blood flowing in one direction through the heart and body.  Valves are very busy body parts – opening and closing about 100,000 times a day.”

Larry King, best known for his long-running cable interview show "Larry King Live," at the age of 54 suffered a serious heart attack.  Shortly afterward he underwent a quintuple bypass surgery.  The experience led him to not only make serious changes in his own life, but to also inspired him to help others with heart disease by sharing his experiences in his book "Mr. King, You're Having a Heart Attack". 

Your days, weeks and months after heart surgery are certainly a time of physical recuperation and rehabilitation.  The post-surgery period can hold emotional challenges, as well.  So, let’s tackle that side of your recovery plan first.

“Nearly everything in our lives has some effect on the risk of having a heart problem (cardiac) or disease related to our blood vessels (vascular),” says McLeod Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Fred Krainin. “The narrowing and hardening of arteries can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, diabetes or even dementia.”

Everyone is at risk for cardiovascular disease.  Some risk factors are beyond your control.  But others can be influenced by how we lead our lives.

Pain… Pain in your leg… When you walk... Or climb stairs… You think it’s just age… Stiffness…   Maybe a touch of arthritis…  OR it could be a type of serious cardiovascular disease called Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).

PAD is caused by a buildup of plaque (plak) in arteries that carry blood to your limbs.  As the plaque builds up, arteries become clogged, limiting the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to your legs.  The danger of gangrene and amputation exists if PAD is left untreated

Conditions related to vascular disease mostly have long, complicated names – carotid artery disease, transient ischemic attacks, peripheral arterial disease – and similar multi-word, multi-syllable names.  

“Simply put, these terms are describing the process of blood vessels clogging up over time,” says McLeod Vascular Surgeon Dr. Christopher Cunningham. “The result is a decrease in the flow of blood to various parts of the body and brain, leading to potentially serious health problems.”  

Carotid artery disease is the major cause of stroke and a leading cause of disability in the United States. 


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