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Cardiovascular Diseases


The heart is a muscle with a very regular rhythm. When that rhythm is interrupted, there is cause for concern. It is a common problem with as many as 2.2 million Americans living with atrial fibrillation. These fluctuations in rhythm may occur in a healthy heart and be of no concern, but they can also be an indicator that a more serious disease process has begun. They can lead to heart attack, stroke and even sudden cardiac death. The heart does its work so well that we seldom are aware of having a heart. If you begin to feel yours, to feel fluttering or what some people call palpitations in your heart, see your physician immediately. Medical science has many solutions to this problem; your physician will guide you to finding the right course of action

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a disorder in the heart’s two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver isn’t working effectively. Blood isn’t pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and lodges in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation. Treatments for this condition range from medication to the implantation of an Atrial pacemaker to regulate the heart rhythm. Treatment for this condition is an important step in preventing stroke.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is the sudden, abrupt loss of heart function. It occurs in patients who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease. Brain death and permanent death start to occur in just 4 to 6 minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest. The process may be reversible if it is treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal hearth beat. Few attempts succeed after 10 minutes.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) or heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the other organs of the body. The causes are many ranging from coronary artery disease in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart have narrowed - past heart attack(s) which have left scar tissue on the heart - high blood pressure - heart valve disease due to past rheumatic fever or other causes - primary disease of the heart muscle, called cardiomyopathy - infection of the heart valves or the heart muscle itself.

The "failing" heart does its best to keep operating, but it is not as efficient any longer. This can cause shortness of breath and a feeling of being tired. Heart failure may also affect the work of the kidneys. As the kidneys find it more difficult to dispose of sodium and water, the body begins to retain fluid causing edema. Swollen legs are common symptoms, as well as difficulty in breathing and unexplained weight gains as fluids build up in the tissues of the body.

There are treatments for this condition and your doctor will help you regain the quality of your life. Medications and proper diet are key, but the best treatment is prevention. By reducing risk factors, you may be able to avoid this disease completely.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is a single event that results in permanent heart damage and sometimes death. The technical term for a heart attach is myocardial infarction. A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes severely or totally blocked, usually by a blood clot. Deprived of oxygen-rich blood, the muscle begins to die. The severity of the attack usually depends on how much of the heart muscle is injured or dies.

The primary indicator of a heart attack is pain. This pain can be experienced as weight on the chest, a pain radiating down the left arm, pain in the back and sometimes it is mistaken for indigestion. Unexplained sudden pain should always be explored immediately. Your chance of surviving a heart attack depends on the treatment you receive in the first hour of the attack. A call to 9-1-1 is appropriate. While waiting for help to arrive take an aspirin. Aspirin is known to be a blood clot inhibitor. The taking of a single aspirin may reduce death from heart attack by as much as 25 percent. Of course, once you reach a hospital there are many other treatments available.

We have all injured a muscle and we know that it takes work to get that muscle back to original condition. A heart attack can be the beginning of a new healthier you. Cardiac rehabilitation will begin your recovery. Expect at least six weeks of physical work. The professionals in your rehabilitation program will monitor you all the way. Many heart attack patients take this opportunity to quit smoking, lose weight, control their cholesterol and reduce their stress levels by planning a routine of physical exercise. By addressing these risk factors prior to a heart attack, you might prevent the attack.

However, we should all be aware that heart attacks happen to people who exercise regularly, eat properly, are at the right weight and have low fat levels in there blood. Important research at the Cleveland Clinic has led to a new understanding of how inflammation in the blood vessels may be a major contributor to heart attacks. This inflammation breaks through a blood vessel causing a blood clot to form. Your physician can order a simple, inexpensive blood test to check for the presence of this inflammation in your blood vessels. It can easily be treated, and some researchers believe that if we reduce this inflammation, we will do away with heart attacks. The jury is still out on this, but it is a hopeful new possibility.

Heart Murmur

The heart is a pumping muscle. It works constantly to keep the body properly supplied with oxygen rich blood. Four one-way valves keep the blood moving in one direction through the heart. If problems arise in one or more of those valves restriction of blood flow or leakage of a valve will cause the murmur your doctor detects.

To determine the cause of a murmur various tests including echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, a chest x-ray, or cardiac catheterization may be employed. Medication can be helpful but sometimes surgery is required. The important thing to remember is that treatment is available and only a doctor can diagnose this problem.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

This fairly common medical condition is the focus of a great deal of controversy. Mitral valve prolapse is named for a heart valve and is usually first diagnosed as a faint heart "click" or murmur. However, it isn’t actually a form of “heart disease” in the conventional sense of the term. It affects about 5 percent of the population, or about seven million people in America.

This condition is associated with a range of instabilities of the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that regulates the internal, unconscious functions of the body. These include blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, body temperature, gastrointestinal activity and emptying of the bladder. People with mitral valve prolapse seem to be wired differently than the general population. Their autonomic response can be much more volatile and unstable. What most of us experience as normal stress can set off a hair trigger event in a person with this condition.

People with MVP can experience crushing chest pain, with heartbeat racing and pounding. They may hyperventilate, feel short of breath and break out in cold sweats. They can have migraine headaches, feel dizzy, have difficulty concentrating, suffer from vertigo, insomnia and palpitations of the heart. Some experience panic attacks that present in the emergency room as a heart attack.

Women are far more likely than men to be diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, and oddly there is even a typical body type. The typical profile is a slender young female with long, tapering fingers and a model’s figure. Not all people with that profile will have the condition. Men can have the condition, and people with a different physique.

Medical technology can determine if a person has this condition and treatments are available.