Tag Archives: Heart Disease

Cardiology: When Chest Discomfort Is Serious

Mayo Clinic – Chest discomfort and pain account for more than 6.5 million emergency department visits in the U.S. each year. Discomfort can be the first sign of a serious heart event or a symptom of other medical conditions. Dr. Regis Fernandes, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, says people should seek medical care at the first sign of chest pain.

Heart Disease: Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Risks

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a weak spot in the aorta, the main pipeline for blood from the heart to the body. The weak spot has the potential to dissect or rupture, cutting off the supply of life-sustaining blood to the rest of the body. Thoracic aortic aneurysms are often harder to detect and diagnose compared to the more common abdominal aortic aneurysms. 

December 14, 2022

The aorta begins deep in the heart. It emerges from the top of the powerful left ventricle, curves up and over the heart in a gentle arch, then descends into the chest and through the muscular diaphragm into the abdomen (see “Thoracic aorta”). It ends around the belly button, where it splits into two smaller arteries, one for each leg.

THORACIC AORTA

From start to end, arteries branch off to nourish the heart, brain, arms, kidneys, liver, stomach, intestines, and every other part of the body. The stretch of the aorta from its start in the heart to the top of the diaphragm is called the thoracic aorta; the section below the diaphragm is the abdominal aorta.

Some aneurysms are relatively harmless. Others can lead to the catastrophic problems known as dissection or rupture. For now, size is the best and only guide to the health threat posed by an aneurysm.

Dissection. The most common consequence of an aortic aneurysm, dissection occurs when a tear develops in the inner lining of the aortic wall. The inner and outer layers peel apart, creating an extra channel for blood inside the aorta. It may do no harm, or it may allow blood to bypass the outflow to certain organs or tissues, leaving them without a blood supply. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and other problems.

Rupture. A break in all three layers of the aortic wall is termed a rupture. Blood pours from the aorta into the chest. This massive internal bleeding can quickly lead to shock and death.

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Heart Health: Function & Benefits Of Pacemakers

“The likelihood of needing a pacemaker increases with age,” says Dr. Sunil Kapur, a cardiologist at the Heart and Vascular Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The good news is that today’s pacemakers have evolved from fixing irregular heartbeats to helping the heart maintain its normal function, which allows many men with certain heart conditions to stay active longer.”

December 1, 2022

A pacemaker monitors the heart’s rhythm and, when necessary, generates a painless electrical impulse that triggers a heartbeat.

The most common use for a pacemaker is when the heart beats too slowly or pauses, which triggers dizziness, shortness of breath, or fainting. (You should see your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.) A pacemaker also can help your heart chambers beat in sync and improve blood flow if your heart isn’t pumping enough blood. In some cases, a pacemaker may be needed to treat a heartbeat that is too fast or irregular.

These issues can stem from problems with the heart’s electrical signaling, a heart defect, an enlarged or thick heart muscle, heart failure, or a heart attack.

Several tests can help your doctor determine if you need a pacemaker: an electrocardiogram, which measures the heart’s electrical activity; Holter monitoring, in which you wear a small device to track your heart’s rhythm; or an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to produce images showing your heart’s size, structure, and motion.

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Heart Health: When You Should Take Daily Aspirin

When should you take daily aspirin?

If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke: Taking a low-dose aspirin a day is an important part of your treatment. It can help you prevent another heart attack or stroke.

If you haven’t had a heart attack or stroke: Taking an aspirin a day may prevent heart attack or stroke, but it can also cause bleeding. Talk with your health care team about the risks and benefits of aspirin for you. In general, don’t take a daily aspirin if you are 60 or older and don’t have heart disease.

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Heart Disease: The Best Ways To Lower High LDL Cholesterol Levels

November 1, 2022

What is a healthy target for LDL cholesterol?

Target LDL depends on many factors, including your age, family history, and personal history of cardiovascular disease. For people at intermediate risk, LDL should be lowered by 30% to 50%. For those who have already had a heart attack, target LDL is no more than 70 mg/dl (note: automatic download).

Which non-statin therapies are recommended first?

Five non-statin therapies described in this post aim to help people achieve target LDL goals while minimizing side effects. They may be combined with a statin or given instead of statins.

Each helps lower LDL cholesterol when diet and statins are not sufficient, such as when there is a family history of high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia). But so far, only two options are proven to reduce cardiovascular risk — the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other issues affecting the heart and blood vessels.

Ezetimibe (Zetia)

What it does: Lowers LDL and cardiovascular risk by reducing cholesterol absorption.

How it’s given: A daily pill

Relatively inexpensive and often given with statins.

PCSK9 inhibitors, alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha)

What it does: A protein called PCSK9 controls the number of LDL receptors on cells. These medicines are monoclonal antibodies against PCSK9 that increase LDL receptors on the liver, helping to clear circulating LDL from the bloodstream.

How it’s given: A shot every two to four weeks

Highly effective for lowering LDL, but expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Conditions: How Chronic Kidney Disease, Diabetes & Heart Disease Are Linked

The body is complicated! While organs in your body each have a specific job to do to keep you healthy, they still rely on each other to function well. When one organ isn’t working the way it should, it can put stress on other organs, causing them to stop working properly as well.

The relationship between chronic kidney disease (CKD), diabetes, and heart disease is one example of the ways our organs are connected.

The body uses a hormone called insulin to get blood sugar into the body’s cells to be used as energy. If someone has diabetes, their pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should.

If someone has CKD, their kidneys are not able to filter out toxins and waste from their blood as well as they should.

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common condition, coronary artery disease, leads to changes in blood flow to the heart, which can cause a heart attack.

Make the Connection

So how are these three conditions connected? Risk factors for each condition are similar and include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, family history, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

High blood sugar can slowly damage the kidneys, and, over time, they can stop filtering blood as well as they should, leading to CKD. Approximately 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has CKD.

When the kidneys don’t work well, more stress is put on the heart. When someone has CKD, their heart needs to pump harder to get blood to the kidneys. This can lead to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Change in blood pressure is also a CKD complication that can lead to heart disease.

Luckily, preventing or managing one condition can help you prevent and manage the others and lower the risk for more complications.

Health: American Heart Association Checklist

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently revised its checklist for achieving optimal heart health, introducing its new Life’s Essential 8. The list replaces the AHA’s decade-old Life’s Simple 7.

Sleep health is the new addition to the cardiovascular health scoring tool, which now advises that adults get seven to nine hours per night. The organization updated four of the categories:

  • Diet: More emphasis was given to following heart-healthy diets like the DASH and Mediterranean.
  • Nicotine exposure: Secondhand smoke and vaping were added as risk factors.
  • Blood lipids: People now can get a non-fasting blood sample that measures total, HDL, and non-HDL cholesterol. Non-HDL cholesterol can provide similar risk information as LDL cholesterol.
  • Blood sugar: Measurements now include hemoglobin A1c, a key component to assessing type 2 diabetes risk.
  • Three categories were unchanged:
  • Physical activity: The optimal weekly level is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
  • Body mass index (BMI): A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is ideal for heart health.
  • Blood pressure: Levels less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) remain optimal. Stage 1 hypertension is 130 to 139 mm Hg for systolic pressure (the first number) or 80 to 89 mm Hg for diastolic pressure (the second number).
  • You can calculate your heart health score at mlc.heart.org. The guidelines were published online June 29, 2022, by Circulation.

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Technology: How AI Can Improve Diagnostics (GAO)

Each year, medical diagnosis errors affect the health of millions of Americans and cost billions of dollars. Machine learning technologies can help identify hidden or complex patterns in diagnostic data to detect diseases earlier and improve treatments.

Several machine learning (ML) technologies are available in the U.S. to assist with the diagnostic process. The resulting benefits include earlier detection of diseases; more consistent analysis of medical data; and increased access to care, particularly for underserved populations. GAO identified a variety of ML-based technologies for five selected diseases

  • Certain cancers,
  • Diabetic retinopathy,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • Heart disease,
  • COVID-19

Most technologies relying on data from imaging such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, these ML technologies have generally not been widely adopted.

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Heart Disease: Symptoms & Types Of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.

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The main types of cardiomyopathy include dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Treatment — which might include medications, surgically implanted devices, heart surgery or, in severe cases, a heart transplant — depends on the type of cardiomyopathy and how serious it is.

Types

  1. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Symptoms

There might be no signs or symptoms in the early stages of cardiomyopathy. But as the condition advances, signs and symptoms usually appear, including:

  • Breathlessness with activity or even at rest
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
  • Bloating of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
  • Cough while lying down
  • Difficulty lying flat to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • Chest discomfort or pressure
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting

Signs and symptoms tend to get worse unless treated. In some people, the condition worsens quickly; in others, it might not worsen for a long time.

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Diet: Consuming Olive Oil Daily Lowers Heart Risks

Consuming just a half-tablespoon or more of olive oil a day is linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease and other chronic health conditions, new research suggests.

photo of a hand holding a bottle of olive oil and drizzling it on a dish of quinoa

The study included more than 92,000 women and men from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who filled out diet questionnaires every four years for 28 years. Olive oil intake was calculated from how much they reported using in salad dressings, on bread and other food, and in baking or frying.

Compared with participants who rarely or never consumed olive oil, those who consumed the most (about a half-tablespoon or more daily) had a 19% lower risk of dying from heart disease during the study. Researchers also noted lower death rates over all among people who substituted olive oil for a similar amount of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat. The findings, published Jan.18, 2022, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, lend further support for choosing olive oil — a key component of the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet.

Read more at Harvard Health