Know Your Condition. Know Your Heart.


Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.

Here are some of the most common heart and vascular conditions …

  • Angina – Angina pectoris is the medical term for chest pain or discomfort due to coronary heart disease. It occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t get as much blood as it needs. This usually happens because one or more of the heart’s arteries is narrowed or blocked; it is described as uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest usually on exertion, after emotional distress or heavy meal. You may also feel the discomfort in your neck, jaw, shoulder, back or arm. Symptoms usually resolve with rest; if despite of it you continue to experience symptoms you need to seek urgent medical evaluation.
  • Aortic Aneurysm – An aneurysm occurs when part of an artery wall weakens, allowing it to balloon out or widen abnormally and it is usually caused by plaque buildup as a part of the atherosclerotic process. Sometimes the cause is unknown; some people can be born with it as some types of aneurysm can run in families; aneurysms can be result of infection or trauma to the vessel; smokers are at higher risk for developing aneurysms. Aneurysms can develop slowly over many years and often have no symptoms; usually they are detected by noninvasive screening methods as aortic ultrasound in patients at risk.
  • Arrhythmia – Heart rhythm problems caused by changes in the way how electrical impulses travel through the heart causing the heartbeat to be slow, fast or irregular. Patients may feel “fluttering”, “skipping “or “racing heart “; the perceived abnormality of the heartbeat characterized by hard, fast or irregular beats is called palpitation; Palpitations are not always related to an underlying condition. It may be caused by dehydration from excessive sweating or physical activity, effects of medical and recreational drugs, excessive tobacco, alcohol or caffeine use, certain medications and anxiety. Some of the arrhythmias can be harmless while others may cause sometimes even life-threatening signs and symptoms. Your doctor may recommend only lifestyle modifications, prescribe medications or determine that evaluation by a heart rhythm specialist is needed.
  • Atherosclerosis – Narrowing of the arteries caused by the buildup of plaques containing cholesterol and some other substances in and on the artery walls. It can be brought on by smoking, a bad diet, or genetic predisposition. Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of coronary artery disease and stroke, with multiple genetic and environmental contributions.
  • Atrial fibrillation – Most common type of heart arrhythmia; may occur in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition. It occurs when the electric impulses don’t follow the normal pathway within the electric system of the heart;because of that, the heart beats irregularly and may not  pump efficiently, making the patient at risk for forming a clot, resulting in a stroke.
  • Broken Heart Syndrome – Condition characterized by sudden temporary weakening of the muscular portion of the heart. It is accompanied by symptoms, EKG changes and often blood work suggestive of a heart attack but occurring in the absence of significant coronary artery disease.
    It is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Takotsubo in Japanese means “Octopus trap” because the left ventricle takes on a shape of the octopus trap when affected by this condition which was first described in Japan in 1990.
    Women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with it. The cause of this condition is not fully understood; it is felt that a surge in stress hormones triggers changes in the heart muscle cells or coronary blood vessels preventing the heart to contract efficiently. In most cases, symptoms are brought on by emotional or physical stress such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, the breakup of a romantic relationship, an asthma attack, an exhausting physical event, after major surgery or even after happy occurrences such as a surprise proposal or a reunion. This lead to the one of common names  “Broken heart syndrome:” Treatment is generally supportive in nature as it is considered to be a transient disorder and in majority of patient heart function normalizes within few weeks; some patient experience serious complications which require treatment  like acute congestive heart failure, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and clot formation within the heart.
  • Cardiomyopathy – Disease of the heart muscle in which the muscle is abnormally enlarged, thickened, and/or stiffened. The weakened heart muscle loses the ability to pump blood effectively, resulting in irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and heart failure. These diseases have many causes, variety of symptoms and treatment options.
  • Carotid artery disease – Narrowing in the large arteries located on each side of the neck that carry blood to the head, face and brain. The narrowing usually results from atherosclerosis, or a build-up of plaque on the inside of the arteries. Risk factors for carotid artery stenosis include age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and an inactive lifestyle. Patients may experience dizziness, fainting and blurred vision which may be signs of the brain not receiving enough blood. In many cases, the first symptom is a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke because a small blood clot can form in the area of the vessel that is affected by atherosclerosis.
  • Congenital heart disease – Also known as congenital heart defect – refers to one or more abnormalities in the structure of the heart or great vessels that is present at birth. Signs and symptoms depend on the specific type of defect. Advances in diagnosis and treatment mean most babies who once died of congenital heart disease survive well into adulthood.
  • Congestive heart failure – Condition that affects pumping action of the heart muscle leading to a buildup of fluid in the lungs and surrounding body tissues; failing heart muscle results in the inability to meet the body’s needs for blood and is a chronic, progressive condition primarily caused by underlying coronary artery disease.
  • Coronary artery disease – Narrowing of one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart due to buildup of plaque. This is caused by the process of atherosclerosis in which cholesterol rich deposits accumulate on the inner linings of arteries. The resulting blockage restricts blood flow to the heart. Symptoms of coronary artery disease are usually not noted until the artery is significantly narrowed. Individuals can feel pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw or shoulder; they can feel short of breath, sweat, faint, or feel sick to the stomach.
    Heart attack is experienced if the coronary artery is completely blocked. The classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack include crushing pressure in the chest and pain in shoulder or arm, sometimes with shortness of breath and sweating.
    Women are somewhat more likely than men are to experience less typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack, such as neck or jaw pain. Sometimes a heart attack occurs without any apparent signs or symptoms.
    If you or someone you’re with has symptoms that might be a heart attack, call 911 right away.
  • Deep vein thrombosis – Condition when blood clots form in veins located deep inside the body, often in the legs. These blood clots form due to various reasons .Causes and risk factors include trauma to the vessel wall, being overweight, taking hormone therapy, pregnancy, heavy smoking, family history of clotting disorders, cancer diagnosis, congestive heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, prolonged immobility during a long- distance drive or long-haul flight or illness and postoperative state. The symptoms observed are swelling, cramping and pain in the affected area. It is diagnosed clinically and confirmed by lab test or imaging. Treatment usually requires medications called blood thinners which are used to keep the clot small and prevent further clots from forming Sometimes thrombolytic drugs are given intravenously to dissolve the existing clot.
  • Edema – Swelling characterized by an excess of fluid retention in different parts of the body; predominantly in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs; it can be caused by heart failure, kidney or liver disease, pregnancy, infection or medications.
  • Heart attack – Also known as myocardial infarction –is a life- threatening condition which occurs when blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart. It causes cell death of an area of the heart muscle (myocardium) as a result of oxygen deprivation. One or more coronary arteries can narrow from the buildup of various substances, including cholesterol and this condition is called coronary artery disease. During a heart attack, one of these plaques ruptures releasing different substances into the bloodstream resulting in blood clot formation at the site of the rupture which can completely block the flow of blood through the coronary artery. The main treatment goal is to prevent heart damage by rapidly restoring blood flow which is accomplished by combining nonsurgical procedures with powerful blood thinning medications.
  • Hyperlipidemia – Abnormally high concentration of fats or lipids in the blood; although it does not cause symptoms, it can significantly increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease; particularly when the “bad cholesterol “known as LDL is elevated.
  • Hypertension – Also known as high blood pressure-common condition in which the prolonged force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough to ultimately cause health problems, such as heart and kidney disease and stroke. High blood pressure has been called the “silent killer”, because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not even know they have it.
  • Metabolic syndrome – A cluster of biochemical and physiological abnormalities associated with increased risk of the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The components of the syndrome are (1) insulin resistance manifested by fasting plasma glucose of 110 mg/ or higher, impaired glucose tolerance (2) central obesity, defined as a waist circumference over 40 inches (102 cm) in men and over 35 inches (89 cm) in women; (3) systemic hypertension (systolic blood pressure over 130, diastolic pressure over 85); (4) high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL in men and less than 50 mg/dL in women; and (5) triglyceride 150 mg/dL or more. For both men and women with all five of these stigmata, the risks of myocardial infarction and stroke are more than twice those of the general population. The treatment of metabolic syndrome is directed at prevention of cardiovascular disease and of progression to type 2 DM. It consists of weight loss, adopting a low-calorie low-fat diet and regular aerobic exercise regimen.
  • Pericarditis – Inflammation of the pericardium (thin sac-like membrane around heart) causing chest pain which is usually worse with taking deep breath or lying down. The cause of pericarditis is often unknown; viral infections are a common cause after a respiratory infection; recurrent pericarditis is usually the result of autoimmune disorders. Most of the time, pericarditis resolves with rest or simple treatment; in some case more aggressive medical regimen is needed to prevent serious complications.
  • Peripheral arterial disease – Known also as PAD -refers to abnormal narrowing of arteries outside the heart as the results of cholesterol deposition that leads to reduced blood flow most commonly in the arteries carrying blood to the legs. PAD mainly presents as change in skin color of the affected limb, weakness in legs and the classic symptom of leg pain when walking which resolves with rest, known as intermittent claudication. Lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment followed by medications and revascularization procedures.
  • Stroke – Life threatening medical emergency where blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blocked or ruptured artery to the brain. Sudden loss of speech, weakness, or paralysis of one side of the body are some of the symptoms. Strokes can be prevented, and prompt treatment is crucial to minimize brain damage and potential complications.
  • Sudden cardiac death – Sudden, unexpected death caused by abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness (sudden cardiac arrest) The most common cause of cardiac arrest is coronary artery disease. Other forms of sudden death may be noncardiac in origin. Examples include respiratory arrest, toxicity or poisoning, anaphylaxis, or trauma. Survival in sudden cardiac arrest with fast, appropriate medical care is possible.
  • Syncope – Known also as fainting-refers to temporary loss of consciousness caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain. Sometimes symptoms can be present before the loss of consciousness such as lightheadedness, sweating, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, or feeling warm. The causes are ranging from benign to life-threatening conditions. Treatment should be directed at the underlying cause of syncope.
  • Valvular heart disease – Cardiovascular disease process involving one or more of the four valves of the heart. As a result, the valves can become too narrow to open fully, or are unable to close completely. This is largely due as a consequence of aging; some people though are born with valvular abnormalities and in some people specific diseases can cause valvular damage. The severity of valvular heart disease varies; mild cases may remain asymptomatic while in advanced cases congestive heart failure and other complications can develop. Treatment depends upon the severity of symptoms and the extent of the disease.