The Healthy Heart

Cardiac Disorders



An aneurysm is when an area of the aorta's wall weakens and balloons out past its normal size. If the aneurysm occurs near the heart, it is called a thoracic (chest) aortic aneurysm; however, aneurysms can also develop in other parts of the body, such as the abdomen and the brain. Thoracic aortic aneurysms are relatively uncommon; most aneurysms-about 75 percent-occur in the abdomen.

A thoracic aortic aneurysm can rupture with little warning and cause excessive bleeding and shock. It is fatal if not treated immediately.

Echocardiogram, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging-and chest X-ray.

Medication and lifestyle changes; surgery.




Angina refers to the chest pain that results from obstruction of the blood supply feeding the heart. It commonly occurs when extra demands are placed upon the heart, such as during exercise, stress, exposure to the cold, or even digestion of large meals.

Blood tests; urine tests; stress tests; electrocardiogram and echocardiography; X-rays, angiography.

Medications and surgery.



Arrhythmias/Abnormal Heart Rhythms

In order to function optimally, the heart must beat in a rhythmic pattern. However, there are conditions and disease states that cause the heart to beat irregularly or at an abnormal rate. It's important for the heart to pump properly because that's how your body gets the oxygen and food you need.

Electrophysiology is a specialized field that studies the relationship of the body's function (in this case, the heart) to its electrical system.



Atrial Fibrillation

One of the most common rhythm disturbances. In this rhythm, part of the heart doesn't beat the way it should. Instead of beating in a regular normal pattern, the atria beat irregularly and too fast. You can live with atrial fibrillation but it can lead to stroke or more serious heart rhythmdisturbances.

Electrocardiograms, Holter monitors, tilt table tests and electrophysiology studies (A procedure in which the patient is given a local anesthetic, and electrode catheters are fed through a small opening in the groin or neck to the heart. Arrhythmias are then triggered and mapped under the controlled environment of the electrophysiology lab).

Monitoring and lifestyle changes; medications (antiarrhythmic, heart rate control drugs and anticoagulants); pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD); surgery.



Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Two to three million Americans live with congestive heart failure. It is one of the most common reasons people 65 and older are admitted to the hospital. It can take years to develop.

When you have CHF, it does not mean your heart has stopped beating. It means that your heart is not pumping blood as it should. The heart is working, but the body's need for blood and oxygen is not being fully met. When this happens, fluid can build up in your body, especially in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Blood tests; urine tests; stress tests; electrocardiogram and echocardiography; X-rays, angiography.

Medications including vasodilators (drugs that dilate blood vessels); ACE inhibitors (drugs that block vasoconstriction); inotropes (drugs that increase the heart's ability to contract), usually digoxin; and diuretics (drugs to reduce fluid). In some cases beta blockers (drugs to reduce the pumping action of the heart). These medications are used alone and in combination.

Surgical Treatments
Severe coronary artery disease (CAD) or valve disease may lead to CHF. Patients with CAD may benefit from angioplasty or bypass surgery. Patients with faulty heart valves can have valve replacement surgery. For severe CHF, a heart transplant may be needed.



Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a chronic disease in which atherosclerotic plaque (a combination of calcium and cholesterol) deposits along the walls of the coronary arteries leading to narrowing, hardening and stiffening of the arteries on the surface of the heart. CAD restricts blood flow through these vessels, preventing blood and oxygen from reaching areas of the heart.

Patient history and monitoring; blood tests for CAD risk factors, such as cholesterol levels, electrocardiogram (EKG), stress test (an EKG that is done while the patient is exercising in a controlled environment), echocardiogram and/or cardiac catheterization.

Medication and lifestyle changes; balloon angioplasty; bypass surgery



Heart Attack

A heart attack, or a myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood slowly become clogged from a buildup of cells, calcium and cholesterol called plaque. Blood that tries to flow through these clogged arteries can form a clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. While you may only be in the hospital a few days, your recovery from a heart attack will be on going for the rest of your life. It is very important to take the steps necessary to prevent a second heart attack

EKG's, blood tests and cardiac catheterization.

Medication and lifestyle changes; angioplasty; bypass surgery.