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Heart disease is a broad term that includes many conditions affecting the heart, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and vascular disease (condition affecting the circulatory system, such as peripheral artery disease). Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
Dr. Mike Rodriguez, a Sharp-affiliated interventional cardiologist, answers questions about heart disease, including what one can do to reduce risk.
What are some of the risk factors associated with heart disease?
Risk factors associated with heart disease include smoking, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, age, obesity and inactivity/lack of exercise. Other risk factors include a family history of coronary artery disease or peripheral vascular disease, in which a blockage occurs in the carotid artery or arteries supplying blood to the legs.
Are there symptoms related to heart disease or heart attack?
Signs of congestive heart failure (CHF) and coronary artery disease (CAD) begin with chest pain, shortness of breath, or increased shortness of breath with exertion. The onset of mild or severe chest pain can occur with pressure from deep in the chest — radiating to the neck and down the arm — that lasts several minutes.
When a heart attack occurs, the chest pain is relentless, and it’s often described by patients as the worst pain they’ve ever had. The pain can also be mild or minimal and might be combined with shortness of breath, lightheadedness or nausea. Anyone experiencing chest pain over several minutes should seek medical attention.
While other conditions can cause chest pain, it’s always important to get professional medical advice or evaluation when experiencing this symptom.
What steps can be taken to help manage your blood pressure and/or cholesterol level?
Both blood pressure and cholesterol level should be routinely measured by a primary physician or cardiologist. High blood pressure or high cholesterol puts an individual at a high risk for future cardiac events. High blood pressure is considered a “silent killer” because individuals may not know they have it. They may be asymptomatic, yet be at high risk for stroke, CHF or CAD.
What are the latest treatments available for heart disease and/or heart attacks?
We provide some of the latest interventional treatments in our cardiac catheter lab designed to restore blood flow in the arteries without surgery. One procedure, known as a balloon angioplasty, helps widen the arterial wall to restore blood flow. Another method uses metallic stents, which can be placed in a narrowed artery to provide support. New stent technology is continually being developed to prevent from future narrowing of arteries in cardiac patients.
The latest heart surgery technology includes robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is a minimally invasive alternative to traditional surgery and potentially offers patients a faster recovery.
What tips do you have to help protect against heart disease?
Besides monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol level regularly, a healthy diet and exercise are also vital in reducing your risk of heart disease. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and complex carbohydrates while minimizing saturated fats and simple carbohydrates. Vary the types of meat proteins you eat and keep portions moderate.
Regular exercise, especially aerobic, has many benefits. Before starting an exercise routine, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she can recommend a program that is best suited for you. The American Heart Association offers additional tips on living a healthier lifestyle to help protect against heart disease.
We hope you find this website helpful, but please remember that Sharp HealthCare does not control or endorse the information presented on this website, nor does this site endorse the information found on www.sharp.com.
For More Information
For more information about heart and vascular care at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about heart and vascular care, visit Cardiovascular Diseases in Adult Health or read the Heart and Cardiovascular News archive.