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Cardiovascular Diseases
Patient Education » Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular disease is often genetic or inherited. If you have had a cardiac event, or if you think you may be at risk of cardiovascular disease, now is the time to take command of your life. You can start by having a better understanding of what cardiovascular disease is. We cannot control the past, but we can control what we do today and beyond.

Please remember it is important that you discuss your specific medical history with your physician.

  • Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI)

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    Acute Myocardial Infarction (cardiac muscle death) occurs in approximately 900,000 persons in the United States each year, and it is fatal in about one fourth of these cases. Approximately half of these fatalities occur within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms and before the patient reaches the hospital. In almost all instances, AMI is a complication of coronary atherosclerosis.

    In the absence of adequate collateral vessels, acute coronary obstruction causes severe transmural myocardial ischemia, electrocardiographic ST segment evelation and, if the latter is sustained for more than 20 to 30 minutes, infarction occurs.

    The general public and especially patients known to be at high risk of MI or reinfarction must be educated about the symptoms of AMI. They should be encouraged to seek urgent medical attention for chest discomfort, especially if it is accompanied by fatigue, dyspnea, or diaphoresis.

    Patients at high risk should call emergency services through 911 with the onset of ischemic-type discomfort or to be taken directly to the nearest hospital that offers 24-hour emergency cardiac care. They should not be transported to the physicians office. While making arrangements for transportation, they should take one tablet of nitroglycerin sublingually, which may, if necessary and tolerated, be repeated twice at 5-minute intervals.

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

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    Coronary Artery Disease. An obstruction of the vessels inside the heart that deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle, or myocardium. Coronary Arteries harden with the progression of arteriosclerosis, as cholesterol and fatty substances collect on the vessel walls. This effectively narrows the vessels, restricting blood from reaching the myocardium. Risk factors for CAD include being a male, or a post-menopausal female; family history of CAD; smoking; diabetes; high cholesterol; HTN; being overweight; and a sedentary lifestyle. Effects of the disease increase in severity as vessels become more stenotic: a 50% blockage causes insufficient blood under exertion; a 90% blockage causes insufficient blood even at rest; a 100% blockage causes heart attack.

  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

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    Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a disease of the heart in which it cannot adequately supply blood to the body, or it cannot prevent blood from flowing backwards into lungs. Symptoms of CHF include exerting dyspnea, fatigue, edema of the legs and sometimes of the abdomen. CHF can be caused by left ventricular dysfunction and the resulting decrease in the heart's ejection fraction. A normal ejection fraction is approximately 60%; 40% indicates mild CHF while an ejection fraction of 10% severe suggests severe heart failure.

  • Hypertension (HTN)

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    High blood pressure, abbreviated HTN. A condition considered present when systolic blood pressure is above 135 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure is above 85 mm Hg. HTN increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, CHF, and kidney failure. Normally, there is no recognizable cause of hypertension, although it is possible that a genetic predisposition exists.

  • Left Ventricular Dysfunction (LV)

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    A decrease in the heart's ejection fraction due to the dilation of the left ventricle (LV) or stiffening of the muscular LV walls. Causes of left ventricular dysfunction include Coronary Artery Disease, hypertension, chronic alcohol abuse (6-12 beers or 1 pint liquor per day), mitral regurgitation, aortic stenosis, and infection.

  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

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    Antiplatelet therapy has been demonstrated to alter the natural history of PAD by diminishing cardiovascular ischemic event rates and perhaps by blunting the progression of atherosclerosis. Intermittent claudication is present in 30% to 50% of patients with PAD, and it is presumed that approximately 1 to 4 million Americans suffer this functional limitation. Patients with intermittent claudication have cramping, aching, fatigue, or discomfort in the muscles of the calves, thighs, or buttocks that is reproducibly elicited by walking and consistently relieved by rest.

    A program of supervised exercise should be considered a primary treatment modality for improving claudication symptoms. Although supervised exercise and pharmacologic therapy are effective for most patients with PAD and claudication, revascularization may be beneficial for selected patient groups. Revascularization may be performed by either percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA), with or without stenting, or surgical bypass, depending on the site and severity of the patients lesions. Patients with high-grade localized lesions in the iliac or common femoral arterial sites may be ideal candidates for endovascular procedures as long-term patency has been demonstrated at these "proximal" sites.

  • Valvular Heart Disease

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    As the heart pumps, it must ensure that blood flows through the heart in the proper direction. Valves are the "trap doors" in the heart that allow blood to flow from the atrium into the ventricle, but not vice versa. As blood flows from the body, into the heart, through the lungs, back into the heart from the lungs, and back out to the body, it passes four valves:

    Tricuspid Valve - The valve between the Right Atrium and the Right Ventricle

    Pulmonic Valve - The valve between the Right Ventricle and the Pulmonary Artery.

    Mitral Valve - The valve between the Left Atrium to the Left Ventricle.

    Aortic Valve - The valve between the Left Ventricle and the Aorta.