Diagnosing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and potential risk factors of CVD should be part of your health and wellness regimen. Early detection is the key to treating CVD, as it is hard to reverse the damage to the heart and blood vessels once it has been done. Here is some information to start with, but you should consult your medical professional for more detailed and individualized information.
Your pulse is the easiest health factor to measure, and you can do it yourself. Your pulse measures the number of times your heart beats in one minute (bpm).Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure (BP) is the force at which blood circulates through your body. Use the free automatic kiosks at your local pharmacy to make sure you are within the healthy range. Consult your doctor if you notice any irregularities.Cholesterol
If you donate blood or get any blood work done by your doctor’s office, ask to see your blood cholesterol levels. It is recommended that adults over 20 years of age should have a fasting lipoprotein profile completed once every 5 years. If your cholesterol is higher than normal, speak to your doctor about lifestyle and treatment options.
Know the Symptoms:
Physical symptoms are often the first clue that something is not right. Dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath are among many common symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The “silent killers” like cholesterol and blood pressure do not generally present symptoms, so make sure to monitor those levels. The World Heart Federationoutlines several cardiovascular disorders and the common symptoms they present. In general, if you notice any changes in your health, you should consult your medical professional.
Understand the Tests:
Electrocardiogram (or ECG or EKG) imaging “draws” the rhythm of a heartbeat so doctors can assess if there are any irregularities, or Arrhythmia. It requires small electrodes to be placed on the chest to read the electrical activity of the heart. ECGs can also be done while doing an activity, such as walking on a treadmill.
Echocardiogram imaging uses sound waves (like a pregnancy ultra-sound) to map the structure and motion of the heart.
X-Ray imaging can demonstrate abnormalities of the heart and lungs.
Blood work shows the presence of certain chemicals in the bloodstream which can be indicative of cardiovascular events that have already happened or of risk factors that could lead to CVD.
Catheterization is an invasive procedure by which a catheter (tube) is inserted into a blood vessel and navigated to the vessels of the heart. It is often used to gather more information about the condition of the heart.
Once diagnosed with CVD, your cardiologist will recommend a treatment plan based around your individual needs. Below is a general summary of some typical treatment options, which might be presented to you.
Surgeries and Procedures:
There are a number of common cardiac surgeries and procedures used to treat CVD.
Angioplasty is an invasive procedure which uses a balloon-like structure to widen blocked arteries to allow proper blood flow. It is often coupled with a stent (wire mesh tubing) implantation to maintain proper blood flow.
Bypass Surgery uses arteries or veins from other areas of the body (called grafts)to bypass blocked vessels leading to the heart. This is a very common surgery for treating Coronary Artery Disease.
Valve Replacement Surgery replaces a diseased heart valve with a new artificial or non-human, animal valve.
Heart Transplant is used in rare instances to entirely replace a damaged heart with a healthier one from an Organ Donor.
There are also a number of cardiac implantable devices that are used to treat CVD, including pacemakers, which help the heart beat a normal rhythm and ICDs, which can deliver shocks to the heart should it not beat properly.
Medicines are often used to help control High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. Additionally, several other cardiac medications are used to help treat CVD. To research more about the specific medications prescribed to you, check out the National Institutes of Health’s database.
Your lifestyle is the most controllable factor of CVD. The leading cause of death (Coronary Artery Disease, heart attacks) is mostly preventable, so take charge of your heart health!