All The Ways We Care

Fighting Heart Disease in Four Key Stages

For almost every American, the effects of heart disease strike close to home all too often. About every 20 seconds, someone in America has a heart attack or stroke. That’s 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes each year. At Main Street Hospital, we are committed to giving our community the services and expertise needed to prevent and treat heart disease, America’s #1 killer. Just as the heart has four chambers, our team of physicians uses a full range of medical technology and other resources to provide comprehensive care in four key stages.

1. Assessment: Determining Your Risk
Seeing your primary care physician is perhaps the most important step you can take in fighting heart disease. There are many factors to discuss and questions to answer when you talk to your doctor about your risk. Do you smoke? Is there a family history of heart disease? Do you exercise regularly? In addition to discussing these personal details, your doctor will check all the factors that put you at risk for heart disease, including your blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol level and weight.
Armed with this information, your doctor will have a better understanding of your risk factors and be able to make some personal recommendations to help you live more heart smart. It’s never too early to think about assessing your risk for heart disease. After all, 25 percent of the deaths from heart disease are preventable. And about half of these preventable deaths happen in people who are under age 65.

2. Diagnosis: PINPOINTING The Problem
In most cases, your doctor may give you a clean bill of health when it comes to your heart. But if your physician determines that you have a high risk of heart disease, additional testing may be required.
For example, one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools used to detect heart disease is a stress test. To begin the test, about 10 small, sticky patches called electrodes are placed on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an EKG, which measures your heart’s electrical activity. You’ll then be asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike. You’ll begin slowly at first, gradually increasing your speed. Usually, the exercise part of the stress test lasts between 7 and 12 minutes.
Here are some of the other diagnostic tools your doctor may consider.

Electrocardiogram (EKG): This quick and inexpensive test is like a stress test but without the exercise. It measures your heart’s electrical activity as you’re sitting.

Echocardiogram: This test uses an ultrasound to evaluate the muscle and valves of the heart

Cardiac CT Scan: Multiple X-rays are taken to create a cross-sectional view of the heart. This allows doctors to take a closer look at the circulation, vessels and anatomy of the heart. Sometimes a contrast dye is used to enhance the images.

Cardiac MRI: Instead of using X-rays, a cardiac MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed image of the heart.

Holter Monitor Test: If your EKG doesn’t give your doctors enough information, you may be asked to wear this lightweight, portable device for 1-3 days. A Holter monitor test checks to see if you have a heart rhythm problem.
More advanced diagnostic tests are performed at a Cardiac Cath Lab.

A Cardiac Catheterization is a surgical procedure used to check the blood flow and pressure in the heart. First, a small IV tube is placed in a vein or artery of a leg, arm or neck. Then a small hollow tube called a catheter, about the size of a spaghetti noodle, is gently inserted into the IV and slowly moved through the blood vessels until it reaches the veins and arteries connected to the heart. Often at this point, an Angiogram is performed to check the coronary arteries. A contrast dye is injected and X-rays are taken as the dye moves through the arteries to pinpoint the size and location of any blockage.

3. Treatment: Restoring Health

If heart disease is diagnosed and corrective surgery is needed, a Cath Lab offers a number of treatment capabilities.

Interventional Catheterization: This procedure is often used to close an opening in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart or to open up a blocked valve or vessel.

Angioplasty: When coronary arteries become narrow or blocked, an angioplasty can often restore the blood flow. With this procedure, a small balloon is inserted into the artery with a catheter. Once in place, the balloon is inflated. The pressure from the balloon forces the plaque to the side of the artery. In many cases, a small wire mesh tube, called a stent, is placed in the artery to help keep it open.

4. Recovery: Setting The Stage for Success
Recovering from a heart attack or stroke is usually a long process. Ongoing support from an experienced medical staff plays a critical role. After a heart attack, for example, people who participate in a cardiac rehab program have a 50 percent greater survival rate after three years compared to people who don’t. A cardiac rehab program provides education and counseling through a team cardiologists, nurses, dieticians and physical therapists.
For patients who have suffered a stroke, ongoing rehabilitation services are essential to the recovery process. These may include physical activities that strengthen motor skills, improve mobility and increase range of motion. Speech therapy can help improve speaking and communication skills. All of these therapies have the ultimate goal of helping stroke victims gain back their independence and quality of life. 4