One in three American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Another one in three is at risk of developing high blood pressure. Of those with high blood pressure, nearly half do not have their blood pressure under control. Many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, even if their blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels, which is why it is so important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure may also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as thyroid problems, kidney problems or cardiovascular disease.
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol often has no symptoms. However, it can lead to the buildup of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, causing them to become hardened, narrowed or closed, putting you at greater risk of a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. A simple blood test can be used to measure the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, or fats in your blood.
During mitral valve prolapse, blood that should flow into the left atrium (upper chamber) leaks back into the left ventricle (lower chamber) causing an irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain.
Stenosis is the narrowing of blood vessels that results from atherosclerosis. This can lead to restricted or completely blocked blood flow.
Depending on your symptoms, your cardiologist may recommend any number of treatments including medication, catheterization, and in some cases surgery.
When a blood vessel is significantly or totally blocked, you may need surgery to bypass the affected area. In most cases your doctor will harvest a healthy blood vessel from your leg, arm or chest. However, in some cases a donor or artificial blood vessel may be used. This healthy blood vessel is then grafted to the main artery, rerouting blood flow around the blocked or narrowed area.
Minimally invasive and open surgeries are also used to treat aneurysms, either by using clips to prevent blood from flowing into the aneurysm, or by placing a stent or graft, inside the artery.
Your doctor can thread a small, flexible tube called a catheter through the blood vessels in your arm, leg, chest, neck or other affected area through a small incision. In a procedure known as an angioplasty, a tiny balloon on the tip of the catheter is expanded inside your artery, widening a narrowed area. The catheter can also be used to place stents, which are spring-like tubes that keep your blood vessels open or reinforce an aneurysm. These minimally invasive procedures are often used to successfully treat many forms of cardiovascular disease, and can help prevent the need for open surgery.
If you have a significant buildup of plaque in a major artery, such as the femoral or carotid artery, your doctor may recommend surgically removing this fatty, waxy material. Compared with an angioplasty, an endarterectomy is a more permanent solution for restoring blood flow through severely narrowed arteries, and helps avoid the risk of blood clot formation around a stent.
Many patients with cardiovascular disease have mild symptoms, or do not display any symptoms at all. In cases where blood flow is not significantly restricted, your doctor may recommend medications to help reduce your blood pressure or cholesterol, along with regular monitoring and heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are four warning signs of an impending heart attack:
- Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
- Heaviness, pain, or pressure in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Dizziness and difficulty breathing
- Nausea and cold sweats
If you are having any of these signs of a heart attack, don't wait. Get emergency treatment immediately.
If you are having symptoms consistently for several days to weeks, they may not be signs of an impending heart attack. However, if you experience recurrent chest pain or pressure (angina) relieved by rest, this may be a warning sign. This needs to be evaluated immediately.
There are four common types of heart disease:
- Heart valve disease: one or more heart valves are not functioning properly.
- Heart failure: the heart muscle has become weak and is unable to pump enough blood through the body.
- Coronary artery disease: plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and limits blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Arrhythmias: the electrical signals that control heartbeat are not functioning properly and cause the heartbeat to become too rapid, too slow, or irregular.
Heart disease cannot be cured but it can be treated and managed. Changes in lifestyle and medication can help by reducing high blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels. Surgery can be performed to open or bypass blocked arteries, replace valves, and install pacemakers to regulate the heartbeat.
Heart or coronary bypass surgery redirects blood flow around a blocked section of an artery in the heart. While this surgery is serious, modern surgical techniques have reduced the overall risk. Expect to spend up to two days in the intensive care unit after surgery and at least one week in the hospital. It may take as long as four to six weeks after you have been discharged from the hospital before you can return to work, drive a car, and perform daily chores.
Different colors and properties of vaginal discharge can have different meanings:
Open-heart surgery means that the chest must be opened to reach the heart. Until recently, all coronary artery bypass procedures required open-heart surgery. An open-heart procedure typically requires the use of a heart-lung machine to oxygenate and pump blood through your body while a respirator takes over for your lungs.
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If you experience symptoms such as swelling or pain in your arms or legs, have a family history of cardiovascular disease, or your primary care physician recommends that you see a specialist due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol or any other cardiovascular condition, schedule an appointment with an Einstein heart specialist today.
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