Learn more about SCL Health's Heart and Vascular Care
Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers many conditions. Therefore, asking what your symptoms might look like is essential. Understanding your risks and addressing any concerns are critical to preventative care and promoting heart health. We are here to support you and help care for your heart.
Ruchika D. Husa, MD, leads our team of cardiovascular experts as we discuss common heart issues, detection and prevention, heart attack signs, and much more.
Carine Basmadjian, MD, a cardiologist for the Heart and Vascular Institute - Billings, Soubhi Azzouz, MD, a structural heart interventional cardiologist at St. Mary’s Medical Center, and John Ferguson, MD, an electrophysiologist for the Heart and Vascular Institute - Lafayette, provide you answers in the clips below.
What are the most common types of heart issues?
Key Takeaways: Heart health issues can range from simple to complex, with the most common being high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and stroke. A primary prevention clinic can help identify patients who have risk factors for heart disease and wish to undergo a cardiac assessment or have a conversation about preventing heart disease.
What are the red flags to pay attention to if someone has heart health concerns?
Key Takeaways: Chest pain, especially sudden onset with crushing pressure, could indicate a heart attack that requires immediate evaluation. Other warning signs of congestive heart failure include shortness of breath, swelling in the lower extremities, and difficulty lying flat in bed. A sudden loss of consciousness is also a concerning sign for a heart condition that needs evaluation.
How do diet, exercise, weight levels and managing stress play into heart health?
Key Takeaways: Diet and nutrition play a crucial role in preventing heart disease, with studies showing that a Mediterranean-style diet reduces cardiovascular events. This diet emphasizes consumption of fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and limits red meat and saturated fats from dairy and processed foods. Weight loss through diet and exercise can improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels and may allow patients to discontinue their medications. Stress can also harm the heart and raise the risk of heart disease by releasing cortisol, a stress hormone that raises blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
What’s the best exercise program for your heart?
Key Takeaway: The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week for heart health. Moderate intensity activities include speed walking, hiking, swimming, and bike riding (30 minutes a day for 5 days or 1 hour 3 times a week). Vigorous activities include jogging or recreational sports. Strength training is also important, but cardiovascular exercise is key for heart health.
What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?
Key Takeaway: The most common symptom of an acute heart attack is a crushing sensation or tightness in the middle of the chest. This is often described as feeling like an elephant sitting on the chest and can also cause pain or pressure. Other symptoms include heartburn at the top of the stomach and shortness of breath. The most common association is with exertional activities, such as climbing stairs or engaging in strenuous activity.
What should you do if you or someone close to you is having a heart attack?
Key Takeaway: If you or someone close to you experiences chest tightness or heaviness, call 911 immediately. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, as time is crucial in saving heart muscle and reducing damage. Ignoring chest tightness for a period of time can result in permanent damage to the heart muscle.
How does someone recover from a heart attack and potentially prevent a second one from occurring?
Key Takeaways: The treatment for heart blockages typically involves medications and a procedure called coronary angiogram or cardiac catheterization, where blockages are checked and improved blood flow to the heart muscle is achieved. If the patient seeks medical attention immediately, they will most likely recover quickly with no permanent heart damage and are encouraged to enroll in a cardiac rehab program to gradually increase physical activity over several weeks.
What are some of the signs and symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm?
Key Takeaway: Some heart rhythm disorders may not cause any symptoms, but most do. Symptoms of bradycardia (heart rate less than 60 beats per minute) include fatigue, lightheadedness, and blackouts, while symptoms of tachycardia (heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute) include palpitations, a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and chest pain. These symptoms, whether occurring once or recurring, should be evaluated by a medical professional.
What are the treatment options when it comes to irregular heart rhythms?
Key Takeaway: Slow heart rhythms that cause symptoms often require a permanent pacemaker. Fast heart rhythms can be treated with medication or a procedure called catheter ablation. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia and uses wires to diagnose and eliminate the source of the tachycardia. For life-threatening rhythms, an implantable cardio defibrillator (ICD) is used, which can detect and treat these rhythms to save lives.
What would you like people to know about the future of technology when it comes to treating heart disease?
Key Takeaway: Advances in technology have led to smaller and more efficient pacemakers and ablation procedures, making it possible to treat most patients with abnormal heart rhythms with lower risk and greater success.
Schedule some time with your primary care physician to discuss how to ensure you’re up to date with all of your screenings today. For more information, visit sclhealth.org/services/heart-vascular