CONDITIONS

Diagnosis and management of heart conditions

 

Overview

Heart disease refers to multiple diseases affecting the functioning of the cardiovascular system. Discussing heart conditions with a cardiologist is the best way to diagnose, manage and prevent cardiovascular disease. Types of cardiovascular disease prevent the heart from functioning optimally. The implications are vast, impacting various systems and increasing the likelihood of stroke or heart failure.

 

Types of heart conditions include:

Chest pain

Chest pain is a common sign of angina and a reason why most patients pay a visit to the emergency room. The seriousness of chest pain depends on the location, intensity and duration of the discomfort. Chest pain is a severe and stabbing pain that almost feels like a heart attack. Usually, this condition is not something to be concerned about because the cause could be a result of a non-threatening condition such as a muscle pull, etc. The most important thing is to diagnose the cause to treat chest pain. Chest pain, however, is not something to disregard. This generally is a condition that requires diagnostic evaluation.

Other possible causes of chest pain are:

  • Angina
    occurs from a poor blood supply to the heart. Coronary artery disease that arises from plaque clogging the arteries supplying blood to the heart is the primary cause of angina. This is also a possible cause of deep pain emanating from the chest.
  • Myocarditis
    is heart inflammation that causes a rapid heartbeat, fever, nausea and difficulty breathing.
  • Pericarditis
    occurs from an inflamed sac that engulfs the heart. Pericarditis causes a burning sensation that travels from the shoulder to the upper arm.

Hypertension

Hypertension is a condition that occurs from an increased flow of blood pushing against the arterial walls causing health complications. High cholesterol, sugar and fat diet increase the risk of hypertension. In addition, chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney disease and hormonal imbalance contribute to hypertension.

Valvular heart disease

Valvular heart disease develops when one of the heart's valves becomes damaged as a result of disease or inflammation. When one of the valves is damaged, the heart cannot properly pump and regulate blood flow to the rest of the body. In addition, blood can regurgitate into the heart’s chamber leading to heart failure or cardiac arrest.

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Heart arrhythmia

Heart arrhythmia is an irregular, fluttering heartbeat that occurs from inconsistent electrical activity responsible for coordinating heartbeats. An out-of-sync rhythm can lead to a fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or a slow heartbeat (bradycardia).

Carotid artery stenosis

The carotid arteries are two arteries that run alongside on either side of the neck. They have an essential role in delivering oxygenated blood from the face, head and brain. Stenosis is a condition that causes the large arteries to restrict due to the excessive build-up of plaque (atherosclerosis) that affects the flow of blood to the brain.

Acute stroke intervention

Acute stroke (cerebrovascular accident) occurs from the brain receiving an insufficient supply of healthy blood and nutrients needed to function. A deficiency in this regard results in neurological impairment and poor cognitive function. Difficulty walking, paralysis on one side of the face and trouble speaking accompany a sudden stroke. Intervention for acute stroke includes the use of a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) delivered intravenously. tPA works in the initial three hours after suffering a stroke when symptoms begin to develop.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing heart disease depends on the symptoms and severity of illness. An electrocardiogram (ECG) records the heart’s electrical activity, diagnosing heart arrhythmia. Alternatively, a Holter monitor works just as well. This is a small, portable device also used to record the electrical activity of the heart. Often, Holter monitoring is considered when an ECG does not provide evidence of arrhythmia.

An echocardiogram utilises sound waves to capture three-dimensional pictures of the heart and its internal workings. The data retrieved from this imaging study determines how well the heart functions, including its rhythm of blood flow.

Cardiac catheterisation is an interventional diagnostic procedure to assess the flow of blood through the heart’s chambers, arteries and valves. This procedure makes use of a catheter, dye and x-ray to view the inside of the heart in detail.

Treatment & Management of Heart Disease

Unfortunately, some forms of heart disease may be irreversible, in which case, managing the condition must remain a priority. Managing heart disease involves making healthy lifestyle changes by consuming a diet low in fat and salt and exercising regularly.

Sometimes, adopting a healthy lifestyle is not enough to keep cardiovascular disease at bay. If so, certain medications are prescribed to manage the symptoms of heart disease.


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FAQ


1What is a leaky heart valve?
A heart valve regulates the amount of blood circulating the heart. A leaky or damaged valve can cause blood to seep back into the heart. As a result, the heart works much harder to pump out blood. This is a detrimental condition we refer to as "mitral valve regurgitation", often leading to sudden cardiac arrest.
2Can you cure heart disease?
Heart disease is, unfortunately, incurable. But there is hope because, with medication and a wealth of information available, we can treat heart disease by managing these conditions through healthy lifestyle choices. For example, evidence suggests that by stabilising blood pressure and lowering our cholesterol, the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries gradually declines.
3Can caffeine affect the heart?
Caffeine affects enzymes that control the heart’s contractions. In turn, caffeine contributes to the release of hormones that facilitate the production of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter and stress hormone that works similarly to adrenaline.

“FIRST, DO NO HARM.”