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Heart Conditions in Adults - FAQ

 

Q:How is angina (chest pain) different from a heart attack?

Q:What are the different types of arrhythmias?

Q:Where can I find comprehensive information about pacemakers?

Q:What causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)?

Q:Since there is no cure for congestive heart failure, how is the condition treated?

Q:What are the major risk factors for heart attack?

Q:I have a heart murmur; does this mean I have heart valve disease?

Q:How does blood pressure increase?

Q:Where can I find comprehensive information about stroke?

Q:What is "good" and "bad" cholesterol?

Q:My physician ordered a cardiac catheterization. What can I expect from this procedure?

Q:What is a Holter monitor and how does it work?

Q:Does smoking really cause heart disease?

Q:What is the purpose behind cardiac rehabilitation?

Q:Where can I find more information on the Internet related to cardiovascular disease?


Q: How is angina (chest pain) different from a heart attack?


A:Angina may have similar symptoms as a heart attack, such as: a crushing, squeezing pain in the chest; a feeling of pressure in the chest; or pain radiating in the arms, shoulders, jaw, neck, and/or back. However, unlike the chest pain associated with a heart attack, the pain from angina usually goes away within a few minutes with rest or with the use of a cardiac prescription medication (i.e., nitroglycerin). <For more information on angina>

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Q: What are the different types of arrhythmias?

A: An arrhythmia (also referred to as dysrhythmia) is an abnormal rhythm of the heart, which can cause the heart to pump less effectively. Some arrhythmias are benign (not dangerous), while others may be life threatening. There are different ways of classifying arrhythmias, which can be described based on where within the heart the arrhythmia originates (that is, in the atria or top chambers of the heart, or in the ventricles, or the bottom chambers of the heart), or whether the arrhythmia is related to the heart beat being too fast (tachyarrhythmia), too slow (bradyarrhythmia), and whether the beat is regular or irregular (fibrillation).

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Q: Where can I find comprehensive information about pacemakers?


A:Living with a pacemaker requires special instructions and care. <For more information on pacemakers>

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Q: What causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)?


A:It is unknown exactly how atherosclerosis begins, but it is clear that certain risk factors are associated with an increased risk and rapid progression of atherosclerosis, including: elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity. <For more information on atherosclerosis>

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Q: Since there is no cure for congestive heart failure, how is the condition treated?


A:The cause of the congestive heart failure will dictate the treatment protocol established. If the heart failure is caused by a valve disorder, then surgery is usually performed if medications are not effective. If a disease, such as anemia, causes the heart failure then the disease is treated. And, although there is no cure for heart failure due to a damaged heart muscle, many forms of treatment can improve symptoms and allow patients to lead fairly normal lives. <For more information on congestive heart failure>

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Q: What are the major risk factors for heart attack?


A:There are two types of risk factors for heart attack, including inherited (genetic) and acquired. Learn the risk factors you can and cannot control to better take charge of your cardiovascular health. <For more information on heart attack>

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Q: I have a heart murmur; does this mean I have heart valve disease?


A:Not necessarily; some heart murmurs are benign (not harmful). However, heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. This is usually the first step in diagnosing a heart valve disease. To define the type of valve disease and extent of the valve damage, physicians may use several different types of diagnostic procedures, most commonly an echocardiogram, or noninvasive ultrasound scan of the heart. <For more information on heart valve disease> <For more information on heart murmurs>

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Q: How does blood pressure increase?


A:Obesity or being overweight, excessive sodium intake, and a lack of exercise and physical activity all cause blood pressure to increase. <For more information on high blood pressure (hypertension)>

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Q: Where can I find comprehensive information about stroke?


A:Stroke is a serious condition that requires clinical care by a physician or other healthcare professionals. <For more information on stroke>

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Q: What is "good" and "bad" cholesterol?

A: Cholesterol and other fats are transported in your blood stream in the form of particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL cholesterol is commonly called the "bad" cholesterol, and it makes up the majority of cholesterol. LDL contributes to the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. HDL cholesterol is known as the "good" cholesterol, and it helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood, minimizing fatty buildup and formation of plaque. <For more information on cholesterol in the blood>

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Q: My physician ordered a cardiac catheterization. What can I expect from this procedure?

A:In cardiac catheterization (often abbreviated as "cath"), a very small catheter (hollow tube) is advanced from a blood vessel in the groin (or sometimes the arm) through the aorta into the heart. Local anesthesia and light sedation are given, but the patient remains awake during the procedure. It is generally not painful. Once the catheter is in place, several diagnostic techniques may be used to detect the cause of several different cardiac symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, etc. Some caths are performed on an outpatient basis (the patient arrives in the morning for the procedure, and may be able to go home in the afternoon or evening). Your cardiologist will tell you whether an outpatient procedure is appropriate for you, and give details on how to prepare for a heart cath. <For more information on cardiac catheterization>

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Q: What is a Holter monitor and how does it work?

A:A Holter monitor is an EKG recording done over a period of 24 or more hours. Three electrodes are attached to the patient's chest and connected to a small portable EKG recorder by lead wires. The patient goes about his/her usual daily activities (except for activities such as taking a shower, swimming, or any activity causing an excessive amount of sweating which would cause the electrodes to become loose or fall off) during this procedure. <For more information on Holter monitoring equipment>

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Q: Does smoking really cause heart disease?

A:Yes. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Smoking is also the main preventable cause of premature deaths in the United States. Smoking increases the risk of atherosclerosis (build up of fatty blockages in the arteries), heart attack, and stoke. Even nonsmokers exposed to tobacco smoke (passive smokers) have an increased risk of heart disease compared with persons not exposed to smoke. <For more information on smoking and cardiovascular disease>

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Q: What is the purpose behind cardiac rehabilitation?

A:The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to help patients reverse their symptoms and maximize cardiac function. <For more information on cardiac rehabilitation>

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Q: Where can I find more information on the Internet related to cardiovascular disease?

A:Information on the Internet should never substitute the medical advice you receive from your physician. We have provided here links to other World Wide Web sites with information about cardiovascular diseases. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these Web sites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here. <For additional Online Resources>

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