Heart disease, also known as Cardiovascular disease, is an umbrella term to describe any heart condition that includes diseases of the blood vessels, electrical problems with the heart, and defects in the structure of the heart. These diseases range from conditions related to an unhealthy lifestyle to issues patients are born with. Because of the wide swath of conditions under this umbrella, it’s impossible to pinpoint a single diagnosis and treatment that would fit everyone.
The techniques used to diagnose the numerous types of heart disease are generally non-invasive. Technology enables a cardiologist to see your heart and the vascular structure surrounding it with a good degree of clarity.
Here are a few of the diagnostic tools used on heart disease patients:
The term ECG stands for electrocardiogram. This is a technology that records the electrical impulses of your heartbeat. This test can tell your cardiologist if there are irregularities in your heart rate or your actual heart muscle. The ECG can be performed while a patient is resting, but it is also part of a stress test.
Stress testing is an ideal way for your cardiologist to see how your heart acts under varying amounts of stress. Often when we visit a doctor we’re sitting quietly, maybe listening to music or reading a book, and your tests may be reflective of this level of relaxation. Conversely, during a stress test, your cardiologist gets a snapshot of what your heart looks like while you are exercising.
There are two types of stress test, the exercise stress test, and the nuclear stress test. As mentioned, the former requires the patient to do a bit of physical activity while hooked up to an ECG. The nuclear stress test, on the other hand, simulates that same exercise using a radioactive dye that is injected into the patient’s veins.
CT Scan And MRI
It’s not uncommon for people to confuse these heart disease diagnostic tools. Each requires the patient to lay on a table as images are made of their heart and chest. The difference between the two is that the CT (cardiac computerized tomography) scan uses x-ray, and the MRI (cardiac magnetic resonance imaging) uses a magnetic field to produce images of your heart.
This final diagnostic tool is most involved. Where each of the tests listed above is performed outside the body, and catheterization takes place inside the body. During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into an artery in either your groin or arm and then guided through your vascular system until it gets to your heart. Once it reaches your heart, the catheter releases a dye which can be picked up on an x-ray allowing your cardiologist to determine if you suffer from heart disease.
No matter how your cardiologist tests you for heart disease, it must be treated. Cases of heart disease range from mild to severe and the treatment options do as well.
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes
For patients suffering from the mildest forms of heart disease, simple lifestyle changes can protect you from further damage. When cultivating a heart-healthy diet it’s important to address several different aspects of your life. Healthy habits regarding your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress are just some of the factors that contribute to a minimization of heart disease risk.
It’s important also to note that some forms of heart disease have a genetic component. If both of your parents had heart disease you’re more likely to have it yourself. Additionally, communities of color tend to have a higher rate of heart disease. If you fall into either of these categories you should speak with a physician and determine your risk.
Not all incidences of heart disease can be treated by making small adjustments to your lifestyle. Many heart disease patients require medications. You would be amazed at the number of different types of medications prescribed for patients under the heart disease umbrella. Many of the medications deal with blood pressure, clotting issues, or by widening your arteries. If your cardiologist has recommended you start a mediation for your heart disease, understand that the lifestyle changes listed above are a valuable accompaniment.
Medical Procedures and Surgeries
Finally, there are surgeries or other medical procedures that are necessary for some patients with heart disease. Some outpatient procedures like a stent or pacemaker implantation are used to install technologies into your cardiovascular system to help them work more efficiently. In other cases, more intensive surgery will be required.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it should be noted that you don’t have to wait until you have acute heart disease to begin thinking about your heart health. A healthy lifestyle with good heart-healthy habits can prevent heart disease in some patients. So talk to your cardiologist today about changes you can make to your lifestyle. If you don’t already have a cardiologist, we’d love to meet you. Contact our office today for more information.