One in every four deaths in the United States in a given year is due to heart disease. It’s an overwhelming condition that affects people from all walks of life, and depending on the severity it can be treated in a number of different ways. One of the most common treatments for heart disease is balloon stenting, and in order to understand this procedure, you need to know a little bit about heart disease.
Heart disease is an umbrella term used to describe a whole category of conditions including Coronary Artery Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, and diseases of the arteries. Some forms of heart disease are congenital, meaning the patient has the condition from birth. However, most cases that result in death are a result of lifestyle and genetics.
The heart is responsible for pumping blood through the veins and arteries all over your body. Over time, due to genetics and lifestyle, some people’s arteries can become clogged with a substance called plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of fat, calcium, cholesterol, and other substances, and the more plaque that builds up the more difficult it becomes for blood to flow freely. Just like when the pipes in your home get plugged up. That’s where the balloon stenting process comes in. Balloon stenting is a cardiologist’s best tool for clearing those blockages and allowing blood to flow freely again. After all, the risk of living with clogged arteries is serious.
The Symptoms That Lead To Stenting
If you have a family history of heart disease, or if you have symptoms of underlying heart issues you should already be under the care of a cardiologist. Unfortunately, many people are not and therefore these issues go unnoticed and untreated for far too long. Symptoms of clogged arteries can vary from person to person, but the most common are chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. If you experience any or all of these symptoms after exerting energy it’s time to call a cardiologist. Often these symptoms are signs of an arterial blockage and can be treated with a balloon stenting procedure.
During The Surgery
Should your cardiologist determine that balloon stenting is the right approach for your cardiac needs, you can rest assured that the procedure is simple and effective. The balloon stenting procedure is a type of angioplasty. A surgeon makes a small incision in either the arm or groin of the patient and threads a thin wire into the artery. The wire, known as a catheter is guided through the arteries of the patient’s body until it makes its way to the blockage. At the end of the catheter is a small balloon that, once in place, is inflated to press the plaque out toward the walls of the artery. This action creates enough space for blood to flow freely again. However, the procedure is not yet complete. In order to keep the plaque from blocking the artery again, a stent is placed in the area. A stent is a tiny mesh tube that slides into place holding the plaque away from the center of the artery. Once this is complete the catheter is removed, the incision is closed, and the procedure is over. Since patients remain awake (yet sedated) during the entire balloon stenting procedure, most patients are able to return home the same day.
Life After Balloon Stenting
For most patients, recovering from a balloon stenting procedure is brief. In the days after your surgery, you will likely feel more tired than usual as your body learns to adjust to its new state. Within a week of your balloon stenting, most patients are able to go about their daily routines like walking, climbing stairs, and taking care of household chores. However, it isn’t until approximately four weeks later that patients are cleared for heavier activity. That said, not all patients and not all balloon stenting procedures are the same. If you have questions about how much activity is safe for you, contact your cardiologist.
How Long Does It Last?
Stents are an excellent tool for preventing serious heart damage due to arterial blockages, but in order to provide long term positive results patients must adopt heart healthy lifestyle changes. After a balloon stenting there is still a chance of the treated area narrowing once again. If this does occur it’s usually within the first year after the procedure. Talk with your cardiologist about what lifestyle changes you can make to ensure that your stent will last for many years to come.
Two of the biggest factors that determine whether a patient will experience atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, are genetics and lifestyle. Fortunately, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves against these risks. If your parents, grandparents, or other close relatives suffered from heart disease the chances are higher that you will also. Knowing your risk can be a significant motivator to begin making better choices in diet and lifestyle to prolong your health. For more information about how to turn over a new leaf in your heart health, or if you have further questions about balloon stenting, contact us today.