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Should I See a Doctor for My Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can directly impact your health and quality of life — here’s how to know if you’re at risk. 

While varicose veins may not pose an immediate risk for some people, they are a serious health concern for thousands of others. In fact, varicose veins may result in painful leg swelling, numbness, skin ulcers that refuse to heal, infections, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and more. 

These symptoms make it difficult to enjoy daily activities and can, in some cases, be life-threatening. Keep an eye out for the following signs to determine if your varicose veins are putting you at risk:

1. Swollen, Tender Skin

While varicose veins are a common part of the aging process — a result of worn-out valves that are no longer able to effectively pump blood back to the heart — it’s important to pay close attention to your veins as they change. In particular, varicose veins are a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that develops deep within the body.

Signs you may have DVT include cramps, discoloration, swelling, and skin that is red, tight, tender and/or warm to the touch.

2. Legs that Ache, Throb, or Feel Uncharacteristically Weak

Blood that fails to circulate properly and pools in the veins can cause patients to experience persistent aches and pains throughout the day. Others may notice that their legs feel weak or heavy. These symptoms are often heightened during warm weather or as a result of excessive sitting or standing.

It’s important to pay attention to these signs of poor vein health, as they can make day-to-day tasks more difficult, directly impacting your quality of life.

3. Itchy, Dry Skin and/or Discoloration 

Leg ulcers are breaks in the skin, or lesions, that usually impact tissues below the wound. If left untreated, they can cause serious, life-threatening infections.

Dry, itchy skin, discoloration, and/or a rash on your lower legs or around your ankles all indicate poor circulation and warn of an impending ulcer. Other signs of a leg ulcer include swelling and firm skin that feels almost hard to the touch.

Seeking Treatment for Varicose Veins

If you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms described above, it’s important to make an appointment with a vein specialist as soon as possible. A vein expert will conduct a comprehensive exam and use the latest in diagnostic equipment to determine the best course of action.

Common forms of modern vein treatments include: 

  • VenaSeal™: VenaSeal is a type of “glue” injected into spider or varicose veins to create a barrier. This barrier prevents blood from entering the unhealthy vein, thus closing it off and relieving many painful vein-related symptoms. 
  • Venefit™: Venefit is designed to treat varicose veins, including those that are larger or located deep within the body. During this procedure, a vascular surgeon threads a thin catheter into the abnormal vein and administers radiofrequency energy. This causes the vein to collapse and shrink.
  • Varithena®: Varithena is the only foam treatment that's been approved by the FDA to treat large leg veins. Once injected into the vein, the foam irritates the vein lining, causing it to close. After treatment, the body redirects blood to neighboring veins so circulation is improved and varicose vein symptoms are resolved.
  • Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat varicose and spider veins. It involves injecting a sclerosant, or solvent, into the damaged veins, causing them to collapse. This outpatient procedure is typically performed in less than an hour.

These are just a few of the many varicose vein treatment options available. Don’t put your health on hold any longer — get in touch with Premier Heart & Vein Care today to set up an appointment with a vein specialist.

What Causes an Irregular Heartbeat?

An arrhythmia occurs when the heart is beating too quickly, too slowly, or in an irregular pattern. What causes this condition and how can it be treated?

When the electrical impulses that control blood flow in the heart misfire, you may experience an irregular heartbeat. Known as a heart arrhythmia, this condition causes your heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or otherwise erratically.

A normal resting heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute. A heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute is classified as tachycardia, or a fast heart rate. A heart rate slower than 60 beats is called bradycardia. A slower than normal heart rate may not be a reason for concern since many athletes have slow heart rates due to being in peak physical condition. Medication to control high blood pressure may also cause bradycardia.

The most common type of heart arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, or AFib. If you have AFib, the upper chambers of the heart (the atrias) don’t pump blood properly to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2.7 million to 6.1 million people in the U.S. suffer from AFib. Knowing the signs of an irregular heartbeat and discussing any symptoms with a doctor can help ensure that your heart remains healthy.

Causes of an Irregular Heartbeat

Besides an erratic pulse or racing heart palpitations, common symptoms of a heart arrhythmia include shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, pale skin, or feeling dizzy and light-headed. Heart arrhythmias put you at risk of a stroke or heart disease, so any unusual heartbeat should be checked by a doctor.

To diagnose an arrhythmia, an echocardiogram (EKG) measures electrical activity in your heart. Or, you can wear a Holter monitor which records your heart rate throughout the day. Lastly, a stress test to check how your heart performs when exercising may be done. This test takes place on a treadmill as you walk or jog.

Heart arrhythmias can be attributed to a number of factors, such as blocked arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes, congenital heart defects, and sleep apnea. Lifestyle also impacts our heart health. Smoking, caffeine, excessive drinking, and stress have all been linked to an irregular heartbeat. An arrhythmia could even be a sign of a heart attack — and if that’s the case, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Arrhythmias can also be brought on by certain prescription drugs and cold medications. In addition, the electrolyte levels in your blood — substances such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium that control the electrical activity in your heart — may be too high or too low, which leads to an irregular heartbeat. People with an underactive or overactive thyroid have a greater chance of suffering heart arrhythmias, as well.

Treatment for Arrhythmia

If your symptoms are diminishing your quality of life or your doctor believes you may be at risk for complications due to an arrhythmia, you’ll begin a treatment program. This may include medication to control your heart rate or an implantable device like a pacemaker. Inserted under the skin near the collarbone, the pacemaker jolts the heart to a normal heart rate when it detects an abnormal rhythm.

A minor surgical procedure — a catheter ablation — has been used to treat arrhythmias. This procedure pulses heat, radiofrequency waves, or cold through a thin catheter into the heart tissue to short-circuit the area where the irregular heartbeat originates. Heart surgery is recommended only when other methods have failed to regulate your heart rate.

Along with medical treatment, your doctor may advise lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, following an exercise routine, eating a heart-healthy diet, and practicing stress reduction will maintain your heart health and prevent cardiovascular problems in the future.

Let Us Care for Your Heart

If you notice your heart rate is irregular or experience other cardiac symptoms, the physicians and staff at Premier Heart & Vein Care employ a variety of diagnostic tools to determine what may be causing your arrhythmia. We’ll then prescribe a treatment program to maintain your cardiovascular fitness. Your heart health is important to us — find how our compassionate, knowledgeable staff can help by making an appointment today.

 

What Are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition that affects your lymph nodes and causes your limbs to swell. Learn the symptoms so that you can identify it early and take steps to keep it from worsening. 

Lymphedema is a condition where one of your arms or legs, or possibly both of them, swells up. It is often caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes, which causes a blockage in your lymphatic system that prevents fluid from draining effectively. This fluid then builds up, resulting in swelling in your limbs.

There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary. Primary is especially rare, and is caused by the absence of certain lymph nodes at birth. Secondary is more common, and is the result of damage to your lymphatic system, which can happen during surgery, infection, or cancer treatment.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphedema. However, early diagnosis and careful care for your affected limb can help you manage the condition.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The most obvious symptom of lymphedema is the swelling of either all or part of your arm or leg, including your fingers and toes. This swelling can range from mild to severe, and may appear months or years after lymphatic injury.

Other symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • A restricted range of motion
  • General aching or discomfort
  • Feelings of tightness or heaviness
  • Fibrosis, a thickening and hardening of the skin tissue 
  • Recurring wounds and infections

It’s important to properly care for your affected limb, as the smallest injury can become an entry point for serious infection. Two common types of infections for people with lymphedema are lymphangitis, which is an infection of the lymph vessels, and cellulitis, which is a serious bacterial infection of the skin.

Treatment for Lymphedema

Unfortunately, chronic lymphedema cannot be cured. However, there are a number of treatment options that can help reduce discomfort and prevent the condition from worsening. These are particularly important given that untreated lymphedema can lead to decreased mobility and function of the affected limb as well as increased swelling and infection.

The best practices for treatment are:

  • Wearing compression garments on the affected limb or utilizing other compression devices.
  • Elevating the limb whenever possible. 
  • Engaging in gentle exercise through muscle contraction. 
  • Getting massage therapy to help with fluid drainage. 
  • Avoiding situations that might result in injury given that small wounds can open you up to major infections. 
  • Being especially mindful of hygiene. 
  • Avoiding heat or extreme cold.

Some of these best practices focus on preventing infection. If you do get a wound in a limb affected by lymphedema, it’s important that you act quickly to prevent infection. Gentle scrubbing and irrigation of the wound is critical as is the aggressive administration of antibiotics to prevent cellulitis. Non-adhesive, compression dressings can also help the wound heal.

If you believe you might have lymphedema, or if you have any questions about the condition, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with the specialists at Premier Heart & Vein Care. We can help you navigate the condition and determine the best treatment options for you.

How Diet Impacts Your Cardiovascular Health

Learn which food groups are best for maintaining a healthy heart.

The foods we eat have an enormous impact on our heart health. For instance, a diet high in saturated and trans fats, sugar, and sodium raises your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

On the other hand, lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are vital for maintaining a healthy heart. Fortunately, you have the ability to improve your cardiovascular health and avoid heart-damaging diseases by changing your diet. So if you want to take good care of your heart, learn the foods you should limit — and those you can fill up on.

The Worst Foods for Heart Health

To keep your heart healthy, certain food groups should either be restricted or eliminated altogether. These include:

  1. Processed Meats: Processed meats are packed with salt and preservatives. Consuming these foods will increase your intake of sodium, which should be limited to roughly 2,300 milligrams daily. Deli meats, including ham, turkey, and bologna, as well as hot dogs, top this list.
  2. Refined Grains and Carbohydrates: Foods made of processed grains and carbohydrates contain high amounts of sodium, sugar, and trans fat — all of which are harmful to the heart. You’re also not getting any nutritional value from these foods because the processing methods strip them of nutrients. A few examples of refined grains and processed carbohydrates are low-fiber cereals, white bread, and white rice.
  3. Bad Fats: Saturated and trans fats contribute to high cholesterol, which eventually leads to the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries. As more plaque clogs the arteries, you could be at risk for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. You can reduce the amount of saturated and trans fat in your diet by choosing lean meats and not cooking with butter or shortening. Conversely, foods consisting of healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts, and certain fish) should be staple of a heart-healthy diet.

The Best Foods for Heart Health

A heart-healthy diet is based on nutrient-rich foods that are low in calories and high in fiber. When planning your meals, stock up on these food groups:

  • Whole Grains: A good way to control your blood pressure is to eat whole grains. Instead of white bread, pick whole-grain or whole-wheat bread. High-fiber cereals, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, and grains such as barley and brown rice are excellent choices to enhance your cardiovascular health.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Like whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide the dietary fiber you need to control your blood pressure. Plus, they’re rich in vitamins and minerals. Rather than reaching for a bag of chips, snack on fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  • Low-Fat Protein: Being on a heart-healthy diet doesn’t necessarily mean giving up meat. Lean meat and poultry are better choices than fatty meats and cured meats like bacon. Or, in place of meat, cook up a meal of salmon or mackerel. These types of fish are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower blood fats. Legumes — beans, peas, and lentils — can be substituted for meat, as well. These foods are not only high in protein, but they’re also low in fat and contain no cholesterol.

Other Heart-Healthy Tips

Exercise is an important part of keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. A weekly workout of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity will keep your heart in good working condition. As a general rule, always try to burn off as many calories as you consume.

In addition, how much you eat is just as important as what you eat. In that regard, reduce your portion sizes so you’re not taking in too many calories. For example, a serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be no more than three ounces, or the size of a deck of cards.

Lastly, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake will help keep your heart in top condition. If you need support to give up cigarettes, talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program.

Want to learn more about meal planning and other methods to improve your cardiovascular fitness? The cardiac specialists at Premier Heart & Vein Care can help you build a diet and weight loss program suited to your needs. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

 

Am I at Risk for a Heart Attack?

Find out some common risk factors for a heart attack, then learn what you can do to boost your cardiovascular health.

Nearly half of all Americans possess a major risk factor for heart attack, according to the CDC. There isn’t a singular cause of cardiovascular disease, but a combination of genetic factors, medical conditions, and behavior/lifestyle can spell out the difference between a healthy heart and the onset of heart disease.

The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, a buildup of plaque in the heart’s coronary artery. If enough plaque builds up, coronary heart disease can lead to a heart attack. Fortunately, there are many ways to tell whether you are at risk for heart disease — and several options to manage your risk.

Common Risk Factors

There are some uncontrollable factors that can contribute to a greater risk for heart attack. These factors can be based on genetics, age, or just circumstance. They include:

  • Age: Age is the most basic risk factor for heart attacks — most people who die from heart attacks are 65 or older. 
  • Gender: Though heart disease is the number one killer for everyone, men are more likely to suffer heart attacks, and more likely to experience them earlier in life, than women.
  • Family history: People with relatives who have suffered from coronary heart disease are more likely to develop coronary heart disease themselves. 

Medical Conditions

If you already suffer from certain medical conditions, your risk for coronary heart disease may be increased. Some of these conditions are easier to control than others — if you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that can lead to heart attacks, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about what habits or environmental factors you can change to reduce your risk.

High Cholesterol 

High cholesterol levels can contribute to artery blockage and plaque buildup, which can lead to coronary heart disease. A healthy cholesterol score depends on age, and can be determined with a cholesterol test at your doctor’s office. The AHA recommends that healthy adults get their cholesterol checked every four to six years.

High Blood Pressure 

When you have high blood pressure, your heart’s activity goes into overdrive. This can thicken the walls of your arteries, leading to coronary heart disease. If you have high blood pressure, you can work to lower it by eating healthy, managing your weight, quitting smoking, and getting regular physical activity.

Diabetes 

Diabetes is a disease that leads to a dangerous increase in blood sugar. Your body converts blood sugar into energy by using the hormone insulin — and when insulin is not being produced, your blood sugar accumulates. This causes stress on your heart, which can lead to heart attacks. Almost seventy percent of people over the age of 65 who have diabetes die from heart disease. 

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of ways to protect yourself from coronary heart disease and decrease your risk of heart attack. Some of the most basic factors cannot be changed, but there are lifestyle adjustments that everyone can make to prevent medical conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

These include:

  • Quit smoking: Nicotine consumption is a major risk factor for high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack.
  • Manage your weight: Obesity often leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and physical activity can be crucial to preventing heart disease. 
  • Find healthy ways to destress: Decreasing your stress levels can lower blood pressure. 
  • Drink less: Decreasing your alcohol consumption can improve your cardiovascular health. 

The best way to prevent a heart attack is to know the risk factors. If you suspect you might be at risk for a heart attack, schedule a checkup with your doctor. Premier Heart and Vein Care offers check-ups and consultations with board-certified heart specialists, so you can get an expert assessment on your status. Come visit us for a consultation today.

How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis

There are simple steps patients can take to reduce their chances of developing a potentially dangerous blood clot.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that forms deep in a leg vein. Roughly 600,000 Americans develop DVT every year, according to the Surgeon General. Not only does DVT cause painful swelling and discolored skin, it can also lead to a potentially serious pulmonary embolism (PE) if the clot travels to the lungs.

Normally, platelets and proteins in the bloodstream form a clot when a blood vessel is cut. In this case, the clot prevents the body from losing too much blood. However, the danger arises when there is no damage to the vessel but a clot occurs anyway, likely due to a condition called venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in the veins are unable to pump blood back up to the heart. As blood pools in the veins, there is a greater chance of clotting.

Several factors put people at a higher risk of DVT. These include a family or personal history of clotting disorders, being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. The odds of DVT also rise when women are pregnant or undergoing hormone replacement therapy. People who are bedridden for long periods in the hospital must be carefully watched for DVT, as well.

Yet individuals at heightened risk of DVT can lower their chances with some prevention tips. Getting treatment at the first signs of DVT can also help avoid a more serious condition, such as a PE.

Preventing DVT

By following these precautions, patients can reduce their chances of developing blood clots.

  1. Don’t Sit or Stand for Too Long. Sitting or standing for long periods tends to cause blood to pool in the veins. In the case of long plane or car trips, get up and move around at least every two hours. When seated, encourage proper circulation by flexing ankles in a circular motion.
  2. Drink Plenty of Water. When muscles don’t get enough hydration, they tighten up and restrict blood flow in the veins. While drinking plenty of water is always recommended to maintain good blood flow, it’s especially true when traveling long distances. Another tip is to avoid alcohol, which can cause dehydration.
  3. Get Regular Exercise. Even a simple workout like walking for 30 minutes a day builds up the calf muscles so they can support the veins in pumping blood upwards. Further, since extra weight ups the chance of DVT, exercise can help maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep blood clots at bay.
  4. Wear Compression Stockings. Compression stockings aid circulation by squeezing the leg veins and forcing blood flow back to the heart. Available in drugstores and medical supply outlets, the strongest compression stockings can only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription.
  5. Treat Varicose Veins. According to a recent study, having varicose veins increases the odds of DVT by 5.3 times. By proactively treating varicose veins, patients may also decrease their risk of DVT

Anyone who suspects they have a blood clot should visit a doctor immediately. An ultrasound exam or a venogram — a test during which a dye is injected into a vein followed by an X-ray — are used to diagnose DVT. The condition is then treated with an anticoagulant medication.

We’re Vein Specialists

The staff at Premier Heart & Vein Care are experts in diagnosing and treating varicose veins and other vein disorders. We also can assess your risk of DVT and recommend therapies to prevent blood clots. Make an appointment today to ensure your vein health for many years to come.

How Sports Cardiology Can Help Athletes Stay in Top Condition

A sports cardiologist can help prevent and treat cardiovascular conditions that athletes often face.

Whether you’re a professional athlete or a dedicated fitness buff, your heart health is vital to achieve peak performance. Fortunately, a medical specialty called sports cardiology has emerged to monitor and treat the hearts of athletes and other active individuals.

A competitive athlete’s high performance level means it’s essential to routinely check for any cardiac abnormalities. Most often, patients will visit a sports cardiologist after experiencing cardiovascular symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fainting, or a sudden dropoff in performance ability. However, athletes with pre-existing heart conditions or a family history of heart disease may benefit from more frequent check-ups.

A detailed cardiac screening can help uncover the reason behind various cardiovascular symptoms so you can get the treatment you need to get back in the game. Testing also spots any potential heart issues that could develop into a more serious disorder if left untreated. With appropriate therapy, you’ll likely be able to return to your favorite sport without missing a beat.

Common Heart Conditions

The most common cardiovascular ailment among athletes is hypertension, or high blood pressure. Stage I hypertension — a baseline reading of 130/80 — doesn’t restrict an athlete from participating in sports. However, athletes diagnosed with Stage 2 (140/90) hypertension may be prohibited from weightlifting or martial arts until the condition is managed by medication. Untreated Stage 2 hypertension in athletes may lead to long-term heart damage.

Among older athletes, coronary artery disease is common. Similar to the general population, athletes may have congenital or inherited cardiac disorders, including hypertrophy, or thickening, of the left heart ventricle, or cardiac valve abnormalities. In addition, serious athletes may be prone to cardiac hypertrophy because of their strenuous workout routines.

Cardiac Testing

These cardiovascular conditions can be uncovered with a series of tests, starting with an electrocardiogram (EKG). This test measures the electrical activity in the upper right chamber of the heart to identify any irregularities. You may also undergo a stress test, or an EKG taken while you walk or jog on a treadmill.

Other heart exams include an echocardiogram that uses ultrasound waves to get a snapshot of the heart structure. Similarly, a cardiac MRI provides a detailed image of the heart muscles and aorta. To further analyze your cardiac function, you can wear a heart monitor during the day to record your heart rate.

Heart Health for Athletes

At Premier Heart & Vein Care, we work with athletes to ensure you can enjoy your favorite sports and activities for many years to come. We’ll review your risk factors, diagnose any symptoms, and treat the cardiac issues you may be experiencing. Our goal is to help you get back in the game as soon as possible — or help you vault to even greater athletic performance. Contact us today to learn more about our sports cardiology services.

What to Expect During Your Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is a minimally invasive, painless procedure that can offer a wealth of knowledge about your heart.

If you’re concerned that you may have heart disease or a heart abnormality, your doctor may recommend that you undergo an echocardiogram. This procedure, which is sometimes called an “echo test” or a diagnostic cardiac ultrasound, uses high-frequency sound waves to create images and ultimately assess the health and functionality of the heart.

Echocardiograms can be used to detect many heart problems, diagnose specific conditions, identify abnormalities, and help doctors evaluate the effectiveness of procedures that have been performed. If your cardiologist has ordered an echocardiogram, there’s no reason to be nervous — the procedure is safe, typically painless, and routine.

Why do you need an echocardiogram?

Your doctor or cardiologist will likely use an echo test to examine your heart’s structure and determine whether or not it’s functioning as it should. An echocardiogram will offer insight into your heart’s size and shape, its movement and pumping strength, and the thickness of the walls and valves.

This knowledge can help your doctor discover problems with the heart’s outer lining, abnormalities in the large blood vessels that lead blood to and from the heart, blood clots, or problematic holes between the chambers of the heart. Accessing this rich information with an echocardiogram causes no physical pain and poses very little risk. The procedure also requires no advance preparation from the patient.

What happens during an echocardiogram?

Prior to your echo test, you’ll be asked to put on a hospital gown and lie down on an exam table. Depending on the type of echo test that’s being performed, the procedure can differ from here.

The most common type of echocardiogram is transthoracic (TTE). TTE is a painless, non-invasive test that involves a device called a “transducer.” A transducer emits a high-frequency sound, and the sound waves bounce back to the device where they are interpreted by a computer. During TTE, the transducer will be placed on your chest to take images of your heart.

Another type of echocardiogram is transesophageal (TEE). TEE may be used if more definitive images are needed. During TEE, the patient’s throat is numbed and a small transducer is guided down the esophagus via a thin, flexible tube. Because an anesthetic is applied, this procedure is also painless.

After your echocardiogram, your doctor will interpret the results, explaining what the images show and walking you through the next steps. If the results aren’t conclusive, you may need to return for another echocardiogram at a later date.

If you’re concerned about your heart health and believe that you may need an echocardiogram, reach out to Premier Heart & Vein Care. At our practice in San Luis Obispo, CA, we specialize in treating patients with cardiovascular disease. Our dedicated doctors and care team will ensure you receive the highest quality treatment.

Do I Need an Electrocardiogram (EKG)?

An EKG is a simple and painless test that can detect potential heart problems.

If you’re experiencing rapid heartbeats or palpitations, shortness of breath, or chest pains, your doctor will likely recommend an electrocardiogram (EKG). This test serves to diagnose an underlying heart problem so that you can receive appropriate treatment. Sometimes, those with a family history of cardiovascular disease or a chronic condition like hypertension may also be sent for an EKG.

If you’ve had a pacemaker implanted in the heart muscle, you’ll have regular EKGs to ensure the device is working effectively. In other instances, an EKG is done during a routine physical examination, or prior to a surgical procedure.

How Does an EKG Work?

A quick, painless test, an EKG measures the electrical pulses radiating from the upper right chamber of the heart. The EKG displays that information as a series of waves that indicate the speed of the electrical activity. The chart will show whether you have a rapid heartbeat, known as tachycardia, or bradycardia, a slower than average heartbeat.

An EKG also highlights any abnormalities in the heart. This data might point to several heart disorders, such as an arrhythmia, heart defects or damaged valves, coronary artery disease, and possibly even a heart attack.

Tests Similar to EKGs

Because a standard EKG only monitors your heart rate during a specified period of time, it may not detect any irregularities before or after the exam. For that, your physician will likely request a different type of test. These may include:

Holter Monitor. A wearable, battery-powered device, a Holter monitor records your heart rate as you go about your daily tasks. You’ll also be asked to keep a diary of when symptoms are most pronounced — this helps the doctor determine what may be causing your discomfort.

Event Monitor. Unlike a Holter monitor, an event monitor activates only when symptoms arise. You can either press a button to start the monitor at the first signs of distress, or the device will automatically kick into gear when it senses an irregular heart beat. The doctor receives a reading of the EGK, and then uses the results to inform diagnosis. An event monitor can be worn for up to 30 days.

Stress Test. If your symptoms emerge primarily when you exercise, you’ll likely be given a stress test. During this procedure, you’ll go through an EKG while you ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill. This provides insights into how your heart is functioning as you work out.

Implantable Loop Recorder. Placed under the skin of the chest during a surgical procedure, an implantable loop recorder can be worn for up to three years. Much like other EKG devices, it continuously records heart rate activity and monitors any irregularities.

Should I Have an EKG?

Anyone with a family history of cardiovascular disease or who is experiencing chest pains or heart palpitations would be well advised to take an EKG. Even if these risk factors aren’t present, getting an EKG during a routine wellness exam could be useful in uncovering any unrecognized heart problems, or serve as a baseline to compare changes in the heart over the years.

EKG results are usually ready the same day and may help guide your physician to further testing if needed. A heart rhythm between 50 to 100 beats per minute is considered normal, so results outside that range would likely warrant a deeper medical analysis.

Premier Heart & Vein Care specializes in cardiovascular health. Make an appointment so we can discuss how to keep your heart in top condition for years to come, as well as minimize any risk factors you may face. A healthy heart is vital for your wellbeing, so don’t delay getting your checkup.

Who is Prone to Heart Attacks?

Considerable research has been conducted to identify factors that puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and a heart attack. The more risk factors for heart disease that you have, the greater the chances are of you developing a buildup of plaque in your arteries, and potentially leading to you developing coronary heart disease.

Some risk factors, such as your age, gender and family history, cannot be changed, but other risks factors, like being overweight or smoking can be altered to reduce your risk factors.

You can be more prone to heart disease depending on these factors.

  • Increased age. According to the American Heart Association, you are more likely to die of coronary heart disease if you are at 65 years of age or older.
  • Being male. Men have a higher risk of having a heart attack than women.
  • Have a family history. If your parents had heart disease, you are at a higher risk of developing it too.
  • Be of a certain race. If you are  Mexican-American, African American, native Hawaiian, or an American Indian, you may have a higher risk of heart disease. Some Asian-Americans also are at a greater risk.
  • Indulge in cigarette smoking. Use of tobacco smoke leads to a higher independent risk factor of developing coronary heart disease.
  • Have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure. Your risk of heart disease increases if you have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure.
  • Have diabetes. People with diabetes have a much higher risk of heart disease. Nearly 70 percent of individuals with diabetes, die as a result of some type of heart disease.
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle. If you live a physically inactive lifestyle, you are more prone to coronary heart disease.
  • Are overweight or obese. Individuals who have excess body fat, particularly if it resides around the waist, having a greater risk of stroke and heart disease.

Other Factors

Besides the above risks, other factors can increase your chance of developing cardiovascular disease, including being under regular stress, eating an unhealthy diet and drinking above moderate levels of alcohol.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

As mentioned, some factors such as your weight and activity levels are usually under your control. Take steps to improve upon the risk factors you can, to improve your heart health. Discuss your risk factors with your cardiologist and talk about ways to reduce them. 

Increase Your Knowledge of Heart Health

Here at At Premier Heart and Vein Care, we have a cardiology team who is dedicated to help improve your cardiovascular health and provide expert vein treatment, hear care, and vein care. Call us at 1-805-979-4777 to schedule an appointment today.

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