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.
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.
What Happens to Your Heart When You Age?
As you may already know, your risk of developing heart disease increases as you age. But you may not know why this occurs and what happens to your heart and veins as you grow older. Because your risk of developing coronary heart disease increases as you age, it’s important to receive regular checks and talk to your doctor about improving your heart health and receiving any necessary vein treatment.
What Happens to Your Heart and Blood Vessels as You Grow Older?
As you age, so do other components of your body, including your blood vessels. As you grow older, your blood vessels become less pliable and flexible, making it more difficult for the blood to flow easily through them. And, if you’ve developed plaque, or fatty deposit, that have collected along your artery walls, it can slow the blood flow from your heart.
The most prevalent aging change people realize as they grow older is increased stiffness of the body large arteries. This increased stiffness is called arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries.
This, along with other poor health habits, like poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and excess weight can all increase your heart disease risk. And, if you have other risk factors of coronary heart disease, such as having diabetes, smoking or high blood pressure, you increase your risk of suffering a heart attack.
As you age, your heat can also develop fat deposits and fibrous tissue. This can cause a slower heart rate. Your heart valves can stiffen as you grow older, leading to a heart murmur. You may also develop abnormal rhythms, known as arrhythmias as you age.
Besides changes in the actual heart muscle, your blood may also change as you get older. As a normal part of the aging process, you realize a reduced volume of total body water. Because of this, you have less fluid in your bloodstream and you have a decrease in blood volume.
Understanding the Aging Heart
Because of these factors and others, an older heart may not be as efficient at pumping blood as its younger counterpart. Other factors that can make your heart work less efficient include some medications, infections, stress, illness, injuries and physical activities.
Get Regular Checkups for Your Heart
Our team of doctors at Premier Heart & Vein Care is dedicated to your heart health as you age. We invite you to call us at 1-805-979-4777 to schedule a checkup and receive hear care or vein care from our experts. We strongly believe in educating our patients about their own heart health, and are dedicated to doing so. We encourage our patients to learn more about their conditions, and ask any and all questions regarding their heart health and vein treatment plan.
How to Improve Heart Health with Exercise
It's a fairly new concept that exercise can help the heart recover. In fact, up until the 1950s, physicians often told patients with cardiac problems they should avoid physical activity. It was in the late 1950s guidelines for exercise came forth for heart patients. These days, aerobic exercise is actually seen as an important factor in recovery.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), only around one in five teens and adults get the proper amount of exercise to maintain good health. And, the organization recommends you fit in a minimum of 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of heart-pumping physical activity (aerobics) each week. Aerobic exercises help improve lung and heart health and could even help you avoid vein treatment because exercise helps with vein care.
Exercises to Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
So, which exercises should you be performing for proper heart care?
Walking is one of the best types of aerobic exercise. It's safe, enjoyable and simple to fit into just about anyone's busy schedule. You can walk to work, to the grocery store or around your neighborhood. When the weather is inclement, you can walk inside on a treadmill at your home or gym.
2. Strength Training
Using weights, your own body weight or resistance bands are ideal for strength training. Perform this type of exercise a couple of times a week. Allow your muscles to recover by skipping a day between sessions.
Stretching a few times a week can help you become more flexible. Gently stretch before exercising as a warm up and after you've finished exercising.
4. Bike Riding
Bike riding is the perfect aerobic exercise for the heart due to the pumping motion of your large leg muscles. Either a stationary bike in your home or a road bike will work.
Another great aerobic exercise is swimming and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the fourth most popular U.S. sports activity. You receive healthy heart benefits simply by swimming for two and a half hours each week. Swimming also puts less stress on the joints and bones, which is another benefit of this exercise.
Science has linked sitting too much and being inactive with a greater heart disease risk. Therefore, it's clear you can live a healthier, longer life by being active. So, get out there and get moving. A little can go a long way.
Learn More About Heart Health
At Premier Heart and Vein Care, our cardiology team offers individualized, state-of-the-art care patient care. To learn what you can do to improve the health of your heart, call us at 1-805-979-4777 and schedule an appointment today.
How Heart Disease Affects the Digestive System
Stomach pain and other gastrointestinal issues can indicate a heart condition like heart disease (i.e., cardiovascular disease). Typically, these gastrointestinal symptoms occur because the heart is having difficulty pumping blood throughout the body. As blood circulation slows, the body chemistry changes from alkaline to acidic: Once the body transitions to this acidic state, organ systems, including the digestive tract, are unable to function properly.
What is Heart Disease?
Cardiovascular disease is characterized by the inability to supply an adequate amount of oxygenated blood to the heart due to the narrowing or blocking of arteries. This narrowing and blocking are caused by a buildup of fatty plaques. This buildup of plaque is dangerous because it can limit blood flow during physical activity, resulting in pain or pressure (i.e., angina) in the chest. Furthermore, when clots form, they can block off the blood flow completely, which will cause the individual to suffer a heart attack or a cardiac arrest. Narrowing and blocking of the arteries can occur elsewhere in the body as well, hindering blood flow and negatively affecting organ systems.
How Cardiovascular Disease Affects the Digestive System
Initially, the stomach pains that may indicate bad heart health are sharp and sporadic; however, as time passes symptoms usually become chronic. These pains frequently occur close to the upper left side section of the stomach. Additionally, pain may be experienced in the esophageal sphincter. These pangs may be happening due to uncommon electrical activity that is being emitted from the heart.
Other symptoms that may indicate heart disease include sweating, nausea, and fatigue. These symptoms can be experienced at the same time or individually. Since these three symptoms may be a sign of myocardial infarction, seeking immediate heart care if these symptoms arise is essential.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal issues due to cardiovascular disease:
- Intestinal angina — due to the pain and problems associated with eating, people may lose a significant amount of weight. The symptoms of intestinal angina include diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting following meals. Sharp abdominal pain usually begins within an hour of eating a meal and lasts up to two hours. The pain associated with intestinal angina includes dull cramps located near the pit of the stomach; however, this pain can radiate to the back.
- Acute intestinal ischemia — this occurs when a blood clot becomes lodged in one of the intestinal arteries. These clots usually originate in the heart and are caused by atrial fibrillation. If severe enough, a portion of the intestine may die, which is a medical emergency.
- Nausea — although the nausea is related to stomach pain, this symptom also indicates that the individual's heart health is continuing to deteriorate. The stomach’s ability to digest and process nutrients is inhibited due to the body’s continued acidic state. When the body is in this state, the stomach begins producing more hydrochloric acid (HCI), which is the acid used during digestion. As it erodes away the lining of the stomach, this excess HCI causes the individual to experience nausea: If not addressed, this erosion could lead to the formation of an ulcer.
To learn more about how you can improve your heart health with natural heart care, contact Premier Heart and Vein Care today at 1-805-979-4777.
What is the Best Exercise for the Heart?
Serving as the powerhouse of the cardiovascular system, a strong heart is crucial to maintaining overall health. Following a heart-healthy diet, like the DASH or Mediterranean Diet, and incorporating an exercise routine geared towards strengthening the heart are two of the easiest ways to ensure your heart remains strong and healthy.
Exercise Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
As the heart becomes stronger, each beat pumps more blood. As this oxygenated blood begins moving more quickly throughout the body, the efficiency of organ systems improves. In addition, exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease, can lower blood pressure as well as decrease the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood. LDL is the cholesterol responsible for clogging the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Exercise also helps counteract the effects of LDL by raising the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the blood. HDL helps improve heart health by carrying fatty deposits out of the arteries; thus, reducing the likelihood of a heart attack.
What Type of Exercise is the Best for Strengthening the Heart?
When it comes to heart care, aerobic exercise works the heart muscle the most. In fact, due to its ability to build the heart muscle, aerobic exercise is frequently referred to as “cardiovascular exercise.”
Examples of cardiovascular exercises include:
After receiving approval to begin a heart-strengthening exercise routine, patients need to start out slow, gradually increasing stamina per their physician's approval. Eventually reaching the recommendations as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, adults should incorporate at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise into their schedule every week. To be effective, the length of aerobic exercise sessions must be at least 10 minutes.
Examples of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercises include:
- Cycling on a flat surface
- Taking a brisk walk
- Swimming leisurely
- Working in a garden
Stay Flexible for Overall Health
As we age, our bodies become more rigid. Stretching promotes flexibility, helps keep the joints limber and allows the muscles to maintain a full range of motion. In addition, remaining flexible reduces the likelihood of suffering an injury while exercising or participating in other activities.
Flexibility exercises include:
- Basic stretches
Once you know that you are healthy enough, getting active is the best way to improve your quality of life. Walking is a simple activity that most people already do. Many patients find that using a pedometer to track their steps keeps them motivated and provides them the information they need to gradually increase the number of steps they walk each day.
Dr. Ken Stevens can evaluate your heart to ensure you are healthy enough to begin a cardiovascular exercise routine. As your cardiologist, Dr. Stevens can help you as you work towards improving your health. To schedule an appointment, please contact Premier Heart and Vein Care today at 805-979-4777.
How can you tell if your heart is healthy?
Your heart is constantly working, 24/7. It never stops – ever. It is integral to sustaining your life, so you want to make sure it is as healthy as possible. But what does good heart health look like? While some conditions may arise as a person gets older, age doesn’t necessarily mean that you automatically have heart problems. In fact, with good heart care, you can enjoy a strong, healthy heart even into your later years. The better condition your heart is in, the less likely you will need vein treatment later in life.
And it all starts with knowing if your heart is healthy.
Your heart rate is within its target range.
The American Heart Association recommends a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute, the lower, the better. A lower heart rate indicates a healthier heart. It means that your heart is in good condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through your body.
Your maximum and target heart rate will also change as your heart gets stronger. To find your maximum rate, subtract your age from 220. That is the highest heart rate you should experience when you exercise.
When you engage in moderately intense activities, aim for between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate. If you are engaged in vigorous activity, aim for 70% to 85% of your max heart rate.
Your blood pressure is good.
Blood pressure measures the amount of force your blood exerts against your artery walls while your heart is pumping. There are actually two measurements taken, systolic and diastolic. By measuring both you get a more complete function of the heart.
- Systolic blood pressure – Measures arterial pressure when the heart contracts or squeezes.
- Diastolic blood pressure – Measures arterial pressure when the heart is at rest, or between heartbeats.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. Higher numbers can indicate heart problems or an increased risk for heart disease.
Your bloodwork shows great levels.
There are several blood tests that can be done that are good indicators of heart health. Measuring triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol), and HDL (good cholesterol) are fairly standard in assessing overall health, including the heart. There may be other tests that your doctor will perform depending on other conditions you may have, your family history, or other risk factors for heart disease.
At Premier Heart and Vein Center, your heart health is our priority. Our doctors specialize in heart and vein care. Whether you are treating a heart problem, need vein care, or you just want to make sure your heart is as healthy as possible, we’re here for you. Call today for an appointment and keep your heart healthy.
How do I prepare for radiofrequency ablation (RFA)?
State-of-the-art treatments such as radiofrequency ablation are minimally invasive, low risk, and effective options to get rid of varicose veins. Learn what this procedure entails and how to prepare for radiofrequency ablation.
Purpose of Radiofrequency Ablation
Varicose veins form when the walls of your veins become weakened. This causes veins to bulge and swell. Traditional methods of vein treatment involved stripping the veins from the skin, leading to pain and scarring. Newer methods like radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, remove varicose veins without causing these complications.
In radiofrequency ablation, your vein doctor will insert a small catheter, or tube, into the diseased vein. This requires a very tiny incision. The catheter then delivers heat using radiofrequency energy. This targets the collagen in the vein walls, causing the molecules to collapse. Once the vein walls have collapsed, your body naturally diverts blood to alternative pathways and reabsorbs the varicose vein.s
How to Prepare for Radiofrequency Ablation
Before you arrive for your RFA appointment, your vein doctor will provide specific instructions about how to prepare. In general, you should do the following to prepare for radiofrequency ablation:
- Arrange transportation to and from the appointment if you are taking a sedative medication
- Take your sedative (if prescribed) approximately 1 hour before the procedure
- Drink lots of water
- Remember your compression stockings
- Wear loose clothing. This might include sweatpants, shorts, or a skirt. Tight clothing restricts your motion and may affect healing.
- Know that your underwear may get stained. Depending on the placement of the affected vein, your doctor may prep your entire leg, including groin area.
- Fill out paperwork and bring your health insurance card.
What to Expect After Radiofrequency Ablation
Radiofrequency ablation is minimally invasive. As a result, most people find that they experience only minor discomfort during the procedure. Additionally, receiving radiofrequency ablation can lead to lower rates of pain, bruising, and scarring compared to other vein treatment options. For best outcomes, follow this advice after your RFA procedure:
- Do not sit or stand for long periods of time
- Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for 2 weeks.
- Walk frequently after your procedure.
- Wear your compression stockings for at least 3 days after the RFA procedure (taking them off at night). Wearing them longer may help.
- Schedule a follow-up appointment with your vein doctor. This typically includes an ultrasound within 1-3 days.
- Take showers, but avoid submerging yourself in water for at least one week. This means no baths, swimming, or hot tubs.
- Try to move around at least once per hour.
- Take baby aspirin, if medically indicated by your doctor.
The area affected by the varicose vein may be tender and have slight bruising after radiofrequency ablation. Follow your doctor’s care instructions to ensure a healthy recovery.
How long can you live with heart disease?
Approximately 84 million Americans are living with heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. More than 600,000 people die of heart disease each year, making it the number one cause of death in the United States. However, heart disease is not always a death sentence. Learn how long you can live with heart disease and ways to keep yourself healthy.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, occurs when the blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to your heart become blocked or narrowed. Conditions that cause problems with your heart valves or heart rhythm may also be considered forms of heart disease. Heart disease makes you more prone to suffering a heart attack, stroke, or chest pain. In fact, many people do not find out they have heart disease until they experience one of these events.
How Long Can You Live with Heart Disease?
The answer to the question, “How long can you live with heart disease?” is that there is no good answer. Some people with heart disease live for several decades before dying of unrelated causes. Others succumb to a cardiac event within months or years.
The factors that determine your longevity include your genetics, family history, chronic health problems, weight, and lifestyle choices. Some of these factors are outside of your control (like your genes). Others, however, can be changed. Learn what you can do to live longer with heart disease.
Ways to Live Longer with Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease co-occurs with a variety of other medical conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Investing your time and energy in the following lifestyle changes can help you practice good heart care:
- Eat a healthy diet. The best diet for heart health includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Avoid eating excessive amounts of red meat. Instead, swap fish or beans as sources of protein.
- Decrease your sodium intake. Sodium is found in a variety of processed foods. Lower your sodium consumption to promote healthier blood pressure and heart health.
- Stop smoking. Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease. It’s never too late to quit. Talk to your doctor about strategies to help you cut back and quit entirely.
- Aim for a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight places less stress on your cardiovascular system. Ask for a referral to a nutritionist to learn strategies for healthy weight loss.
- Exercise. Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, most days of the week. You can break exercise into smaller 10-minute chunks if it’s easier to fit into your schedule.