Here's Why Preventive Cardiology Is Important for Your Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the the U.S., responsible for about 1 out of every 4 deaths that occur. Although heart disease tends to be thought of as a medical problem that only occurs at an older age or almost solely affects men, both of those assumptions are untrue - and could be dangerous to your health. In fact, heart disease can develop at any age, and heart disease is the top cause of death for both sexes. And what’s more, people with certain risk factors can be at a much greater risk for heart disease and the problems it can cause.
The good news: Preventive cardiology can help you reduce your risks of heart disease by identifying risk factors associated with the disease and providing you with the guidance and care you need to address those problems and improve your cardiovascular health.
Preventive Cardiology: What Is It?
Your heart is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs to be kept in good shape in order to continue to function properly. Preventive cardiology starts with a thorough assessment of the heart and cardiovascular system, using an array of tests and evaluations, including:
- a blood pressure evaluations
- weight and body mass index (BMI) calculations
- EKGs to evaluate the heart’s electrical activity
- blood tests to assess levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose (blood sugar) and other factors
- echocardiograms (ultrasound evaluations of the heart)
- cardiac stress testing, used to evaluate how the heart functions during strenuous physical activity
In addition, the cardiologist will ask for an in-depth personal and family medical history as well as information about the patient’s lifestyle and habits, like tobacco, alcohol and drug use, physical activity levels, stress management and other issues that can affect heart health.
At the conclusion of the evaluation, patients will be provided with a customized treatment plan including guidance to help them improve unhealthy behaviors so they can reduce their risks for cardiovascular diseases. Additional testing may also be ordered, depending on the results of the initial evaluations.
Who benefits from preventive cardiology?
Considering heart disease is so prevalent, just about any adult can benefit from preventive care. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends regular cardiovascular screening beginning at age 20. While the tests and evaluations used in preventive care can benefit healthy men and women with no known risk factors for heart disease, they’re especially important for those with known risk factors like:
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- high cholesterol
- family history of heart disease
- history of smoking
- sedentary lifestyle
- personal history of diseases that affect the cardiovascular system, like Marfan’s syndrome or rheumatic fever
Cardiac Specialists in San Luis Obispo
Ready to take that first step toward better cardiovascular health? Call Premier Heart and Vein Care at 805-979-4777 and schedule an evaluation today.
Visit Our Cardiovascular Center for State-of-the-Art Stress Testing
Cardiac testing plays an important role in identifying heart disease and its risk factors, and it’s also important for ensuring ongoing treatment stays on track. Our practice offers several types of cardiac testing depending on each patient’s individual needs and the type of information that’s being sought. One of the most useful tests for diagnosing heart problems and managing their treatment is called a cardiac stress test - and although the name may sound a little scary, it’s actually a simple, straightforward, noninvasive evaluation that can be performed right here in our cardiovascular center.
Cardiac Stress Tests: What Are They?
Cardiac stress tests are designed to evaluate how well the heart performs during strenuous physical activity.
The tests can be useful in diagnosing and treating an array of heart-related issues, including:
- coronary artery disease
- valve-related problems
- rhythm problems, including atrial fibrillation
- congestive heart failure
Plus, the tests can be very helpful in managing treatment for existing cardiovascular problems and in identifying risk factors for heart disease.
How is a stress test performed at a cardiovascular center?
Prior to the test, you’ll be given instructions about whether or not to take certain types of meds, and it’s a good idea to eat only a light meal during the few hours before the test. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes since you’ll be exercising.
At the start of the test, EKG leads will be attached to your skin in specific areas using a sticky gel. The EKG will be used throughout the entire test to monitor your heart’s electrical activity. An ultrasound (echocardiogram) of the heart may also be performed to obtain detailed images of the heart’s structures (including the heart’s walls, valves and chambers) and the blood vessels and blood flow around the heart. During the echocardiogram, a special handpiece called a transducer will be passed over your skin, transmitting data to a computer and monitor where the images can be viewed.
Next, you’ll be asked to walk on a treadmill at a steadily increasing speed until a target heart rate is reached. A second ultrasound will be performed once that target rate is achieved. Once the test is complete, you’ll be able to resume your regular activities, and the doctor will carefully review your results and discuss them with you, either the same day or within the next day or two.
Keep your heart healthy.
Stress tests are also used in preventive cardiology to help people reduce their risks for cardiovascular disease. If you’ve been experiencing heart-related problems, if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, or if you just want to understand your risks for disease, a cardiac evaluation is essential. At Premier Heart and Vein, we offer state-of-the-art cardiac testing to help men and women improve their heart health and reduce their risk for serious heart-related problems. To schedule your evaluation at our cardiovascular center, give us a call at 805-979-4777 today.
Six Benefits of Sclerotherapy as a Spider Vein Treatment
Most patients who experience spider veins do not develop serious medical problems from these tiny red or blue vessels near the surface of the skin. However, for many, they represent a real roadblock to self-confidence. For these patients, sclerotherapy is often the spider vein treatment of choice because of its many benefits.
How a Vein Doctor Uses Sclerotherapy
Spider veins appear most often on the legs, ankles, or feet and occasionally on the face, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. They usually develop closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins do and are typically much smaller.
Vein clinics treat spider veins on an outpatient basis. While conservative measures such as elevating the legs, losing weight, or wearing compression stockings might help prevent new spider veins, they cannot eliminate existing vessels. A vein doctor who specializes in treating vein disease is usually a vascular surgeon. This physician uses sclerotherapy to eliminate targeted spider veins by injecting a substance called a sclerosant into each vessel.
The Office on Women’s Health explains that the sclerosant irritates the vessel’s walls, causing them to stick to each other and eventually close. In time, the body absorbs the treated vein. A vascular surgeon sometimes uses ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy to direct the needle while injecting the sclerosant.
Benefits of Sclerotherapy
Many healthcare providers refer to sclerotherapy as the gold standard of treatment for spider veins. Patients enjoy these six benefits while getting rid of these abnormal veins, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive treatment. It requires no hospitalization or general anesthesia.
- It is a safe procedure with few risks. Side effects, if any, usually disappear within just a few days or a few weeks. Less-common complications include inflammation, a blood clot, air bubbles, or an allergic reaction to the sclerosant.
- Preparation for the procedure is simple. Patients avoid applying any lotion to or shaving their legs for 24 hours before the appointment. They wear loose clothing such as a pair of shorts to the vein clinic.
- Individuals report little pain or discomfort during the procedure, which usually lasts less than an hour.
- Most patients return to their normal daily routines, absent any strenuous activities, the same day as their sclerotherapy session.
- Sclerotherapy has a success rate as high as 80 percent for getting rid of treated vessels.
A vein doctor might need to schedule more than one treatment session for a patient, depending on the size and the location of the veins to be destroyed. It is important to note that no treatment for spider veins will prevent new vessels from forming due to underlying vein disease. For this reason, patients who have undergone sclerotherapy might expect to see new spider veins occasionally and often opt to return for periodic treatments.
What Are My Spider Vein Treatment Options?
Spider veins affect millions of people across the United States. Nonetheless, many people with this condition are embarrassed by the appearance of their veins. Fortunately, effective spider vein treatment is available from Premier Heart & Vein Care.
What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are abnormal veins that may appear anywhere on the body. However, these veins are most common on the legs, hands, feet and chest. Spider veins typically appear as blue, purple or red veins that are easily visible from above the skin's surface. They often develop in web-like formations, and they may get worse over time. Although spider veins may not cause any additional symptoms for some patients, other patients report discomfort associated with spider veins, especially when they develop in the legs.
Spider Vein Treatment Options
Several treatment options are available to patients with spider veins. If a patient's spider veins are not severe, at-home treatment may improve the patient's symptoms. For example, if the spider veins are located in the legs, the patient may be able to improve his or her appearance by elevating the legs as much as possible and/or wearing compression stockings during the day. For some patients, weight loss may also be beneficial.
If at-home conservative treatments do not effectively resolve your spider veins, sclerotherapy may be the best option. This treatment can be performed in the comfort of a vein clinic and requires no general anesthesia. During the procedure, your vein surgeon will use a thin needle to inject a special medication into your spider veins. This medication will irritate the walls of the spider veins, causing them to stick together. Eventually, the body will absorb the veins and they will no longer be visible.
Veins that are effectively treated with sclerotherapy should not reappear. However, new spider veins may develop in the future, so additional treatment sessions may be necessary.
If you are interested in learning more about spider vein treatment, please contact Premier Heart & Vein Care to make an appointment.
8 Factors that Put You At Risk for Vein Disease
More than 31 million Americans have some form of vein disease, making this a very prevalent public health problem. Your veins are responsible for pushing deoxygenated blood from your tissues back to the heart to be replenished with oxygen. When the veins become weakened, they can no longer efficiently transport blood. This leads to a phenomenon known as chronic venous insufficiency, or venous disease. Learning the factors that place you at risk for vein disease can help you take action to prevent this health condition.
1. Older Age
Veins naturally change as you grow older. Your vein walls will become thinner and weaker over time, which can cause blood to pool in the veins. Individuals over age 50 are most susceptible to venous disease.
2. Physical Inactivity
Physical inactivity is one of the biggest culprits in contributing to vein disease. Getting plenty of exercise throughout the day keeps your circulatory system working properly.
3. Being a Woman
Women are more likely to develop vein disease and men. Scientists believe this may be due to differing levels of certain hormones that place women at higher risk.
Overweight or obese individuals have a markedly higher risk for varicose veins and advanced vein disease. Carrying excess body weight causes your veins to work harder to deliver blood back to the heart. Over time, this can cause blockages in veins or may weaken vein walls. Losing weight is one of the best ways to lower your risk for chronic venous insufficiency.
5. Sitting or Standing for Extended Periods of Time
Do you sit at an office desk for most of the day? If so, you are placing yourself at higher risk for vein disease. Prolonged periods of sitting or standing can cause blood to pool in your legs, leading to vein problems. Get up and move around to keep your blood pumping efficiently.
Pregnancy puts a strain on your circulatory system. In particular, veins in the legs can become compressed by the weight gain associated with bearing a child. This compression may cause venous disease. Fortunately, most affected veins return to normal after childbirth, although you may remain at elevated risk for vein disease in the future.
7. Family History of Vein Disease
Some aspects of venous disease are hereditary. If you have a first-degree relative (e.g., parent, sibling, or child) with varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency, you are also at greater risk.
8. Varicose Veins
Varicose veins occur when blood pools in the veins, causing them to bulge and become an unsightly purple or blue color. These varicose veins are a sign of venous insufficiency. If you notice yourself beginning to develop varicose veins, visit your vein doctor for diagnosis and treatment options.
5 Things to Know About Spider Vein Removal
Spider veins might make you feel self-conscious or they might cause you physical discomfort. Fortunately, spider vein removal is usually a relatively quick and easy process. That said, if you're looking to get rid of your spider veins, treatment isn't necessarily something you want to rush into. Knowing what to expect and what to do to prepare can help you get the most out of the treatment process.
Spider Vein Removal: Things to Know
What to Do Before Spider Vein Treatment
Before sclerotherapy or another treatment to remove spider veins at a vein clinic, your doctor might ask you to make a few adjustments to your lifestyle or habits to help reduce the risk for complications and to help improve your treatment results. For example, if you smoke, you might be advised to stop smoking for a few weeks before your treatment. Your doctor might also recommend avoiding aspirin and certain other over-the-counter medications or supplements. It's usually a good idea to avoid tanning or extensive sun exposure before treatment as well. You might want to purchase loose-fitting or drapey shorts to wear to the vein clinic and a pair of compression stockings to wear afterwards.
How Long Treatment Takes
How long it takes to remove spider veins depends on the size of the area being treated, but the process is usually fairly quick. For the most part, treatment takes about 30 minutes. It can take up to an hour, or even longer, if you are having a large area treated.
What Type of Results to Expect
You can usually expect spider vein treatment to remove most of the problematic veins. According to Smart Beauty Guide, up to 70 percent of treated veins are removed after sclerotherapy treatment. Some people might have less dramatic results and notice that half of the veins are permanently removed by the treatment.
You May Need Multiple Treatments
Sclerotherapy is often not a one and done treatment. Usually, people need a series of treatments, spaced a few weeks to a few months apart, before they see the full results they are after. While the treatment does permanently remove the effected veins, it is possible for new spider veins to develop over time. Even if you enjoy a successful treatment initially, you might need a repeat procedure after a few years.
Complications Are Possible
One last thing to know about sclerotherapy and spider vein treatment options: complications after treatment are possible, although they usually are rare. You may have some swelling and bruising right after treatment, for example. Some people develop persistent pain in the treated area. There's also a small risk for infection.
Choosing an experienced vein doctor and receiving treatment at a vein clinic will help lower your risk for complications considerably. To learn more about your spider vein removal options, contact Premier Heart & Vein Care today.
What Does Electrocardiography Mean For You?
Heart disease affects many Americans and is currently the leading cause of death in this country. In many cases, a heart attack is the first symptom of this condition. Preventive cardiology can help lower your risk of developing heart disease or prevent the condition from getting worse. One of the important aspects of preventive cardiology is know what's going on with the heart. To that end, a vein doctor like Ken Stevens, MD, of Premier Heart and Vein Care, uses several electrocardiography techniques.
How The Heart Works
The heart runs on electricity. An electrical impulse begins in a spot inside the heart called the SA node. The impulse travels through the heart and the muscle responds by squeezing to pump blood through the heart and out into the body. The blood goes first to the lungs, where it takes on oxygen, then returns to the heart and is sent out through the arteries. After delivering oxygen to the body cells, the blood returns to the heart for another round. The electrical impulse can by measured to determine if it is fast, slow or irregular.
An electrocardiogram (usually called an EKG) is one of the most common ways to measure electrical activity in the heart. Completely non-invasive, this test translates the information it receives into a pattern that can be viewed on a screen or printed on special paper. The doctor then measures important aspects of the tracing for size and frequency and looks at the overall pattern to determine what's going on in the heart. The procedure is performed in a doctor's office, is not painful and has no side effects.
An EKG can give you a one-time picture of the heart's activity. A Holter monitor is an EKG that is meant to be worn as you go about your activities during the day and while sleeping. Sometimes your heart rate and rhythm change significantly with activity or during the night; the Holter monitor will record all of those changes. In most cases, patients are asked to wear the Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours, but occasionally it may be longer. In all other respects, a Holter monitor is just like a regular EKG.
In addition to an EKG or Holter monitor, your doctor might want to check how much blood is flowing through the chest and how hard the heart has to work to pump the blood. In that case, a procedure known as impedance cardiography will be used. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. This test can create images from sound waves that show the internal structure of the heart in real time. It is used to look for physical heart abnormalities.
In order to make recommendations for care, doctors need information about the heart. Electrocardiography provides that information. If you have questions about electrocardiography or the tests listed above or want to schedule an appointment, please contact us at Premier Heart and Vein Care.
Uses of an Electrocardiography Test
Known as an EKG or ECG, an electrocardiography records your heart’s electrical activity through the use of electrodes placed on your skin. It is a very common test performed by your general physician, cardiologist, and vein doctor.
The EKG detects the slightest electrical changes on your skin that come about from each and every heartbeat in order for your doctor to learn more about the function and structure of your heat. The test is non-invasive, painless, and takes just seconds after the leads are attached.
Attaching the leads are the longest part of the test, and can take upwards of 10 minutes. The technician or nurse may have to shave small areas of hair to ensure the electrodes are secured appropriately to the skin.
Medical Uses for an EKG
There are many indications for a physician to use an EKG. Some reasons you might be advised to get an electrocardiography test include:
- Cardiac stress testing
- Suspected pulmonary embolism
- Fainting spells
- Dizzy spells
- Circulation concerns
- Vein problems
- Heart murmur
- Suspect heart attack
- Heart valve problems
- Heart arrhythmia
- Coronary heart disease
- Monitor the effectiveness of a pacemaker
- Breathing difficulties
- Feeling weak or fatigued
- Feeling that your heat if racing, pounding, or fluttering
- Feeling pains in your chest
Abnormal results from an ECG can indicate an heart condition, and additional testing is necessary. The results may indicate that your heart is beating erratically, beating too fast, or beating too slow. It can indicate that you are having a heart attack, or have had one previously. An EKG can provide clues that you have an enlarged heart, have blocked articles, or have problems with blood flow. It can also indicate that you might have heart valve problems or coronary heart disease.
Other EKG Considerations
There are very few risks associated with having an EKG, aside from possible irritations or rash from the electrodes placements.
There is no real preparation for having an ECG. However, patients are advised to refrain from exercising or drinking cold water before getting this test. Exercising can elevate your heart rate and drinking cold water can alter the electrical patterns, and may alter the test results.
Your San Luis Obispo vein doctor will interpret the results of your EKG to determine if any treatment is warranted to improve your condition.
Why Endocarditis Patients Need a Cardiovascular Center
Endocarditis is a disorder that is fortunately rare in individuals who have healthy hearts. However, it can develop suddenly or slowly. Those with symptoms of this condition need excellent medical care at a the state-of-the art cardiovascular center. Understanding the basics of this condition helps patients form realistic expectations about their care.
Overview of Endocarditis
This condition is an inflammation of the heart. Most often the result of a bacterial infection, it is occasionally caused by fungal activity. MedlinePlus notes that sometimes doctors are unable to find the cause. The inflammation affects the endocardium, the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves.
The most likely ways germs get into the blood and move to a patient’s heart include:
- Through a central venous line
- From unsterile needles used to inject drugs
- After dental surgery
- Following certain major or minor procedures, such as those performed on the urinary tract
According to research reported at PLOS ONE, a number of studies have estimated the incidence of this condition at 4 cases per 100,000 individuals. More recent research suggests it might be higher.
The Mayo Clinic indicates that endocarditis has many potential symptoms. Among the most common are these:
- Chills and fever
- New heart murmur
- Aches in muscles and joints
- A persistent cough
- Weight loss
- Abdominal or limb swelling
- Spleen tenderness
- Blood in the urine
The most important possible complications of the disorder include:
- Strokes and damage to organs
- Infections that strike areas outside the heart
- Actual heart failure
Treatment at a Cardiovascular Center
Based on a patient’s medical history and a physical exam, a cardiovascular specialist might suspect endocarditis. Since in its earliest stages the illness can mimic other disorders, physicians often order these tests to make a diagnosis:
- Blood tests to look for bacteria and anemia
- Electrocardiogram to assess the electrical phases of the patient’s heartbeat
- Transesophageal echocardiogram to examine the heart valves
- Chest X-rays to evaluate the heart and the lungs
- CT or MRI scan to determine if an infection has moved to areas outside the heart
Physicians are able to choose the appropriate antibiotic or combination to treat endocarditis based on results of blood cultures. Patients sometimes need to receive intravenous antibiotics while in a hospital and continue them at home for a total of four to six weeks of treatment.
When endocarditis damages a patient’s heart valves, symptoms can persist and complications might develop years after antibiotics. In some cases, surgery is the recommendation for infections that linger, for replacement of damaged valves, or to treat endocarditis linked to a fungal cause.
Surgery could mean either repairing a damaged heart valve or replacing it. Replacement valves might consist of man-made material or come from an animal.
Sometimes cardiovascular specialists recommend preventive antibiotics before medical or dental procedures the might allow bacteria into the bloodstream.
4 Reasons Your Vein Doctor Might Perform Electrocardiography
if you are having heart pain or other heart problems, one of the first tests your vein doctor or surgeon might perform is an electrocardiogram. Electrocardiography is a non-invasive test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. Also known as an EKG or ECG, the test is often the first part of the diagnosing process for heart disease. There are a number of reasons why a doctor might perform or order an EKG.
Common Reasons for Electrocardiography
If You Have Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations occur when it feels as though your heart is racing or pounding. It might feel is if your heart is fluttering in your chest, like the wings of a butterfly. One thing that an EKG measures is heart rate. Along with measuring your heart rate, performing an EKG allows your doctor to determine if the heart rhythm is regular or unsteady.
It can be a useful tool for diagnosing heart palpitations, since the doctor can see when the heart rate increases. Performing the test can help doctors narrow down the list of potential causes of the palpitations as well. After the test, your doctor might ask you a number of questions to shed further light on the cause of the palpitations.
If You Have Chest Pain
Another common reason for performing an EKG is if a patient is experiencing chest pain or pressure in the heart. There are a number of reasons why you might have chest pain, ranging from a heart attack to pericarditis, which is inflammation in the sac around your heart. An EKG can be performed to diagnose chest pain caused by angina.
If You Have a Pacemaker
Some patients have a Pacemaker implanted in their hearts. The device uses electrical pulses to help the heart beat at a normal rate and rhythm. For a Pacemaker to be effective, it needs to properly maintain the heart's rhythm. A doctor might perform an electrocardiogram to confirm that the Pacemaker is working properly.
Before You Have Surgery
Surgery usually has a number of risks, particularly for patients who aren't in the best of health. If you are considering an elective surgery, meaning you don't need the surgery for medical reasons, your doctor might order an EKG first, to make sure your heart is healthy enough to handle the stresses of surgery.
Usually, an EKG is only performed if there's thought to be a problem with the heart or to rule out any issues before going forward with another procedure. You most likely won't need to have one as part of your annual exam, unless you have a history of heart disease.
If your doctor recommends having an EKG, it's best to schedule the test as soon as possible. For more details about the test and to schedule an appointment, contact Premier Heart and Vein Center today.