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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.

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?

1. Aerobics

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.

3. Stretching

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.

5. Swimming

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 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 can I take care of my heart naturally?

How can I take care of my heart naturally?

Heart disease is, unfortunately common. But just because you have heart disease - or risk factors for heart disease - that doesn’t mean your life will be filled with medicines and surgeries. In fact, there are plenty of natural heart care options you can incorporate into your daily routine to improve not only your cardiovascular health but your overall health as well.

Natural Heart Care

Maintaining good heart health naturally begins with these simple lifestyle changes:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Fill up on vegetables and fruits, cut back on processed foods, and reduce your intake of unhealthy fats, refined sugar, and sodium (salt). Check food labels, and keep an eye on cholesterol, which is a primary cause of atherosclerosis (“hardening” of the arteries) and heart disease. Include plenty of healthy fats - fish and nuts are great sources - and lots of whole grains.
  2. Lose those extra pounds. Being overweight or obese can significantly increase your risk for developing heart disease, and often, people who are overweight will have other heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Obesity can also increase your risks for other diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and even depression.
  3. Be more active. Plenty of studies have demonstrated the important role of exercise in maintaining a healthy heart. Exercise improves your blood flow to your heart gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Plus, being more physically active makes it easier to shed excess weight, which can also increase your risk of developing heart disease. And finally, regular exercise can even help you reduce stress, which has been implicated in a whole host of diseases, including heart disease. You don’t have to be a pro athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking), five days a week to improve overall cardiovascular health.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking is bad for your heart, bad for your veins - bad for you. Quitting isn’t easy, but there are products and support groups - including ones that “meet” online - to give you the help and motivation you need to be successful. Make quitting a priority.
  5. Have your heart health evaluated. It’s important to have an annual physical, and it’s also important to see Dr. Stevens for a routine screening, especially if you have a personal or family history of heart disease, or if you have other risk factors, like smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or older age. Dr. Stevens can perform tests that can provide a clear picture of your heart health, and your doctor can also provide you with more tips to help you lead a heart-healthy life.

Learn more about natural heart care.

At Premier Heart and Vein Care, our cardiology team provides state-of-the-art care based on each patient’s individual needs. To learn what you can do to improve your cardiovascular health, call Premier Heart and Vein Care at 1-805-979-4777 and schedule a consultation today.

What is the Best Exercise for Heart Health?

Most cardiology doctors would agree that good heart care includes a nutritious diet and exercise. A heart-healthy diet is high in dietary fiber, low in salt, and replaces unhealthy fats with healthy polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Exercise is important to a healthy heart because the heart is a muscle, which means regular exercise helps the heart muscle stay strong.

Exercise also keeps weight under control and helps prevent artery damage from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, all of which can lead to heart attack.

Anyone hoping to improve his or her overall cardiovascular fitness should perform 150 minutes or more per week of moderate exercise or at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, according to the American Heart Association, or combine moderate and vigorous exercise. Many people find it effective and convenient to exercise for a half hour a day, five times per week.

Certain exercises are better for heart health than are other exercises, though.

Best Exercise for Optimal Heart Health

The best exercise for heart health gets the heart pumping and the blood moving. The effects of pumping the heart muscle has the same benefit as pumping any muscle – the exercise makes the muscle stronger and more efficient at doing its job. Exercises that stimulate circulation keep blood flowing. Poor circulation allows to pool and clot; blood clots can travel to the arteries supplying blood to the heart to cause a heart attack.

Aerobic exercise promotes good cardiovascular health by improving circulation, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Aerobic workouts also help lower weight and decrease blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk of diabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Also known as “cardio” because of its cardiovascular benefits, aerobic exercise is an activity that causes you to breathe heavily. Muscles use oxygen to extract energy from the amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids in food.

Examples of aerobic exercise include running, bicycling, swimming, walking, hiking, dancing, cross-country skiing and kickboxing. Taking an aerobics class or working out on cardio machines also get the heart muscle pumping in beneficial ways.

For more information on the best exercise for heart health, consult with Dr. Stevens. Each person is a unique individual, so the best exercise for one person’s heart may not be the best exercise for another.

What not to eat when you have heart problems

If you have heart problems, you may be at risk of a variety of complications, some of which may even be fatal. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart-related complications. One of the most important changes you can make involves improvements to your diet.

What Not to Eat

Some of the foods you should avoid when you have heart problems include:

  • Foods containing high fructose corn syrup - The liver doesn't metabolize fructose in the same way it metabolizes other sugars. When you consume large amounts of fructose, your body is more likely to produce new fat, which is hard on your heart. In addition, high fructose corn syrup raises your blood sugar, which leads to other problems.
  • Foods that are refined or heavily processed - High levels of processing removes many of the components of food that are most nutritious, leaving behind only the harmful parts. In addition, processing usually adds ingredients to food that make it even more unhealthy, such as added sugar and/or sodium.
  • Processed meats - Studies have shown that the preservatives and sodium in processed meat can worsen existing heart problems or contribute to the development of new heart problems.
  • Foods high in cholesterol - When you eat too much cholesterol, you can develop cholesterol plaques inside your arteries. These plaques raise your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Other Lifestyle Changes

In addition to eating healthy food, you can also make other lifestyle changes to improve your heart health. Exercising on a regular basis and finding ways to reduce your stress levels may lower the risk of heart-related complications. If you have heart problems, you should also take all of your prescribed medications as recommended and make regular appointments with your preventative cardiology specialist for heart care. 

If you would like to learn more about managing heart problems, or if you think you may have a heart problem, please contact Premier Heart & Vein Care today to make an appointment.

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