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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 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:

  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Biking

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
  • Dancing
  • 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:

  • Taichi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • 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 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.

Factors That Determine What Vein Treatment Options You are Offered

In the past, patients seeking treatment for spider or varicose veins were limited to only one or two treatment options. Thanks to advances in technology, vein doctors now no longer have such limited vein treatment options. Today, treatment for varicose or spider veins is often less painful, more effective, and less invasive than the limited treatment options that were available in the past.

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A Specialized Vein Doctor Is Your Best Option for the Treatment of Varicose and Spider Veins

Cosmetic Issues Associated with Varicose and Spider Veins

Varicose veins and spider veins are never a welcome sight. These unsightly monsters can add years to skin that otherwise appears smooth, even, and youthful. Thick and bulging, varicose veins often stick out above the surface of the skin in garish colors such that range from a bruised red to a deep blue.

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Welcome To Our Blog

Welcome to my blog!  Within this regularly updated feature of my website, I will provide visitors with practice news and specials, as well as information regarding the most recent technological advances and new treatments in Premier Heart & Vein Care.

I believe that patient education and open communication with your doctor are the keys to achieving healthy, fully functional results and patient satisfaction, which is why I strive to provide the highest quality of Premier Heart & Vein Care for patients of all ages.  This is done by combining technical skill and broad experience with cutting-edge technology for impeccable medical results.

I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to visit my new blog.  Please check back often to learn about the latest news, updates and additions to the practice and within the field of Premier Heart & Vein Care, and feel free to post comments and/or suggestions on any posts that you find of interest.

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Latest Blog Posts

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 Read More

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 Read More