Despite clinical improvements in care for patients with heart disease, the condition remains a serious medical concern in the United States. However, patients are the “ principal actors” for prevention and risk management. “Despite all the medical advancements and therapies, there is no magic cure — people’s lifestyles have to change,” Dr.Eric Chan, a cardiologist at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, said in a recent news release.
Heart disease involves two major classes of symptoms: “electrical” and “plumbing” complications. In the first class, deficits in heart rhythm (arterial fibrillation) occur when there is a shake instead of a contraction in the heart, causing breathing problems and palpitations and an increase in the likelihood for blood coagulates and stroke. Risk factors include older age, previous hearth failure, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Previous therapy for people who presented these risk factors involved a drug called Coumadin, a rigorous diet and a monthly blood thickness motorization. However, new drugs now enable patients to receive anti-coagulants without the need undergo monthly management. “It has been a big advancement that has proven very helpful for managing these patients,” Dr. Chan added.
Plumbing complications involve coronary disorder and valve problems. Coronary artery disease, causes chest pain, breathing deficits, and jaw pain that diffuses into the arms. Diagnosis is made with cardiac catheterization and a stress test, allowing the clinician to decide if the patient needs stent to open the artery or bypass surgery. According to Dr. Chan, in addition to drugs that specifically lower heart rate or blood pressure, changes in lifestyle including smoking cessation, a healthy diet and exercise, are the means to improve this disorder.
Aortic and mitral valves problems result in increased mechanical stress to the heart, causing symptoms such as light-headedness and fainting. “It can lead to heart failure if left untreated,” Dr. Harsh Jain, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, explained in the news release. Risk factors towards the development of these conditions include male gender, diabetes, smoking and alcoholic habits, family history of heart valve problems and high cholesterol. Moreover, treatment approaches include stents to maintain the arteries open for longer and minimally-invasive procedures that allow surgeons to enter through the ribs without completely opening the breastbone.
Because the first signs of both “electrical” and “plumbing” issues in the heart are often detected by patients themselves and not through routine check-ups, patient education on cardiovascular issues is paramount in diagnosing and treating issues early in order to improve patient outcomes.