Speaking of heart attacks, did you see Black Swan yet? Whoa, what was that all about? Between the self-mutilation and the lesbian scenes, I thought I was going to have to administer CPR to one of the older ladies in front of me. There are two bright sides to that very dark movie, though. (I do realize that would make three sides, but bear with me, it is early. Pretend life is a triangle.) One, I left feeling like an excellent mother by comparison. Two, I will never have to sit through another children’s dance recital as I am pulling my daughter out of her 5 year old ballet class, effective immediately.
1. Yesterday, we covered atherosclerosis. Simply, coronary artery disease (CAD) is atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply the heart with blood. We think of the heart and all of the oxygen-rich blood moving through it and it is easy to overlook the fact that the heart muscle itself needs oxygen and nutrients. Running along the surface of the heart and then breaking off into smaller tributaries, are the coronary arteries that supply the heart with the blood it needs. Their well-being is critical to heart health.
2. Unfortunately, the coronary arteries are not unique. They are susceptible to the same injuries that the rest of your arteries are prone to. Therefore, the same risks for the development of atherosclerosis put you at risk for CAD. To reiterate from yesterday, these include: high cholesterol, a high fat diet, smoking, high blood pressure, heavy alcohol intake, a family history of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
3. The one risk factor that I didn’t highlight yesterday is aging. I was really just sick and tired of talking about age-related changes when my skin is this dry and pale. February is my oldest month – thankfully it is shorter than the rest. As you get older, all of the changes that you see on the outside, are reflected on the inside. Your arteries are hardening every day. Don’t help out Father Time. Control the risk factors that you can control.
4. Symptoms of CAD range from none to sudden death. A large study showed that 50% of men and 63% of women who died from a heart attack complained of no symptoms in the time leading up to the event. When one of the major coronary arteries becomes completely blocked, usually due to the breaking off of plaque or clots that then lodge further down the artery’s path, the area of heart muscle that the artery supplies becomes deprived of oxygen. If it is a large enough area, the heart will stop. In between nothing and death, the most common symptoms are chest pain (usually described as squeezing or pressure) and shortness of breath with activity. Fatigue, nausea, heartburn, jaw pain and back pain can also foretell of CAD.
5. Cardiac catheterization is just like Roto-rooter for your coronary arteries. It has been an amazing development in the treatment of heart disease. Years ago, if you had a blockage you would have to have a bypass; double, triple, quadruple, etc. Surgeons would take a vessel from your leg and literally bypass the blockage. Surgery is still an option but thanks to cardiac catheterization, it is a final resort. During a catheterization, the problem can be diagnosed and the location and size of the blockage pinpointed. Percutaneous coronary intervention is then used to treat the blockage in one of two ways. Angioplasty with stenting places a balloon next to the problematic plaque pushing it against the wall of the artery to make room for a stent. A stent is a small tube that allows blood to continue to flow through the artery. Atherectomy uses a small blade or laser to cut through the blockage.
You have heard the term, “As serious as a heart attack.” It is tough to find the humor in this topic so, in order to leave you with a laugh, I defer to a child. My cousin sent this to me this morning and I am still laughing. Click here for something off the topic.