| At Northside Cardiology, we feel it’s
important to put your mind at ease. That’s why we developed
this list of the most commonly asked patient questions. We
believe education is the first step in prevention. If you have
other questions, be sure to write them down and bring them
to your appointment.
How is my chest pain evaluated?
A complete history and focused physical exam are the first
steps in evaluating someone’s chest discomfort. Testing
may include an exercise stress test, exercise nuclear or
echocardiographic imaging, or cardiac catheterization.
All non-invasive procedures can be performed in our office.
Patients who cannot undergo treadmill exercise can have
a pharmacologic stress test, which involves infusion of
medicine through a vein.
I have palpitations. What do they mean?
Palpitations, or a sensation of extra beats in the chest,
typically can be evaluated by a history and physical exam
as well as an electrocardiogram (EKG). If further testing
is needed, a 24 hour EKG monitor (Holter monitoring) or
an event recorder (loop recording of symptomatic rhythms),
can be performed at our office. Arrhythmia management can
involve medical therapy, invasive electraphysiology study
or a pacemaker.
What is angioplasty or PTCA?
Angioplasty is an invasive catheter-based therapy whereby
balloon inflation can reduce a severe symptomatic blockage
in the arteries supplying the heart. Sometimes a small
metal scaffold, called a stent, is deployed at the site
to keep the vessel open. Other therapies include removing
plaque with a rotablator, laser or directional atherectomy
device. Radiation is often used to prevent re-growth of
scarring after angioplasty or stenting for re-stenosis.
These therapies decrease symptoms of chest pain (angina)
by avoiding open-heart bypass surgery.
What is coronary artery disease (CAD)?
CAD is a disease of the arteries that supply the heart with
oxygen and nourishment. Plaque build up in the vessel wall
can cause symptoms of chest discomfort (angina). CAD is
the substrate for heart attack. Plaque may erode from the
vessel wall, and obstruct blood flow to the heart, causing
a heart attack.
Heart disease risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high
blood pressure, high cholesterol, a family history of CAD
and sedentary lifestyles. Limiting progression of CAD involves
cessation of tobacco use, exercise, and a low-fat, low-cholesterol
diet. Appropriate blood pressure control, diabetic treatment
and cholesterol lowering, as well as the use of aspirin,
are all important medical therapies in the prevention of
the progression of CAD.
What is high blood pressure and how can I lower
my risk for complications?
A series of elevated blood pressure recordings over time
= high blood pressure or hypertension. It is called the ‘silent
killer’ because there are usually no symptoms.
Arteries respond to this elevated pressure by increasing
their wall thickness. Ultimately, the heart remodels in potentially
harmful ways. Hypertension can damage the heart as well as
other vital organs including the kidneys and brain.
Blood pressure management can require medical therapy or
can be lowered without medicines by eating a healthy, low
sodium diet, and by exercising daily, limiting alcohol intake
and maintaining a healthy weight.
My legs hurt when I climb stairs or walk up a hill.
What does this mean?
Any disorder affecting blood flow through arteries supplying
the lower extremities can cause these symptoms. This is referred
to as peripheral arterial occlusive disease. Treatment is
aimed at improving the blood flow by removing or reducing
the cause of the impaired circulation, and can involve medical
therapy, angioplasty or surgery.
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