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Heart Risk Assessment

Heart Risk Assessment in Anderson, SC

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. One in every four deaths in the United States results from heart disease. It’s also important to note that heart disease doesn’t discriminate. It affects all races and demographics, though there are increased risk factors for certain age groups, sexes, and races. Thankfully, though, in many cases, heart disease can be prevented or managed successfully through lifestyle changes and treatments. Read on to learn more about heart disease, what it is, its causes, and how to determine your risk.


What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a term that encompasses any disorder of the heart. Heart disease differs from cardiovascular disease. With cardiovascular disease, there is a problem with your circulatory system and blood vessels, in addition to the heart. By contrast, heart disease refers to the deformities and issues that relate to your heart alone.


Types of Heart Disease

There are several conditions that fall under the broad umbrella of heart disease. Each condition affects different parts of the heart and varies in severity. They include:

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): This is the most common variety of heart disease affecting the blood flow within the heart. The coronary arteries supply the heart muscles with oxygen and nutrients through the circulation of blood. CAD happens when plaque deposits of cholesterol buildup, narrowing the coronary arteries, which means the heart isn’t getting the nutrients or oxygen it needs to function properly.

Congenital Heart Disease: This term encompasses various deformities of the heart, which have been present since birth. They include:

  • Cyanotic Heart Disease: This defect causes a shortage of oxygen in the body.

  • Obstruction Defects: This defect blocks – either partially or fully – the flow of blood through the heart’s chambers.

  • Septal Defects: This condition is when there is a hole between the two heart chambers.

Arrhythmia: This condition is when your heartbeat becomes irregular. Arrhythmia happens when the electrical impulse in your heart and your coordinating heartbeat are not in proper rhythm. This can make your heartbeat either too fast or too slow, both of which pose their own problems. Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia is common, and most people experience it at some point in their lives. However, when irregular heartbeat becomes chronic, it can lead to significant damage and even death. Arrhythmias include the following common conditions:

  • Bradycardia: When your heart beats too slow

  • Tachycardia: When your heart beats too rapidly

  • Fibrillation: This happens when the heartbeat is irregular.

  • Premature Ventricular Contractions: This is when you experience abnormal or additional beats.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: This happens when the heart chambers are dilated due to weakened muscles. This means the blood isn’t pumping as it should. The most common cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is coronary artery disease, which means the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen. In most cases, this affects the left ventricle of the heart.

Myocardial Infarction: This condition, which is more commonly known as a heart attack, is also called a coronary thrombosis or cardiac infarction. It is caused by an interruption in the blood flow, which destroys and damages various muscles in the heart. It’s usually the result of a blood clot that blocks a coronary artery, but it can also happen when an artery spasms or it narrows suddenly. Heart attacks can be fatal and often leave lifelong damage.

Heart Failure: Sometimes called congestive heart failure, this condition happens when the heart fails to pump blood throughout the body as it should. Although both sides of the heart can be simultaneously affected, usually it’s just the right or left side independently. It can leave the heart weak or too stiff to pump or fill properly. Heart failure can also be caused from chronic high blood pressure.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: This genetic disorder leads to thickening in the left ventricle’s wall. This makes it harder for blood to pump through the heart. This remains the leading cause of sudden death in athletes. If you have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, you have a 50% chance of passing it on to your children.

Mitral Regurgitation: This occurs when the heart’s mitral valve doesn’t close tightly enough. As a result, blood that should leave flows back into the heart, meaning it can’t move through the body as it should. This causes someone with mitral regurgitation to feel out of breath and tired.

Mitral Valve Prolapse: This occurs when the valve between the left ventricle and left atrium doesn’t close completely and instead bulges upward into the atrium. It is a non-life-threatening condition in most people.

Pulmonary Stenosis: This condition happens when the blood doesn’t pump properly from the right ventricle into the pulmonary artery because the pulmonary valve becomes too tight. This in turn causes the right ventricle to work harder.


What Causes Heart Disease?

Heart disease results from damage to either part of or all your heart, when your coronary arteries are damaged or when there is a poor supply of oxygen or nutrients to the organ. There are many lifestyle choices that can increase your chance of experiencing heart disease. In other cases, risk factors for heart disease are beyond your control – for example, genetics or age. For example, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is genetic, and congenital heart defects develop before birth. Also, in general, as you age, your risk for heart disease increases. Men are also more apt to experience heart disease, but the risk for women increases after menopause. The following are some more specific causes of heart disease:

Abnormal Heartbeat: This is also known as arrhythmia.

Weak Heart Muscles: This can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy.

Heart Infections: Endocarditis, or an infection of the heart, can impact the inner membrane of the heart.

Valvular Heart Disease, which leads to problems when the valves open and close.

Genetic Predisposition, family history of heart disease or a congenital condition.

Lifestyle Factors: Sometimes lifestyle choices can cause or at least increase the risk of heart disease. These include:

  • High cholesterol and blood pressure

  • Being obese or overweight

  • Smoking

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Diabetes


Who is at Risk for Heart Disease?

Are you at risk for heart disease? Your answers to these questions will help you know. Give yourself a point for each risk factor that applies to you or to any blood relative (parent, sibling, etc.).

  • Heart disease before age 55

  • High blood pressure (current or history of)

  • Physically active for less than 30 minutes a day

  • Currently use or have used tobacco

  • Previous heart attack

  • Heart disease

  • Heart surgery

  • Diabetes

  • High blood cholesterol (current or history of)

  • Sleep apnea

  • Eat fried or fatty foods three times a week or more

  • Have a great deal of stress in your life

  • Waist size – greater than 35”(women) or 40” (men)

  • High blood triglycerides – greater than 150

If you scored a total of 5 or more and are not currently being treated for a heart condition, talk to your family doctor about your risk for heart disease. Don’t have a family doctor? Check our physician directory to find a family doctor near you.


Know your heart score

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Diagnosing Heart Disease

There are many tests used to diagnose heart disease. Usually, your doctor will begin by asking about your family history and your symptoms. Then, your doctor may recommend additional tests like an electrocardiogram and laboratory tests. Some tests are less invasive than others, while some do require more involved steps.

Laboratory tests include blood tests that evaluate all the body systems that affect your cardiovascular health. For example, a lipid profile will determine your total cholesterol, your lipoprotein, c-reactive protein, homocysteine, and more. All these numbers are then evaluated by your doctor to ascertain your heart disease risk.

An electrocardiogram, also called ECG or EKG, is a graphic measure of the electrical activity within your heart. It looks for specific patterns that indicate abnormal heart rhythms and other conditions. Your doctor might also order an echocardiogram, commonly called an echo, which is basically an ultrasound of the heart. This generates a picture of the various parts of your heart, allowing doctors to find and diagnose various heart diseases. It depends on your symptoms and their severity as to which steps your doctor will take to diagnose your heart problem.


Why AnMed Health?

If your physician refers you to one of AnMed Health’s heart specialists, you’ll receive the highest quality care that rivals the kind found in larger cities. Our heart and vascular program offers a wide array of solutions in state-of-the-art facilities all close to where you live and work.