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Conditions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about a variety of health conditions, like heart attack, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

  • What is cardiomyopathy?
  • Cardiomyopathy refers to diseases of the heart muscle, which cause the heart to become weaker and can lead to serious complications such as heart failure, abnormal heart rhythm or heart valve problems. Cardiomyopathy can vary in severity, as some patients can have no symptoms while others have debilitating symptoms that require immediate treatment. However, cardiomyopathy often worsens over time, weakening the heart and making it difficult for the heart to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
  • How is cardiomyopathy treated?
  • Treatment depends on which major type of cardiomyopathy a patient has. However, goals of treatment are usually to minimize symptoms, reduce risk of complications and prevent the condition from worsening. Treatment options may include medication, surgery, and/or medical devices.

  • What is peripartum cardiomyopathy?
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare disorder in which a pregnant woman’s heart becomes weakened and enlarged. This condition typically develops during the last month of pregnancy or within the first five months after the baby is born.

  • Is it safe to have sex after a heart attack?
  • Although many people are afraid to resume sexual activity after a heart attack, the risk of having a heart attack during sex is low for most patients. However, it’s important to discuss resuming both physical activity and sex after a heart attack to reduce risk of a second event.
  • How can I help prevent a second heart attack?
  • Patients with a history of heart attack have significantly increased risk of a second heart event. Participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help patients regain strength after a heart attack and teach individuals how to prevent a second heart attack, like by quitting smoking, reducing blood pressure, staying active, eating healthy, and adhering to therapies advised by the doctor.
  • How is atherosclerosis treated?
  • Treatment for atherosclerosis may include lifestyle changes, medication and/or medical procedures, depending on the severity of plaque build-up in the arteries. Lifestyle changes like eating healthy, staying activequitting smoking and reducing stress can help reduce risk of complications from atherosclerosis. Certain medications like cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering drugs may also be prescribed to slow the progress of plaque build-up. If atherosclerosis is severe, certain procedures may also be recommended to open blocked or narrowed arteries.
  • What is atherosclerosis?
  • Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries caused by the build-up of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious health problems, such as heart attackstroke and even death.
  • What is ejection fraction?
  • Ejection fraction is a test used to measure the amount of blood leaving the heart each time it contracts.  Doctors typically measure ejection fraction when a patient shows signs of or is diagnosed with heart failure. Ejection fraction tells a doctor how well the heart pumps with each beat, which is used to determine the best possible treatment options to improve outcomes and quality of life.
  • What is an aortic dissection?
  • Aortic dissection occurs when there is a tear in the wall of the heart’s major artery, called the aorta. As the tear extends, it can cause bleeding and if not treated promptly, can be fatal. Aortic dissection is relatively uncommon and risk increases with age.
  • What is a thoracic aortic aneurysm?
  • A thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs when the upper part of the aorta is weakened. A thoracic aneurysm can eventually lead to a life-threatening tear in the aorta, called an aortic dissection. When a thoracic aortic aneurysm is detected, doctors may watch the growth rate of the aneurysm to determine the best possible treatment.
  • What are congenital heart defects?
  • Congenital heart defects refer to a number of different conditions that can occur when a baby’s heart is forming or at birth. Although most defects are found during pregnancy or in early childhood, some defects aren’t discovered until adulthood. Survival rates depend on the severity of the heart defect, but most individuals with congenital heart defects live long and healthy lives.
  • How common are congenital heart defects?
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting roughly 1% of all births in the United States. Thanks to advancements in treatments, it’s estimated that 1 million adults are now living with a congenital heart defect.
  • What is left ventricular hypertrophy?
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) occurs when the muscle tissue in the heart’s main pumping chamber becomes enlarged. LVH is often caused by high blood pressure or other heart problems and can lead to serious complications, such as heart diseaseheart attack and heart failure. The good news is that LVH can often be treated by addressing the underlying cause of the condition.
  • How is atrial fibrillation treated?
  • In general, the goals of atrial fibrillation treatment are to promote a regular heart rhythm or rate and prevent blood clots, which can cause stroke. However, treatment strategies depend on the unique needs of each patient. Treatment options may include antiarrhythmic medication, blood thinners, and a variety of procedures that can help control atrial fibrillation.
  • At what age should I worry about heart disease?
  • Risk factors that lead to heart disease often develop slowly over time and can take decades to develop. That’s why it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices like eating healthystaying active and maintaining a healthy weight, at all stages in life. As an adult, it’s especially important to work closely with your doctor to monitor key risk factors and address any risk factors to reduce risk for heart disease.
  • At what age should I worry about my cholesterol?
  • More than one-third of Americans have high cholesterol and risk for high cholesterol increases with age. However, high cholesterol can be a problem at any age. It’s estimated that 22% of adults in their 20s have high cholesterol and 62% of adults in their 50s have high cholesterol. It’s important to have cholesterol checked regularly and make healthy lifestyle choices like eating healthy and staying active, which help control cholesterol levels.
  • How does age impact heart failure risk?
  • Since aging can weaken the heart muscle and older individuals have pre-existing medical conditions that may lead to heart failure, heart failure is more common in older adults over 65 years of age. However, heart failure can occur at any age. The good news is that simple healthy lifestyle choices can reduce risk for heart failure, like eating healthy, staying active, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • How is venous thromboembolism treated?
  • Patients with a history of venous thromboembolism are often prescribed medication, such as blood thinners, to prevent a future clot. However, treatment depends on the unique needs of each patient.
  • What are the signs and symptoms of stroke?
  • Stroke symptoms may include sudden dizziness, trouble speaking, drooping in the face, numbness or tingling on one side of the body, lack of balance, and loss of vision in one or both eyes. It’s important to call 911 at first sign of symptoms of stroke.
  • What are the symptoms of heart failure?
  • The most common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, persistent coughing or wheezing, swelling or weight gain, fatigue, and nausea. If you have one or more of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor.
  • How does atrial fibrillation differ in men and women?
  • Although risk for atrial fibrillation, or AFib, increases with age, women tend to develop AFib around 75 years of age (compared to 67 for men). Older women with AFib have significantly greater risk of stroke and death compared to men with AFib. The good news is that there are many treatment options for AFib that can significantly reduce risk of complications.
  • What are the risks associated with high cholesterol?
  • High cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque on artery walls. This accumulation of deposits can cause serious complications, such as chest painheart attack and stroke. High cholesterol is largely preventable and treatable, so getting screened and making healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in controlling cholesterol levels.
  • At what age should I be concerned about heart failure?
  • Heart failure affects people of all ages and nearly 1.4 million individuals with congestive heart failure are younger than 60 years of age. However, risk for heart failure does increase with age and making healthy lifestyle choices to reduce risk for heart failure is important in all stages of life.
  • What is hypertension?
  • Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often causes no symptoms and if left uncontrolled, increases risk for heart attack and stroke.

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