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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.

  • How can I prevent Type 2 diabetes?

  • Although exactly why some individuals develop Type 2 diabetes and some don’t, there are some known risk factors for this condition, like being overweight and inactive. There are also risk factors that can’t be controlled, such as family history, age and race.
  • How can I prevent AF?

  • The prevention of AF is similar to the prevention of heart disease. By maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a heart healthy diet you can significantly lower risk for AF. You can also help reduce risk by managing any risk factors for heart disease you may have, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking if you’re a smoker.
  • How can I prevent PFO?

  • Because the causes and risk factors for PFO are unknown, little is known about the prevention of this condition.
  • How can doctors assess the hostility of a patient?

  • Doctors often use an Expanded Structural Interview (ESI) to assess whether a patient is considered “hostile” or not. The ESI is a 12-minute interview designed to assess how individuals respond to stressful situations. During the ESI, the interviewer rates the degree to which the participant expresses hostility, either through hostile statements, vocal hostility or a combination of both.
  • How are stents placed in blocked arteries?

  • Stents are placed in the artery through a flexible tube called a catheter during angioplasty. Most often made of metal mesh, stents expands once in place, helping to strengthen the walls of the artery and prevent future blockage.

  • How can doctors test inflammation of adipose tissue?

  • To test for fat inflammation, doctors must obtain a fat sample to biopsy for certain substances known as macrophage crown-like structures, which are indicative of inflammation.
  • How can I cut down on my risk for PAD?
  • The risk factors for PAD are similar to those for heart disease. Some factors you cannot control—being older or having a family history of heart disease—but there are many that you can.

    • Get active. Exercise is good for your heart and circulation. It can help limit pain and disability when you have PAD.
    • Don’t smoke. Smoking is a key risk factor for PAD. Smokers are four times more likely to develop the condition than non-smokers.
    • Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess body fat is a risk factor for all forms of cardiovascular disease. Try to maintain a BMI of 25 or lower.
    • Control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. All of these conditions damage your arteries and reduce blood flow to all parts of your body. Adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle, and take the medications your doctor may have prescribed.
  • How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

  • High cholesterol has no symptoms, so it is important to have your cholesterol tested regularly by your doctor. Based on results from a lipid panel, your doctor can tell you if you have regular, borderline or high cholesterol levels.
  • How do doctors determine what types of treatment a person gets?

  • If you have unstable angina or NSTEMI, the doctor will take review your ECG, blood tests, and other cardiac exams to look for signs of heart muscle damage from your most recent coronary event. He or she will also take into account whether you have ongoing heart problems such as irregular heart rhythms, indications of heart failure, or a history of angina or previous heart attack. Your risk level and an appropriate treatment plan will be formulated based on this information.
  • How do drug-eluting stents differ from other types of stents?

  • The two main types of stents—bare-metal stents and drug-eluting stents—perform the same function of keeping the artery open and preventing it from collapsing. However, drug-eluting stents have the added function of preventing clots and tissue from forming around the stent by releasing medication.
  • How do femoral and radial access differ when it comes to angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention)?

  • The procedures for PCI remain the same, aside from access points for catheterization. However, by utilizing radial access, the patient does not need to lay down for the procedure, which helps decrease discomfort and pain. Also, femoral access can be complicated by excess fat in overweight patients, whereas the wrist remains thin in all patients, making radial access less difficult, particularly in overweight and obese patients.
  • How do experts define low-income?

  • Low-income areas are often defined as having a substantial portion of their population living below the poverty level. Although the poverty level can vary between states, the 2011 federal poverty level for individuals was $10,890 (except for Alaska and Hawaii).
  • How do I know if I have peripheral artery disease (PAD)?

  • The most common symptoms for PAD include painful cramps in the hips and legs when walking, exercising or climbing the stairs, which goes away after stopping. Those with severe PAD may have foot or toe wounds that take a long time to heal and may experience leg pain that does not go away after physical activity. The good news is that PAD is easily diagnosed and doesn’t require any tests or needles, just a quick examination to check for weak pulses in the legs.
  • How do I know if I have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

  • A telltale sign of OSA is chronic loud snoring, interspersed with sounds of gasping or choking. Often a person isn’t aware of his or her own snoring and it will take a family member or bed partner to point it out. (Not everyone who snores has OSA, however.)  Another prime indicator of OSA for most people is daytime sleepiness, although heart failure patients complain of this symptom less often.

    To confirm that you have OSA, your doctor will send you to an overnight sleep laboratory for specialized testing called polysomnography. If this technology isn’t available where you live, in-home monitoring devices may be an alternative. 

  • How do I start a home walking program if I have PAD?
  • Walking is a safe activity for most people, however always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. The components of a good program include:

    • Warm up and cool down. You should spend the first 5 minutes walking at a slower pace to loosen your muscles and allow your heart rate to increase gradually.  Slow down for the last 5 minutes of your walk to let your heart rate to return to normal.
    • Conditioning. This is the main part of your workout. Try to start with 20 minutes of walking at least 3 times a week. Increase the length of your walking sessions by 5 minutes each week until you reach 45 minutes of total walking.  This will take several weeks, but you should see an improvement in your symptoms after 3 to 6 months of regular walking.
    • Safety. If you have chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, or dizziness stop exercising immediately and call your doctor.
  • How can patients improve their health literacy?

  • Patients can help to improve their health literacy by improving upon their general reading skills. As health information can still seem confusing at times, patients should be sure to ask their healthcare providers for help when necessary, such as asking them to use more plain language in explaining conditions or asking for a medical interpreter if their primary language is not English.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart attack?

  • You can significantly reduce risk for heart attack by knowing your numbers and addressing any cardiovascular risk factors that you may have, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking. You can also help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining a healthy weight and heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and controlling stress.
  • Can a patient with pre-diabetes prevent the onset of diabetes?

  • Yes, through lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet and increasing physical activity, individuals with pre-diabetes may be able to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes altogether. And although prevention of diabetes is not always possible through lifestyle changes, it can help delay onset of diabetes and minimize long-term damage to the heart and body.
  • Can a healthy diet reduce risk for sudden cardiac death?
  • A recent study demonstrated that a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, and moderate alcohol intake can help prevent sudden cardiac death and improve overall cardiovascular health.


  • Can depression be treated?

  • Yes. Depression, often described as feeling sad or unhappy, is relatively common and can be treated in a variety of ways, like through medication and counseling.
  • At what age are adults considered at highest risk for a heart attack?

  • Risk of heart disease and heart attack increase after age 45 for men and after age 55 (or after menopause) for women. However, other risk factors can increase cardiovascular risk despite younger age, such as family history, obesity and diabetes.
  • After quitting smoking, how long until my risk for peripheral artery disease equals that of a non-smoker?
  • In the study performed by Harvard Medical School, women having quit smoking for 20 years still had higher risk than women who never were smokers. However, compared with women who still smoke, their risk was significantly lower.
  • Am I at risk for pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH)?

  • If you have any of the conditions that are linked to PAH your doctor will probably want to monitor you for PAH. Harder to identify, is idiopathic pulmonary artery hypertension (IPAH), the form of the condition that occurs for no apparent reason. Generally, IPAH strikes younger people and is more common in women that in men. If you have a family member that develops IPAH, your doctor may suggest that you and other relatives get a genetic test to see if you have a mutation that causes the disease.
  • Am I at risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men than in women. It is also becomes more common as you get older. Certain anatomical features also put you at risk for the condition such as having overly large tonsils or tongue, or naturally smaller air passages. Allergies that cause nasal congestion can also contribute to your risk. Half of the 12 million American adults who have OSA are overweight, but body fat appears to be less of a factor in people with heart failure.

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