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

  • Are stents only used to treat heart attack patients?

  • No. Although this study analyzed the use of stents in heart attack patients, stents can also be used to help prevent heart attack in patients with severe narrowing of the arteries. Many studies have shown that long-term complications – especially re-narrowing of the arteries following PCI – may be less common in these stable patients in comparison with those treated after a heart attack.

  • Are heart attack symptoms different for men and women?
  • Yes. Although women can experience the same heart attack symptoms as men, women are much more likely to experience atypical signs of a heart attack, which may come and go. These symptoms include pressure in the chest; pain in the arms, upper back, neck, jaw or stomach; nausea or vomiting; difficulty breathing; breaking out in a cold sweat; fatigue; clammy skin and/or an inability to sleep. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to experience more widely recognized symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Are men no longer at significant risk for heart disease?

  • Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, so it is just as important that men maintain their cardiovascular health as much as women. However, more is known about cardiovascular disease in men, which increases the ability to effectively prevent and manage heart disease in the population. Men are also more aware of their risk for heart disease than women, so they do not require the additional attention that women currently need surrounding cardiovascular disease.
  • Can I drive myself to the hospital in an emergency situation?

  • After or during a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke, it is important to call 911 and not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Ambulances are equipped to provide immediate, life-saving medical care until you arrive at the nearest emergency facility.

  • How are erectile dysfunction and heart disease related?
  • The causes of erectile dysfunction and heart disease are very similar. Heart disease often occurs when there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which decreases blood flow to the heart, brain and rest of the body. Therefore, this build-up of plaque can affect blood flow to the penis, just as it would affect blood flow to the heart, sometimes causing or worsening erectile dysfunction.
  • Can women without any history of heart disease develop cardiovascular complications during pregnancy?

  • Yes. The many changes that occur in the body during pregnancy can put extra stress on the heart, causing high blood pressure, and sometimes an irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia. Many of these conditions that develop during pregnancy go away in the time following delivery, although some may not.
  • Can yoga be used in place of traditional treatments for atrial fibrillation?

  • Yoga helped to reduce episodes of irregular heart beat by half, and significantly improved depression, anxiety and quality of life in participants of the “Yoga My Heart Study”. However, yoga is not necessarily an appropriate substitute for other treatments such as surgery or medications. Patients with atrial fibrillation should consult their physician before practicing yoga to ensure that it is the right option for them. 

  • Can I lower my cholesterol without medication?

  • Yes. There are a variety of lifestyle changes that can help lower cholesterol, including exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy and quitting smoking (if a smoker). However, lifestyle changes may not be enough to lower cholesterol for some, especially those with a family history of high cholesterol.
  • Can sleep apnea cause other complications, aside from cardiovascular events?

  • Yes. Sleep apnea can cause a number of complications, such as daytime fatigue and complications with medications and surgery. However, treatments for sleep apnea, such as CPAP, may help minimize side effects and complications.
  • Is it safe for patients with congenital heart disease to exercise?
  • For most patients with congenital heart disease, it’s not only safe but important to stay physically active. Physical activity helps improve heart health and reduces risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Patients with congenital heart disease should work closely with their providers to create a physical activity program that is safe for them.
  • How often should I see my primary care doctor?

  • Most guidelines suggest that individuals of all ages should see their primary care provider once each year, at a minimum. However, those with family history of conditions, such as heart disease, or pre-existing health conditions may need to see their healthcare provider more often.
  • Is psoriasis preventable?

  • Psoriasis seems to be a genetic condition for which there is no prevention. However, it can be treated through topical ointments, medications and/or phototherapy, which can minimize symptoms and help prevent infections.
  • What are common heart failure symptoms?

  • Heart failure symptoms often present themselves slowly but progress and worsen over time. These symptoms include shortness of breath; swelling of feet, ankles or abdomen; fatigue; cough and weight gain.
  • What are common heart failure symptoms?

  • Heart failure symptoms often present themselves slowly but progress and worsen over time. These symptoms include shortness of breath; swelling of feet, ankles or abdomen; fatigue; cough and weight gain.
  • Isn't it better to wait for medical professionals to treat patients with heart conditions?

  • During sudden cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease with every minute that passes, and most die before ever reaching the hospital. That’s why AEDs are so important—not only do they provide immediate treatment during sudden cardiac arrest, they enable bystanders to provide this treatment while waiting for medical professionals to arrive.
  • How is a heart attack diagnosed?

  • The diagnosis of a heart attack is based on symptoms, an electrocardiogram and results from a blood test used to identify markers of heart attack.
  • How is heart failure diagnosed?

  • There are many tests that doctors can use to diagnose heart failure, ranging from a physical examination to an x-ray, echocardiogram, stress test, MRI or blood test. If you think that you may have heart failure, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. It is important to identify heart failure early in order to help manage symptoms and slow their progression.
  • How is health literacy assessed?

  • Health literacy is the ability to understand and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow treatment instructions. Health literacy can be assessed by asking patients certain questions about their ability to read and understand hospital materials, and how confident they are in filling forms out during doctor appointments.

  • How is a heart attack treated?
  • Depending on the type of heart attack, treatment may include medication, non-invasive procedures, such as percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty), or a more invasive procedure called coronary artery bypass surgery.

  • How is angina treated?

  • Angina can be treated in a variety of ways, including lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures. For example, quitting smoking, losing weight and reducing stress can help successfully treat angina in some patients. For others, medications like beta blockers or procedures such as angioplasty and stenting may be necessary to treat the condition.
  • How does continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) work?

  • CPAP is often recommended for patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea. This device delivers air pressure through a mask worn during sleep to help prevent apnea and snoring. However, for patients with mild apnea, the condition can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or quitting smoking.
  • How does physical activity improve heart health?

  • Physical activity promotes many health benefits, such as weight control, blood pressure reduction and stress reduction. Together, these health benefits translate to improved cardiovascular health.
  • How does peripheral artery disease impact cardiovascular risk?
  • A person with PAD has a six to seven times greater risk of CAD, heart attack, stroke, or transient ischemic attack ("mini stroke") than the rest of the population. If a person has heart disease, he or she has a 1 in 3 chance of having blocked arteries in the legs. Early diagnosis and treatment of PAD, including screening high-risk individuals, are important to prevent disability and save lives. PAD treatment may stop the disease from progressing and also reduce the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
  • How does sleep apnea effect cardiovascular risk and heart failure?

  • Frequent drops in oxygen levels and reduced sleep quality can put stress on the body — including the heart. This extra stress may not only increase risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and arrhythmias, but also cause or worsen heart failure.
  • How does inflammation increase cardiovascular risk?

  • The exact role that inflammation plays in cardiovascular health remains unclear. However, experts suggest that the build-up of plaque in the arteries may cause inflammation, and as the body continually attacks these fatty deposits, it can wear the body down and/or cause blood clots—one of the most common causes of heart attack and stroke.

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