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Blood Thinners: Facts and Fictions

Last week, we discussed a class of medications called “statins.” This week, I’d like to discuss an even broader class: “blood thinners,” a term that reflects how physicians often use non-medical words to describe medications or medical conditions. Blood thinners refers generally to a variety of drugs that alter the tendency of blood to clot and includes antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants (also…

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Statins: The Risks and Benefits

Statins is the term we use to describe a group of drugs that block an enzyme that is integral to the process by which the liver makes cholesterol. They include the drugs rosuvastatin (brand name Crestor), atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor), simvastatin (brand name Zocor), pitavastatin (brand name Livalo), pravastatin (brand name Pravachol), lovastatin (brand name Mevacor) and fluvastatin (brand name Lescol).…

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Wrapping Up Atrial Arrhythmias

Before we leave the atria behind, let’s conclude our discussion of atrial arrhythmias this week with a discussion of some other abnormal heart rhythms arising from these chambers. The simplest and most prevalent are premature atrial complexes (PACs). We call them “complexes” because that is how we refer to individual electrical impulses seen on an EKG. Virtually everybody has PACs, some people more,…

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Atrial Flutter: “Organized” Atrial Fibrillation

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing atrial fibrillation these past few weeks—and with good reason. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia that requires treatment and accounts for numerous visits to cardiologists’ offices and emergency rooms. But the atria can misfire in other ways, too. Often lumped together with atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is also a fast heart rhythm arising in…

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Atrial Fibrillation: Minimizing Stroke Risk

Picking up where we left off two weeks ago, we now turn to the most serious aspect of atrial fibrillation—that it can cause strokes. And, as I indicated previously, strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation whether they are aware of the atrial fibrillation or not. In fact, when looking at people older than 55 who have had a stroke with no…

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Atrial Fibrillation: The “Irregular” Heart Rhythm

Patients often tell me “I was diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm.” But, as we learned in last week’s blog, “irregularity” is a fairly broad category. It may be something benign—and actually normal—like having PACs or PVCs. Or the irregularity can be something that needs to be taken quite seriously, like atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm caused when…

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Irregular Heart Rhythms and Arrhythmias

Most people have heard of an “irregularity” in the heart rhythm or having an arrhythmia. But there are several types of irregularities and arrhythmias. Many arrhythmias are benign, but some require treatment.  So, knowing you have an arrhythmia is not the end of the subject—it is important to know what type of arrhythmia it is. We use the term normal sinus rhythm…

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Alcohol: Part of a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle?

As we recover from all the food and drink we consumed yesterday while celebrating the origins of our country, I’d like to tackle a somewhat controversial topic: alcohol. Is alcohol OK to drink in general? What if you have heart problems?  And how much is acceptable? First, I have to point out straightaway that too much alcohol can cause major toxicity to…

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Right Ventricular Problems: The Overlooked Pump

We have spent a lot of time in the last several blogs on heart failure. Virtually all of these discussions have focused on left ventricular heart failure. What about right ventricular heart failure? Yes, the right ventricle (RV) can fail, too. But many of the most common cardiovascular problems—coronary heart disease, hypertension, valvular heart disease, atrial fibrillation—create dysfunction either exclusively or predominantly for the…

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