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Aortic Aneurysms: Defusing the Ticking Time Bomb

We discussed aortic aneurysms in last week’s blog and this week we’ll talk about what we do to prevent their rupture. First, we have to know that the aneurysm is there. Widespread screening of aneurysms is not generally recommended, so it is usually the case that they are discovered by chance. For instance, a person may have nausea and abdominal pain and get…

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Aortic Aneurysms: The Danger of Dilation

This week we turn our attention to a problem outside the heart—aortic aneurysms. An aneurysm is a focal enlargement or bulging of a blood vessel.  It comes from the Greek word meaning “dilation.” In fact, radiology reports will often use the term “dilated” to refer to a vessel that is larger than normal, but not large enough or focal enough to use…

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What Should I Bring to My Cardiology Visit?

This week, I want to take a break from our series on cardiac disorders and turn to a more general and practical discussion of how you can get can the most out of a cardiology consultation. Let’s assume you’ve made an appointment to see a new cardiologist—perhaps you’ve been having chest pain. Or shortness of breath. Or palpitations. Or you have had a cardiologist…

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Valvular Heart Disease: All the Rest

In the last two weeks, I have discussed the two most common valvular problems that we cardiologists see—AS and MR. This week I’ll give a quick overview of the other valvular problems that we can encounter. First of all, the aortic valve can also develop regurgitation. Called “AR,” aortic regurgitation, when severe, can lead to heart enlargement, shortness of breath, chest pain,…

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Mitral Regurgitation: A “Leaky Valve”

We turn this week to another valvular problem: mitral regurgitation. Unlike aortic stenosis, where the valve doesn’t open all the way, in mitral regurgitation (often abbreviated “MR”) the mitral valve (sitting between the left atrium and left ventricle) doesn’t close completely, allowing blood to regurgitate backward.  Physicians usually describe this condition to their patients as having a “leaky valve.” The causes…

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Aortic Stenosis: Closing of the Gateway

Last week we introduced the concept of valvular heart disease, starting with a discussion of how valves in the heart work, and then touching briefly on how they malfunction. Today we’ll be talking about one such valvular dysfunction: aortic stenosis (often abbreviated “AS”). AS is increasingly prevalent as we age, though not by any means an invariable development. The normal aortic valve…

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Heart Valves: The Heart’s Gateways

This week I’d like to start a series of blogs relating to valvular heart disease, starting with a description of the heart valves and how they work. We have four valves in our hearts and their purpose is to keep blood moving in a single direction. They open during one phase of the cardiac cycle (systole or diastole, depending on which valve…

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Statins: Risky or The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

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 (Crestor®), atorvastatin (Lipitor®), simvastatin (Zocor®), pitavastatin (Livalo®), pravastatin (Pravachol®), lovastatin (Mevacor®) and fluvastatin (Lescol®). In my 25 years as a cardiologist, I don’t think there is another class…

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Blood Thinners: Facts and Fictions

This week, I’d like to discuss a class of medication that we colloquially refer to as “blood thinners.” It is 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 known…

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