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Heart Murmurs: Are They Always Bad?

Now that we’ve covered the various types of valvular heart disease, let’s look at it from a different perspective and discuss heart murmurs.  Most patients think that a heart murmur and a valve problem are identical, but there are important differences.  Understanding this will help you make sense of why you don’t always need to be concerned about a heart…

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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 a cardiologist sees— aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation.  This week I’ll give a quick overview of the other valvular problems that can we encounter. First of all, the aortic valve can also develop regurgitation.  Called “AR,” aortic regurgitation, when severe, can lead to heart enlargement,…

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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, with mitral regurgitation (often abbreviated “MR”) the mitral valve (sitting between the left atrium and left ventricle) doesn’t close all the way, allowing blood to regurgitate backward.  Physicians usually describe this condition to their patients as having a “leaky…

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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 misfunction.  Today we’ll be talking about one such valvular dysfunction: aortic stenosis (often abbreviated “AS”). Stenosis of the aortic valve is increasingly common as we age, though not by any means an…

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Heart Valves: Gateways Inside the Heart

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 one direction.  They open during one phase (systole or diastole, depending on which valve it is) of…

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What Should I Bring to My Cardiology Visit?

OK, so 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 previously and have now moved to a new city, so you need to establish care with a new cardiologist there.  You’ve waited several weeks for an opening and now your appointment is coming…

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Alcohol: Part of a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle?

I’d like to tackle a somewhat controversial topic this week: 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 the body—particularly to the liver, the brain and yes, the heart.  In fact, there is…

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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 body making 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). In my 24…

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Heart Attack: What To Look For

What exactly does it feel like to have a heart attack?  Below I have included a graphic that depicts what the symptoms men and women can feel when they are experiencing a heart attack (which doctors term a myocardial infarction or “MI”).  I’d like to add a few points to that image: The difference in symptoms between men and women…

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