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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, that doesn’t provide a whole lot of information.  The irregularity 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…

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Succeeding with Heart Failure

Last week we discussed what it means to have heart failure and how it affects the way we feel.  This week we’ll discuss how we treat this condition.  Treatment has two main goals: to help people feel better and to help them live longer.  Some of the treatments we use are for one purpose and some for the other—most are…

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Heart Failure: What Does That Mean?

It can be terrifying for a patient to hear from a doctor that he/she has heart failure.  Has the heart stopped working?  Is it about to stop?  What else could that mean? While heart failure is not a benign diagnosis, it is not as dire as the word “failure” would sound.  It means that the heart isn’t working optimally, leading…

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Exercise: How Much?

Exercise is crucially important to a healthy lifestyle and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.  It has beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.  Also, there is evidence that exercise lowers the risk of dementia.  But what is the right amount of exercise?  What’s the best type of exercise?  Can exercise be dangerous?  Read on . . . Everyone…

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Taking Control: Diet

Most of the recent blogs have addressed risk factors for coronary heart disease—things like hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and smoking.  We’ve discussed what you can do to lower those tendencies, but we unfortunately don’t have complete control over them.  Even the seemingly simple decision to smoke is more difficult once a person has become addicted to nicotine.But there are a couple…

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Women: Listen to Your Heart

Quick question: what disease kills the most women every year? Stroke?  Lung disease?  Alzheimer’s?  Breast cancer?  Lung cancer?  Nope, it’s heart disease—in fact, heart disease is more lethal to women than ALL cancers combined.  And it kills three times more women each year than either lung disease, stroke or Alzheimer’s. So why do people think of heart disease as a…

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What Does a “Family History” Mean?

Have you heard the one about how having children runs in families?  It’s true . . . if your parents didn’t have kids, most likely you won’t either.  OK, bad joke—but it introduces us to the topic of genetics and how it impacts your cardiac health.  How close do you have to be to someone genetically for it to impact…

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Tobacco: A Highly Addictive Toxin

Smoking is the most immediately reversible contributor to heart disease.  It acutely activates platelets, which are cell parts in the bloodstream that help form clots.  So, within 24 hours of quitting smoking, your blood becomes less “sticky,” lowering the tendency to having a heart attack.  By the same token, though, don’t think that “one cigarette won’t hurt me.”  That could…

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Hypercholesterolemia: How Low Can You Go?

Like I discussed with hypertension management in my last blog, my patients get frustrated about the moving target for goals in treating hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).  When I started my medical training in the 1980s, we generally looked at total cholesterol and considered it to be high if it was over 240.  Eventually we learned to look at the different components…

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