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Heart Disease FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Heart Disease

At South Denver Cardiology, we’re dedicated to helping our patients with preventative cardiac care. Our state of the art South Denver Heart Center (SDHC) provides our patients with diagnostic testing and services, wellness classes, seminars, staying fit tips and healthy heart tips.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. For more information on how you can prevent heart disease, please click one of the following links:

What causes heart disease?

Cardiovascular disease is an illness to the veins, arteries, capillaries or heart. Learn more about symptoms of heart disease in women.

  • Atherosclerosis: A buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries that can block oxygen and other nutrients to and from your heart and the rest of your body.
  • Arteriosclerosis: Restriction of blood flow to your organs and tissues. Atherosclerosis is the most common form of cardiovascular disease and is often caused by an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and smoking.

 

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What causes Atrial Fibrillation? (AFib)

The exact cause of atrial fibrillation is unknown.  As scientists, we are still determining what causes this chaotic rhythm.  We do know there is an association with hypertension, sleep apnea, thyroid abnormalities, and excess alcohol and caffeine intake. However, about 50% of patients that have AFib don’t have one of the factors with a strong association.

As scientists, we have not identified a specific gene responsible for AFib, so we cannot say if you will get it when another family member has it. That being said, Electrophysiologist Dr. Sri Sundaram, MD, says he has taken care of multiple families that have three generations with atrial fibrillation.

AFib is a progressive disease.  Unless there is an underlying cause that can be corrected, it always gets worse over time.  It initially starts as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation when it comes and goes.  Over time, the episodes start increasing in length and severity.  Patients start having more and more events to the point that they are now in it all the time.  That’s when it progresses and is called persistent atrial fibrillation.  Inside the heart, that usually means that it has spread beyond the pulmonary veins. The success of the treatment is lower, the longer a patient has AFib, and the more it progresses.

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What are my risk factors for heart disease?

Risk factors of heart disease include:

  • Age. Simply getting older increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle, which contribute to heart disease.
  • Gender. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, the risk for heart disease in women increases after menopause.
  • Family history. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).
  • Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
  • Poor diet. A diet that’s high in fat, salt and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
  • High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis. Plaques can be caused by a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol, or a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol.

 

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Women’s symptoms of heart disease

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pains. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right arm pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

 

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Heart attack symptoms in Women

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pains. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right arm pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

 

 

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