A Simple Guide To Echocardiograms

Echocardiograms use ultrasound to evaluate heart and circulatory function.  This non-invasive procedure gives your physician real-time images of the heart in motion.  These real-time images enable your physician to accurately diagnose a wide range of cardiac abnormalities and initiate appropriate treatment.

Why It’s Done

Your doctor may suggest an echocardiogram if he or she suspects problems with the valves or chambers of your heart or if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain. An echocardiogram can also be used to detect congenital heart defects in unborn babies (fetal echocardiogram).

Types of Echocardiograms

Depending on what information your doctor needs, you may have one of several types of echocardiograms. Each type of echocardiogram has few if any, risks involved. You may have one of the following kinds of echocardiograms:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram. This is a standard, noninvasive echocardiogram. A technician (sonographer) spreads gel on your chest and then presses a device known as a transducer firmly against your skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart. The transducer records the sound wave echoes from your heart. A computer converts the echoes into moving images on a monitor.

    If your lungs or ribs block the view, you may need a small amount of liquid (contrast agent) injected through an intravenous line (IV) that will make your heart’s structures show up more clearly on a monitor, improving the images.

  • Transesophageal echocardiogram. If it’s difficult to get a clear picture of your heart with a standard echocardiogram or if there is a reason to see the heart and valves in more detail, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram.

    In this procedure, a flexible tube containing a transducer is guided down your throat and into your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. From there, the transducer can be positioned to obtain more-detailed images of your heart. Your throat will be numbed, and you’ll have medications to help you relax during a transesophageal echocardiogram.

  • Doppler echocardiogram. When sound waves bounce off blood cells moving through your heart and blood vessels, they change pitch. These changes (Doppler signals) can help your doctor measure the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart.

    Doppler techniques are used in most transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms, and they can be used to check blood flow problems and blood pressures in the arteries of your heart that traditional ultrasound might not detect. Sometimes the blood flow shown on the monitor is colorized to help your doctor pinpoint any problems.

  • Stress echocardiogram. Some heart problems — particularly those involving the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle — occur only during physical activity.

    For a stress echocardiogram, ultrasound images of your heart are taken before and immediately after walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. If you’re unable to exercise, you may get an injection of a medication to make your heart pump as hard as if you were exercising.

Finally…

 

If you get an “echo” test, you don’t have to stay in the hospital. It’s not surgery and doesn’t hurt. For more information about your heart health, or about becoming a patient at ADC, visit our website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube Channel.

(Some information provided by the Mayo Clinic).

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Healthy Aging: 10 Benefits of Staying Active in Your Senior Years

Physical activity or exercise has countless benefits, even for seniors. Fitting in regular exercise into day-to-day life routine can have immediate and long-term health benefits. Most importantly, regular activity can improve your quality of life.

Why Should Seniors Workout?

  1. Arthritis: Exercise is one of the most crucial options for arthritis management. Regular activity helps lubricate the joints and can help reduce overall pain and stiffness that is often present among individuals with arthritis. Moreover, obesity is a risk factor for the disease, and increasing physical activity levels can help better manage the debilitating symptoms of arthritis.
  2. Heart disease: Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that about one in every four deaths is attributed to heart disease. More people exercising later in life can help reduce the number of individuals with heart disease through the management of blood pressure and blood glucose and decreasing LDL cholesterol.
  3. Metabolic Dysfunction (type II diabetes and obesity): Type II diabetes and obesity are two closely related diseases in which the body is in metabolic dysfunction. Exercise can help maintain proper body weight and help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels to make the body more efficient.
  4. Cancer: Exercise has been shown to help improve overall cancer risk among a variety of different forms of cancer. Studies have shown a 30 to 40 percent reduction in breast cancer risk among women who perform moderate to regular exercise.
  5. Hypertension: Exercise can help lower systolic blood pressure significantly through moderate-intensity physical activity. Try breaking up exercise into three bouts throughout the day lasting for at least 10 minutes each to receive blood pressure–lowering effects.
  6. Depression: Exercise can have a beneficial effect on personal mood. Studies suggest that group exercise classes among older adults can help reduce symptoms of depression by 30 percent or more in exercising older adults. The modest improvement in depressive symptoms can help maintain an overall greater vitality later in life and help prevent negative feelings or thoughts that are common with aging.
  7. Dementia: Dementia is a disabling condition affecting many older adults. With a wide range of mental disorders categorized as dementia, there is a great need to understand how to prevent the condition. Exercise is one prevention strategy that can help slow the mental decline. A recent study showed a 37 percent reduced risk and a 66 percent reduction in risk of dementia when older adults performed the moderate-intensity exercise, suggesting every adult ought to exercise to help lower the risk of mental decline and to help prevent mental disability later in life.
  8. Quality of life: Maintaining functional independence is something many older adults want. A regular exercise inclusive of strength and balance training can help accomplish this. Aim to be physically active for 30 minutes every day and to strength train at least two non-consecutive days per week.
  9. Insomnia: Certain medications and life events can prevent the body from proper sleep. Higher levels of physical activity can help exhaust the body enough to place it in a position for restful and lasting sleep. Avoid strenuous exercise two hours before bed to obtain these benefits, and aim to meet the daily activity recommendations.
  10. All-cause mortality: Exercise is known to reduce death from all causes. In fact, a recent study showed a 30 to 80 percent reduction in all-cause mortality when individuals exercised at an intensity level greater than 4 METS, suggesting that exercise can help delay premature death from various causes.

Finally…

If you are elderly, we recommend that you get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program to find out if there are any activities you should avoid. Call 806-358-0200, If you would like to schedule a visit with a physician here at the Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic.

(Some information provided by NIFS).

Give Your Heart a Break: Overcoming Chronic Stress

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When you are constantly experiencing stress, your body remains in high gear off and on for days or even weeks at a time. Chronic stress that causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure may damage the artery walls.

Chronic Stress

On one hand, stress is inevitable and a necessary part of life. There is, however, serious consequences to not handling stress in a healthy manner. Even short-lived stress can have an impact. Chronic stress has been proven to increases the risk of developing health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a weakened immune system. Chronic stress also has a significant negative effect on a person’s mental health. Many studies show a correlation between stress and the development of mood disorders such as anxiety disorders and depression. According to the American Psychological Association, 66 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress, and 63 percent experience psychological symptoms. Some people don’t realize the effects of stress until the effects have already negatively affected them. 

Can Managing Stress Reduce or Prevent Heart Disease?

Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health, and researchers are currently studying whether managing stress is effective for heart disease. A few studies have examined how well treatment or therapies work in reducing the effects of stress on cardiovascular disease. Studies using psychosocial therapies – involving both psychological and social aspects – are promising in the prevention of second heart attacks. After a heart attack or stroke, people who feel depressed, anxious or overwhelmed by stress should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professionals.

Tips For Managing Stress

Fortunately, there are many ways to manage the unhealthy stress. Some of these tips may be more helpful than others, and some might already be included in your daily routine. Regardless, here’s a few tips that will help:

  • When feeling stressed, slow down and take deep breaths. Try to Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth
  • Exercise
  • Find a friend or family member you can trust and talk it out
  • Laugh
  • Be Positive
  • Seek out activities that involve others
  • Manage your time, be sure to not overwork yourself
  • Take a walk
  • Don’t self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs

Medicines are helpful for many things, but usually not for stress. If you are experiencing chronic stress, try learning how to manage your stress through relaxation or stress management techniques. Be careful not to confuse stress with anxiety. If you suffer from severe anxiety, speak with your doctor about your options.

Even the most organized people aren’t immune to experiencing stress. If you have questions or need more advice on managing stress, contact us or schedule an appointment.

(Some information provided by the American Heart Association).

Good Sleep – Healthy Heart

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Sleep is a time of rest for the entire body. Even the heart, which works day and night, naturally slows down during sleep. That’s why unhealthy heart function can deprive the body of restful sleep. Yet, the relationship between heart function and sleep works both ways. For instance, sleep-related breathing disorders have been shown to play a major role in causing several types of heart and blood vessel disease.

Maintaining a Healthy Heart

Many things can be done to maintain a healthy heart: eat a nutritional diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, get regular medical check-ups, and get adequate amounts of good quality sleep. If you have any kind of heart condition, it is especially to watch signs that you may have a sleep related breathing disorder, such as OSA, which could stress your heart.

Breathing Disorders And The Heart

People with OSA are often overweight and experience loud snoring, gasping or choking episodes while sleeping, as well as trouble staying awake during the daytime. If you already have hypertension or cardiovascular disease (coronary artery disease, angina pectoris, stroke), talk with your healthcare professional about whether or not you may have a sleep and breathing disorder, such as OSA or CSA. It is also important that patients with congestive heart failure be monitored for CSA and other sleep disorders. In contrast to people with OSA, those with heart failure and CSA are commonly thin and may not snore at all. If your healthcare professional thinks that you have a sleep disorder, he or she may suggest you have a diagnostic test, called a sleep study, or refer you to a sleep medicine specialist. Sleep studies are usually done in a sleep laboratory. Small sensors called electrodes are attached to your body to measure your sleep, breathing heart rate and oxygen level. The sleep specialist will be able to determine whether you have any abnormalities in the quality of your sleep. Your healthcare professional is then given the results and the two of you can decide on the best course of treatment. Sleep disorders are treatable, and treatment can lead to a more healthy heart.

How To Sleep Well

  • Get up about the same time every day.
  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath, light bedtime snack, or 10 minutes of reading.
  • Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise should be confined to the early part of the day, light exercise should take place at least four hours before bedtime.
  • Maintain a regular schedule.
  • Avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
  • Try to nap at the same time every day; mid-afternoon is best for most people.
  • Never combine sleeping pills and alcohol.

Sleep isn’t just a “time out” from daily life. It is an active state important for renewing our mental and physical health each day. If you’re failing to get a good night’s sleep, contact us to schedule an appointment or answer any questions.