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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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.

It’s Time To See Your Heart In Motion

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Some information provided by The American heart Association.

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.

What Is It Used For?

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).

Why Do People Need An Echo Test?

  • The size and shape of your heart, and the size, thickness and movement of your heart’s walls.
  • How your heart moves.
  • The heart’s pumping strength.
  • If the heart valves are working correctly.
  • If blood is leaking backwards through your heart valves (regurgitation).
  • If the heart valves are too narrow (stenosis).
  • If there is a tumor or infectious growth around your heart valves.

Are There Any Risks?

Echocardiograms are considered very safe. Unlike other imaging techniques such as X-rays, echocardiograms don’t use radiation.  There are different types of echocardiogram tests. A transthoracic echocardiogram carries no risk. There is a chance for slight discomfort — similar to pulling off a Band-Aid — when the electrodes are removed from your skin.

How Can I Learn More About Echocardiograms?

Talk with a doctor. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • What are you looking for in my heart?
  • Why are you doing this test instead of another test?
  • What do I need to do to get ready for this test?
  • When will I know the results?
  • Do you expect me to have other tests?

At Amarillo Diagnostic Center, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is best for your needs. Contact us if you would like to set up an appointment or if you have any questions.

 

High Blood Pressure: What To Look Out For

high blood pressureThe information provided is from the American Heart Association

A common misunderstanding about high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is that it is largely a symptomless condition. If you do not pay attention to your blood pressure, or if you’re relying on symptoms to indicate a problem, then you are taking a dangerous risk with your life. When blood pressure readings soar to dangerously high levels more obvious symptoms may occur. Blood pressure this high is known as hypertensive crises and if reached, emergency medical treatment is needed.

High blood pressure is a chronic condition, and the damage it causes to blood vessels and organs generally occurs over years. However, it is possible for blood pressure to rise quickly and severely enough to be considered a hypertensive crisis. To reduce mortality in this situation, early evaluation of organ function and blood pressure elevations at these levels is critical to determine the appropriate management. Listed below are symptoms a person in hypertensive crisis may experience:

  • Extreme readings
  • Severe headaches
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

Being aware of your readings is extremely important, especially if you have a history of high blood pressure in your family. If you get a blood pressure reading of 180 or higher on top or 110 or higher on the bottom, and are having any symptoms of possible organ damage (chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking) do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on it’s own.

Everybody needs to know their blood pressure numbers in order to prevent high blood pressure from developing. Contact us with questions about your blood pressure or to schedule an appointment.

Sleep & Heart Disease

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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 (caused by conditions such as heart disease) 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.

Sleep and the Heart

There are two distinct types of sleep: rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (when most dreaming occurs), and non-REM sleep. Typically, when you fall asleep you begin in non-REM sleep. Most people spend about 80% of the night in this type of sleep. During non-REM sleep your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure all drop to levels below those that occur while you are awake. During REM sleep – approximately 20% of your time asleep – both your blood pressure and heart rate can go up and down. Any time you wake up from sleep (even briefly), your heart rate and blood pressure club, and your heart must work harder. When you wake up in the morning, your blood pressure and heart rate both go up and then stay at a higher level throughout the day.

Sleep and Heart Disease

Scientific studies have shown a direct connection among sleep, sleep disorders, and heart disease. There is an increased risk of sudden cardiac death (dying from heart stoppage) in the first several hours after waking up. It is known that there is an increased work demand on the heart that occurs when you wake up. People with sleep-related breathing disorders are more likely to have high blood pressure and are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Treating certain sleep-related breathing disorders may actually decrease a person’s chances of developing certain heart diseases.

If you have any kind of hear condition, it is especially important to watch for signs that you may have a sleep-related breathing disorder….

Effects of Heart Disease on Sleep

We’ve established that the effects of sleep-related breathing disorders can cause heart disease. Yet, there are effects of heart disease on sleep that, though more subtle, are also important to address. For instance, patients with congestive heart failure often report difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This may be due to shortness of breath that often accompanies heart failure. This shortness of breath that often accompanies heart failure. This shortness of breath is often worse when the patient lies down because blood in the legs flows back into the heart and can overwhelm its ability to pump. Heart failure patients may have orthopnea (shortness of breath when lying down) or paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (waking up from sleep short of breath). Patients who experience these symptoms may feel like they have insomnia since their sleep is interrupted. In addition to experiencing these complications from heart disease, patients often worry about the long-term consequences of a heart attack or chronic heart disease. Anxiety by itself can lead to the development of chronic sleep problems.

There are many complex relationships between heart conditions and sleep-related breathing disorders. People with heart conditions need to take special care and seek medical attention i border to ensure their ability to sleep well.

Good Sleep – 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 food quality sleep. If you have any kind of heart condition, it is especially important to watch for signs that you may have a sleep0related breathing disorder, such as OSA, which could stress your 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 can lead to a more healthy heart.

Don’t let your heart suffer. Contact us to schedule a sleep study.