Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common of the cardiac arrhythmias - and unfortunately it can be one of the most frustrating to treat, for both the doctor and the patient. In fact, there is no "best" way to treat atrial fibrillation that can be applied to everyone. Instead, there are two very different general approaches to treating this arrhythmia - and with each approach, several potential treatment options are available. Things can get confusing very quickly for you and your doctor.
This means that if you have atrial fibrillation, to make sure you get the therapy that fits you best, you need to learn as much as you can about this arrhythmia, about the various therapies that are used for it, and which of these therapies are appropriate under which circumstances. Armed with this information, you can work with your doctor to choose the treatment path that's right for you.
It has now been demonstrated by several clinical studies that people who have heart attacks in the month of December - really, from Thanksgiving through New Years Day - have a higher chance of dying than people whose heart attacks occur at any other time of the year.
While there are several potential reasons for this increase in deaths with December heart attacks, the most important reason probably has to do with human nature. Read about this "December phenomenon," and what you can do to avoid reinforcing this unpleasant statistic.
The holidays are supposed to be filled with the joy of family and friends and good times. But for anyone with heart disease - or with an increased risk of heart disease - the holidays instead can be a time of special risk.
It is now well established that not only are serious heart problems more likely to occur during the holidays, but when they do occur they are more likely to be fatal. In fact, the three deadliest calendar dates for anyone with heart disease are December 25, December 26, and January 1.
Cardiac tamponade is a life-threatening condition in which excess fluid in the pericardial sac (a protective pouch surrounding the heart) begins to encroach on normal cardiac function. Symptoms often include chest pressure, severe shortness of breath, extreme weakness, and even cardiovascular shock. Unless the excess fluid is removed expeditiously, death can ensue.
Last week, when the new AHA/ACC guidelines on cholesterol treatment were released, I predicted that controversy would erupt over the new risk-calculator that was released as part of the guidelines. This risk-calculator, which will help determine whether statin therapy ought to be used to reduce your cardiac risk, appears flawed.
It didn't take long. The controversy is here, and it's loud and public. The AHA/ACC expert panel is being challenged, face-to-face and in print, by critics who are equally expert in cardiac risk reduction.
Hibernating myocardium is heart muscle that looks and acts dead, but really isn't. Often, if the hibernating muscle's blood flow can be improved (for instance, with bypass surgery or stenting), it "wakes up" and begins functioning again.
Read about hibernating myocardium and why it may be a significant issue if you have coronary artery disease.
This week, a panel of experts convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) finally released their long-awaited revised guidelines on treating cholesterol. In a major departure from guidelines that have been in place for a decade, these new guidelines recommend treating to maximally reduce cardiac risk, and do NOT recommend treating cholesterol to any particular target levels.
These new recommendations are striking enough themselves, but are especially meaningful when you take into account their underlying implications about cardiac risk, cholesterol - and the statin drugs.
After you've survived a heart attack, you've got a lot to learn about and a lot to think about. While in the good old days you might have had a week or two of hospitalization to go through all the testing, risk assessment, education, and initiation of therapy necessary to optimize your long-term prognosis, today whatever is going to get done must happen in the first three (or four, if you've got a liberal health plan) days.
Doctors and hospitals have mobilized nicely to provide adequate acute care for the patient showing up with an acute heart attack. But too often, many have dropped the ball when it comes to giving appropriate care after those first critical hours.
The key to successfully navigating your way to a long, healthy life after a heart attack is - YOU. You need to insist that the appropriate tests are done, the appropriate referrals are made, and the appropriate medications are begun. To this end, here is a convenient checklist of the things that should be done -- ideally before you even leave the hospital -- after your heart attack.
Sinus bradycardia is a slow heart rate that results when the heart's sinus node slows the production of the electrical impulses that control the heart rate. There are many potential causes for sinus bradycardia, including the fact that in many cases a slow heart rate is perfectly normal.
However, when the sinus node is producing an inappropriately low heart rate, especially if the slow heart rate is producing symptoms (fatigue, lightheadedness, or even lost of consciousness), that condition is often called sick sinus syndrome.
One in five people who have heart attacks never realize it - they have "silent" heart attacks.
Unfortunately, silent heart attacks are just as serious as the ones that produce severe symptoms, and in some ways are worse in the long run.
Read about silent heart attacks - what causes heart attacks to be "silent," what you and your doctor should do if you learn that you've had one, and what you can do to prevent a silent heart attack - or any heart attack.