Category: Education

What is coronary calcium score?

 

A coronary calcium score measures the amount of calcium present within the coronary arteries.
Because calcium often deposits in plaques (narrowings) within the arteries, a calcium score can help to indicate whether coronary artery disease may be developing or already present.After assessment of classic risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and a family history of heart disease) a coronary calcium score is sometimes used to give extra information about the risk of a heart attack in future. It is performed with a CT scan of the heart and takes around 10-15 minutes.
After the test, the result is discussed in detail – a high calcium score may suggest that lifestyle changes and/or medication are needed to reduce the risk of a heart attack in future.

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

Plaque rupture

A blood clot in an artery can cause a heart attack. But what causes the blood clot?

Often it’s something called plaque rupture.  Plaque is a lump inside the artery caused by a progressive build-up of fat and cholesterol, often with calcium deposits as well.  For reasons we don’t entirely understand yet, the fibrous cap covering the plaque sometimes tears or ruptures. When that happens, the body tries to repair it, using the same method it uses to repair a cut on the knee; it forms a blood clot to seal the area.

Unfortunately, a blood clot that forms in an artery can stop blood from flowing to the heart, causing a heart attack.
Preventing plaque build-up involves eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking. Treating plaque that’s already there may involve medication or a procedure to keep the artery open.

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

Talk to a doctor about heart health

 

What is coronary plaque?

Coronary plaque forms when cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries. Over time, as the plaque grows, it can narrow the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle and stops the blood from flowing properly.

In the early stages, there may be no symptoms, though it’s worth remembering that even fairly mild plaque can increase the risk of a sudden heart attack. With more severe narrowings, which interfere with blood flow, breathlessness may be experienced or chest pain with exercise.

So, what can be done?

If there are risk factors for heart disease (such as smoking, diabetes, obesity or a family history of heart problems), then it’s important to talk about these with a GP. Depending on age, people may even qualify for a Heart Health Check to assess the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

To learn more about coronary artery disease see our website Connected Cardiology

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

What are the benefits of quitting smoking for my heart?

 

Within 6 hours of quitting smoking, blood pressure improves and the heart rate slows.

After a year, a former smoker’s risk of heart attack or stroke reduces by half. This risk continues to reduce over time and, after 15 years, the risk is the same as someone who never smoked.

That’s quite inspiring. But there’s more. Quitting smoking has many other health benefits including:

  • A stronger immune system
  • Increased levels of protective antioxidants in the blood
  • Improved blood circulation to the hands and feet
  • Reduced stress.

Ready to discover a better life without cigarettes? Call Quitline on 13 78 48 or talk to a GP for further support.

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

Recognising symptoms of heart failure

 

 

Heart failure is a complex condition that means the heart becomes less able to pump nutrient-rich and freshly oxygenated blood around the body.

That can cause a number of symptoms during exercise or at rest, including:

  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling breathless when lying flat – and needing to use pillows or sit upright to breathe more comfortably
  • Waking suddenly because of breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Swollen ankles.

There are many potential causes of heart failure so a careful physical examination, as well as blood tests, an ECG and an echocardiogram, are important for further assessment.

Many patients experience a significant improvement in quality of life with medication alone though a number of other treatment options may need to be considered as well.

Check out our heart failure page to learn more about this condition: heart failure | Connected Cardiology

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy?

 

 

A cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that prevents it pumping blood properly around the body. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart is enlarged and can’t pump blood efficiently. There are a number of possible causes of this condition, though a clear cause is not always found.

Dilated cardiomyopathy can cause symptoms of heart failure:

  • Shortness of breath when exercising/lying flat
  • Swollen ankles
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations

There are a number of medications that can help in this condition. With careful treatment, many patients experience an improvement in symptoms, often with an improvement in their heart pump function over time.

For more information on cardiomyopathy visit: Heart failure and Cardiomyopathy | Connected Cardiology

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

Can gardening help my heart health?

 

 

Gardening has many health benefits.

All that digging, raking and mowing gets the heart pumping and can burn as many calories as a session at the gym.

A number of studies have suggested that gardening and DIY can improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Being generally active day to day can help to manage weight, reduce blood pressure and prevent diabetes.

There can be other benefits as well – the garden is a great place to reduce stress and practice mindfulness. It engages the senses and helps to reconnect the body and mind, providing a distraction from worrying about the future and bringing focus on the present moment. So feel the soil in the hands, see the beauty and growth, hear the birds singing and literally smell the roses.

Having a heart condition doesn’t mean time can’t be spent in the garden. To read how Paul Peacock adapted to living with severe heart failure and kept up his passion for gardening, visit:  Gardening with heart failure and diabetes |Heart Matters

If gardening is already a hobby, then keep going! If just getting started, consider joining a local community gardening club.

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

What is a heart murmur?

 

A heart murmur is an unusual sound a doctor can hear through a stethoscope that indicates turbulent blood flow through the heart. Sometimes it means nothing – it’s just a quirk of that person’s body, which we call an ‘innocent’ murmur. Other times, a heart murmur can indicate a problem with the heart valves.
A normal heartbeat makes the classic ‘lub-dub’ sound when the heart valves close. A murmur sounds different because the valves are not opening or closing properly.
The most common cause of a heart murmur is a narrowed or leaky heart valve. If a doctor hears a suspicious heart murmur then the next step is an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). If the heart valves appear abnormal, referral to a cardiologist can be helpful for further assessment and developing a plan for treatment and follow up.
To learn more about issues with heart valves visit: Valvular heart disease | Connected Cardiology
This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

How does social connection heart health?

 

 

Advice on heart health tends to focus on diet, exercise and (for those who need it) medication. But there’s one other vital element for good heart health: friendship.
The mind and the body are intimately linked. That means emotional wellbeing influences physical wellbeing and vice versa. Studies have shown that loneliness stresses the heart and the cardiovascular system. It’s a risk factor for heart disease just like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Building social connections improves physical and mental health. Spending time with family and friends is good on so many levels Supporting Young Hearts| Heart Foundation
Peer support can also be very helpful for people living with heart disease. Heartbeat Victoria runs several peer support groups across the state, helping people make connections with others living with heart disease Heart Victoria Highlights | Heart Foundation.

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.

Is it time for a heart health check?

 

 

Medicare now funds GPs to provide heart health checks. It’s a great opportunity to gain personalised advice on how to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

During the 20-minute check-up, GPs usually: 

  • Ask the patient about their medical history and lifestyle, including alcohol intake and smoking status
  • ️Check cholesterol and blood glucose (unless that’s already been done in the last year)
  • Measure blood pressure and weight.

Then the patient and GP can discuss ways to reduce cardiovascular risk such as:

  • ️Losing weight, being more active, reducing alcohol and stopping smoking
  • ️Starting medications to lower blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose
  • ️Having further tests or seeing other healthcare providers 

The Heart Foundation recommends a heart health check for anyone over 45 years of age, or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people over 30 years. Could be time to call the GP! 

 

This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.