Heart disease is a killer. It accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because good heart health is at the center of your ability to live a full, active life, make sure you’re seeing the right kind of healthcare expert for your heart assessment. The cardiology specialists at Consolidated Medical Practices of Memphis (CMPM) are trained and experienced in the latest technology and techniques, so they can accurately diagnose and effectively treat you for a wide range of cardiovascular conditions.
What Are Cardiovascular Problems?
Your heart and blood vessels work together in a manner that is both beautiful and complex. Your veins carry oxygen-depleted blood to the heart and lungs, where carbon dioxide is released from the blood, and oxygen is added. Your arteries then carry this oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Your heart underlies this entire circulatory process, constantly pumping, so your body can function as it should.
When problems occur, whether it’s with your heart or blood vessels, the effects can be devastating – and deadly. That’s why it’s so important to identify the earliest signs of cardiovascular disease to prevent potentially fatal complications like heart attacks and strokes.
Common Heart Problems
Some of the most common cardiovascular problems CMPM cardiology specialists see and treat include:
Arrhythmias are problems with the rhythm of your heart. A heart rate that is too slow (bradycardia), too fast (tachycardia), or irregular can cause problems. Heart arrhythmias increase your risk of developing blood clots, which could cause a stroke and heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, is a type of arrhythmia in which the two upper chambers of the heart are not in synch with the two lower chambers, resulting in a fast and irregular heartbeat. If you have A-fib, you might experience symptoms like heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is typically used to diagnose arrhythmias.
The coronary arteries are the main blood vessels that supply oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the heart. When plaque builds up on the inside of these arteries, it stiffens and damages artery walls – a process called atherosclerosis. This narrows the artery passageway, restricting blood flow to the heart. Coronary artery disease (CAD) can lead to a heart attack.
Common treatment options include medications as well as angioplasty and stents. In severe cases, coronary artery bypass surgery may be necessary.
A heart attack occurs when an artery supplying the heart with oxygenated blood becomes blocked. This most commonly occurs due to coronary artery disease and a blood clot. A heart attack is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs
- Pain in the neck, jaw, or back
High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) are extremely common among American men and women – many of whom are unaware they have the condition or fail to properly control it. Both are significant risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
The two conditions – high blood pressure and high cholesterol – tend to occur together, because high cholesterol levels, when it leads to a buildup of plaque within artery walls, restricts blood flow and forces the heart to pump harder, increasing your blood pressure.
The peripheral arteries are the main blood vessels that carry nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the limbs, stomach, and head. When these arteries harden and get damaged, and blood flow is restricted, it can result in a variety of telltale symptoms. For example, leg pain – such as cramps or muscle pain, typically in the calf – that is triggered by walking or similar movement is a classic symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD). This symptom, called claudication, goes away after a few minutes of rest.
The cause of PAD is the same for coronary artery disease: plaque buildup within artery walls. Your treatment options will depend on the severity of your condition and may include medications and minimally invasive procedures like angioplasty and stents.
A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted or blocked. Without adequate oxygen, brain cells can begin to die within minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency. Timely medical care can make all the difference when it comes to recovering from a stroke.
Signs of a stroke include:
- Face: One side of the face may droop, especially when smiling
- Arms: One arm may involuntarily drift downward when both arms are raised
- Speech: Slurred speech is common
- Time: Call 911 immediately if you suspect a stroke
Cardiology Testing & Treatment
Your CMPM cardiology provider has the training, experience, and access to state-of-the-art technology necessary to provide you with the very best care for your heart. Our diagnostic tests and treatments include:
An echo is an ultrasound of the heart. This imaging test creates real-time moving images of your heart at work. Most often, an echocardiogram is performed by guiding a hand-held transducer over the skin of your chest. This delivers sound waves, which harmlessly bounce off internal tissue, creating a moving image of the heart. In some cases, a tiny version of the transducer may be guided down your esophagus for a clearer image of your heartbeat, without your lungs getting in the way.
An echo is used to identify the presence of blood clots or structural problems with the heart.
During an EKG, you will be asked to sit or lay still after adhesive electrodes are placed on top of your skin in various locations on the chest.
These portable, noninvasive EKG devices are designed to record your heart rhythm over time. In the case of the Holter monitor, you carry it in a pocket or on a belt for a 24-hour period. Event monitors, on the other hand, are worn for weeks or months – but only record when you are experiencing symptoms.
A stress test involves measuring the function of your heart during and after rigorous exercise. Most often, this involves setting you up with EKG electrodes before you walk or run on a treadmill. It may also include measuring your breathing ability and blood pressure.
Stress tests can help identify whether there are problems with blood flow within the heart, such as tissue damage or a blockage within an artery.
An angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to open narrowed blood vessels. It occurs during a cardiac catherization, when a special balloon is inflated at the site of a blockage to widen vessel walls. Then a small mesh tube called a stent is placed there to keep the blood vessel open and restore blood flow.
This minimally invasive procedure is used to diagnose and treat a variety of cardiovascular problems.
Cardiac catherization involves inserting a thin flexible tube (catheter) with real-time video capabilities into a blood vessel, typically beginning at the groin. The catheter is then guided to the target site. A cardiac catherization may be used to:
- Locate blocked blood vessels and widen the area to restore blood flow (the widening procedure is called an angioplasty)
- Take a biopsy of heart tissue for laboratory analysis
- Take blood samples to measure oxygen levels within the heart’s chambers
- Identify structural or functional issues with your heart and repair the problem, such as closing holes or replacing a leaky heart valve
- Measure blood pressure and flow within the heart
Your heart health is everything. Make sure you’re getting the best care possible for it. Call your Consolidated Medical Practices of Memphis provider for more information or to schedule a visit. You can find their phone number by clicking their name above or by visiting our Make an Appointment page.