The Heart's Role
The heart's main job is to pump the right amount of blood to all parts
of the body. The heart is a muscle which contracts and relaxes as the
blood cycles and recycles throughout the body.
The heart has four chambers. The upper chambers, atria, are divided into
left and right. The right atrium collects blood returning from the body
to the heart. The right atrium empties into the right ventricle, one of
the lower chambers of the heart. A valve in between the atria and the
ventricles helps move the blood through the heart and prevents blood flow
in the wrong direction. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs to
pick up a supply of oxygen. The oxygen rich blood is then pumped to left
atrium, down through another valve and into the left ventricle. The left
ventricle then pumps the blood through the aorta, a large blood vessel,
that carries the oxygenated blood to the entire body, including the blood
supply to the heart. The heart muscle needs its own supply of blood and
oxygen in order to keep pumping. The coronary arteries, which lie on the
surface of the heart, are essential in providing the nourishment and oxygen
for the heart.
Heart Disease: Treatment & Diagnosis
It is important to have your heart status checked regularly. Initially,
this is part of your annual physical examination with your physician.
During your visit, you should tell the physician about any family members
who had or have heart disease.
Your physician will determine which tests are necessary for you to have
to determine the present status of your heart. The most common tests check
the function of your heart and the flow of blood in your body.
For example, you may be asked to have blood drawn and have an electrocardiogram
(EKG) done. Other tests may be ordered by your doctor.
Your physician may determine that your heart disease can be treated with
a combination of diet, exercise, and possibly medication.
Your diet will be changed so that you can lower your cholesterol, improve
your blood pressure, and lose weight. Eating less fat and salt, and eating
more fiber is essential. Your doctor may suggest that you see a dietician
to assist you with meal planning.
Your exercise routine can be as simple as walking regularly, for example
30 minutes daily. You should build up slowly and begin exercising at least
3 times per week. Your final goal should be exercising four to five times
per week for 20-40 minutes.
Should your physician prescribe medication, be sure to follow the directions.
Ask your physician about any possible effects.
Procedures can be used to treat chest pain or angina, and coronary artery
disease. These include balloon angioplasty, atherectomy (rotoblation),
and stent placement.
Know the Risk Factors
Several of the most important risk factors for heart disease are within
- Cigarette Smoking. Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, which can greatly
increase the chance of having a heart attack.
- Diet. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can add pounds and contribute
to atherosclerosis. Increase fiber (fruits, vegetables, grains) and reduce
fats to improve your heart health.
- High Blood Pressure. Hypertension can lead to blood vessel damage because
the heart has to work harder to pump blood through narrowed or hardened
vessels affected by atherosclerosis. This damage can lead to the formation
of blood clots inside the blood vessels, which can cause heart attacks.
- Limited Physical Activity. Regular exercise will keep you young at heart.
Any kind of physical activity is beneficial.
- Stress. Relieve stress through exercise, soothing music, relaxation techniques
or a warm bath. Stress is a part of life and learning to control it could
prolong your life.
Prevent Heart Disease
The best treatment for heart disease is prevention. There are identified
risk factors, which if avoided can prevent heart disease. In other words
you need to change unhealthy habits. Making changes to reduce risks can
help your heart improve function. In some cases, such changes can even
improve the health of your heart.
Lifestyle changes are focused on decreasing or eliminating risk factors.
- If you smoke, stop.
- If you have high blood pressure, eat heart healthy foods and exercise
- If you have high cholesterol, eat heart healthy food and exercise
- If you do not exercise, start
- If you are overweight, lose it, eat healthy and exercise
- If you are under stress, explore ways to decrease stress and exercise
- If you have diabetes, follow the treatment plan prescribed for you
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