FAQ

What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a term that includes several more specific heart conditions. The most common heart disease in the US is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of plaque. The narrowing and buildup of plaques is called atherosclerosis. Plaques are a mixture of fatty and other substances including cholesterol and other lipids. Blood flow to the heart is reduced, which reduces oxygen to the heart muscle. This can lead to heart attack. Other heart conditions include angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
What are symptoms of heart attack?

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat or experiencing nausea or light-headedness.
Why is there a need to act fast?

Death or permanent disability can result from a heart attack. The risk of death or permanent damage can be reduced with timely treatment. Some newer treatments need to be given soon after the onset of a heart attack in order to be effective. It is important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and act right away.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Some conditions as well as some lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. The most important modifiable risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and obesity. In principle, all persons can take steps to lower their risk for heart disease. For more information about these risk factors

What is valve replacement?

Severe valve damage means that the valve will need to be replaced. Valve replacement is most often used to treat aortic valves and severely damaged mitral valves. It is also used to treat any valve disease that is life-threatening. Sometimes, more than one valve may be damaged in the heart, so patients may need more than one repair or replacement.

What types of heart disease are treated with surgery?
  • Coronary Artery Disease - Coronary arteries can become diseased when cholesterol, a fat-like substance carried in the blood, builds up to form plaque (fatty substances and calcium) in the lining of the artery.
  • Valvular Heart Disease - Heart valves can be abnormally formed as birth defects or damaged by rheumatic fever, bacterial infection and calcified degeneration. Valves also can degenerate with the normal aging process.
  • Congenital Heart Disease - Some people are born with problems that may affect the heart and major blood vessels. Corrective surgery may occur in childhood or postponed until adulthood.
  • Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms - An aneurysm is a saclike bulging that can develop on the wall of a blood vessel. This bulging commonly occurs on the aorta due to weakening of the arterial wall. Many times there is a history of high blood pressure.
  • Tumors of the Heart - A myxoma is the most common cardiac tumor, with 75 percent occurring in the left atrium.
What is coronary bypass surgery?

Bypass surgery improves the blood flow to the heart with a new route, or "bypass," around a section of clogged or diseased artery.

The surgery involves sewing a section of vein or artery from the leg or chest (called a graft) to bypass a part of the diseased coronary artery. This creates a new route for blood to flow, so that the heart muscle will get the oxygen-rich blood it needs to work properly.

Coronary bypass surgery has proved safe and effective for many patients who have the procedure. You can expect to stay in the hospital for about a week after surgery, including at least 1 to 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Your doctor may also recommend that you participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program. These programs are designed to help you make lifestyle changes like starting a new diet and exercise program, quitting smoking, and learning to deal with stress.

What are the common risks for heart disease?

There are many factors that can contribute to heart disease. Smoking, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, age, gender, and heredity (including race) are among some of the common risks associated with heart disease.