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Heart Disease Q & A with Nitanth Vangala, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at PVHMC

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  • Written By: PVHMC - Admin

Q: What is heart disease?

A: Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses a variety of health conditions that vary based on what part of the heart is affected. Disorders can involve the heart muscle, the heart’s electrical system, or most commonly, the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.

Q: What is the most common type of heart disease?

A: Coronary artery disease – the number one killer of people in this country – is the most common condition. On a basic level, it involves the narrowing of arteries over time from plaques caused by fat, cholesterol, calcium and clotting products. The progression in the size of these plaques, or the sudden rupture of these plaques, can lead to heart attack.

Q: Heart failure is a misunderstood type of heart disease. What is heart failure?

A: Heart failure (sometimes called congestive heart failure or CHF) does not mean the heart has stopped working. It is a syndrome that is defined by the heart’s decreased ability to pump blood effectively. This decreased ability can lead to an inappropriate retention of sodium and water that can build up in the lungs or legs and cause shortness of breath or leg swelling. Heart failure is a chronic disease that needs lifelong management, but with treatments and lifestyle changes people can often keep doing the things they enjoy.

Q: What are the most common treatments for the most common types of heart disease?

A: Care is divided into primary and secondary treatment. Primary treatments include managing cardiovascular risk factors (cessation of smoking, watching cholesterol and blood pressure, a steady amount of exercise and proper diet). Secondary treatments focus on addressing the heart condition and preventing a second cardiac event. Treating a first cardiac event depends on the nature of the disease but often involves a combination of medication, cardiac rehabilitation and all the care used in prevention of a heart attack.

Q: Are the risk factors for heart disease the same for men and women? Which risk factors put you MOST at risk?

A: The risk factors are the same; however, women can have different symptoms than men, which can lead to a delay in diagnosis and less effective treatment. Smoking is the number one risk factor that people can control to reduce their chance of vascular complications. Diabetes is also commonly connected with cardiovascular disease.

Q: If you have a family history of heart disease, how does this affect your chances of having heart disease yourself?

A: Family history is defined as a cardiac event that happens in an immediate family member before age 55 for men and age 65 for women. When you have a family history of heart disease, you must be more cognizant of the other risk factors that you can control and more meticulous in controlling them.

Q: What is the #1 thing people can do to lower their risk for heart disease?

A: I look at the risk factors for each person as a whole pie. Each piece of the pie represents a different risk factor, such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, family history and others. The size of these pie pieces is different for each person. In one person, the hypertension piece may be bigger, while the diabetes piece is bigger in someone else. I always tell people that the best thing you can do is take care of all of them in terms of daily living, not smoking, exercising at least 30 minutes a day and enjoying a balanced diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. •