Alfieri Cardiology serves the residents of Newark and Wilmington, Delaware, in addition to many nearby towns. Dr. Paul Alfieri and Dr. Anthony Alfieri specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of many different cardiac conditions. Read about them below.
What Is Arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is, in basic terms, an irregular heartbeat. Heartbeats that are too slow are referred to as bradycardia, while a rapid heartbeat is known as tachycardia. Premature contractions are given to heartbeats that occur too early and a heartbeat that is irregular or off is called fibrillation. An irregular heartbeat of any kind can be an indication that something is wrong with the heart muscle, over and above normal work and stress. A heart can skip a beat at any time and be completely normal and healthy. If the heart continues to skip beats or race uncontrollably, a doctor’s visit is in order, especially if the person has a history of heart disease.
How Is It Treated?
Different types of arrhythmias will require different types of treatment. Antiplatelet and anticoagulant therapy use medications to help thin the blood and regulate blood flow so that it is easier on the heart to function. Beta-blockers can also be used to effectively control the rhythm of a person’s heart. Pacemakers are also considered for individuals who have an irregular heartbeat that does not respond well to certain types of medication. If a pacemaker is not an option, a cardioversion treatment is used. This is when the doctor places the patient under mild sedation and gives the heart a mild shock to help reset its proper rhythm.
Can It Be Prevented?
Arrhythmia is a heart condition that can disappear as quickly as it shows up. The best way to prevent an irregular heartbeat is to keep the heart as healthy as possible. Regular exercise, a proper diet, and sufficient amounts of sleep are the keys to good health and will help to keep the entire body functioning as it should. Individuals who have a family history of heart disease and other medical problems should try to remain as healthy as possible. This includes avoiding alcohol and tobacco use. It is important to eat as healthy as possible and eliminate salt and certain types of fats from the diet.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious health condition that causes the heart to work harder than it normally should. Pressure builds up in the blood vessels making it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. If the pressure continues to rise, it can damage the walls of the blood vessels and weaken the heart muscle. Obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet, chronic disease, stress, aging, and sleep apnea are just a few of the most common causes of high blood pressure. Individuals who have close relatives with high blood pressure are considered to be at a higher risk of developing the condition.
How Is Hypertension Treated?
Hypertension is treated by addressing the cause and finding ways to reduce the pressure in the arteries. If a person smokes, they are encouraged to stop. Making positive lifestyle changes like improving their diet, getting more exercise, and reducing the amount of stress they deal with on a day-to-day basis are all part of a healthy treatment plan to reduce high blood pressure and take pressure off of the heart. Anticoagulants are also used to thin the blood and make it easier to travel through the circulatory system. Doctors may also prescribe other medications to help reduce the pressure in the arteries and improve blood flow.
What Happens if a Person’s Blood Pressure Is Not Kept Within a Normal Range?
If a person’s blood pressure is allowed to get out of control, it can lead to many different heart conditions, including congestive heart failure, hardening of the arteries, and a dramatic increase in the risk of a potential heart attack. High blood pressure is known as a silent killer because many people can have the disease and not even realize it. The higher the pressure gets, the harder the heart has to work to push the blood through the body and bring it back to its starting point. It is important for a person to have their blood pressure checked at least once a year to determine if they are at risk for high blood pressure or other serious heart problems.
What Is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that are associated with the overall weakening of the heart muscle. If the heart is forced to worker harder than normal for an extended period of time, portions of the organ can become damaged or weakened. This decreases the amount of power the heart has at its disposal to force the blood through the body. Edema is a common sign of congestive heart failure. As the heart finds it harder to pump the blood, the kidneys may begin to slow down how they process fluid. This allows fluid to build up in the extremities, like the hands, feet, and lower legs.
How Is It Treated?
While congestive heart failure cannot be cured, doctors have several things at their disposal to help them control how the condition progresses. Closely monitoring the types of medications a person takes is one of the first steps. The next steps include improving the diet by adding heart-healthy foods and eliminating the bad, like fried foods and salt. Mild exercise like walking and swimming can help to strengthen the body and improve circulation, making it easier on the heart to function more efficiently. It is also important to reduce or stop altogether, the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Can Congestive Heart Failure Be Prevented?
While individuals who already have a heart condition are at higher risk, the best possible way to prevent congestive heart failure is to improve a person’s lifestyle. Eliminate bad habits like using tobacco products, consuming alcohol, and eating unhealthy foods. Include heart-healthy foods in the diet and exercise whenever the opportunity arises. It is important to maintain a certain degree of activity to help keep the heart and cardiovascular system strong. A person should also take a close look at their family medical history and discuss the findings with their doctor. Between the two of them, they can come up with a treatment plan that will correct existing conditions and reduce the risk of future ones developing.
What Causes Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease is a condition in which your arteries become diseased or damage. Your arteries are the body’s pipeline, constantly transporting nutrients and oxygen via the bloodstream. Over time, damage can occur that weakens the arterial walls. High levels of cholesterol can begin to collect in certain areas. As more and more cholesterol and plaque travel through the blood, deposits begin to form in the arteries that eventually restrict blood flow. These deposits can damage the walls of the artery, causing them to harden and become less pliant. Hardening of the arteries makes it extremely difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently.
How is it Treated?
There are three main types of treatment considered for coronary artery disease. These include making positive lifestyle changes, medications, and, in some cases, surgical procedures to help dilate or re-open the blood vessels so that blood can flow more efficiently. Positive lifestyle changes include exercising more frequently, eating healthier foods, getting sufficient amounts of sleep and eliminating the use of tobacco and alcohol products. Changing a person’s lifestyle takes time, but offers long-lasting benefits. Surgical procedures, like balloon angioplasty, offer an immediate correction to the problem at hand but depend on the positive lifestyle changes to elicit a true healing response.
What is an Ischemic Stroke?
An ischemic stroke is characterized by decreased blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by a blood clot blocking a major artery or large plaque deposits that dramatically reduce the amount of blood flow that makes it to the brain. A stroke is the result of the brain not getting sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients to maintain proper function. While the movement of a blood clot can occur rather suddenly, the build up of plaque and fats in the arteries is gradual and occurs over an extended length of time. Strokes often exhibit no symptoms whatsoever and occur suddenly and without warning.
What is Syncope?
Syncope is also referred to “fainting.” It is basically a loss of consciousness that results from extremely high levels of stress, dehydration, exhaustion, or when a person’s blood pressure drops too low. The most frequently diagnosed form of syncope is neurally mediated syncope in which the brain does not get the nutrients and oxygen it needs to maintain proper function. As the person’s blood pressure begins to fall, they may experience nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, and blurred vision. A person normally does not remain unconscious for long periods of time, but any time syncope occurs a visit should be made to the doctor to uncover the cause.
What Causes Syncope?
The most common cause of syncope is a drop in blood pressure. When a person’s blood pressure is too low, the brain does not receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive. When this occurs, syncope occurs to help the brain conserve its resources and regain its bearings. High levels of stress, dehydration, exhaustion and extreme hormonal imbalances may also result in a person fainting or losing consciousness. If the episode is due to an irregular beating of the heart or strenuous exercise, it may be indicative of a serious, underlying health condition. If a person faints for no apparent reason, they should be immediately checked by the doctor.
Can Syncope be an Indicator for Other Health Problems?
Syncope or fainting is a sign that the brain is experiencing some form of distress. If the cause of the episode is due to decreased blood pressure, the doctor can begin to look for problems within the cardiovascular system. If a person faints for no apparent reason, it may be due to an underlying health condition. Hormone imbalances, diabetes, unstable blood pressure, and panic disorders are all possible causes. If a person has recurrent episodes of syncope, it is important they receive a medical examination as soon as possible to find out what is happening with their health. Syncope is an indicator for many different types of serious illness.
Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack?
Stress causes the body to work harder than normal. This includes the heart. When a person experiences extremely high levels of stress, the body releases adrenaline which causes the heart to beat faster and harder so that the circulatory system can keep up with the body’s need for oxygen. The longer the stress remains in place, the harder the heart must work to help the body remain in a state of balance. When a person experiences stress for long periods of time and lives an unhealthy lifestyle, their risk of heart disease and, ultimately, a heart attack increases. Learning to cope with stress, control weight, and include healthy lifestyle habits will reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Can Heart Attacks be Prevented?
If a person realizes their potential for a heart attack is abnormally high, they can begin to implement healthy lifestyle changes and take positive measures to reduce the risk of a heart attack. Individuals who are already exhibiting signs of distress may have a much harder time preventing an episode. As soon as a person is diagnosed with any type of potentially dangerous heart disease, changes should be put into place to help restore their health. This means eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lowering their cholesterol levels. Exercising is also important. The heart is a muscle and needs to be continually strengthened through exercise.
Should a Person Exercise After a Heart Attack?
Just because a person has had a heart attack doesn’t mean they should not exercise. Mild forms of exercise will actually help a person get back on the road to recovery. Once a person has a heart attack, they should work hand in hand with their physician to find out what types of exercises are most beneficial for their condition. Walking, swimming, and stretching exercises are all ideal for individuals who have experienced a heart attack or other health problem that limits the amount of activity they can participate in. In many cases, the doctor will recommend working with a physical therapist until the patient fully recovers from the attack.
What Is BMI?
BMI stands for body mass index. In most cases, this number stands for the percentage of fat that makes up a person’s overall weight. In most cases, the BMI is accurate. There are instances, however, where a BMI reading should not be considered when looking at a person’s weight. A person who has an excessive amount of muscle tissue (athletes, construction workers, etc.) will often show a higher than normal BMI, when in actuality, their percentage of fat is extremely low. If a person goes to the doctor for any type of physical or testing that involves a BMI reading, it is important that they discuss their occupation and how much muscle they have in comparison to fat.
What Happens to the Heart When a Person Gains Too Much Weight?
When a person gains a large amount of weight, it puts an excessive amount of pressure on the heart. It is harder for the heart to pump the blood through the arteries and veins of the body. The more a person eats, the more likely it is that they will ingest a large amount of sodium. This will have a profound effect on the heart and can dramatically increase a person’s blood pressure. Too much fat in the body can cause fat molecules to begin to travel through the circulatory system. Plaque deposits can begin to collect in arteries and blood vessels, cutting off blood flow to important parts of the heart.
How Does Exercise Help?
Exercise does more than just strengthen the heart muscle and improve the efficiency of the circulatory system. Exercise also helps to move the blood through the body more efficiently. During exercise, muscles gently massage the arteries, veins, and capillaries helping them to move the blood along its course. The more a person exercises, the easier it is for the heart to perform as it should. The cardiovascular and circulatory systems go hand in hand, so when a person exercises the entire body benefits. Exercise also helps to reduce the amount of fat stored in muscle tissue. It is easier for blood to flow through lean muscle than dense pockets of fat.
What is Interventional Cardiology?
Interventional cardiology deals with the health of the heart on a structural level. This involves blocked arteries, catheterization, and the dilation of blood vessels within the heart. Doctors who specialize in interventional cardiology also work with individuals who have experienced various types of heart defects. The structure and function of the valves within the heart and are also included. Catheterization is used to open blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart muscle. When the arteries become blocked, cardiac tissue near the blockage may die or atrophy, making it harder on the heart to function properly.
Why are Catheters Used?
Catheters are used as a means to open up blocked blood vessels. They are inserted into the thigh near the groin and fed upwards through the body and into the heart. Many procedures are performed using the catheterization method, including angioplasty and cannulation of the heart. Catheters are fairly simple to use and they have a wide variety of uses. Scopes can be attached so that the doctor can look inside the heart as it is beating to determine what abnormalities may exist. Catheters can be used safely and effectively to help the doctor reach an accurate diagnosis without forcing them to open up the chest cavity.
What is Cardiothoracic Surgery?
Cardiothoracic surgery is any operation that is performed within the thoracic cavity of the rib cage and also pertains to the heart. Doctors who specialize in performing surgical procedures on the heart understand the heart’s relation to the lungs and other organs within the thoracic cavity. Catheter-based procedures that deal with the form and function of the heart require an extreme level of precision and accuracy. Individuals who were born with congenital heart defects may require surgeries to ensure the functionality of the heart and lungs. With interventional cardiology, doctors can help to repair or restructure certain parts of the heart to make them work more efficiently.
What is Preventative Cardiology?
Preventative cardiology is the practice of preventing conditions that affect the health of the heart. This includes heart attacks, congestive heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, and poor circulation. While it may be difficult to prevent certain types of heart disease, especially conditions that follow along family lines, much of it can be prevented. Making simple lifestyle changes can prevent many different heart conditions from happening. Preventative cardiology provides patients with the tools they need to lead healthier, more active lives and actually reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.
Can Heart Disease Be Reversed?
The damage that has already occurred cannot be reversed. Certain symptoms, however, may be able to be eliminated if poor lifestyle habits are replaced with more positive choices. Replacing fatty foods with leaner cuts of meat and fresh produce are just two ways a person can begin to reverse certain types of heart problems. Finding ways to cope with stress can actually lower high blood pressure and improve the way the heart functions. While these small tips won’t reverse existing damage, they can easily help prevent new damage from occurring. Taking measures before a problem presents itself is the best way to prevent any kind of disease.
What Types of Heart Disease Can Be Prevented?
While obesity is not necessarily a heart condition, it can have a devastating impact on how the heart functions. Losing weight will reduce a person’s risk of not only heart disease, but diabetes and stroke, as well. Individuals who have congestive heart failure have the condition because they lived years of their lives in an unhealthy fashion. If a person wants to prevent heart disease, they need to make lasting changes to their lifestyle as early as possible. Waiting until a heart condition is diagnosed can mean irreversible damage. Taking preventative steps also reduces the risk of dealing with heart conditions that run in the family.
Can a Person Lower Their Risk of Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. While many people have a higher risk of heart disease due to genetic patterns, others can lower their risk of heart attack by living a healthier lifestyle. This involves eating healthier foods, exercising several times a week, getting adequate amounts of sleep, maintaining as positive an attitude as possible, and eliminating tobacco products. Living a healthier lifestyle helps to keep weight under control and allows the body to function more efficiently. It is also important to have annual checkups and know your cholesterol levels. Eating healthy foods will gradually lower both cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
What Are Common Signs of Heart Disease?
A person can have heart disease without exhibiting a large number of symptoms. Individuals who carry excessive amounts of weight and do not exercise are often prime candidates for heart disease. A few of the most common signs of possible heart disease are shortness of breath, skin begins to turn ashen after hard exercise, sweating profusely, and pain in the left side of the chest that radiates down the left arm. Individuals who begin to feel tightness in the chest or have trouble breathing after mild exercise should seek medical attention to determine what is going on with their heart.
Is Heart Disease Inherited?
The risk of being diagnosed with heart disease increases if a person has other close family members who have been diagnosed with certain heart conditions. Cardiologists will often ask a patient about their family medical history. The person’s risk increases the more closely the family members are related. This means that if a person has several aunts or uncles who have had heart disease, they do carry some potential risk. The risk increases dramatically if the family members are siblings, parents or grandparents. It is also important to know if they responded well to treatment. This will help the doctor understand how the patient may respond and can use treatment options that best suit their individual health.