heart

Health Talk: Mitral Valve Stenosis

What Mitral Valve Stenosis Is

Mitral Valve Stenosis is a type of heart condition in which the mitral valve does not open wide, in contrast to that of a mitral valve prolapse. With mitral valve stenosis, the valve becomes stiff or scarred, or rather, the flaps are partially joined together.

When a mitral valve fails to open properly, blood flowing through the left ventricle is being blocked. A patient with this kind of condition may feel tired and experience shortness of breath.

What Causes Mitral Valve Stenosis

A possible cause of mitral valve stenosis is an infection called rheumatic fever which may scar the mitral valve. Other possible causes of this condition are congenital heart defect, endocarditis, hardening of the valve or other parts due to aging or severe kidney disease and even conditions causing the scarring of valve such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

What Are The Symptoms of Mitral Valve Stenosis?

Though this type of condition is a lifelong disease, some symptoms won’t seem to show or usually take 10 to 20 years to develop. Early symptoms of mitral valve stenosis are often mild, however, in the later stages, this type of heart condition may damage the left atrium when left untreated, making the symptoms even worse.

Some symptoms that a patient with mitral valve stenosis may experience fatigue or weakness, palpitations, shortness of breath, and an irregular heart rhythm, as well as skin discoloration, trouble swallowing, chest pain and even hoarseness or vocal cord paralysis.

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heart

Health Talk: Aortic Dissection

What Aortic Dissection Is

Aortic Dissection is a serious type of heart condition wherein a tear is found at the inner layer of the aorta, allowing the blood to surge through it and causing the aorta’s inner and middle layers to dissect or separate. This type of condition can become fatal when the blood-filled channel ruptures through the aorta’s outer wall. This type of condition may seem relatively uncommon and frequently occurs in men in their 60s and 70s.

Aortic dissection may be classified into two groups : Type A – a more common and dangerous type wherein a tear is involved in the part of the aorta and exits the heart or even a tear in the ascending aorta extending to the abdomen and Type B- a type of aortic dissection in which a tear is found only in the descending aorta which may also extend into the abdomen.

Symptoms

Just like any other heart conditions,  symptoms of aortic dissection are sudden severe pain in the chest and back, loss of consciousness, shortness of breath,  difficulty in speaking, loss of vision, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, weak pulse in one arm and mostly, heart attack.

Causes

A possible cause of aortic dissection is a weakened aortic wall in which the aortic tissue is susceptible to tearing due to stress caused by chronic high blood pressure. Other types of heart conditions such as bicuspid aortic valve, an enlarged aorta, Marfan syndrome and even rare illness associated with weakening of walls in the blood vessels may possibly cause this kind of heart problem. Aortic dissection is rarely caused by traumatic chest injuries, most especially brought about by motor vehicle accidents.

Risk Factors

Possible risk factors for this type of heart condition include atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) , hypertension, bicuspid aortic valve, aortic coarctation (narrowing of aorta) , and pre-existing aortic aneurysm.

These risks are increased by certain genetic diseases like Marfan syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, inflammatory or infectious conditions and other connective tissue disorders (e.g. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome –a disease in which a group of connective tissue disorders are characterized by skin that is easily bruised or teared, fragile blood vessels and loose joints.)

Other potential risk factors for aortic dissection involve high-intensity weightlifting, cocaine use, pregnancy, sex and age.

Complications

When not treated properly,  this type of heart condition may lead to complications such as organ damage (e.g. kidney failure and life-threatening intestinal damage) , stroke, aortic valve damage (aortic regurgitation) /rupture into the heart’s lining (cardiac tamponade) , stroke and worse, death due to severe internal bleeding.

Treatments and Drugs

Treatment for aortic dissection include surgery and medications, depending on its type or classification. For Type A aortic dissection , much of the dissected aorta is removed by surgeons in order to block the entry of blood through the aortic wall and reconstruct the aorta with a graft. The aortic valve may be replaced at the same time , should a leak occur in the aortic valve as a result of a damaged aorta. As for the medication, beta-blockers and Nitropress may be taken to reduce the heart rate and lower the blood pressure, in order to prevent worsening of aortic dissection. These medications are used for patients with Type A aortic dissection so as to stabilize blood pressure before establishing a surgical operation.

For Type B aortic dissection, on the other hand, a type of surgery done is somehow similar with that of Type A aortic dissection, only that sometimes small wireless tubes called stents which act as scaffolding are being used or placed in the aorta to repair this complicated type of condition. However, the medications used in treating Type A aortic dissections may also be used  to treat patients with Type B aortic dissection without performing any surgery.

After the treatment, patients with this type of condition  are required to take blood pressure lowering medication for their entire life and have follow up CT scans or MRIs in order to monitor their illness.

Prevention

To further reduce or prevent the risk of aortic dissection, patients should coordinate with their doctor, control their blood pressure, maintain an ideal weight, wear seat belt (for safety purposes),  and avoid smoking.

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Health Talk: Tachycardia

What Tachycardia Is

Tachycardia (Tak-ih-kahr-dee-uh) is a type of heart rhythm disorder wherein the or heartbeat is faster than its normal pace, wherein the heart rate in either the upper or lower chamber is increased. This type of heart rhythm disorder occurs when an abnormally in the person’s heart produces fast electrical signals. Tachycardia is rather the opposite of bradycardia wherein the person’s heart beats slower than its normal.

There are three types of tachycardia : atrial or supraventricular tachycardia, sinus tachycardia, and ventricular tachycardia. In atria or supraventricular tachycardia, the fast heart rate starts from the upper chambers of the heart. There are two forms of atrial or supraventricular tachycardia (paroxysmal atrial tachycardia and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia). An atrial or supraventricular tachycardia occurs when electrical signals in the heart are being sent abnormally, causing a disruption or interference with these signals coming from the sinoatrial node.

Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia may simply be caused by either heart attack or a serious mitral valve disease whereas symptoms are dizziness, lightheadedness, palpitations, angina, shortness of breath, unconsciousness and cardiac arrest. People who are probably more likely at risk for this are children, women (but may also occur in men), anxious young adults, physically fatigued people, coffee drinkers, heavy alcohol drinkers and heavy smokers.

This type of heart rhythm disorder may be treated by or with carotid sinus massage, gentle pressing on eyeballs (with eyes closed), Valsalva maneuver, dive reflex, sedation, lessened coffee intake, lessened alcohol intake, abstain from tobacco use, and more rest.

Sinus tachycardia, on the other hand, is a fast but steady heart rate which occurs when the sinoatrial node sends out electrical signals to the heart faster than usual. Causes of sinus tachycardia include fever, anxiety, medications and street drugs, severe emotional distress, fright and strenuous exercise or even anemia, increased thyroid activity, heart muscle damage due to heart attack or heart failure and hemorrhage, whereas its symptom is faster heart rate.

Ventricular tachycardia,  last but not the least, is a fast heart rate starting in the lower chambers of the heart. This type of tachycardia may be life-threatening heart rhythm which requires diagnosis and treatment. Ventricular tachycardia occurs when electrical signals are sent to the heart abnormally, intervening the flow of electrical signals and restricting the heart from properly pumping the blood. This type of heart rhythm disorder may be caused by the following: lack of oxygen to heart areas due to lack of coronary artery blood flow, cardiomyopathy, medications and sarcoidosis (a type of inflammatory disease affecting the skin or other body systems). Its symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, unconsciousness and cardiac arrest.

This type of heart rhythm disorder may be treated by or with immediate electrical defibrillation, medications, radiofrequency ablation, or surgery.

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Health Talk: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

What Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy Is

Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy, or otherwise known as HCM, is a kind of heart condition or disease in which the heart muscle or myocardium is abnormally thickened, making it hard for the muscle to pump enough blood. Aside from this, the thickening of the heart muscle also causes shortness of breath and problems in the heart’s electrical system and results in deadly abnormal heart rhythms or what we call arrhythmias.

In  HCM, the muscle that surrounds the left ventricle becomes affected, as well as the right ventricle some of the times, depending on the degree of thickening that varies in different places. When left untreated, this may lead to several problems like the stiffening of the affected heart muscle which may cause the left ventricle to have difficulty in filling or supplying blood normally to the heart. Other than this, the thickening of the heart may also obstruct or stop the blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta and it may also affect the heart valves’ function as well as the electrical conducting system, causing abnormal heart rates to develop.

HCM is a type of heart disorder that is inherited and it tends to affect men more than it does to women.

How is HCM diagnosed?

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may be diagnosed or suspected by the symptoms that  person may be having, family history, changes in the ECG (electrocardiogram) , changes in the chest x-ray, and ultrasound scanning of heart or what we call echocardiogram.

How is it different or similar from/with the other types of cardiomyopathy?

Aside from HCM, there are three other types of cardiomyopathy:

1) Dilated cardiomyopathy: a type of heart disorder wherein the heart becomes enlarged

2) Restrictive cardiomyopathy : a type of heart disorder wherein the heart cannot relax properly between heartbeats

3) Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy: this is a rare type of heart disorder wherein only the right
side of the heart is being affected

Who are most likely  or at risk to have HCM?

According to a research , hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM affects about one in 500 million people and although it may be possible for children to have this condition at birth, it is mostly common to develop in adults.

What Are The Causes of Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy?

One of the possible causes of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the increase of blood pressure. Aside from this, it is passed on through different families or inherited, caused by abnormal genes or simply the cause may also be unknown to people having this heart disorder.

What Are The Symptoms of Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy?

There are common symptoms of HCM:

1) Shortness of breath – people with HCM may experience this during their exercise, especially with a mild condition

2) Chest pain or angina – Aside from the shortness of breath, they can also experience this either only during
their exercise or even at rest if it becomes severe wherein the pain occurs due to insufficient blood and oxygen
supply required by the needs of the heart’s thickened muscle.

3) Palpitations – People with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may also develop or experience heart abnormalities,
causing them to experience palpitations.

4) Dizziness and fainting attacks – This type of symptom is more likely common to occur during exercise but may
also happen when a person is at rest due to the blood’s output or from heart arrhythmias.

What Are The Possible Complications of HCM?

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, when left untreated, may cause several complications. Some of the complications may include:

1) Arrhythmias – an abnormal heart rate or heartbeat rhythm.

2) Endocarditis – a type of complication wherein the inside lining of the heart chambers and heart valves become
infected, which can cause serious illness when neglected or not promptly treated.

3) Death – A small number of people with HCM is at possible risk of sudden collapse and death when their condition
remains untreated and this may be probably due to sudden development of severe arrhythmia.

How can HCM be treated? Is there any possible cure?

There’s no possible treatment that can reverse some changes in the heart muscle. However, it may help ease or alleviate symptoms or even prevent complications that may arise.

1) Medication  – relaxes the heart muscle and slows the heartbeat rate in order for the heart to pump  more
efficiently. Some medications recommended are beta-blockers (e.g. Atenolol), calcium channel blockers (e.g.
Verapamil or Diltiazem) or even sodium blocker Dsopyramide (Norpace).

2) Septal Myectomy – it is an open-heart procedure wherein the thickened, overgrown septum between the ventricles
are removed in order to improve the blood flow and reduce mitral regurgitation. This type of procedure is only
recommended when the medications taken don’t seem to help in relieving or alleviating the symptoms.

3) Septal Ablation – a type of surgical operation wherein a small part or portion of the thickened heart muscle is
destroyed by simply injecting an alcohol through a catheter into an artery supplying blood. This might cause
complications like heart block.

4) Implantable cardioverter- defibrillator/ICD – a device that’s quite similar to a pacemaker used to continuously
monitor a patient’s heartbeat and delivers a  precisely calibrated electrical shocks in order to restore a
normal heart rhythm just in case a life-threatening arrhythmia occurs.