Your Heart Questions Answered by the Women’s Heart Center – pt 2

Heart Failure Live Chat 7/25/17Thank you for your patience and for your participation in American Heart Month! We received so many great questions, it took us a while to get through them all. We hope you find our Part 2 answers helpful. Thank you to our Emory Women’s Heart Center experts  Dr. Alexis CutchinsDr. M Carolina GongoraDr. Gina LundbergDr. Susmita Parashar, and Stacy Jaskwhich for answering these submitted questions.

Review Part 1 questions and answers here!

What are the signs of heart disease? Are there any silent signs? 
Signs of heart disease may include the ones we would typically think about:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • palpitations

Some other signs of heart disease that may not be as distinguishable (or considered silent as they are not recognized as a heart problem) could be:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • sweating or flushing
  • neck pain
  • jaw pain
  • back pain
  • general fatigue

All symptoms are more suggestive of heart disease when they occur with exertional activity or are triggered by emotional stress.  Some symptoms occur over time and people acclimate to them or shrug them off as “being out of shape” or “going through menopause”.  Progressive symptoms, such as increased shortness of breath with walking up stairs, can be a worrisome change and you should definitely mention to your physician.

How do you know when you have heart disease? 
Bottom line is, you won’t know if you don’t look. Studies have shown that 2/3 of women have no previous symptoms prior to their heart attack. There are many types of heart problems that an individual could have such as an enlarged heart, electrical abnormalities of the heart (arrhythmias) or blood flow issues.  We usually think of heart disease as blood flow issues or blockages that might cause a heart attack. You will likely notice some signs or symptoms in this scenario, but the best way to know for sure is by having a screening or seeing a Cardiologist for testing. Common sense would tell us that the more risk factors that you have for heart disease, the higher the probability.

There are many screening tests which can be performed to give you a better idea of your cardiac status.  You can actually have heart disease for a long period of time prior to having an event.  If you have a strong family history of heart disease or multiple risk factors, it may be a good idea to have a Coronary Calcium Score.  This is a CT of your heart that identifies hard, calcified plaques in your heart arteries.  It really helps to determine if you have the disease and to quantify the amount of disease that is present.  The result will be given in an age-matched reference so that you can see how you are doing in comparison to other women/men in your same age group.  The more plaque you have, the more aggressive your treatment plan should be.  If you are having any type of symptoms, you should have diagnostic testing.  Most people start with a simple EKG, but a treadmill stress test is a better tool.  If the stress test is positive for EKG changes with exercise, further tests may be indicated.

What are the most common kinds of heart troubles? 
In a cardiology practice, we commonly see a multitude of heart problems, many of which are brought about by the risk factors such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • sleep apnea
  • being overweight
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • lifestyle choices

Think of your heart as a house with 3 basic responsibilities: pump, plumbing, and electricity.

  • You can have a pump issue in which your heart muscle is enlarged, thickened or damaged. Consequences of this can result in a condition called congestive heart failure.
  • You can have a plumbing issue in which you have plaque build up that eventually closes your arteries and prevents well-oxygenated blood from reaching your heart muscle. Consequences of this could lead cause a heart attack.
  • You can have an electrical issue in which your heart loses the ability to normally conduct impulses.  These can stem from the upper and lower chambers of the heart and some are more worrisome than others- the most common electrical problem that we see is Atrial fibrillation. Consequences of Atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots or stroke when the heart beats irregularly and sets up the perfect scenario for a blood clot to form and then be lodged into the systemic circulation.

While all of these consequences seem very frightening, many can be avoided if we prevent risk factors from occurring by maintaining heart-healthy lifestyles in the first place.

By what percentage is the reduction of heart disease changed, as backed by scientific studies, when one makes positive changes.  
It is somewhat difficult to predict because it depends on different variables. Some risk factors are non-modifiable, such as genetics, age, gender, and race.  Of the modifiable risk factors, several studies have highlighted the critical importance of lifestyle modifications in heart disease prevention.  A Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated that women were able to reduce their risk of coronary events by >80% by not smoking, maintaining healthy body weight-BMI< 25, consuming a healthy diet, participating in moderate to vigorous exercise for 30 minutes a day, and consuming no more than a moderate amount of alcohol.

Another study named INTERHEART identified 9 easily measured risk factors (smoking, lipids, hypertension, DM, obesity, diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and psychosocial factors) that account for over 90% of the risk for acute heart attack.  This study also demonstrated that although the magnitude of the cardiovascular risks for men and women were similar, the impact of modifying the risks was greater in women.

What are some natural supplements that keep our hearts healthy?  
Heart health starts with exercise and a healthy diet.  The majority of the diet should come from vegetables, lean protein, low glycemic fruits, and some whole grains while limiting carbs and sugars.  Diet should consist of low sodium and high fiber.  It should include healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil.  Certain foods can be especially helpful for different cardiac problems.  For example, blueberries, leafy greens, seaweed, mushrooms, and celery have been shown to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure.

To further support your heart health, certain supplements may be helpful; however, these should always be recommended by a healthcare provider who has experience and training in the use of supplements. If you have a heart condition or are high risk for a heart attack, you must always follow your doctor’s advice before using any supplement.  Some supplements may interfere with blood thinners. Actually being tested for certain deficiencies prior to taking certain vitamins and minerals, may be the safest practice. It is way too risky to treat a serious health condition on your own with over-the-counter supplements. Some commonly used supplements for the heart are:

  • Omega 3 fish oil
  • flax seed
  • plant sterols
  • CoQ10 enzyme
  • Vitamin D
  • certain B Vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Folate
  • Garlic
  • Magnesium
  • Turmeric

What are the best types of vegetables and fruits to eat when you have blood clots?  
If you have a blood clot, you are likely on a blood thinner.  If you are on Coumadin, you will have to be aware of the vegetables that contain Vitamin K as it acts as an antidote for Coumadin (blocking blood-thinning properties).  Most green, leafy vegetables contain Vitamin K.  This doesn’t mean that you should avoid these vegetables if, on Coumadin, you just have to eat them consistently in order to keep your blood levels of Coumadin therapeutic.  We currently have much better options for blood thinners though (Eliquis, Xarelto, Pradaxa) which work on a different bleeding pathway and don’t interfere with foods that we eat.

Many patients are prescribed an aspirin a day to reduce the risk of blood clotting. The component in aspirin that is responsible for reducing blood clotting risk is called salicylates. Salicylates can also be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, blackberries, blueberries, pineapple, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, cranberries, tangerines, hot peppers, olives, radishes, and tomatoes.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that aid in the regulation of normal blood clotting. Most people believe that in order to receive omega-3 fatty acids, they must consume a high a diet that is high in fish. While fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, they can also be found in many vegetables including brussel sprouts, kale, spinach and salad greens.

Vitamin E is also capable of inhibiting platelets (the cells responsible for clotting) that works as a natural anticoagulant. Vitamin E can be found in spinach, broccoli, kiwifruit, mangos, and tomatoes.

Review Part 1 questions and answers here!

To learn more about Emory Healthcare’s Heart and Vascular Center, please visit: www.emoryhealthcare.org/heart

Emory Healthcare welcomes and encourages open discussions on all of Emory Healthcare’s social media sites. We look forward to any comments, stories, interactions, and experiences you want to share online. Before posting, please be mindful that Emory Healthcare’s social media sites are open to the public. DO NOT disclose any personal information that you do not want to be shared. By sending any content over the internet, you acknowledge that you assume full responsibility related to security, privacy, and confidentiality risks. The information presented here is NOT intended to replace a consultation with a qualified medical professional or take place of professional medical care. Due to a large number of questions we received, we are unable to answer all questions. The questions selected above are (in our opinion) of value to all readers.  

Real Patients, Real Stories: Regulating a Racing Heart

Brittany Martin, a children’s dance coach, experienced constant adrenaline over the course of a year, leading her to visit Emory University Hospital. “My body was in fight or flight mode all the time,” she says.

Martin began seeing a doctor in Mcdonough in 2015 for an elevated heart rate. She attributed her heart racing to stress from her dance team at the Platinum Peaches studio in Decatur, Georgia. She was preparing for a competition.

Then, one Monday last summer, she felt worse. She became more concerned about the increased headaches, chest pain, and heart palpitations. Her husband drove her to the emergency room, where doctors ran tests to determine if she was experiencing a heart attack. The doctors performed an electrocardiogram and looked for troponin her blood, a sign of damage to the heart muscle. The results showed that everything looked fine. Martin was sent to have a head CT scan. The severity of her headaches was brutal to the point where she was screaming and kicking. After an extra troponin test was in the suspicious range, she was sent to the cardiac catheterization lab thinking “I’m 30 years old. Why am I having a heart cath?”

The doctors did not see any blockages that would cause problems. However, an ultrasound exam of her heart showed that walls of the base were not moving. She had an ejection fraction (a measure of the heart’s pumping efficiency) of 30 percent, similar to those who have heart failure. Stam Lerakis, Director of Interventional Echo and Cardiac MRI at Emory University Hospital, said this indicated a rare condition called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. This is known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or “broken heart syndrome” and can occur mainly in post-menopausal women.

“We do see this regularly,” says Lerakis, who recalled seeing a case in which a man had a stroke and his wife, because of her distress, developed the syndrome. Martin appeared to have the reverse form, where the apex still contracted. This is more common among younger women possibly because of age-related changes in how the heart responds to epinephrine. Martin was then sent for a cardiac MRI to solidify the diagnosis.

“The catheterization results did not explain the weakness of the heart. We needed to determine if there was a problem with the heart walls and see if the muscle was still alive. That’s how we found the tumor,” says Lerakis.

The mass, about a size of a quarter, was found near Martin’s spine. Based on Martin’s symptoms, the doctors suspected it was a paraganglioma, a tumor that produces epinephrine and norepinephrine. Her blood and urine showed high levels of metabolic products of epinephrine and norepinephrine also known as catecholamines. “In Takotsubo, the heart is essentially stunned, but we expect that it will be able to recover,”  Lerakis says. “He heart was bombarded by catecholamines.”

Martin was prepared for surgery. She was given alpha and beta blocker drugs to counteract the effects of the catecholamines. This restored her heart to normal pumping efficiency but she was not out of danger yet. “Any manipulation of the tumor could cause a sudden release of catecholamine, leading to severe increases in heart rate and blood pressure,” says Seth Force, the thoracic surgeon who removed her tumor. “That’s why the blood pressure and heart rate have to be controlled by medicines prior to surgery – to avoid any cardiac issues.”

Genetic tests revealed that Martin has a mutation that increases the risk of developing paraganglioma. One of her daughters has the mutation as well; both will have to get periodic scans. As for now, she is planning more dance competitions. “I’m doing great,” she says. “My relatives can’t believe that I was in the hospital last year.”

To learn more about Emory Heart and Vascular Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/heart.

The Link Between the Flu and Heart Attack

Doctors have discovered a link between heart attacks and the flu. Not only does the flu vaccine help prevent more than a bad cold, it has the potential to lower the chance of having a heart attack for those who are at high risk.

“When someone comes into the hospital with a heart attack, it’s not uncommon that this individual has had some type of viral illness or process in the recent past,” said Dr. Laurence Sperling of Emory Heart & Vascular Center.

In one study, participants 35 years and older whom were at risk of a heart attack increased their risk six times within a week of getting the flu.

The vaccine may be effective short-term against heart attacks like quitting smoking or taking blood pressure medications.

“Every single one of our patients who has heart disease, part of our process is to discuss a flu vaccine. Not just to prevent the flu, but as a means of preventing a heart problem,” Sperling said.

About Emory Heart & Vascular Center

Here at the Emory Healthcare Heart & Vascular Center, your heart and vascular health is our priority. Our program is consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top heart health centers in the nation. The center has a national reputation for treating complicated heart conditions by using the most advanced treatment options and therapies.


Heart to Heart: Transplant Recipients Celebrate Life

Throughout the month of February, we celebrate the heart. For heart transplant patients, they celebrate their heart and the gift of life, throughout the entire year.

On February 10, 2018, 64 recipients, including three listed patients awaiting new hearts, attended the 28th Heart-to-Heart Celebration at Emory’s Miller-Ward Alumni House with their families, friends, and Emory staff members. Participants spent time with each other and their health care teams while reminiscing the waits they endured for their new hearts. They also commemorated the selfless donor families that gave the gift of life to someone else during their time of sorrow.

“The Emory Heart Transplant Program has completed more than 800 heart transplants to date, but we couldn’t do any of this work without the organ donors and their families who chose to give life to others,” says Andrew Smith, MD, medical director of Emory’s Heart Transplant Program and professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine. “Our patients never lose this important focus.”

Each year, the recipient who has had their new heart the longest is recognized, along with the patient who has most recently received their new heart. Seventy-three-year-old Harry Wuest, who received his heart transplant 33 years ago at Saint Joseph’s Hospital (now Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital), held the record for the “oldest new heart,” while 44-year-old Bernard McGrady received his new heart just 12 days before the event.

Thomas Craney

Other patients attending the event included Atlanta resident, 33-year-old Thomas Craney, who received his new heart in November 2017. Craney has a genetic condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia or ARVD, a rare form of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle of the right ventricle is replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue. Patients with ARVD often have arrhythmias (or abnormal heart rhythms) which can increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest or death. Craney’s mother and brother have also had heart transplants.

Craney was diagnosed with the condition in 2016. In August 2017, he was admitted to Emory University Hospital and spent the next four months waiting for his new heart. Now in 2018, the Georgia Tech research engineer says he’s doing “phenomenal” after his heart transplant and is very active once again. And with his new heart, he plans to marry his fiancée in April of this year.

Sabrina Lyons

Cumming resident Sabrina Lyons was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995. She received radiation and chemotherapy to treat the disease, but after multiple chemotherapy treatments, her heart began to weaken. Doctors stopped the chemotherapy regimen, but Lyons spent the next 20 years visiting different cardiologists for help and guidance.

In October 2016, Lyons was in need of a heart transplant and was admitted to Emory University Hospital. She waited just 10 days for her new heart. Eleven days after her transplant, she was back at home. Just a few short weeks later, she proudly cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her family of 10 with little assistance.

Dale Stodghill

Fifty-two-year-old Norman “Dale” Stodghill went to the doctor several times for shortness of breath and fatigue in 2014. When he was hospitalized and in a coma for two days, he learned he had developed congestive heart failure and would need a heart transplant. After a two-month stay at Emory University Hospital, he was well enough to receive a Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD. An LVAD is implanted into the heart to help pump blood to the rest of the body, decreasing the work of the left ventricle. Stodghill was able to go home with the pump, traveling and doing normal activities while being supported by the LVAD. However, water activities, such as fishing and swimming, were off-limits with the pump.

Stodghill wore the LVAD for 19 months while waiting for a heart. A malfunction of the device sent him to the hospital, where he was moved up to the highest status for needing a heart. In July 2016, a few days after being admitted to the hospital, Stodghill received his new heart. Since then, Stodghill says he feels great, almost like he can “take off running.” And he’s able to fish again.

Emory Heart Transplant Program

Emory was the first hospital in Georgia to perform a heart transplant, which took place in 1985. Since then, more than 1,500 heart transplants have taken place in the state of Georgia.

“In recent years, the one-year survival rate nationally for heart transplant patients is 90 percent,” says cardiologist Smith. “At Emory, that survival rate is 94 percent. For each year after the first year, there is over 96 percent chance of ongoing survival, so the outcomes are very promising.”

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 115,000 people across the nation are on waiting lists for a life-saving organ transplant. In Georgia, more than 5,400 are waiting. Dr. Smith says signing up to be an organ donor and telling your family of your wishes are vital elements in helping to reduce the number of people waiting for organs.

About Emory Heart and Vascular Center

Here at the Emory Healthcare Heart & Vascular Center, your heart and vascular health is our priority. Our program is consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top heart health centers in the nation for treating complicated heart conditions.  In this center, cardiology, vascular surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, cardiac imaging and other subspecialties come together to provide comprehensive heart care.


Real Patients, Real Stories: Sol Kaslow’s Chance to See Restored Patrol Torpedo

It took Sol Kaslow five decades to talk about being part of the invasion of Normandy as a young navy signalman on a Patrol Torpedo (PT) boat.

“I couldn’t handle talking about it,” he says. “You live like it just happened.”

Then, for his 80th birthday, he and his wife, Florence, returned with a tour group to Normandy, where Allied Forces landed on the northern coast of occupied France on June 6, 1944, in a well-planned invasion against Germany.

As the tour guide started talking about the assault—which remains the largest amphibious military invasion in history—Kaslow said, “Let me tell it, I was there.”

Now 92, Kaslow, the only living member of his PT crew that was in the Normandy invasion, plans to be on the world’s only restored PT-305 when it launches in New Orleans this spring.

It’s a chance he wouldn’t have had without the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) heart procedure to address a severe narrowing of his aortic valve.

“My cardiologist said I didn’t have long to go because there wasn’t enough blood circulating,” says Kaslow, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, who had been feeling more tired than normal. “I had no pain, so I wasn’t aware of how serious it was. He said I might have a few more years, or I could go at any minute if I didn’t have it.”

After consulting with cardiologist Vasilis Babaliaros at Emory, Kaslow and his family decided he would undergo TAVR, which is less invasive than open heart surgery. “Aortic stenosis is progressive and relentless,” says Babaliaros. “Once you develop symptoms, you are at high risk for sudden death or chronic heart failure, which is often fatal within three years. In the past, the only alternatives for these patients were hospice and palliative care.”

“I’ve had a good life and wanted a few more years if possible,” Kaslow says.

“We all recognized that the decision for someone at my dad’s age to undergo such a procedure is a complex one. We had a lot of questions about the risks and the benefits,” says his daughter, Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Hospital and a professor and vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory. She knew her dad wouldn’t be happy with a sedentary life. “He played tennis until he was 90,” she says, “and exercised five times a week, right up until the surgery.”

With TAVR, patients do not have to have their chest opened, their heart stopped, or go on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine. Instead, during the procedure, a team of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons thread a replacement valve up through an artery in the patient’s groin and into place in his heart. The technique allows patients to recover more quickly with fewer complications.

Originally used to treat only those patients deemed high risk, TAVR has proven to be an effective treatment for intermediate-risk patients and is in clinical trials with low-risk patients. Emory has performed 2,000 TAVR procedures, more than anywhere else in the Southeast. Babaliaros trained in France with Alain Cribier, the founder of TAVR, and is a protégé of Emory cardiologist Peter Block, a pioneer in structural intervention.

“We continue to push the boundaries, finding ways to help those who have been turned away elsewhere,” Babaliaros says.

About Emory Heart & Vascular Center

Here at the Emory Healthcare Heart & Vascular Center, your heart and vascular health is our priority. Our program is consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top heart health centers in the nation. The center has a national reputation for treating complicated heart conditions by using the most advanced treatment options and therapies.

Learn more about Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR).


Real Patients, Real Stories: Bill Hutchens’ Problem Solved

Alpharetta resident, Bill Hutchens, is constantly solving problems in his career as an IT consultant. However, not too long ago, he realized that he had stumbled onto something that he couldn’t solve.

Frequent angina pains similar to extreme heartburn.

But with the help of Emory Saint Joseph’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, the 51-year-old is back on the soccer field, pursuing the hobby that he loves so much. “There’s no doubt in my mind that soccer has been a life-changing event for me. If I hadn’t been such an active player the past ten years, I wouldn’t have noticed the physical changes, and I would have collapsed in my backyard. Somebody was watching out for me for sure,” he says.

Because Hutchens has a family history of heart problems, he has always been vigilant about annual physicals and stress tests. His father had his first open heart surgery at the age of 42, his mother passed away three years ago during a procedure, and Hutchens’ grandfather died at 52 after a massive heart attack.

“I knew I was at risk, but nothing showed up until a couple of years ago when I noticed my stamina on the soccer field was decreasing. I used to be able to spend 20 minutes on the field, and then I became so tired, it went down to 10 minutes and then three minutes.”

“I was talking to my sister (the manager of a cardiac rehab in California), and she told me to go to my cardiologist immediately,” Hutchens adds.

After undergoing a cardiac cath procedure, doctors discovered that Hutchens had three blockages and they promptly inserted stents.

He discovered that not only the physical but the psychological experience after the procedure was extremely difficult. “I went through a couple of weeks with aches and pains before starting cardiac rehab, and I began asking “Is this what my Mom and Dad have experienced?” Am I going to die?’”

When Hutchens was medically able to begin rehab, the staff created an individualized program for him, based on his health and exercise history.

“At first, rehab was really tough and it was an eye-opener. That’s when I realized how sick I had been, and with the help of the entire staff in cardiac rehab, I’ve come a long way,” he says.

“The staff taught me that you can’t overdo it,” he adds about wearing a monitor to track his progress, to keep within the targeted heart rate range. His rehab plan consists of one-and-a-half hour sessions three days per week, and Hutchens now knows the importance of monitoring his pulse and target heart rate.

“My blood pressure was always borderline high; now it is great, better than it has been my entire adult life and my cholesterol levels have dropped. I feel so much better now that I’ve completed cardiac rehab.

“In reality, I’m not a young kid anymore, but I have returned to everyday activities with a renewed education on “heart healthy” activities and living style. Thank you, Emory Saint Joseph’s Cardiac Rehabilitation team for the excellent support and care!”

or call 678-843-7633.

Real Patients, Real Stories: Luis Aparicio on a Second Chance

A fit, athletic 64-year-old and lifelong rower, Luis Aparicio is the last person you would imagine suffering a near-fatal heart attack. Much like his life story, Aparicio’s recovery is all about dedication and persistence. Thanks to the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, he is eagerly sharing his powerful story with others.

“I’m a miracle,” Aparicio says. “I will always be grateful to cardiac rehab because they have empowered me.”

Aparicio’s story began as a young boy growing up in Mexico City. While his friends were active soccer players, Aparicio never took a liking to the popular sport in his hometown.

“I wasn’t good in soccer, so my coach took me to the rowing club,” he says.

At the age of 13, Aparicio had such a natural talent for rowing, that his dedication to the sport included riding on six buses across town for two-daily training sessions. The hard work paid off, and Aparicio represented Mexico in the Olympic Games of 1968, 1972 and 1976.

In his mid-20s, Aparicio returned to school, earned a masters degree in world history. Fluent in six languages, he began working as a translator for Olympic athletes and for NBC Sports but continued to participate in rowing championships all over the world, including the Pan American Games and the U.S. Masters National Rowing Competition. Through the years, Aparicio has won an impressive 675 medals.

A few months ago, Aparicio was competing for the 11th time in the world’s largest two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Massachusetts with fellow members of the Atlanta Rowing Club. What should have been a typical competition for Aparicio, instead turned into a fight for his life.

Mid-race, Aparicio suffered a massive heart attack and was transported to the hospital. The prognosis was grim — he was in an induced coma and doctors told his wife to prepare for the worst.

“In the morning, I was dead, and in the evening, I moved my toes,” says Aparicio, about the miraculous change in his condition.

After nine days in the hospital, Aparicio was transported back to Atlanta, where his long journey back to health began with his participation in an extensive cardiac rehabilitation program.

“The first session, I couldn’t even walk and every step was so painful,” says Aparicio after suffering nine broken ribs from CPR administered during his heart attack. “Now I’m back, and the progress I have made with them is unbelievable,” he added.

“If anyone tells you that rehab doesn’t work, tell them to come see me. This can happen to anyone at any time.”

Emory Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Getting your heart healthy and strong is an important step after recovering from a heart attack and if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or are at high risk for a heart attack or other cardiac disease. The Emory Cardiac Rehabilitation Program gives you the resources and tools you need to lead a healthier, happier life.

or call us at 678-843-7633

Your Heart Questions Answered by Emory Women’s Heart Center

heart-stethoscopeThank you for participating in American Heart Month! We would like to thank our experts Dr. Alexis CutchinsDr. M Carolina GongoraDr. Gina Lundberg, and Dr. Susmita Parashar,  from Emory Women’s Heart Center, for answering your submitted questions.

Review Part 2 questions and answers here!

What services does the Women’s Heart Center Offer?

The Emory Women’s Heart Center offers comprehensive cardiac risk assessments and education for women at risk for heart disease. If necessary, the Center can also assist with referrals. Screenings are beneficial to those who have a family history of heart disease or risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, smoking, and/or diabetes. The initial two-hour screening includes a review of family history of heart disease and a comprehensive global risk assessment that includes age, blood pressure, total cholesterol level, HDL level, blood glucose, smoking history, pregnancy history, hypertension history, and individualized education based on your risk factors. Screenings can be self-referred and start at $75.

You can learn more by visiting our website: www.emoryhealthcare.org/womensheart

Is there a favored blood thinner for use in women versus men or in general? I use warfarin and it is well controlled, but I am tired of the constant checks.

The real question is “why do you take warfarin?”  Warfarin is the only drug approved for mechanical heart valves. But when people take blood thinners for atrial fibrillation, there are other newer, better, and safer options. There is no blood thinner better in women but Eliquis, Xarelto, and Pradaxa are very safe in women and do not require routine blood testing. These drugs are no more risk for bleeding complications than warfarin but provide better protection from stroke compared to warfarin.

How do I know if any of my arteries are clogged? If they are, how can I unclog them? 

A great early detection test for atherosclerosis is the CT scan of the chest for coronary artery calcification (CAC). It shows when atherosclerotic plaque has started to calcify which is an early stage in the development of coronary disease.

All adults should follow a plant-based low-fat low cholesterol diet. All adults should exercise routinely and strive to maintain normal body weight and have their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose checked for a coronary artery disease risk assessment.

The best way to “unclog arteries” is a healthy lifestyle. When blockages are limiting blood flow to the heart, other interventions may be needed.

I have some shoulder pain at times and pain in both my left and right arms. Could that be a heart problem or just old age?

Pain due to limited blood flow to the heart can give symptoms of heaviness or pain in the neck, jaw, chest, shoulders, back, upper abdomen, or in either arm.  The only way to know if these pains are coming from the heart is through proper cardiac testing. Please let your doctor know if you are having these symptoms and get a proper evaluation. If the symptoms are severe or intense, call 911 and go to the emergency room immediately.

How do you begin healing the heart and lungs after a long period of smoking? Is it even possible?

When someone quits using nicotine through cigarettes, the lungs start to improve immediately. Within a year, the lungs are greatly improved and the risk of cancer is reduced. But reversing the nicotine effects on the heart arteries can take up to 15 years. But it’s never too late to get benefits from smoking cessation.

I have chronic atrial flutter, I would like to know if it can cause a heart attack?

Atrial flutter, which is very similar to atrial fibrillation, can be from many things. High blood pressure, valvular heart problems, sleep apnea, blocked arteries to the heart, and even thyroid problems can cause these heart rhythms. The greatest risks are associated with the underlying causes. Atrial fibrillation and flutter can lead to a stroke and so it is important to get proper medications to reduce these risk. It’s also important to have a proper evaluation to try to determine the underlying cause of atrial fibrillation.

I was told I have costochondritis. Does this have a link to heart failure?

Costochondritis is inflammation of the chest wall, sternum, and ribs. It can be quite painful. It is also rather common. Recurrent costochondritis can be associated with rheumatologic and connective tissue disorders.  But costochondritis is not a heart problem at all and does not lead to heart problems. It is a musculoskeletal problem of the chest wall.

I have tachycardia and my chest hurts very often. My whole arm is numb and when I go to the doctor, the electrocardiogram does not display anything. I come from ancestors who had catalepsy. Do you have any advice for me?

I cannot speak completely to your symptoms from this short description, you may need to see a physician in person. An electrocardiogram in the office may not capture what you are experiencing if your symptoms have subsided by the time you get there. You may need to wear an event monitor to see what your heart rhythm is when it goes fast.

I am a 70-year-old woman. I am in good health, but some nights when l am very concerned about my loved one, I can’t fall asleep and my heart beats are very strong. It doesn’t seem normal. Do I need to get checked by a doctor?

This symptom could be stress-related extra beats which will feel stronger than regular beats but are usually benign. Often times we have extra beats throughout the day but don’t really feel them until lying in bed quietly at night when there are no other distractions. If you are experiencing lightheadedness or shortness of breath with these beats that are concerning and you should be evaluated by a physician who may ask you to wear a heart monitor. Sometimes these extra beats can also be induced by caffeine so avoiding caffeine may help. If your symptoms become more frequent and inhibit your ability to sleep I would recommend an evaluation.

What happens when a person is told that the valve in the heart does not close well when the blood enters and leaves but that the problem is mild? Is there any discomfort in those moments? Can this cause tachycardia or distress?

Many people have mild leaking across some of the valves in the heart. This mild leak should not cause any symptoms and should be very well tolerated. It is not uncommon to find this incidentally on an echo.

I have an enlarged heart. How should I follow up with this situation? Can this condition be helped with diet changes and exercise and holistic living?

There are many different things that could cause an “enlarged heart.” It is actually a very vague term. Without more detail, I cannot really answer the question. Sounds like the first step would be an echocardiogram.

I have Right Bundle Branch Blockage. I don’t understand what it is. I wasn’t put on any medication. Is there anything I need to watch for? Will it go away? What causes it?

Some people are born with a Right Bundle Branch Block, others develop this over time. It is a minor abnormality in the conduction system of your heart. It should not cause any symptoms and does not require treatment or medication. Sometimes, a Right Bundle Branch Block can be an indication of strain on the right side of the heart. If you are at risk for sleep apnea or have other symptoms like shortness of breath, then your doctor may want to order an echo. If this was an asymptomatic, incidental finding then no further workup is needed.

I am about to start my Keto diet for the third time. Is this diet okay for heart health?

We typically recommend the Mediterranean and DASH diets which have shown to reduce the risk of developing and worsening heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional foods from Italy and Greece, hence the name. It consists of daily servings of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts and whole grains. Frequent ingestion of fish, moderate ingestion of low-fat yogurt and cheese and eggs, and infrequent ingestion of red meats, refined oils, refined grains and processed sweets. This diet has been shown to prevent heart disease and stroke.

The DASH diet is meant to prevent hypertension. It favors food lower in sodium and richer in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It is similar to the Mediterranean diet in recommending intake of plenty of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products, as well as whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.

Can your healthcare facility do anything if you’re in stage 3 congested heart failure? If anything can be done for coronary artery disease, how do you get put on the waiting list for a heart transplant? What are some options if you can’t do anything for coronary artery disease and congested heart failure?

Emory Healthcare has a specialty center dedicated to caring for individuals with congestive heart failure – the Advanced Heart Failure Therapy Center. You may visit the website to learn more about this center including how to make an appointment. Your questions are very specific and difficult to answer without a full medical history and physical examination. We would recommend seeing one of our specialists for a full evaluation.

Review Part 2 questions and answers here!

To learn more about Emory Healthcare’s Heart and Vascular Center, please visit: www.emoryhealthcare.org/heart

Emory Healthcare welcomes and encourages open discussions on all of Emory Healthcare’s social media sites. We look forward to any comments, stories, interactions, and experiences you want to share online. Before posting, please be mindful that Emory Healthcare’s social media sites are open to the public. DO NOT disclose any personal information that you do not want to be shared. By sending any content over the internet, you acknowledge that you assume full responsibility related to security, privacy, and confidentiality risks. The information presented here is NOT intended to replace a consultation with a qualified medical professional or take place of professional medical care. Due to a large number of questions we received, we are unable to answer all questions. The questions selected above are (in our opinion) of value to all readers.  

Why Do I Have Varicose Veins and What Can I Do About It?

Live Chat Q&A: Varicose Veins Thanks to those of you who joined us on Tuesday, April 4th for our live online chat “Why do I have varicose veins and what can I do about it?” hosted by Dr. Mark Rheudasil from the Emory Vein Center.

Dr. Rheudasil provided valuable insights on the causes of varicose veins including contributing factors like heredity and pregnancy, the treatment options available for varicose veins and spider veins, and lifestyle changes that can help minimize discomfort from varicose veins.

The live chat had a good turnout and is now available online.

Varicose Veins Q&A

Apr 4 2017, 11:57 AM
EmoryHealthcare: We are starting the live chat in 4 min Are you, guys, ready with your questions?

Apr 4 2017, 12:00 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Welcome, everyone! Thanks for joining us today for our web chat “Why do I have varicose veins and what can I do about it?” with Dr. Rheudasil of Emory Vein Center.

Apr 4 2017, 12:00 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery and the American Venous Forum. He is also a member the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery and is a past President of the Georgia Vascular Society and the Atlanta Vascular Society.

Apr 4 2017, 12:01 PM
EmoryHealthcare: We’ll get started in just a minute. Dr. Rheudasil is here to answer all of your questions! Ask away

Apr 4 2017, 12:01 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Please note that all questions are moderated before appearing in the stream, so you may not see yours appear right away, just give it a moment Dr. Rheudasil is answering every question live right now. By the way, have you already shared our live chat with your friends on Facebook and Twitter? Invite them to join now The more the merrier

Apr 4 2017, 12:02 PM
EmoryHealthcare: We received some questions that were submitted in advance through our website and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/emoryhealthcare/ so we’ll get started by answering a few of those first.

Apr 4 2017, 12:03 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Freida asked: “If I have a surgery, will the veins return and will I have to take time off work?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:03 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Freida, it is possible for new or recurrent veins to occur following vein treatment. These veins are usually less severe but may require additional treatment. Our treatment plans typically can take up to 6 six months to complete. The treatment plans will involve the primary vein ablation procedure followed by 1 or more sclerotherapy sessions. After the initial treatment, we will be evaluating your legs and determining if additional sclerotherapy is needed along the way.

Apr 4 2017, 12:04 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Freida, over time, your veins will begin to improve. Typically, patients are able to return to work the following day after their ablation procedure. There is no time away from work when you are having sclerotherapy.

Apr 4 2017, 12:05 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Julie asked: “Should I wait until I lose weight to have spider veins removed? Or will having it done prevent them from getting worse? Difference in going to a “Vein-R-Us” type place to have this done and going to an Emory doc?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:05 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Julie, weight loss will help with vein treatment since any additional weight will cause an increase in pressure in the legs causing the vein to bulge abnormally. Generally, I would recommend veins be treated prior to weight loss to address the current problem and to alleviate future worsening.

Apr 4 2017, 12:06 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Julie, the difference between a Vein-R-Us facility & the Emory Vein Center is that any physician can be employed to perform these procedures at those types of places, that means a dermatologist, an anesthesiologist, OBGYN primary care, etc can perform procedures on your veins. At the Emory Vein Center, only certified vascular surgeons who are trained in venous disorders are evaluating and treating your veins based on their expertise and training.

Apr 4 2017, 12:07 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Jean asked: “I used to be VERY heavy.
Over 8 years of losing & keeping the weight off – I have spider veins & some varicose I suspect – pinch & burn & hurt now and then.
Never had that issue when I was heavy. Is this unusual?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:08 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer is coming but we also want to encourage YOU to ask your questions here What’s on your mind today about the topic?

Apr 4 2017, 12:09 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Jean, these veins may not have much to do with your weight changes”

Apr 4 2017, 12:10 PM
Guest1023 (Guest): Mainly the left lower leg – with spider veins at ankles n top of feet on both / Jean

Apr 4 2017, 12:11 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Jean, did we answer your question? Thanks for details.

Apr 4 2017, 12:12 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Amanda asked: “Does pregnancy increase varicose veins?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:12 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Amanda, the answer is on its way

Apr 4 2017, 12:13 PM
Guest1023 (Guest): Yes – I’m the jean who submitted the one you just answered.

Apr 4 2017, 12:13 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Jean, we know it Glad to help

Apr 4 2017, 12:13 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Amanda, here’s Dr. Rheudasil’s answer for you: “Dear Amanda, yes, pregnancy is a common risk factor for varicose veins and will almost always make pre-existing veins worse. Just like any weight gain, you’re adding additional pressure to the legs, which increases pressure on the valves in the veins and that in turn can cause the valves to malfunction causing venous insufficiency.”

Apr 4 2017, 12:14 PM
Guest1037 (Guest): Do you have to do the vein mapping first? Standing in place for 45 minutes is difficult and made me sick. I did not use that clinic as they could not answer questions I was asking

Apr 4 2017, 12:15 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1037, great question! Dr. Rheudasil’s answer is on its way

Apr 4 2017, 12:15 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Have you, guys, checked out Dr. Rheudasil’s online profile at https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/physicians/r/rheudasil-j-mark.html

Apr 4 2017, 12:17 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1037, most studies can be performed without the patient needing to stand. Our vascular lab uses the reversed Trendelenburg position for the venous testing which means they put the patient in a foot down position for the majority of the examination. Depending on your clinical evaluation with the physician, you may not need ultrasound testing. For example, spider veins alone may not require diagnostic testing. Each treatment plan is individualized to meet each patient’s need.

Apr 4 2017, 12:18 PM
Guest1319 (Guest): It’s hard for me to get to Clifton Rd. can I receive treatment at any other Emory locations?

Apr 4 2017, 12:20 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1319, absolutely!

Apr 4 2017, 12:21 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1319, the Emory physicians provide vein treatment at many other locations. We see patients on the Emory Saint Joseph’s campus as well as have offices in Roswell, Johns Creek and Buckhead. You can call our office at 404-778-VEIN to speak with our call center agents and they can assist you with an appointment at the location of your choice.

Apr 4 2017, 12:22 PM
Mark97 (Guest): Is the process or treatments to get varicose veins removed the same for men? I’d like to have this done.

Apr 4 2017, 12:23 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Mark97, yes, the evaluation and treatment for varicose veins is exactly the same for males as it is for females.

Apr 4 2017, 12:25 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Jeannine asked: “My mom has varicose veins. Does that mean I will too?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:26 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Jeannine, no, but heredity is a common risk factor and you will have a higher likelihood of varicose veins than the general population.”

Apr 4 2017, 12:26 PM
michasims (Guest): How painful is sclerotherapy? Mild or scream your head off painful?

Apr 4 2017, 12:26 PM
Guest1037 (Guest): Is this procedure painful?

Apr 4 2017, 12:28 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @michasims and @Guest1037, here’s Dr. Rheudasil’s answer for you: “It has been almost 3 weeks since I have had a patient run screaming out of the room. Just kidding! Sclerotherapy involves multiple needle sticks that are described sometimes as a mosquito bite. We also have numbing cream available for patients to purchase who are extra sensitive. “

Apr 4 2017, 12:29 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Jacqueline asked “Can you remove swollen veins that show?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:30 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Jacqueline, yes, treatment will often require closing or removing large veins. Venous ablation is our primary procedure that is performed to close the abnormal vein. You can see some before and after pictures here: https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/centers-programs/vein-center/treatments.html

Apr 4 2017, 12:30 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Jacqueline, after the first treatment, we will need to evaluate how your vessel reacts. There is a possibility that the vein will not close in all desired locations. However, that is why we follow up with sclerotherapy to close the remaining vessels, which you can also read about on that page I just shared with you.

Apr 4 2017, 12:30 PM
Guest5075 (Guest): Can I be treated the same day or will I need to come back?

Apr 4 2017, 12:33 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest5075, the answer is on its way right now.

Apr 4 2017, 12:34 PM
EmoryHealthcare: You all are asking great questions! Remember to invite your friends to join the live chat, so we can also help answer their questions. We have 26 minutes together still So, invite them

Apr 4 2017, 12:35 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest5075, the process will start with an evaluation with the physician. During this time your medical history will be discussed as well as getting an understanding of your venous concerns and what your expectations are. In most cases, an ultrasound is needed to develop a treatment plan and insurance approval for vein treatment often takes several weeks. Vein treatment is a process that often requires a number of vein visits over time.

Apr 4 2017, 12:36 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Susan asked “I have spider veins after chemo and radiation treatment. Can you help?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:36 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Susan, yes, absolutely we can treat spider veins with injection sclerotherapy. The fact that these vessels occurred after chemotherapy will not change or affect the treatment plan.”

Apr 4 2017, 12:36 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Nancy asked “Does weight play a role in addition to heredity?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:36 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Nancy, yes, being overweight is a risk factor for varicose veins, as is a family history.”

Apr 4 2017, 12:37 PM
Guest1037 (Guest): Where does blood go after vein is removed?

Apr 4 2017, 12:38 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1037, the blood is redirected into other veins. Does this help answer your question?

Apr 4 2017, 12:38 PM
gigi (Guest): hi there! i’m scheduled to have my spider veins treated next week and am flying to dubai 2 days later. is it safe to fly?

Apr 4 2017, 12:38 PM
Guest1037 (Guest): Does initial cost include follow ups?

Apr 4 2017, 12:39 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @GiGi, here’s Dr. Rheudasil’s answer for you: “Hi Gigi! I would reschedule one of those appointments! Air travel is generally prohibited 7-10 days after vein treatment. This recommendation is to reduce the potential risk of clot formation”

Apr 4 2017, 12:42 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1037, unfortunately, no. Each visit / treatment will involve a separate charge. However; treatments are often covered by your insurance.

Apr 4 2017, 12:43 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Busch asked “What happens to blood that goes thru veins destroyed?”

Apr 4 2017, 12:43 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Dr. Rheudasil’s answer: “Dear Busch, the body is amazing, your blood will reroute into other veins by taking the path of least resistance.”

Apr 4 2017, 12:45 PM
EmoryHealthcare: These questions have been great, guys! We have time now for just 2-3 more question. Any remaining questions will be answered by Dr. Rheudasil in the post-chat Q&A.

Apr 4 2017, 12:46 PM
Guest1037 (Guest): I have so many veins was a bit nervous that I would have issues removing

Apr 4 2017, 12:46 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1037, what issues are you afraid of?

Apr 4 2017, 12:47 PM
gigi (Guest): this has been very informative. thanks Emory!

Apr 4 2017, 12:48 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @GiGi, you’re welcome!

Apr 4 2017, 12:48 PM
Guest4028 (Guest): Should I wait until I have lost weight to have my spider veins removed? Or will removing them now prevent new spider veins from being created, or worsening?

Apr 4 2017, 12:48 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest4028, here’s Dr. Rheudasil’s answer for you: “We recommend treating spider veins when they are bothersome enough to the patient. Weight loss is not necessary to begin treatment. Unfortunately, spider vein treatment does not reduce the risk of future spider vein formation.”

Apr 4 2017, 12:49 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest1037, BTW, extensive vein treatment is quite common and you will not “run out of veins

Apr 4 2017, 12:50 PM
EmoryHealthcare: We have 10 min left

Apr 4 2017, 12:51 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Your questions have been wonderful, thank you for your engagement. We want to hear 2 last questions. As away!

Apr 4 2017, 12:51 PM
Guest4028 (Guest): Do spider veins grow up to become varicose veins, or are they two different problems?

Apr 4 2017, 12:52 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest4028, the answer for you is on its way Thanks for the great question!

Apr 4 2017, 12:53 PM
EmoryHealthcare: We can probably take 1 more question now. As away!

Apr 4 2017, 12:54 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest4028, here’s Dr. Rheudasil’s answer for you: “Dear Guest4028, no, spider veins never grow up, they are two separate conditions. Many patients have a combination of both spider and varicose veins. Spider veins are small thread-like veins that are a cosmetic problem only and varicose veins are larger veins that protrude from the skins service and are more likely to cause symptoms”

Apr 4 2017, 12:54 PM
gigi (Guest): good to know air travel isn’t smart after getting treatment. thanks!

Apr 4 2017, 12:55 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @GiGi, we want you to have time to heal so you can enjoy being healthy later You’re welcome Safe travels!

Apr 4 2017, 12:56 PM
Guest4028 (Guest): Does insurance cover spider veins, varicose veins, or both? I’ve heard insurance treats spider veins as a cosmetic only issue – but mine hurt!

Apr 4 2017, 12:56 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest4028, thank you for your question. We are about to answer. We have 4 min left

Apr 4 2017, 12:58 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Just wanted to remind everyone that we have a web page with FAQ you can bookmark right now at http://bit.ly/2nTIEXh

Apr 4 2017, 12:59 PM
EmoryHealthcare: We share videos there that are full of great information, so make sure you check it out and share with friends http://bit.ly/2nTIEXh

Apr 4 2017, 1:00 PM
EmoryHealthcare: @Guest4028, here’s Dr. Rheudasil’s answer for you: “Dear Guest4028, Spider veins seldom cause symptoms and treatment is not usually covered by insurance. Patients that have larger varicose veins are more likely to have symptoms and treatment is often covered by insurance.”

Apr 4 2017, 1:00 PM
Guest4028 (Guest): How many veins can be treated at one session? What is the average number of sessions required for moderate spider veins?

Apr 4 2017, 1:01 PM
EmoryHealthcare: We ran out of time and will continue answering your questions on this page in a few days. We will post all responses here, so come back often, or, even better, bookmark this page right now.

Apr 4 2017, 1:01 PM
EmoryHealthcare: Thanks, everyone, for joining today, have a great day!

Learn More At Emory Vein Center 

About Dr. Rheudasil

Mark Rheudasil, MD, graduated magna cum laude from Abilene Christian University in Texas and he earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 1983. He completed a general surgery internship and residency program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and also completed a fellowship in vascular surgery at Emory University in 1989.

Dr. Rheudasil is a board certified vascular surgeon. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery and the American Venous Forum. He is also a member the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery and is a past President of the Georgia Vascular Society and the Atlanta Vascular Society.

Takeaways from Dr. Jokhadar’s and Dr. Sahu’s Congenital Heart Disease Chat

congenital-heart-chat-emailThanks to everyone who joined us Tuesday, July 14, for our live online chat on “Congenital Heart Disease – Even Adults Need Special Care”. We were fortunate to have Dr. Maan Jokhadar and Dr. Anurag Sahu available to answer your questions during this chat.

If you are an adult who was treated for Congenital Heart Disease as a child, it’s important to have regular cardiology care through adulthood. An adult congenital heart specialist can monitor your health and insure that if any problems arise they are detected early. They can also guide you on lifestyle issues.

Our chat participants submitted good questions about Congenital Heart Disease related to the need for adult follow-up care, diet and exercise guidelines, travel concerns, the risks of pregnancy and more. If you missed this chat, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the web transcript.

Here are just a few highlights from the chat:

Question: I had surgery as a child, did that take care of the heart defect?

jokhadar-maanDr. Jokhadar: Some heart defects are in fact cured with heart surgery. However, most corrective surgeries improve the situation but do not completely cure it. This depends on many factors, including the type of defect and the type of surgery.



Question: Can’t my heart condition be monitored by my Internist during my annual physical?


Dr. Jokhadar: Some heart conditions can be monitored by an internist or general cardiologist. However, this depends on the complexity of congenital heart disease. Follow up should be determined by a specialist while coordinating with the patient’s primary care physicians.


Question: What are activities, food, etc. that should be avoided if you have been diagnosed with congenital heart disease?

Dr. Sahu: In terms of activity, we generally want all of our patients to maintain an active lifestyle. If you have questions about certain activities, you should talk to your congenital heart specialist.In terms of food, strive for a healthy and balanced diet (avoid sugars, fried foods, etc.). If you want a specific type of diet to follow, many cardiologists recommend the Mediterranean Diet as a heart-healthy option. For more on the Mediterranean diet you can check out this blog.


If you have additional questions for Dr. Jokhadar or Dr. Sahu, feel free to leave a comment in our comments area below.