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Early Detection Means Successful Treatment!
Finding a disease early on might prevent further complications and increase chances of easy management and even cure. There are a few different ways to catch the disease before it becomes a problem.
These methods include:
- diagnostic imaging
- routine physical exams
Ultrasounds play an important role in early detection, as a harmless, painless, and non-invasive tool to take an accurate look inside the body. Preventative ultrasounds include, but are not limited to: Carotid, Echocardiogram, Renal, Arterial and Venous. All of these, if done regularly, allow your physician to promptly detect any pathology and start treatment right away!
Preventative Care Categories
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA)
The abdominal aorta is the main blood vessel that comes off the heart into the chest and runs down the center of the abdomen to provide blood to the body. The abdominal aorta can become enlarged either at a certain area (known as an aneurysm) or the entire abdominal aorta is dilated (known as ectatic).
Signs and symptoms:
Most aneurysms remain small and don’t rupture. If an aortic aneurysm does enlarge, patients may notice a pulsating feeling in their abdomen, deep pain in the center or off to the side of the abdomen, or back pain.
Many risk factors have been identified leading to abdominal aortic aneurysms. The male gender and smoking are main factors. Family history, age of 65 or older, smoking, infection, and atherosclerosis (the build up of fat and plaque in arteries) are other known risk factors. These risk factors lead to recommendation of screenings. However, aneurysms can be found incidentally during a routine physical exam, an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.
Tears can occur in the walls of the aorta known as dissections. Dissections are the main complications of aortic aneurysms. However, the most life-threatening complication is the rupture of an aneurysm leading to internal bleeding. The aorta is the main supply of blood to the rest of the body making it extremely dangerous if a rupture occurs. Certain signs can be present that an aneurysm has gotten large enough to rupture. These include sudden, intense abdominal pain, back and leg pain, sweating, clamminess, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, fast pulse, loss of consciousness, and shortness of breath.
Treatment on aneurysms depends on the size. Small aneurysms (4 cm) with no symptoms are usually observed. Medium aneurysms (4-5.3 cm) can be surgically treated or monitored with an ultrasound every 6-12 months. Large aneurysms (>5.6 cm) require either open-abdominal surgery to remove the aneurysm or endovascular surgery to repair an aneurysm.
Ask your physician if an ultrasound of the Aorta is right for you!
Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid artery disease occurs when fatty deposits called plaque build up and clog the blood vessels that lead to your brain, known as the carotid arteries. Carotid artery disease develops slowly, but leads to a stroke reducing blood supply to the brain. The plaque that builds up in your carotid arteries is clumps and deposits of cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue, and other cellular debris. This process of plaque build up among the walls of arteries is known as atherosclerosis. These clogged arteries can become stiff and become narrower making it difficult to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Certain medical conditions and lifestyles can lead to carotid artery disease. These include high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, high cholesterol, family history, increasing age, obesity, sleep apnea, and lack of exercise.
Signs and Symptoms:
Signs and symptoms of carotid artery disease go hand in hand with stroke symptoms. These include sudden numbness or weakness, trouble speaking and seeing, dizziness, and a sudden severe headache.
The number one complication from carotid artery disease is a stroke due to reduced blood flow, ruptured plaque, and blood clot blockage. Your body reacts as if there was an injury and blood cells are sent to the plaque area causing an even larger clot that block or slows the flow of blood to the brain.
Although stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal, certain examinations should be done to prevent future stroke. A physical exam to listen to a swooshing sound of blood (bruit) is usually done first. Strength, memory, and speech can also be tested. A carotid ultrasound, CT or MRI, or angiographies are radiologic exams to obtain images and measurements to determine plaque build up in the carotid arteries including the severity.
Ask your doctor if an ultrasound of the Carotid Artery is right for you!
Understanding and Controlling Diabetes
What exactly is Diabetes?
Diabetes refers to a patient who has high blood glucose, or high blood sugar. This occurs due to inadequate insulin (a hormone that makes our body’s cells absorb sugar from the blood) production or a patient’s body not properly responding to insulin production.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes refers to the body not producing insulin and is prevalent in early adults and teenagers.
- Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent and refers to not enough insulin production to function properly. Overweight and obese patients are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes:
Frequent urination, frequent thirst, intense hunger, weight gain, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, skin and/or yeast infections, itchy skin, swollen gums and frequent gum disease/infection, sexual dysfunction among men, and numbness or tingling of hands and feet.
Treatment and Controlling Diabetes:
Type 1: Regularly taking insulin, low fat, salt, and sugar foods, fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, low calorie foods, 30 minutes of daily exercise,
Type 2: Type 2 diabetes often develops from being overweight and obese. Type 2 diabetics often just need to do more exercise, lose weight, and eat fewer carbs. Oral medication such as anti-diabetic drugs may need to be taken if the diabetes does not get better. Stopping smoking can help diabetics as well.
Heart disease is an umbrella of conditions and is often interchangeable with Cardiovascular Disease. A range of conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), congenital heart defects, blocked blood vessels leading to heart attack, and conditions affecting the heart muscles and valves make up forms of heart disease.
Symptoms of heart disease depend on age, gender, severity, and what kind of heart disease is presented. The main symptoms involved in heart diseases include chest pains known as angina, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, racing heartbeats (tachycardia), slow heartbeats (bradycardia), and leg swelling.
Cause of heart disease also depends on the type of heart problem presented. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. This leads to thick and stiff arterial walls inhibiting blood flow to major organs and tissues. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease. Most risk factors are preventable such as smoking, poor diet, obesity, inactivity, and poor hygiene. Other risk factors include age, male gender, family history, high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, and stress.
Complications of heart disease include heart failure (one of the most common), heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, peripheral artery disease, or sudden cardiac arrest.
Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and ask history questions to determine the best testing for you. Diagnoses of heart disease is through electrocardiograms (ECG), holter monitors that you wear to detect heart rhythm abnormalities, echocardiogram (noninvasive ultrasound of your heart), cardiac catheterization, CT scan, and MRI.
Lifestyle changes, medications, and procedures or surgery are amongst the treatment options for various heart diseases based on the patient and severity of the heart disease.
Ask your physician if you are at risk for heart disease and if an echocardiogram is right for you!
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Blood pressure refers to the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to the blood flow in your arteries. When your heart pumps more blood and your arteries are narrow, you blood pressure gets higher.
Primary (essential) and Secondary
- Primary hypertension develops gradually over many years with no identifiable cause.
- Secondary hypertension occurs from an underlying condition. This type appears suddenly and is often more intense. Kidney problems, adrenal gland tumors, thyroid problems, congenital defects, medications, illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, or sleep apnea can cause this type of hypertension.
Age, race (African Americans tend to be more prevelant), family history, overweight, obesity, no physical activity, tobacco use, too much salt in your diet, too little potassium, too little vitamin D, alcohol, stress, kidney disease, sleep apnea.
Most people, even with dangerously high levels, exhibit no signs or symptoms of hypertension. Early stages can lead to dizziness, dull headaches, or a few nosebleeds. However, this usually only occurs when the hypertension reaches a severe level. Blood pressure can easily be detected by your doctor and should be checked at least every two years starting at age 18 to avoid reaching these symptoms.
The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater damage. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart attack or stroke, aneurysm (weakening and bulging of your arteries), heart failure, weakened kidney blood vessels, thickened or torn blood vessels in the eyes, metabolic syndrome referring to a cluster of disorders of your body’s metabolism, and trouble with memory or understanding
High Cholesterol: Understanding the Risks and Complications
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in the fats in your blood. Cholesterol is needed to build healthy cells. However, having high cholesterol can increase risk of heart disease and other complications. This is due to the fact that fatty deposits get into your blood vessels making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Not enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart can lead to heart attack as well as decreased blood flow to the brain can lead to stroke.
Types of Cholesterol:
Different types of cholesterol combined with proteins are carried through your blood. These include low-density lipoprotein (LDL), very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is referred to as “bad” cholesterol narrowing and hardening you arteries. HDL is the “good” cholesterol picking up the excess cholesterol. However, inactivity, obesity, and an unhealthy diet will contribute to the opposite and raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower the good (HDL).
While genetic make up and inheritance can contribute to high cholesterol, it often results from unhealthy lifestyle choices. These include smoking, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, and diabetes.
High cholesterol can eventually lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis refers to a dangerous amount of cholesterol in your arteries and plaque build up. Reduced blood flow can lead to chest pains, a heart attack, or stroke.
Diet and exercise as well as other lifestyle changes are the first line of defense against high cholesterol. However, if your levels remain high, medications or a combination of medications can be given to help lower your cholesterol.