Heart Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Heart disease is a major concern in Canada as one of the leading causes of death. Heart disease doesn’t always present like a classic heart attack. If you have anyof the following symptoms, especially more than one, you should speak to your doctor:

Chest pain – a burning, pinching, fullness, or heavy/crushing feeling in the chest may be a sign of heart attack. If you suspect you are having one, call 911. Note that women don’t tend to experience heart attacks the way men do

Nausea, sweating, and dizziness – women experience nausea during a heart attack more often than men. Persistent nausea, indigestion, stomach pain, or heartburn can be signs of heart disease

Palpitations – irregular heart beats or a feeling of fluttering in the chest

Weakness and fatigue – a common symptom with many conditions and they could be associated with the heart

Shortness of breath – either suddenly or during physical activities

Swollen ankles or feet – heart valve disease can cause these symptoms

Cough – heart failure can cause a cough that includes white sputum

Rapid weight gain – it’s possible to gain a few pounds a day if the heart is failing

Fainting–as with the other symptoms, it could be indicative of heart failure, or ofa number of other conditions that require medical attention

Diagnostic tools that your medical practitioner might use to diagnose you include:

  • Physical exam including recording personal and family medical history
  • Blood tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • Stress testing
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): records electrical signals
  • Cardiac Computerized Tomography (CT) scan: x-rays taken around the whole body
  • Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): magnetic fieldtesting device
  • Echocardiogram: ultrasound of the chest
  • Holter monitoring: portable device that measures heart rhythm
  • Cardiac catheterization: a tube inserted into a vein or artery to measure pressure and to aid in x-rays with injected dye

Treatments for heart disease include medication, surgery or other procedures, and most importantly, lifestyle changes.

It’s vital for heart patients and their loved ones to fully understand how to take their medication and how these prescriptions work, plus full disclosure about any side effects. Ask your doctor and pharmacist for verbal explanations plus physical copies of literature. If you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects or if you have any other questions, you can contact the experts at MEDS Pharmacy Group or your local pharmacist and schedule an appointment with your doctor. A compounding pharmacy can work with you and your doctor to create customized medications and treatments that could include alternate doses or ones that are formulated to help ease side effects.

Lifestyle changes are the most significant way to both reduce the risk of getting heart disease and to treat it. The Heart & Stroke Foundation reports that up to 80% of premature heart disease can be prevented by the way we live. The following are major areas to consider:

Diet & Exercise – eating right and getting regular exercise (preferably, daily) are the number one ways to increase heart health. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy weight are primary goals. The Heart & Stroke Foundation provides a healthy eating guide here. Doctors recommend getting about 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day. Seniors can get physical activity with choices like walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi, dancing, and with physiotherapy appointments.

Stress management–stress, anxiety, and depression wear on the heart. High blood pressure is associated with consistent stressors. Management techniques include improve work/life balance, exercise, meditation, self-care, prioritizing relaxation and time for yourself, and spending time with loved ones.

Quit smoking–Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of heart disease substantially.

Visit your doctor regularly – receive regular check-ups that include cholesterol and blood pressure checks.