PVCs could lead to a more serious heart condition

When should you worry about a fluttering heart?

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If you’ve ever had a fluttering heart, or noticed that your heart seems to skip a beat, you might be experiencing premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), a relatively common type of arrhythmia in both adults and children.

PVCs are the result of extra, abnormal heartbeats that begin in the ventricles, or lower pumping chambers, and disrupt your regular heart rhythm, which is controlled by a natural pacemaker known as the sinus node. This natural pacemaker creates electrical impulses that travel across the atria to the ventricles, causing them to contract and pump blood out to your lungs and body in what is known as normal sinus rhythm.

In the case of PVCs, the heart doesn’t actually skip a beat. Instead an extra beat comes sooner than normal. Then there’s typically a pause that causes the next beat to be more forceful, which is what most individuals detect. Although the range differs for each individual, we typically begin to see problems in patients with premature ventricular contractions that comprise 20 percent or more of total heartbeats.

PVCs can be caused by heart disease or scarring that can interfere with the heart’s normal electrical impulses. They can also be triggered by certain medications, alcohol, stress, exercise or caffeine. Continue reading

Exercise to keep your heart ticking

Don't let excuses get in the way

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We all know that exercise is a good thing for our health. But getting into a regular routine is often the first stumbling block. Once you overcome that, you’ll begin to realize the benefits of establishing and keeping to a successful exercise program.

According to University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Cardiologist Dr. Sara Saberi, “For the general population, great things result from habitual exercise. Studies show that people who exercise actually live longer.” Continue reading

Pulmonary arterial hypertension took the life of singer Natalie Cole

U-M expert weighs in on the disease

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The recent death of singer Natalie Cole from complications of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) has raised many questions about this rare lung disease.

Dr. Vallerie McLaughlin, director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, offers insight into this challenging disease:

  • Approximately 25 to 50 people per million have pulmonary arterial hypertension.
  • The condition predominantly affects women in their 40s and 50s. In fact, women diagnosed with PAH outnumber men with the condition 3:1.
  • Shortness of breath is the most common symptom. Others include lightheadedness, fatigue, chest pain and lower extremity edema.
  • Diagnosis is typically suspected based on an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and confirmed with a right heart catheterization.

Continue reading

Guard your heart when shoveling snow

Tips to make shoveling a winter event, not a cardiac event

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When the snow starts piling up, many who pick up their shovels and head for their driveways and walkways are putting themselves at risk for an adverse cardiac event. These include heart attacks, where a blockage cuts off the heart’s blood supply leading to tissue damage, and cardiac arrest, when the heart beats irregularly and then stops. But for those at risk, there are ways to guard your heart when shoveling show.

Who’s at risk?

Men are more at risk than women, but certain people with health problems have higher risk than others for a cardiac event. These include anyone who:

  • is in poor physical condition
  • has a history of heart disease, including heart attacks, heart failure and stroke
  • has hypertension or diabetes

The greatest risk is with people who are still recovering from a heart attack, or who are being treated for heart failure. People in these groups should avoid snow shoveling entirely. Continue reading

Heart patients ask: Is it safe for me to exercise?

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It’s that time of year when many of us consider a renewed commitment to exercise and getting in shape. But if you have a heart condition, the decision to exercise might not be a matter of resolution. Instead, like many of my patients, you might be asking yourself: Is it safe for me to exercise?

Your ability to exercise depends on your diagnosis and should always be discussed with your healthcare provider. A patient with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, for example, typically has some restrictions on competitive exercise, though most habitual exercise-type activities would still be encouraged. Continue reading

Decrease your risk of dying from heart disease

Eating more produce is the key, studies say

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Everyone knows the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but could consuming more servings of produce actually decrease your risk of dying from heart disease?

Although one apple a day is certainly a good start, the latest research suggests that higher fruit and vegetable intake helps decrease your risk of death from heart disease. One study found that each additional serving of fruits and vegetables cut heart disease death by 4 percent. This means that getting 5 servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis may decrease your chance of dying from heart disease by 20 percent! Continue reading