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Frequently Asked Questions

If one of my parents had a heart attack, is there anything I can do to prevent experiencing that same fate?

Although coronary artery disease may have a familial predisposition, the likelihood of having a similar problem is markedly diminished by excellent management of so called cardiac “risk factors” including smoking, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.


If I don’t want to take a “statin,” are there other treatments I can take for elevated cholesterol?

Several “natural” products are available for lipid (cholesterol) management including niacin (vitamin B3) and fish oil (omega 3 oils). Nevertheless, certain goals must be kept in mind to achieve adequate cholesterol management. The achievement of optimal cholesterol levels should not be sacrificed for the sake of taking only certain types of medications or supplements.


What are the positive effects of an exercise program?

The benefits of physical activity are multiple, whether it be simple walking, more formal gym-based exercise, or such movement therapies as yoga and tai chi. Not only does one witness general conditioning, but also enhanced control of obesity, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and blood pressure. Along with enhanced immune system function, significant impact on mood and emotions are also seen.

How much should I exercise?

Although research has revealed a direct correlation between exercise duration and some of its beneficial effects, exercise goals must be balanced against work and other lifestyle factors. Vessel Health proposes exercise programs tailored to an individual’s needs. Often this may include daily, shorter, more intense activity sessions, rather than a rare lengthy session that may be difficult to habituate.

Is heart disease decreasing in the population?  

Due to advances in an understanding of heart attack and its treatment, the mortality rate from myocardial infarction (heart attack) has declined. Unfortunately, however, heart attack and heart disease in general continue to climb, with heart attack remaining the number one cause of death in both men and women.

What is a heart attack?

Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when there is an abrupt total occlusion of one of the coronary arteries. This condition arises upon the fracture of a cholesterol-laden plaque, with exposure of the core materials to the blood stream, yielding a focus of blood clot formation. Because heart muscle survival is short lived without nutrients, the muscle becomes quickly damaged with resultant cell death. Individuals succumb to a heart attack (sudden death) either because of a resultant cardiac arrythmia or due to heart failure or rupture in the context of massive tissue damage.

What should one do if a heart attack is suspected?

Above all, the warning signs of heart artery disease should not be ignored. Hints of heart disease such as exercise induced chest discomfort (angina), fatigue, or shortness of breath require evaluation. More profound symptoms that may be indicative of a heart attack require immediate attention by emergency rescue personnel and a hospital setting. Collapse should be responded to with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and/or an AED (automatic external defibrillator) if necessary.

What will a doctor do if heart disease is suspected?

Although certain conditions require urgent evaluation and treatment, often a cardiologist will perform a stress test on a treadmill. Current technology permits imaging the heart’s function during the tests to better assess functional impairments. Should indications arise, an angiogram may be recommended, performed in a hospital setting, and occasionally resulting in the placement of a stent, a tubular metal scaffold in the blocked artery; or even cardiac bypass surgery.