01 October 2019
It’s the 21st century and we have made giant leaps in managing heart conditions, but is it possible to live long with heart disease? Well it’s definitely possible to live longer than we used to but the key is early detection.
A healthy heart should pump steadily and powerfully with good opening and closing of valves, the electrical ‘wires’ inside the heart should conduct well and blood should flow smoothly inside the ‘pipes’ (the coronary arteries) which sit on top of the heart.
But what are the signs when these factors aren’t working?
Dr Rito Mitra, Consultant Cardiologist, specialises in this area at Spire Cardiff Hospital and explains what the warning signs are.
“People can experience breathlessness, light-headedness and ankle swelling. With electrical heart rhythm problems, you can also have palpitations and/or fainting. Narrowing or blockages in the coronary arteries can lead to angina chest pains or heart attacks depending on its severity.”
Thumping of the heart or palpitations are a common complaint resulting in a consultation with a doctor. These can however simply be a normal phenomenon but are sometimes due to a number of underlying heart conditions, most of which can be alarming but nonthreatening.
Dr Rito Mitra explains, “We can all feel our heart pounding away when we have taken a couple of flights of stairs quickly but these palpitations are to be expected and are normal. Other types that we see are often described as slow, fast, missed beats, forceful or irregular. Breathlessness commonly comes from a heart or a lung problem. Pain coming from the heart is often felt as chest heaviness or tightness and can travel to other areas such as the arms, neck and jaw.”
As we get older, heart disease gets more common, but some conditions can accelerate the process.
Typical risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and consuming too much alcohol in addition to factors such as certain ethnic origins. Sometimes heart disease can run in families.
There are many tests to help diagnose these problems available at Spire Cardiff Hospital.
The most common tests include a basic bedside ECG and echocardiography (an ultrasound scan of the heart).
When investigating chest pain, Dr Mitra says, “There are different tests such as CT scans, treadmill tests or a coronary angiogram. Once a narrowing is found in the coronary arteries, it is treated either with tablets, open heart surgery or through micro-invasive coronary angioplasty.
“In angioplasty (slim tubes are passed usually via the wrist), the narrowings can be stretched open with balloons and metallic wire scaffoldings called stents keeping them propped open. Sometimes, if there are too many narrowings, patients are referred for open heart bypass surgery where they essentially get a fresh new set of pipes!”
A variety of heart rhythm monitors are available to detect electrical problems. Slow heart beats can be treated by the insertion of a pacemaker and complex rhythm issues are sometimes treated through wires/tubes being inserted through the groin called an ablation.
Dr Mitra continues “At Spire Cardiff Hospital our heart team have expert equipment to help anyone who is experiencing symptoms which could be heart related. I strongly advise anyone who does have concerns to come forward and see a doctor – the quicker we can detect the problems, the better the long term planning, but there is no reason to panic.”
If you are concerned about any cardiac problems you should visit your GP or book an appointment with a specialist.
To discuss your condition with the team at Spire Cardiff Hospital call 02920 542509.