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Heart Disease

photo of a stethoscope and an apple with a heart carved out of itHeart disease is an overarching term that describes a medical illness or condition of the heart muscle. Diseases of the heart commonly present in women, men, and children. Heart conditions usually require a doctor’s care. A heart ailment can result in premature death if left untreated. Since most physicians routinely consider diseases or illnesses of the heart as serious conditions, it is important to report any symptoms to the doctor. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine evaluates, diagnoses, and treats patients with cardiovascular disease.

Many forms of cardiovascular disease and heart conditions exist, including cardiac arrest (heart attack, when blood flow cannot bring enough oxygen to the heart muscle); congenital heart disease (a birth defect typically characterized by atypical development of the heart muscle); and coronary artery disease (CAD), a disease in which the blood vessels of the heart narrow). Doctors also commonly see heart failure, tumors of the heart muscle, arrhythmia, endocarditis, and other heart conditions.

Report These Symptoms to the Doctor

Specific symptoms of heart conditions or illnesses can vary but, because the heart is a muscle, some symptoms are routinely present. Any shortness of breath, numbness in arms or legs, discomfort in the chest, dizziness, rapid or slowed heartbeat, heart flutters or palpitations, fainting, or general weakness should be shared with the doctor. Symptoms may indicate that a type of heart illness is present but won’t necessarily help the doctor to identify the patient’s specific illness. In order to diagnose the type of problem he or she is experiencing, the physician orders an electrocardiogram, MRI, echocardiogram, chest X-ray, stress test, or CT scan.

Heart Conditions and Genetic or Lifestyle Issues

A family practitioner (FP) is likely to know if certain types of heart conditions or illnesses run in the patient’s family. It’s likely that the FP knows the health information about parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and close relations. The FP knows that the family’s medical history is one of the best ways to assess the likelihood for risk factors related to the development of serious heart conditions or illnesses. Members of the same family share genetics, environmental factors, lifestyle, and even some habits. The family history can provide insight into the patient’s genetics and total risk profile. Although a family member’s development of a heart condition doesn’t mean the patient will develop it in the future, his or her disease indicates a higher potential to develop the disease. As such, the relative’s disease should prompt the patient to develop or improve lifestyle factors in order to reduce personal risk.

Members of the family also benefit from the collection of family history by the family physician. Many families are spread around the country or globe today so, once details of the family history are pieced together, the patient should share the findings to help everyone. A doctor in possession of the family medical history can make better assessments about the patient’s health. Additionally, the doctor can order regular tests for some conditions or diseases of the heart if these run in the patient’s family tree. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine will know the patient’s testing and screening needs, including at what age or how often he or she should be tested. The family history helps the doctor ask more precise questions in order to tailor the patient’s health, lifestyle, or treatment plan.

Risk Factors

Collecting the family history may prompt some patients to believe they’ve got a poor genetic foundation, but this isn’t always the case. Risk factors for many cardiovascular diseases include a family history of these diseases, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, high stress levels, alcoholism or excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, or elevated blood pressure. Since many of the known risk factors cited are elective—the patient can decide to change his or her diet, exercise, or take medications to control cholesterol or blood pressure—it’s possible to improve the patient’s risk factors for heart diseases almost instantly.

Prevention and Healthy Lifestyle

Preventive steps can be taken to reduce the patient’s risk of manifesting some of these conditions. In order to lower risk and maintain heart health, the doctor is likely to recommend smoking cessation, weight reduction if overweight, and decreased alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can cause alcohol cardiomyopathy and/or heart failure. The risks of smoking and obesity are widely known.

Many patients can benefit from lifestyle adjustments, such as a regular exercise regimen (thirty plus minutes a day, five days per week) and a heart-healthy diet. A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, essential fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and lean protein is best for a healthy heart. Patients should strictly limit alcohol consumption and avoid cigarettes, tobacco, and electronic cigarettes. Many cardiovascular diseases can be treated, so it is essential to see the doctor for regular checkups and follow treatment recommendations. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine helps put patients back on track to recovery.

Conclusion

Patients are often happy to learn that genetics aren’t predictors of what must happen to the body. Genetics can and do increase the tendency of heart disease or conditions to occur. Lifestyle changes and patient-centered medical care certainly improve the patient’s health profile. Patients with personal or family concerns in the Roswell, Johns Creek, Cumming, Alpharetta, Duluth, or Dawsonville areas— or those living in South Forsyth, Gwinnett, and North Fulton Counties— should make an appointment with Dr. Zack Charkawi at 770-771-6591 today.