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Take Heart! Advanced Technology Helps Diagnose Heart Trouble Before It Happens

  January 09, 2020
Submitted by Merit Health Wesley

Heart attacks and heart disease claim countless lives in Hattiesburg, MS, each year, in fact; more than one million Americans will have a heart attack this year—and heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States.

Nearly 81 million Americans have one or more forms of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease covers a broad range of heart conditions: heart attacks, high blood pressure (hypertension), congenital heart defects, chest pain, or other cardiovascular conditions. Some people are born with certain conditions or genetic factors that can lead to heart disease at a young age. Other forms—such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or atherosclerosis (a narrowing of the arteries)—develop later in life, and can have debilitating effects.

There are many ways to protect ourselves against heart disease, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a proper weight, watching our cholesterol, and getting regular check-ups. Research and medical advances continue to provide new and detailed information about heart health, from helping to predict our risk of a heart attack to diagnosing and monitoring heart health issues before they become more serious.

Years ago, the first warning sign of heart trouble was chest pain, or worse yet, a heart attack. Now, cardiac specialists can tell us much more about the health of our hearts, so we can get ahead of potential problems, manage certain risk factors or conditions, and live a longer, healthier life. The good news is most heart problems can be corrected, or at least minimized, with proper treatment.

Merit Health Wesley’s cardiac care services include diagnostic cardiology, nuclear imaging, cardiac catheterization, and cardiac rehabilitation. Merit Health Wesley is designated by the Joint Commission as a Comprehensive Cardiac Center. The hospital is Hattiesburg’s first accredited Chest Pain Center with an accreditation in Heart Failure care and Atrial Fibrillation by the American College of Cardiology.

Diagnostic Cardiology
Diagnostic procedures provide information to your primary care physician or your cardiologist about a heart condition. Your cardiologist will select a diagnostic procedure to perform based on where the suspected problem lies: the heart’s electrical system, coronary arteries, or the heart muscle and valves.

Nuclear Imaging
Nuclear imaging helps physicians diagnose heart conditions. Nuclear imaging technology is paired with stress testing and allows physicians to measure blood flow to the heart during exercise and rest periods. Diminished blood flow during exercise may indicate coronary artery disease.

Cardiac Catheterization—Angiography
A cardiac catheterization lab is solely dedicated to diagnostic tests to help pinpoint the location and status of heart problems. Minimally invasive and painless, these procedures allow the cardiac care team to see the inside of the heart and surrounding structures. During heart catheterization, a thin plastic tube, or catheter, is inserted into an artery or vein in the arm or groin, then advanced into the heart’s pumping chambers or the coronary arteries. Catheters are used to inject dye into the coronary arteries so they can be more easily viewed. The test also measures blood pressure within the heart; the heart’s pumping capability and the amount of oxygen present in the blood. Catheterization is also used with infants and children to check for congenital heart defects.

A simple, painless procedure, echocardiography uses ultrasound—the same technology that is used to view a baby in the mother’s womb—to see the heart’s structure and function, and check for defects or inconsistencies.

Also known as an EKG, an electrocardiogram is a simple test that records the heart’s electrical activity and pinpoints the source of heart problems, such as heart attack, irregular heart beat, or lack of blood flow.

Stress test
A cardiac stress test—usually performed under physical stress while the patient exercises on a treadmill—helps evaluate arterial blood flow to the heart muscle during physical exertion, as opposed to blood flow while at rest. The stress test can also measure overall cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiac Rehabilitation
After a heart attack or surgery, cardiac rehabilitation puts patients back on the road to good health and teaches methods for caring for the heart and minimizing heart-related problems through lifestyle modifications. A medically supervised program, cardiac rehabilitation includes nutrition counseling, patient and family counseling, smoking cessation resources, exercise classes, stress management techniques, and other behavior modification classes.

To learn more about the cardiac care services or to request an appointment with one of our cardiologists, visit Take Merit Health Wesley’s free heart risk assessment to find out your heart's relative age and to learn more about your personal risk factors. You'll also receive tips to help you take control of your heart health and an instant report to share with your doctor.

Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information and facilitate conversations with your physician that will benefit your health.

Sources available upon request
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January 09, 2020


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