Wellness Wednesday: PVD, PAD, VTE, DVT and PE Can Spell Trouble

And ABC, 123, Do-Re-Mi, right? That’s a lot of shorthand … but this isn’t just silly text speak. Each of these acronyms represents a very serious cardiovascular-related condition that requires medical attention and treatment.

veinsPVD = Peripheral Vascular Disease
PAD = Peripheral Artery Disease
VTE = Venous Thromboembolism
DVT = Deep Vein Thrombosis
PE = Pulmonary Embolism

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that causes blood vessels outside of the heart and brain to narrow or block. This can happen in either the arteries or veins and is most common in the legs but can also be present in the arms, stomach or kidneys.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is specifically, a narrowing of the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head—again, most common in the legs. Like coronary artery disease, the most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the artery wall. Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs and decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the vessel and potentially blocking off major arteries.

The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again. Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation. And if the blockage occurs in a carotid artery, it can cause a stroke.

Risk Factors for PAD

Luckily, PAD is easily diagnosed by non-invasive methods … but you have to get checked out! Many people dismiss leg pain as a normal sign of aging. You may think it’s arthritis or just “stiffness” from getting older. If you’re having any kind of recurring pain, talk to your healthcare professional and describe the pain as accurately as you can. If you have risk factors for PAD, you should ask your doctor about PAD even if you aren’t having symptoms.

Venous Thromboembolism, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism(2).
Click to view larger

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot in your lungs. The clot often forms in the deep veins of the lower legs or thighs. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If the blood clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream, it’s called a venous thromboembolism (VTE) and may represent a life-threatening condition. A PE is usually a VTE that travels from the leg to the lungs. PE is a very serious condition which can cause death.

People who have just had surgery, those who are sedentary and/or obese are at a higher risk of developing a DVT. Don’t delay treatment if you have any symptoms or risk factors for DVT.

Talk to your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms or risk factors. There are non-invasive treatments available to help dissolve clots before they break off and become life-threatening.

To find a Mercy Health cardiovascular physician, visit our Find-a-Doctor tool on our website at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-physician.

Sources: American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic


More Information:

An Important Reason to Take Your Socks Off [PDF]

What is PAD? [PDF]

Prevention and Treatment of PAD

What is VTE? [PDF]

Who is at Risk for VTE? [PDF]

Risk in the Veins

Know Thrombosis [Infographic]

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Wellness Wednesday: Getting back to your life with cardiac rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation can’t change your past, but it can help you improve your heart’s future.

istock_000062785180_mediumCardiac rehab is a medically supervised program for people who have had a heart attack, heart failure, heart surgery, or other coronary intervention.

A cardiac rehab program involves adopting heart-healthy lifestyle changes to address risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It is a team effort—partnering you with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, family members and friends—to take charge of the choices, lifestyle and habits that affect your heart.

To help you adopt lifestyle changes, a cardiac rehab program will include exercise training, education on heart-healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you return to an active life. It can improve your health and quality of life, reduce the need for medicines to treat heart or chest pain, decrease the chance you will go back to a hospital or emergency room for a heart problem, prevent future heart problems, and even help you live longer.

The American Heart Association explains cardiac rehab as three equally important parts:

  • Exercise counseling and training: Exercise gets your heart pumping and your entire cardiovascular system working. You’ll learn how to get your body moving in ways that promote heart health.
  • Education for heart-healthy living: Managing your risk factors, choosing good nutrition, quitting smoking…education about heart-healthy living is a key element of cardiac rehab.
  • Counseling to reduce stress: Stress hurts your heart. This part of rehab helps you identify and tackle everyday sources of stress.

Active Senior Woman Exercising on TreadmillCardiac rehab is provided in an outpatient clinic or in a hospital rehab center. The cardiac rehab team includes doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and mental health specialists. Sometimes a case manager will help track your care.

Your cardiac rehab team will design a program to meet your needs. Before starting your program, the rehab team will take your medical history, do a physical exam, and perform tests. Possible tests include an electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiac imaging tests, and a treadmill or stationary bike exercise test. You also may have tests to measure your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. During cardiac rehab, you will learn to exercise safely and increase your physical activity. The length of time that you spend in cardiac rehab depends on your condition.

For more information about the cardiac rehabilitation program at Mercy Health System, visit our website at www.mercyhealth.org/heart/rehab.

Sources: American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health


Before you go … Check out Mercy Health System’s 2017 Go Red Dance Video to support American Heart Month!


More Information:

What is Cardiac Rehab? [PDF]

How Can I Live with Heart Failure? [PDF]

Cardiac Rehabilitation (Medline Plus)

Medicine Chart [PDF]

Wellness Wednesday: Heart Disease Does Not Discriminate

Just before Christmas, people across the world learned that beloved Star Wars actress and best-selling author Carrie Fisher suffered a cardiac emergency while on a flight home to LA. Within a few days, we were all mourning her death.

istock_000019034549_largeDuring this time, media outlets all over the world were reporting on her condition. Some news stories reported she suffered a heart attack; others reported she suffered a cardiac arrest. And many simply used both of those terms interchangeably.

But is there a difference?

Definitely.

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart becomes partially or completely blocked. This happens because the coronary arteries can become narrowed from a build up of fat, cholesterol and other substances, called plaque. When the plaque breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque and can block the blood flow.

Recovery from a heart attack depends on the length of time the heart muscle is without blood flow, which heart vessel is blocked, and whether or not treatment is immediately started. Emergency care is required for a heart attack. So if you have symptoms, get to an emergency room immediately. And don’t drive! When at all possible, call 911 for an ambulance. Paramedics will have equipment to help treat you on the way to the hospital and can get you there quicker.


Every 34 seconds, someone dies from heart and blood vessel diseases, America’s No. 1 killer. 


A cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and stops beating or ‘arrests’. Death occurs in minutes after the heart stops because oxygen-enriched blood is no longer flowing through the body. In some instances, immediately performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can help provide oxygen to the body and get the heart started again.

cardiacarrest-heartattack.jpg

In the instance of Ms. Fisher, witnesses on the airplane have said that she stopped breathing for 10-15 minutes. Passengers, trained in CPR, tried to revive her and when the plane landed, paramedics continued to provide advanced life support on the way to the hospital.

However, the amount of time she was without oxygen proved to be irreversible. A death certificate issued by the LA County Department of Health confirmed that her cause of death was cardiac arrest. What may have contributed to her heart stopping is still being determined.

Carrie Fisher’s death, as well as the death of her mother just a few days later from a stroke, highlights the importance of raising awareness of heart disease in women. While we don’t know if Fisher had any symptoms prior to boarding a plane that day, what we can take from this is that it can happen to anyone. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and it sometimes has no symptoms, which is why it is called the silent killer.

grfw_aha_liw_v_macy_krSo, during this American Heart Month, we would like to encourage women (and men) to take care of their hearts. Get regular checkups. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to stay healthy. If you are in a higher risk group, or if you have a family history of heart disease, ask you doctor what you can do to lower that risk.

To find a cardiologist at Mercy Health System, visit our website and use our Find a Doctor tool at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Mercy Health System Articles:

Heart disease: What every woman needs to know

Heart attacks in women. Yes, they happen

Don’t ignore heart attack symptoms

Q&A: Chest pain. When is it an emergency?


More Information:

Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs

Heart Attack Tools and Resources