Category: Heart Disease Facts

Congestive Heart Failure: Symptoms & Treatments

July 23rd, 2017

Heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans and is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than age 65.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a type of heart failure that occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should to meet the needs of your body. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, will gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently. When the heart cannot pump and circulate blood normally, the kidneys receive less blood and are unable to filter fluids out of the circulatory system and into the urine. The extra fluid in the circulatory system builds up in the lungs, the liver, around the eyes, and in the arms, legs, ankles and feet. Congestive Heart Failure is the term used to describe the condition when the body becomes congested with the buildup of fluids.  

Click here to learn more on Congestive Heart Failure, its symptoms and treatments. 



July 7th, 2017

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. Sodium controls the amount of water in your body and maintains blood volume and blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. Too much sodium, or salt, can increase blood pressure levels.  When you have a high sodium diet, the extra sodium builds up in your bloodstream and attracts water, which causes the total volume of blood inside your blood vessels to increase. With more blood flowing, blood pressure increases and over time, the walls of the blood vessels become stronger and thicker, making the space inside the vessels narrower. The heart then has to work harder to pump blood through the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, increases the risk for heart attack and stroke, and is a leading cause of kidney failure. High blood pressure is also linked to osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches, and the extra water leads to bloating and weight gain.

The amount of sodium you eat directly affects your blood pressure and the health of your heart.  U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that the average adult consume a maximum of 2,300 mgs (milligrams) of sodium a day. That’s the amount in just one teaspoon of table salt. For children and for people who are middle-aged, elderly, or African-American, or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, the American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium a day.  However, most Americans consume much more sodium than they should. The average American consumes about 3,400 mgs of sodium per day!

The most common form of sodium is table salt (sodium chloride – NaCl). However, only 10% of the sodium Americans consume comes from table salt. Most of the sodium we’re eating is added to our food before we buy it. Approximately 75% of sodium in the American diet is from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods. Sodium is used to cure meats, mask off-flavors, retain moisture, and to enhance flavors. In addition to table salt, other sources of sodium in the American diet include MSG (monosodium glutamate), sodium citrate, sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate, baking powder, and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Be aware of foods that are high in sodium, even if they don’t taste salty. Hidden sources of sodium in the American diet include:

  • Processed foods such as lunch meats, sausage, bacon, and ham. If a food item keeps well in the fridge for days or weeks, that’s a indicator that the sodium content is high. Two ounces of deli sliced turkey can contain 620 milligrams of sodium – that is more that 25% of the 2,300 mg recommended amount.
  • Pizza. Half of a ready-made pepperoni pizza might contain as much as 1,350 milligrams of sodium.
  • Canned soups, bouillon, dried soup mixes. A serving of canned chicken noodle soup may contain 400 to 900 milligrams of sodium per serving. Read the label and opt for canned soups that are “low sodium” or “reduced sodium.”
  • Condiments (catsup, soy sauce, salad dressings). One tablespoon of soy sauce has about 1,000 mg of sodium.
  • Frozen and boxed mixes for potatoes, rice, and pasta.
  • Snack foods (pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, chips, nuts).
  • Food pickled or marinated in brine. Vinegar and lemon juice based marinades are okay.

Eat less salt to lower your blood pressure.  Salt preference is an acquired taste that can be unlearned. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of salt, but once it’s done, it’s actually difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste way too salty. Follow these guidelines to reduce your sodium intake:

  • Prepare your food from scratch so you know exactly what’s in your food. 
  • When preparing food, replace salt with lemon juice, ginger, chilies, spices, and herbs. Be sure to read labels and select spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels, i.e. choose garlic powder over garlic salt.
  • Use fresh, rather than packaged, meats. Fresh cuts of beef, chicken or pork contain natural sodium, but the content is still much less than the extra sodium added to products like bacon or ham.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables are very low in sodium. If you’re cooking veggies, don’t add salt.
  • When buying frozen vegetables, choose those that are labeled “fresh frozen” and those that do not contain added seasoning or sauces.
  • Read nutrition labels – the sodium content is always listed on the label. The amount of sodium in some of your favorite prepackaged foods can be surprising. Even bread and cereal contain sodium.
  • When you do opt for packaged foods, choose products that are marked “sodium-free,” “low sodium,” and “unsalted.”
  • When dining out, do your research. A restaurant’s website often lists the sodium content of dishes. Alternatively, when you’re at the restaurant and ready to order, you can request that the dish be served without salt. Fresh steamed veggies and roasted entrees are often the smartest choices.
  • Increase your potassium: Potassium also affects the balance of fluids in the body and the more potassium we eat, the more sodium we pass out of the body through urine. Potassium also helps relax blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure. Some of the best sources are bananas, potatoes, dried fruit, avocados, kidney beans and tomatoes. However, before taking potassium supplements, check with your doctor, as an overdose from potassium supplements is dangerous.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other health problems. By reducing your sodium intake you can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.





American Heart Association:

CDC –  Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention:

Cleveland Clinic:                                                               

Harvard Health Publications:                                        

National Kidney Foundation:                 


June 23rd, 2017

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in adults. Cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. The lack of oxygenated blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes and a person could die within 8 to 10 minutes. According to the American Heart Association, about 90 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest at home, at work or in a public location die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene.

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a lifesaving technique that is used when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

In emergency situations, such as in cardiac arrest or drowning, the American Heart Association recommends that everyone, untrained bystanders and medical personnel alike, begin with HANDS-ONLY CPR (chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth breaths). Even if you’re fearful that your knowledge or abilities aren’t 100 percent complete, it’s far better to do something than to do nothing at all. 75% of all cardiac arrests happen in people’s homes and the difference between doing something and doing nothing could be your loved one’s life. CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until more definitive medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm.

HANDS-ONLY CPR consists of two easy steps and is recommended for use by people who see a teen or adult suddenly collapse in an “out-of-hospital” setting, such as at home, at work or in a public location:

  1.  Call 9-1-1 (or send someone to do that).       When you call 911, you need to stay on the phone until the 911 dispatcher (operator) tells you to hang up. The dispatcher will ask you about the emergency and other details, like your location. It is important to be specific, especially if you’re calling from a mobile phone as that is not associated with a fixed location or address. Remember that answering the dispatcher’s questions will not delay the arrival of help.
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest with minimal interruptions to the beat of any tune that is 100 to 120 beats per minute.      People feel more confident performing Hands-Only CPR and are more likely to remember to push on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute when they push to the beat of a familiar song. The Bee Gees’  classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.” is 100 beats per minute – the minimum rate you should push on the chest during Hands-Only CPR.  Other songs with 100 to 120 beats per minute include: “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira” or “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that any attempt to provide CPR to a victim is better than no attempt to provide help. Don’t be afraid to act in an emergency:

  • Untrained: If you’re not trained in CPR, call 911, then provide HANDS-ONLY CPR. That means uninterrupted chest compressions 100 to 120 times a minute until paramedics arrive. You don’t need to try rescue breathing.
  • Trained but rusty.If you’ve previously received CPR training but you’re not confident in your abilities, then just do HANDS-ONLY CPR -chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 a minute.
  • Trained and ready to go.If you’re well-trained and confident in your ability, start CPR with 30 chest compressions before checking the airway and giving rescue breaths. The AHA recommends CPR with compressions and breaths for infants and children, and for victims of drowning, drug overdose, or people who have collapsed due to breathing problems.



Watch a 90-second Hands-Only CPR video. Hands-Only CPR is a natural introduction to CPR, and the AHA encourages everyone to learn conventional CPR as a next step. To watch the Hands-Only CPR instructional video visit:                                                    For video in Spanish visit:

Watch a 22 minute video for more in depth CPR training: The AHA’s 22-minute CPR Anytime™ program  ( ) is a very short CPR training program that you can do at home. The video provides skills training and practice that can prepare you to perform high quality chest compressions.

Take a CPR class: Take an accredited first-aid training course, which includes CPR, rescue breaths, and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). CPR is a psychomotor skill. People who have had CPR training are more likely to give high-quality chest compressions and are more confident about their skills than those who have not been trained (or have not trained in the last 5 years). You can find a CPR class near you at:

Learn CPR – you can save a life!


American Heart Association:                                                                            
Mayo Clinic:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 \
University of Washington:                                                                                               

Sleep Apnea and the Heart

June 9th, 2017

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.  In sleep apnea your breathing passages becomes blocked, or the muscles that control your breathing stop moving. Either way, breathing stops, and then resumes with a gasp. In the worst cases, this can happen hundreds of times every night. This means the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen. And if left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular problems. The more severe the sleep apnea, the greater the risk of coronary artery disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, heart attack, and stroke. Men with sleep apnea are especially at risk of heart failure.
  • High blood pressure. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels can increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system.
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • In children, sleep apnea can cause hyperactivity, poor school performance, angry or hostile behavior and a worsening of ADHA.
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue. Sleep apnea usually is a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness and can increase the risk of having work-related or driving accidents

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed, as doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits and there isn’t a blood test that can diagnose the condition. Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it, because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud or frequent snoring
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
  • Waking up frequently to urinate
  • Dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up

There are two types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). In this condition, the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses or becomes blocked during sleep, causing shallow breathing or breathing pauses. Oxygen levels drop when  breathing slows and the body responds by releasing epinephrine (also called adrenaline), a stress hormone. When this happens over and over, adrenaline levels remain high, leading to high blood pressure. “Over time, OSA exposes the heart and circulation to harmful stimuli that may cause or contribute to the progression of most cardiovascular diseases,” explains Dr. Atul Malhotra, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and sleep specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. OSA affects an estimated 15 million adult Americans and is present in a large proportion of people who have hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders, including coronary artery disease, stroke, and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).  

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a less common type of sleep apnea. This disorder occurs when the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. CSA can be caused by a number of conditions that affect the ability of your brain-stem, the area that links your brain to your spinal cord and controls many functions such as heart rate and breathing, to control your breathing. 

Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

  • Men are more likely than women to develop sleep apnea
  • About half of the people who have sleep apnea are overweight
  • The risk for sleep apnea increases after age 40
  • A large neck (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women) has more soft tissue that can block your airway during sleep
  • Large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone can restrict airways
  • Opioid users
  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux, or GERD
  • Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
  • Heart disorders. People with irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or congestive heart failure are at greater risk of sleep apnea.  
  • Stroke, brain tumor or a structural brain-stem lesion.These brain conditions can impair the brain’s ability to regulate breathing.
  • High altitude.Sleeping at an altitude higher than you’re accustomed to may increase your risk of sleep apnea. High-altitude sleep apnea is no longer a problem when you return to a lower altitude.                                                                                      

Treatment: Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices, and surgery can successfully treat sleep apnea in many people.

Lifestyle Changes: If you have mild sleep apnea, some changes in daily activities or habits might be all the treatment you need.

  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that make you sleepy. They make it harder for your throat to stay open while you sleep.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Even a little weight loss can improve your symptoms.
  • Sleep on your side instead of your back to help keep your throat open. 
  • Talk with your doctor about whether nasal sprays or allergy medicines might help keep your nasal passages open at night.
  • If you smoke, quit. 

Mouthpieces:  A mouthpiece, sometimes called an oral appliance, may help some people who have mild sleep apnea. A dentist or orthodontist can make a custom-fit plastic mouthpiece for treating sleep apnea. The mouthpiece will help keep your airways open while you sleep.

Breathing Devices: A  CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea in adults. A CPAP machine uses a mask that fits over your mouth and nose, or just over your nose. The machine gently blows air into your throat. The pressure from the air helps keep your airway open while you sleep.

Surgery: Some people who have sleep apnea might benefit from surgery. Surgery is done to widen breathing passages by shrinking, stiffening, or removing excess tissue in the mouth and throat or resetting the lower jaw.

If you, or a loved one, is having trouble breathing at night, see a doctor. Life style changes can help a person with mild sleep apnea, and in more severe cases, there are treatments that can keep the breathing passages open and normalize oxygen levels.




The American Heart Assoc. Sep. 16, 2016:
Journal of the American Heart Assoc., Aug. 19, 2016:                                              
The Mayo Clinic, Jun 15, 2016:                                                                                                                         
Harvard Health Publications/Harvard Medical School , Feb 13, 2013:                             





Gum Disease and the Heart

May 26th, 2017

Does a healthy mouth equal a healthy heart? The indications appear to be yes! Doctors and researchers have been talking about and studying the relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease for nearly two decades. While the exact details of the cause and effect relationship are still under investigation, many researchers (including Dr. P.K. Shah) and government agencies have come to the conclusion there is a link between periodontal disease and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. For this reason, maintaining optimal oral hygiene is an important component of not only heart health, but your overall health and well being.

What is gum or periodontal disease? Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that affects the bone that surrounds and supports the teeth. Gum disease begins when a sticky, bacteria-laden film known as plaque builds up around your teeth. Plaque forms when starches and sugars in food interact with the bacteria normally found in your mouth. Plaque that is not removed by regular brushing and flossing can harden and form tartar. The bacteria in the plaque and tartar can cause a mild gum disease called gingivitis: an inflammation where the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. If not treated, gingivitis can advance to periodontal disease (periodontitis). In periodontitis the gums pull away from the root of the tooth, creating a tiny pocket of bacteria filled pus that gradually widens. Eventually, infection and inflammation will attack the tissue that holds the tooth to the jawbone, which can cause the tooth to loosen and possibly fall out. 

Nearly half the adult population in the US is affected by gum disease. Gum disease can often be painless, so it is important to see your dentist right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed easily while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
  • Pus between the teeth and gums and sores in your mouth
  •  Persistent bad breath
  • Buildup of hard brown deposits along the gum line
  • Loose teeth or teeth that are moving apart
  • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
  • Changes in the way dental appliances fit

Your gums are very vascular, meaning they’re full of blood vessels. When you have gum disease, the infected pockets of germy pus allow bacteria and other toxins to spread below the gum line and move into the bloodstream. Some studies indicate that when the bacteria from gum disease enter the bloodstream, they help to form the fatty deposits called plaque in the heart blood vessels. Over time, the plaque builds up and narrows and hardens your arteries. This results in atherosclerosis, a heart disease. Atherosclerosis limits the blood flow to your heart, putting you at greater risk for heart attack and stroke.

Though not conclusive, some studies also suggest that the bacteria from gum disease in your bloodstream can trigger inflammation throughout the body (systemic inflammation). Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an infection or injury. When these bacteria reach the heart, they can attach themselves to any damaged area and cause inflammation. According to the Mayo Clinic, this can result in endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. The American Heart Association has also stated that there is a causal association between inflammation caused by oral bacteria and cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and stroke. Controlling periodontal disease may decrease systemic inflammation and reduce the risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The health of your mouth can affect the health of your entire body. In addition to possible connections with heart disease and stroke, gum disease has also been closely linked to premature birth, diabetes, and other chronic health problems. In the mouth, gum disease can lead to pain, bone loss, and ultimately tooth loss. Our teeth are essential to healthy eating; when we lose the ability to chew well, it affects our overall nutrition and our body. Our teeth are integral to our smile and the structure of our face; tooth loss or discomfort with the way our mouth looks can lead to a loss of self-esteem and confidence. Follow these guidelines to maintain proper oral health and reduce your risk for gum disease:

• Quit smoking. Smokers are seven times more likely to get gingivitis, periodontitis and oral cancers than nonsmokers.
• Manage diabetes; high blood sugar can lead to infections. Diabetes can also lead to dry mouth, poorly healing gums and thrush (a yeast infection in the mouth and throat). Those who have diabetes and also smoke are 20 times more likely to have thrush or periodontal disease.
• Get regular preventive care checkups with your dentist. Proper plaque control consists of professional cleanings every six months.
• Brush your teeth a minimum of twice daily
• Floss your teeth regularly
• Make sure your dentures fit properly
• Eat a balanced diet, and reduce sugary and processed foods and drinks
• Manage your weight
• Control your blood pressure
• Reduce stress
• Get more exercise

Your body is the sum of many parts and it is important for your overall health to maintain each of those parts. Gum disease can be a sign of the general health of your body. By taking care of your oral health, you are also taking care of your heart. Be aware of the symptoms of gum disease, brush and floss daily, and get regular dental check-ups. Your smile and your heart will thank you!

Cardiovascular System

May 19th, 2017


The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries), and the approximately 5 liters of blood that the blood vessels transport. This system transports oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and cellular waste products throughout the body. The cardiovascular system is powered by the heart, which is only about the size of a closed fist. Even at rest, the average heart easily pumps over 5 liters of blood throughout the body every minute.

To learn more about how the circulatory system works, please refer to an article from Pacific Medical Training, using the following link: