DOCUMENTS | Medicine Documents

Sudden Cardiac Death

This isn't the same as a heart attack. Sudden cardiac death happens when the heart's electrical system goes haywire, making it beat irregularly and dangerously fast. Instead of pumping out blood to your body, your chambers quiver.

CPR can help bring back your regular heart beat, but without it, you can die within minutes. So don't wait to see if your symptoms go away.

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

An EKG records your heart's electrical activity. During this painless test, your doctor will stick electrodes on your skin for a few minutes. The results tell him if you have a regular heartbeat or not. It can confirm you're having a heart attack, or if you've had one in the past. Your doctor can also compare these graphs over time to track how your ticker is doing.

Stress Test

This measures how well your heart works when it's pushed hard. You walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike, and the workout gets tougher. Meanwhile, your doctor watches your EKG, heart rate, and blood pressure to see if the organ gets enough blood.

Holter Monitor

This portable device records the rhythm of your heart. If your doctor thinks there's a problem, he might ask you to wear the monitor for a day or two. It tracks the electrical activity nonstop (unlike an EKG, which is a snapshot in time). Your doctor will probably ask you to log your activities and symptoms, too.

Chest X-rays

These pictures of your heart, lungs, and chest bones are made with a small amount of radiation. Doctors use them to spot signs of trouble. In this image, the bulge on the right is an enlarged left ventricle, the main pumping chamber.


This test uses sound waves to show live, moving images of your heart. From the ultrasound, your doctor can spot damage or problems with your chambers, valves, or blood flow. It helps to diagnose disease and see how well your treatments are working.

Cardiac CT

Cardiac computerized tomography takes detailed X-rays of your heart and its blood vessels. A computer then stacks the images to create a 3-D picture. Doctors use it to look for buildups of plaque or calcium in your coronary arteries, as well as valve problems and other types of heart disease.

Living With Heart Disease

Most types are long-lasting. At first, symptoms can be hard to spot and may not disturb your daily life. But left alone and ignored, they get worse.

If your heart starts to fail, you might be short of breath or feel tired. Keep an eye out for swelling in your belly, ankles, feet, or legs. In many cases, long-term treatment can help keep things under control. You can fight heart failure with medication, lifestyle changes, surgery, or a transplant.


A number of prescription drugs can help you. Some lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. Others control irregular rhythms or prevent clots. If you already have some damage, others medications can help your heart pump blood.

Who Gets Heart Disease?

Men are more likely to have a heart attack than women, and at an earlier age. But heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of both sexes. People with a family history of it also have a higher risk.

Things You Can Control

These daily habits can lower your chances of heart disease:

* Exercise regularly (30 minutes most days).
* Stay at a healthy weight.
* Eat a balanced diet.
* Limit how much alcohol you drink (one drink a day for women, two a day for men).
* Don't smoke.

If you have diabetes, it's important to manage your blood sugar levels. And if you have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, do everything you can to get them in check.

Why Smoking Hurts Your Heart

If you light up, you're two to four times more likely to get heart disease. Now is the perfect time to quit. Your risk for a heart attack starts to fall within 24 hours.