Living Well: New Options Available For Patients With Heart Rhythm Disorders [VIDEO]
The rhythm of the heart is the rhythm of life.
Heart health is a major issue throughout this region. With high rates of smoking, obesity, and diabetes, cardiologists like myself work hard every day to help people maintain and improve their quality of life. It’s important to give people more options, and we are proud to say that we have several of the latest advances here locally that can offer great outcomes to people in need.
Feel The Rhythm
The heart is the engine of the body. Controlling this engine is an electrical network that tells the different parts of the heart when to squeeze and when to relax (to beat in sync). Sometimes, this gets disrupted and the heart beats incorrectly. We call these “arrhythmias” (a-rith-me-ahs). Some of these arrhythmias can result in major problems and affect a person’s quality of life. Cardiologists (including me) who specialize in this area are called electrophysiologists, and our goal is to manage these arrhythmias and restore quality of life.
One of the most common and dangerous arrhythmias is called “atrial fibrillation,” when the upper chambers of the heart beat out of sync and contract erratically. This prevents proper blood flow and greatly increases the risk of stroke and makes the heart beat rapidly. Patients may feel like they’re running a marathon, even at rest. Over time, it can cause major changes in the heart and even heart failure.
The symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
- Fluttering or thumping in the chest
- Dizziness, fainting or confusion
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
Your heart is beating every minute of every day of your life. Whether you’re awake or asleep, it’s working. The electrical network of the heart tells it to beat in sync or rhythm.
When the heart’s rhythm is off and causes problems and decreases quality of life, there are several ways to correct this. One way that we have at our disposal is called “ablation.” Using this method, we can interrupt the faulty electrical signals in the heart, restoring the heart’s normal rhythm. Years ago, this was only possible through open-heart surgery, which required a lengthy recovery time. Now, we can do it without the need for surgery.
Hot & Cold
By inserting a catheter into a vein near the groin and then threading it up to the heart and using a high-density mapping system to guide us, we can access the faulty electrical pathways around the heart. For several years, we used radio frequency energy to heat up and disrupt these pathways. Now, we can also use a cryoballoon to freeze the electrical pathways, causing the same disruption. Using the freezing balloon, called cryoablation, has been proven just as effective as the heating method. Use of high-density mapping system and cryoballoon ablation has a reduced chance of needing a repeat of the procedure later.
Patients who experience any of the symptoms of atrial fibrillation should talk about it to their primary care provider or a cardiologist. Diagnosing atrial fibrillation is a simple, non-invasive process and can help us more quickly treat this problem. Because treating atrial fibrillation sooner rather than later is important and can make a difference in outcomes. Positive outcomes are also more likely when patients also work to improve their lifestyle in conjunction with treatment.
If you have questions about how you can improve your heart health, quit smoking, improve your diet or get more physical activity, talk to your primary care provider or a cardiologist. We’ll do everything we can to help restore your normal heart rhythm so you can get back to work, get back to family and friends, and enjoy your life.
Dr. Rangadham Nagarakanti is board-certified in cardiovascular disease and clinical cardiac electrophysiology. For more information, call 844-44-MY-ONE (844-446-9663).
This article originally appeared in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.