Saving a heart: Improving health, testing makes a difference
By Alexzandria Bryson, Clinton Herald Staff Writer
CLINTON With National Heart Month being observed throughout February, local cardiologist Dr. Saadi Albaghdadi is speaking out about the ways to prevent a heart attack.
Albaghdadi said one needs to know the signs of a heart problem, most of which occur in the upper body. Among them are feelings of indigestion, arm discomfort and elbow discomfort. On the surface it looks like it has nothing to do with the heart but on the inside it could be blocked arteries.
It’s the radiation of discomfort people have in the heart, Albaghdadi said. There are nerve connections that can radiate that discomfort, usually with the left arm. Usually those kind of symptoms don’t get missed often. If someone has chest pains and it goes to the arm I should know that this is a heart problem. When you have vague symptoms is when it becomes a problem. Then you cannot know if anything wrong is happening with your body.
Albaghdadi said there are also things that need to be addressed in people with diabetes and women. Their symptoms can be different from other people with heart problems. They will have vague symptoms, maybe get short-winded doing very little.
Then that’s when you have to wonder why am I getting short-winded walking short distances to my car or down the stairs’, he said.
These are general symptoms that need to be paid attention to, Albaghdadi added.
Last, but not least, is patient history. If someone has a family history of clogged arteries, high cholesterol or high-blood pressure, those can also cause issues. The symptoms of blocked arteries are much higher if you have such a family history, Albaghdadi said.
The recommendation from the College of Cardiology and the Preventative Task Force says doctors should be exercising people after age 50.
Without symptoms I think everyone would exercise patients differently, Albaghdadi said. We do stress tests, screens and now we have been doing calcium scoring, and a CAT scan will tell you if you have a high calcium score, which means your arteries are blocked with calcium. Calcium buildup appears when plaque is building up in that artery. When the healing occurs it will have calcium buildup; the higher the calcium score the more likely this will be a calcium buildup in the artery.
Albaghdadi believes the calcium scorer is an underutilized tool and thinks it should be utilized more. The scorer is different than the stress test, because with the stress test they are trying to find out if there is a blocked artery, Albaghdadi said.
If it is blocked, an angiogram is used to tell doctors where the blocked artery is to see where to open it up at, balloon it, bypass it or, if it’s mild, recommend lifestyle changes. Prevention includes lowering cholesterol and exercising.
Usually middle-aged are most liable to have these problems, along with premature issues with family history, Albaghdadi said. The problem with the younger age group opposed to the middle-aged group is they miss the problem that they have because they think, I am young and don’t think I’d have a problem like that.
The Task Force for Protection’s recommendation is at age 50 everyone should have a calcium score and a cholesterol check.
One of Albaghdadi’s patients, Josh Burgland, who is 37, had a heart attack Jan. 12.
I fell under the same character that the doctor is talking about, the younger crowd, Burgland said. I just ignored all the symptoms not thinking it had anything to do with my heart. The morning of the heart attack I got extremely hot and sweated profusely. I felt sick to my stomach and had a big discomfort in my chest. It wasn’t anything that brought me to my knees, just pressure.
I canceled everything I was doing that day and tried to lay down for a nap. Nothing changed so I drove myself to the emergency room and they hooked me right up to the EKG and said I was having a heart attack. My heart attack lasted almost two hours. The only symptoms I had was fatigue, not really any other issues, I had blocked arteries in my heart, which created the attack.
I have really started to clean up my diet, chicken and fish, no red meat, vegetables and fruit, he said, and I also have been exercising five or six times a week.
It took less than an hour to open all of his arteries up, which was fortunate. They actually have a great track record of how fast they can open someone’s arteries up, Albaghdadi said.
The standard that they want you to do it by is called door to balloon, which is the time a patient walks into the ER to the time the patient’s artery is opened with the balloon. It should be 90 minutes. As soon as the artery is opened, the muscle damage stops, he said.
There is always damage, but the sooner you open it up the better, he said.
We want to educate the populous so hopefully events like this can be prevented, Albaghdadi said. It’s good to pick up things before they become a problem, which is why we want to do screens on people who have more of a chance of having heart problems.