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Heart Attack and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

(Ed. note - As it is heart month, we asked Dr. Rocco Ciocca, Chief of Vascular Surgery, to explain a little more about heart attacks and peripheral artery disease.)

Most people are familiar with the phrase “heart attack” and know that it can be a life threatening condition.

The most common case of a “heart attack” or myocardial infarction is the sudden closure or clotting of a vessel or vessels that supply blood and thus oxygen and other nutrients to the heart. The heart is a muscle and without adequate blood flow the muscle dies. The most common case of a heart attack is “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerotic disease of the arteries. The disease, which is most commonly related to various risk factors such as age, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high suger levels in the blood (diabetes), causes abnormal blockages to develop in critical blood vessels in the body limiting flow. The blood vessels of the heart are not the only vessels affected.

In fact, hardening of the arteries is a systemic (total body) process that involves many other blood vessels of the body. When it involves the other peripheral arteries of the body it is know as PAD, peripheral artery disease. The diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of PAD are managed by vascular specialists such as vascular surgeons.

Change your clock this weekend: it may help your ticker

Here’s a great reason to remember to turn your clocks back and sleep in an extra hour this weekend: it may be good for your heart.

More than 1.5 billion people reset their clocks every year, turning clocks backward by an hour in the fall and forward by an hour in the spring. These transitions can disrupt internal biologic rhythms and influence the duration and quality of sleep. But does losing or gaining that one hour have health consequences? A 2008 report in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Janszky and colleagues suggests that it does. The authors showed that there is a significant increase in the daily rate of heart attack in the first few days after we “spring ahead” and get an hour less of sleep, but that in the first few days after we “fall back” and gain an hour of sleep, there are fewer heart attacks.

Sleep deprivation carries a high risk. Sleeping less than 5-6 hours per night is associated with significant increase in the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression. But 40% of Americans...

Early warning device for heart attacks

The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person, but what if you had an early warning system that would alert you to go to the hospital before the first sign of trouble? Doctors here at Swedish are testing out a new device they hope could do just that.

In early January 2010 Swedish became the first medical center in western Washington to begin participation in the ALERTS Pivotal U.S. Trial for the AngelMed Guardian implantable cardiac monitor and alert system. The system is designed to reduce the time it takes patients to get to an emergency room during an impending heart attack.

The AngelMed Guardian System ® is designed to track significant changes in the heart’s electrical signal and then alert patients to seek medical attention. The objective of the ALERTS Pivotal Study is to provide an assessment of the safety and effectiveness of the AngelMed Guardian System.

“If the Guardian system proves to be effective in the early detection and warning of potentially life-threatening heart conditions, we may be able to shift the paradigm for early treatment at the onset of heart attacks,” said Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute interventional cardiologist Mark Reisman, M.D., principle investigator for this study at Swedish.

According to the American Heart Association, one of every five deaths in the United States is attributable to coronary heart disease. Further, 50 percent of heart-attack fatalities occur within one hour of symptom onset and occur before the patient even reaches the hospital.

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