Heart & Vascular Institute

With locations around western Washington and a dedicated heart facility in downtown Seattle, we are committed to advanced, leading-edge diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for a growing range of adult and pediatric cardiovascular diseases and conditions.

Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute is the region’s leading cardiovascular care center, with the broadest range of services and sub-specialties and expertise in the most complex conditions.

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Services and Locations

Heart Disease and Risk Factors

Heart disease can take many forms, but the most common types are listed here. In the video below, Dr. Glenn Barnhart, medical director of Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute, provides an overview of coronary artery disease.

  • Coronary Artery Disease: This most common type of heart disease occurs when a thick, fatty substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries, making it hard for blood to flow and carry oxygen to the heart.

  • Heart-Muscle Damage: Damage to the heart muscle reduces its pumping power and allows blood and other fluids to back up and circulate in other parts of the body. The heart is at risk of becoming oxygen-deprived.

  • Rhythm Disorders: When something happens to disturb the heart’s internal electrical signal, it can’t pump the way it should. It may beat too fast or too slow, both of which can lead to cardiac problems.

  • Valve Abnormalities: Four valves control the direction and flow of blood as it enters and leaves the heart. Valve disease keeps the valve from opening and closing the way it should. A narrowed valve blocks the normal flow of blood, forcing the heart to work harder to force the blood through. In a leaky valve, some of the blood leaks backward, which also affects blood flow.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Because heart disease is so common, it’s more important than ever for people to understand their risk of developing heart disease — and to take steps prevent it.

Your age and your family history both play a part in your risk for heart disease. The “at-risk” ages for men are 45 or older; for women, it’s 55 or older, or any time after menopause. Both men and women are considered at-risk if there is a family history: father or brother having heart disease before age 55 or mother or sister having heart disease before age 65.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Unfortunately, you can’t control your age or your family history, but you do have some control over these other factors that may put you at risk:

  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor eating habits

Experts have recently added a new risk factor — inflammation of blood vessels, which may be triggered by high blood pressure, smoking or low-level infections. Inflammation of blood vessels can be detected through a simple blood test, and treated through anti-inflammatory therapies and a heart-healthy lifestyle. You can do an Online Health Assessment to help you determine your risk level.

Signs of a Heart Attack

Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack can save your life — or someone else’s. When a heart attack starts, there’s a short window of opportunity to stop damage to the heart. Don’t wait to get help. Every second counts. And pay close attention to these heart-attack warning signs for men and women.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Men

Early signs of a heart attack may feel like the flu or indigestion. Other signs include:

  • Pain, pressure, fullness, burning or a squeezing sensation in the center of the chest behind the breastbone
  • Radiating pain that starts in your chest and spreads to the arms, neck, jaw, shoulders or back
  • Any prolonged discomfort in your torso, arms, abdomen or jaw that is associated with shortness or breath, troubled breathing or nausea

Symptoms in Women

  • All of the symptoms listed above for men
  • Prolonged unusual chest pain, stomach or upper abdominal discomfort without shortness of breath
  • Severe nausea or “heartburn”
  • Unusual or unexpected shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness or fatigue
  • Heart palpitations, cold sweats or pale appearance
  • Unexplained “feelings of doom”

Other Resources

Patient Resources

Award Winning Heart Care

Locally Based, Nationally Recognized for Superior Heart Care

Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute has received local and national recognition for high-quality cardiac care. We monitor our outcomes closely and strive to achieve the best results for our patients.

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