What We Treat

According to the American Heart Association, 79 million Americans have one or more types of heart and blood vessel diseases. And while many of these types of diseases are preventable, they can go unnoticed until something terribly wrong happens.

At Capital Health - Heart Care Specialists, we’ve made it our mission to help residents in Mercer and Burlington counties avoid these unfortunate circumstances. We work with primary physicians and other specialists to provide men and women with the advanced health care they need, including state-of-the-art imaging and diagnostic equipment to help promote heart healthy living.

Below are some of the heart and blood vessel diseases you should be aware of.
Angina
Angina is a condition that causes discomfort much like sharp heartburn or indigestion during exercise or activities that will increase your heart rate and during emotional stress or anger. Angina is caused by the buildup of cells, fat and cholesterol that narrow the arteries in the heart. If not properly diagnosed, it can lead to heart disease and much more serious problems, including heart attack or stroke.

Arrythmia
Also known as an abnormal heart rate, there are too kinds of arrythmia conditions: one that makes your heart beat too slow (bradycardia) and one that makes your heart beat too fast (tachycardia). Arrythmia is different from atrial fibrillation because the heart maintains a steady pattern during arrythmia. That’s why some cases of arrythmia have almost no symptoms, or may feel like a brief fluttering in the chest or neck. However, if the arrythmia is severe or lasts long enough to effect how much blood is pumping to the body, it can cause tiredness, lightheadedness or could cause you to pass out.

Artherosclerosis
Also known as hardening of the arteries, this condition occurs when a buildup of cells, fat and cholesterol narrow the arteries. This limits the flow of blood to the heart or brain. If the buildup breaks open and blocks the artery, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Athletes Heart
This condition is common in athletes who exercise more than an hour every day and occasionally in those who train with heavy weights. An EKG may appear abnormal and an echocardiogram may show thickening of the muscle. These findings must be evaluated because it may look like a disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which has killed many young athletes, most notably Hank Gathers. There are multiple ways to help distinguish the normal athletes heart from the deadly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. A pre-participation sports physical exam is the best method to discover potential abnormalities. At Heart Care Specialists, we will work with your primary physician to evaluate your cardiac risk and ability to perform athletic activities. Please contact us for an evaluation if you participate in athletics and have abnormal symptoms like chest pain, palpitations or shortness of breath or a family relative with heart abnormalities.

Atrial Fibrillation
Your body gets the oxygen it needs from the heart pumping enriched blood through your blood vessels in a regular pattern. When this pattern is broken or becomes irregular, the body reacts accordingly and can cause dizziness, sweating, chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fainting. These are symptoms of atrial fibrillation, a condition where the two upper chambers of the heart are not beating in a regular pattern. People with atrial fibrillation are at-risk for more serious problems, including chronic fatigue, heart failure, and stroke. However, these people can also live a normal life by managing their condition using prescribed medications. More serious cases may require surgery, depending on the level of malfunction in the heart.

Bacterial Endocarditis
This condition is more common in people with pre-existing heart conditions (artificial heart valves, history of endocarditis, damaged valves, congenital heart defect, enlarged heart, or an abnormal heart valve from a transplanted heart). Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of either the heart’s inner lining (known as the endocardium) and the heart valves. In the past, it was thought that the infection was caused by a dental, gastrointestinal (GI), or genitourinary (GU) tract procedure. However, recent studies by the American Heart Association’s Endocarditis Committee, together with national and international experts on endocarditis, find no conclusive evidence linking bacterial endocarditis to these procedures. Instead, the major causes of this condition now include prior history, mechanical valve prosthesis, congenital abnormalities, or heart transplant recipients who develop cardiac valve abnormalities.

Cholesterol
Cholesterol is one of the leading causes of artherosclerosis, or hardening of the artery walls. When your artery walls harden, blood flow to the heart or brain becomes less, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. For this reason, keeping your cholesterol levels low is one of the most crucial ways to prevent one of these serious, life threatening conditions.
There are no symptoms associated with high cholesterol, which makes if you don’t have your levels tested, you might not know you have it until it’s too late. The U.S. Department Health and Human Services suggests that everyone age 20 and older have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years. A blood test called a "lipoprotein profile" is done to look at your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides (another form of fat in the bloodstream).
Your cholesterol levels can be affected by diet, weight, cigarette smoking, blood pressure and physical activity, however, you may be genetically predisposed for high cholesterol or it could be a result of your age and gender. Cholesterol levels rise as you get older, and after the age of menopause, women tend to be more at risk for high cholesterol than men who are the same age.

Congestive Heart Failure
According to the American Heart Association, almost 5 million Americans are living with congestive heart failure today. By “failure” this doesn’t mean that your heart is not pumping blood. It means that your heart is failing to meet the blood and oxygen needs of your body as it should. Symptoms could include shortness of breath (especially when laying flat), fatigue, swelling in the feet, ankles and legs, weight gain from fluid, or confusion and muddled thinking. These symptoms develop gradually (over weeks and months) rather than suddenly.

High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure means that your blood vessels are receiving a heavy force of blood pushing against the walls, regardless of whether your heart beats and rests. This can lead to artherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as hypertension or “the silent killer” because it can have little or no symptoms while causing considerable damage to your body. Regular monitoring and routine screenings are used to make sure that this condition doesn’t reach dangerous levels.

Heart Attack
Heart attacks occur due to clots in the blood stream that cause a blockage of blood flow to the heart. Some signs that you’re having a heart attack can include:
  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It can last for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
For women, the symptoms of a heart attack may be different than men. Women typically experience less intense symptoms such as nausea, backache, or dizziness that many times goes undiagnosed because it is either ignored or attributed to stress. For this reason, many women may have undiagnosed warning signs weeks, months, and even years before having a heart attack, which is extremely dangerous.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If you have hypertension, arrhythmia or foot/leg/ankle swelling (known as lower extremity edema), you may be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea. This is a condition where a person has episodes of blocked breathing during sleep. The blockage is caused by relaxed upper throat muscles that collapse and block the airway for a period of time (often more than 10 seconds). Loud snoring or labored breathing usually occurs during sleep.
Those with sleep apnea often feel more drowsy or sleepy during the day. Older obese men seem to be at higher risk, although many men and women with obstructive sleep apnea are not obese.
When sleep testing is recommended, we work closely with the Capital Health Center for Sleep Medicine. Available in two locations in Hamilton and Trenton, the center has been accredited for nearly 20 years by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and is the largest fully accredited center in Mercer and Bucks counties. In addition to sleep apnea, the center offers comprehensive testing and treatment for all sleep disorders in adults and children. For more information, visit www.sleepatcapitalhealth.org.

Pregnancy-Related Conditions
Hypertension
Having high blood pressure as an expecting mother can lead to problems for you and your baby. It can cause low birth weight or premature delivery of your baby.
You could have high blood pressure prior to your pregnancy or you may develop high blood pressure as a result of your pregnancy (a condition known as gestational hypertension). Without treatment, gestational hypertension can advance to a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy. This condition, known as preeclampsia, can be life-threatening to both the mother and the unborn child. In such cases, early delivery may be necessary.
We work closely with families and their OB/GYNs to closely monitor the mother and child, develop changes in lifestyle and, when appropriate, prescribe certain medicines to help keep both mother and child safe during the pregnancy.

Palpitations and arrhythmia
Pregnant women can develop palpitations or arrhythmia more frequently due to elevated hormone levels. If you notice palpitations occur with certain activities or food, you should avoid those activities. We may also develop an appropriate treatment plan with you if the heart palpitations bother you and you have other health problems.

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
This is a type of heart failure that develops in relation to pregnancy and is typically diagnosed within the final month of pregnancy or within five months after delivery. According to the National Institutes of Health, peripartum cardiomyopathy complicates 1 in every 1,300 - 4,000 deliveries across the country and is most common in women who get pregnant after age 30.
Early diagnosis and treatment are key to a successful recovery of heart function. Though the cause is not entirely known, some of the most common symptoms can include fatigue, palpitations, increased night-time urination, shortness of breath with activity and when laying flat, and swelling of the ankles.
Risk factors include obesity, having a personal history of cardiac disorders such as myocarditis, use of certain medications, smoking, alcoholism, multiple pregnancies, being African American, and being malnourished. For most women, treatment focuses simply on relieving the symptoms. Changes in lifestyle may be prescribed, including a low salt diet, fluid intake restrictions, and activities such as nursing may be prohibited when symptoms develop.

Stroke
When blood is cut off from the heart, it’s called a heart attack. A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the supply of blood to a part of the brain, or when a blood vessel leaks or bursts – causing bleeding into or around the brain. Brain cells begin to die when they are not receiving the blood they need, or when there is bleeding in or around the brain.
There are a number of factors that may put you at greater risk for stroke. While some cannot be changed, there are things you can do individually to lower your risk: eat a healthy diet, maintain a health weight, stop smoking and control your cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure.
If you or a loved one experience one or more of these symptoms of stroke call 911 immediately and get to the emergency room.
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Stroke Prevention
There are a number of factors that may put you at greater risk for stroke. While some cannot be changed, there are things you can do individually to lower your risk: eat a healthy diet, maintain a health weight, stop smoking and control your cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure.

Risk factors that can be controlled, treated or changed
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Atrial fibrillation/other heart disease
  • Poor diet and obesity
Risk Factors that cannot be changed
  • Age (Over the age of 55 your risk goes up)
  • Family History
  • Race (African Americans, Hispanics or Asian/Pacific Islanders have a greater risk)
  • Gender (Stroke is more common in males, but more women die from stroke. Menopausal status in women can also be a risk factor.)
  • Prior stroke, TIA, or heart attack
For more information about stroke prevention, please visit the following websites:
American Stroke Association: A Division of American Heart Association
http://www.strokeassociation.org

National Stroke Association
http://www.stroke.org

Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center of New Jersey
http://www.strokeandcerebrovascularcenter.com
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