Elizabeth Sonsini was working out, stood up, and everything went black. She went to the closest ER and was diagnosed with Tachycardia, a condition that makes your heartbeat more than 100 times per minute. Her symptoms rapidly increased over the next few weeks such that she wasn’t able to play outside with her son without collapsing. Elizabeth is now encouraging other women to take their heart health seriously. Watch her triumphant story to learn more.
What is heart disease?
There are several forms of heart disease but the most common is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It is a condition that occurs when the arteries that supply oxygen –rich blood and nutrients to the heart muscle become narrowed or blocked by a gradual build-up of plaque.
Plaque is made up of fatty deposits (cholesterol), white blood cells, calcium, and other substances that collect over time in the wall of a coronary artery. As plaque narrows the opening of a coronary artery, it makes it difficult for adequate quantities of blood to flow to the heart muscle. This process is called atherosclerosis.
Gradual reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle can cause chest pain. A heart attack can occur if the artery suddenly becomes completely blocked, usually by a blood clot that forms over ruptured plaque. Heart attacks can cause irreversible damage to the heart muscle.
Angina, also called angina pectoris, is a recurring discomfort or pain in the chest that occurs when an inadequate supply of blood reaches the heart muscle. Angina is not a heart attack, though the symptoms are similar. It is a warning symptom of a more serious condition, usually coronary heart disease.
Angina currently affects more than 10 million Americans, with 350,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Although it most commonly affects males who are middle-aged or older, it can occur in both sexes and all age groups.
Angina is usually described as a pressing, burning or squeezing pain felt in the chest. Angina pain typically centers under the breastbone, but it may also spread to the throat, arms, jaws, between the shoulder blades or downward to the stomach. Other symptoms that may accompany angina include nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath and sweating.
Based on the symptom pattern and predictability, angina is divided into two types:
With stable angina, the chest pain follows a specific pattern, usually occurring after an emotional event, overexertion, a large meal, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking or exposure to extremely hot or cold temperatures. Symptoms usually disappear after a few minutes of rest.
With unstable angina, the symptoms are less predictable and more serious. The discomfort and pain can last 20 minutes or more, even during sleep or while at rest.
Angina is not a disease but a symptom of a more serious condition, usually coronary heart disease.
A normal heart beats in a steady, even rhythm, about 60 to 100 times each minute or about 100,000 times each day. But a person’s heart can skip a beat or it can beat a few too many times. Both conditions are known as cardiac arrhythmias.
Electrophysiology studies (EPSs), pacemaker implantation, and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), all help keep patients’ hearts beating in time.
An arrhythmia may be “silent” and not cause any symptoms. A doctor can detect an irregular heartbeat during a physical exam by taking your pulse, listening to your heart or by performing diagnostic tests. If you do experience symptoms of cardiac arrhythmia, they may include:
- Palpitations or irregular-feeling heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting spells
- Mental confusion
- Loss of consciousness
Based on a diagnostic exam and test results, treatment plan may include one or more of the following options:
- Catheter ablation
- Pacemaker and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)