gdelgado@diariolasamericas.com

@GrethelDelgadoA

MIAMI- When it comes to heart health, there is no time to lose. Every day that you let go by without adopting a healthy lifestyle, and looking out for the symptoms of possible conditions, is a negative step that can lead to serious heart problems and, in many cases, amputations.

According to a recent report by the American Heart Association (AHA), almost half of all adults in the US have some type of cardiovascular disease.

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This year's report indicated that 121.5 million adults in the US have cardiovascular disease. Heart disease was the leading cause of death in the country, while stroke was the fifth.

Cardiovascular conditions occur for various reasons, either due to genetic factors, which are inevitable; or lifestyle, which, logically, can be modified, even if people are not very aware of this. Many patients who have a heart problem only begin to take action once this all-important organ has given them warning signs.

Cardiologist José L. Márquez, with Tenet Florida Physician Services, told the DIARIO DE LAS AMÉRICAS that the main symptoms that people with heart conditions tend to present are “pain, discomfort in the center of the chest, sometimes with irradiation to the left arm, up to the elbow; sometimes to both arms, and the back; feeling tired, and shortness of breath.”

As Dr. Marquez explained, risk factors include “family genetics , smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.” This is why he recommends “not putting on weight, not smoking, exercising, and following a good diet, especially low in sugar and carbohydrates.”

Cardiologist Pablo Guala, head of the Miami Vascular Center, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of preventing cardiovascular diseases from an early age.

“The number one cardiological disease is coronary artery disease: the obstruction of the arteries of the heart. Prevention is very important. When you're young, you don't think you're ever going to be old, or get sick. So you smoke, you eat everything, and then the problems appear. Physical activity, per se, is an essential factor for people to enjoy better health and survival, and averts many problems,” Dr. Guala explained.

“There are young people who come to get a check-up, just for prevention, which is unusual. For example, a patient may come saying 'my Dad had a heart attack at 40, and I just turned 40', so we give him a check-up.”

One of the most frequently performed procedures at the center is the treatment of venous conditions.

“We see many patients with vein problems. We do a venous ultrasound, a mapping of the superficial and deep veins, and then we determine whether we have to employ specific treatments, other than exercise and compression socks,” he said.

However, Dr. Guala and his team’s main mission: to prevent amputations.

“The other thing we do at the center is to prevent amputations, when there is a peripheral vascular disease. This is usually the domain of vascular surgeons, but among those who perform the endovascular procedure (that is, with a catheter inside the arteries, such as heart catheterization), there are few who operate to unblock the leg arteries, at a high level of complexity, to prevent amputations,” said Guala.

For about five years, the doctor and his team have seen “people who come after they are told they have to get an amputation, and, when we examine them, we don’t have to amputate, just perform a catheterization. Maybe he loses a toe, but not his leg. It is a procedure that we do on an outpatient basis. The patient doesn’t have to be admitted to the hospital. It is done with local anesthesia and conscious sedation.”

“This procedure is minimally invasive. There are no cuts, no stitches, no sutures. Just a puncture, a needle, and a little, two-mm catheter that enters through the groin, foot or arm, depending on the case, and everything is done through that catheter. The patient goes home after three hours of recovery,” he added.

Dr. Guala insists on informing people “that most amputations are preventable. If someone tells you that you have to have it amputated, seek a second opinion.”

“There are people who, unfortunately, come too late, so it is important to act fast. The symptoms are pain in the legs when walking, and the need to stop, which is called intermittent claudication. This is one of the early signs that can lead to an injury. For example, when a diabetic strikes his bed, and does not even realize that he is wounded, because he has no sensitivity; that is, he has peripheral neuropathy. And, because it doesn't get enough blood, that injury doesn’t heal. There are no growth factors,” he stressed.

At the Miami Vascular Center these patients are examined in order to receive podiatric care and effective treatment of their wounds.

“Here we examine the patient, and analyze their blood flow, which is usually weak, because it is not getting there, due to the obstructions. An ultrasound is done, we confirm it with an angiogram, and then the arteries that are clogged are unclogged. This leads to an increase in blood flow, improved symptoms, and a decrease likelihood of amputation, because the wounds begin to heal,” he finished.

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