Heart disease treatments and outcomes improve

"Advances in medicine over the last 70 years have changed the face of heart disease," said Robert Burke, MD, an HonorHealth cardiologist.

Until 70 years ago, only a limited number of effective treatments were available if you had a heart condition. If you suffered a heart attack, you may have been treated with herbs or other natural remedies. You also would have been put on bed rest and told to avoid excitement, stress or surprises. The hope was that rest would allow your heart muscle time to heal.

In the '50s, researchers made big advances in electrocardiograms (EKGs). This technology allowed doctors to more accurately evaluate and diagnose problems with the heart. Other advances at that time included:

  • New heart medications
  • More successful open-heart surgery that became more widely available
  • Working with catheters, which were threaded to the coronary arteries to try to alleviate blockages
  • The launch of intensive care units at many hospitals, which helped some of the sickest patients get better

Heart treatment innovations continued over the next decades. If you had a heart attack in the 1970s, you had access to new stents and angioplasty. That procedure involves advancing a specially designed balloon catheter through the femoral artery in the groin to a narrowing in a coronary artery. The heart specialist then inflates the balloon to compress fatty matter into the artery wall, stretching open the artery to increase blood flow to the heart.

Quicker treatments, better outcomes

These treatment innovations help doctors diagnose and treat your heart condition more quickly. Having access to these treatments shortly after a heart attack could help restore blood flow to your heart quickly and reduce the amount of damage to your heart muscle.

“There’s an adage in cardiology that time is muscle,” said Dr. Burke. “The longer you wait for treatment, the more you may be at risk of losing heart muscle.” Seek medical help immediately if you experience symptoms of a heart attack, which include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure
  • Chest heaviness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw or left arm
  • A sense of impending doom

In addition to these classic symptoms of a heart attack, women may also experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you have symptoms, call 911 to get immediate help. In the 21st century, you can take advantage of heart treatment innovations and increase your chances of surviving. Not sure you’re having a heart attack? Better safe than sorry — head for the hospital to be checked out.

Treatments for heart attack and coronary disease continue to improve. “Now, they’re evolutionary changes as opposed to revolutionary changes,” Dr. Burke said.

Equipment is getting smaller and more portable, allowing doctors to get a better look at what’s happening with your heart in a less invasive way. Also, current heart tests expose you to less radiation, and even stents are getting thinner and easier to put in.

All of these innovations add up to better heart care for you and your family if you need it.

Heart disease in mummies

Heart ailments have been around as long as humans have.

“We’ve seen coronary disease in mummies, so we know people weren’t immune to it in the past,” Dr. Burke said.

Your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack can be affected by many things. Your genetics play a role, and so does your general health. It’s important to monitor your risk factors, such as blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, and be mindful of how much exercise you get and if you smoke.

Care that’s made with you in mind

If you need heart care, we’ve got you covered. Whether you live in the metro Phoenix area or you’re looking to travel to HonorHealth from another part of the state or country, you’ll receive in-depth care designed with your convenience in mind.

Get started: Request an appointment with a heart and vascular specialist: 623-580-5800


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