Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. Whiteley provides comprehensive wellness care for women of all ages. These services include birth control, physicals, breast cancer screening exams, PAP smears, osteoporosis screening and cardiovascular disease screening.

Although many people think of heart disease as man’s problem, women can and do get heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States . American women are 4 to 6 times more likely to die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Heart disease kills more women over 65 than all cancers combined.Heart and blood vessel disease (also called heart disease) includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis.  Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries.  This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can block the blood flow.  This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot.  If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die.  Most people survive their first heart attack and return to their normal lives, enjoying many more years of productive activity, but experiencing a heart attack does mean that you need to make some changes.  The medications and lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends may vary according to how badly your heart was damaged, and to what degree of heart disease caused the heart attack.

Stroke comes in two basic types, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.  An ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke) occurs when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot.  When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, some brain cells will begin to die.  This can result in the loss of functions controlled by that part of the brain, such as walking or talking.  A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts.  This is most often caused by uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).  Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after being starved of oxygen.  These cells are never replaced.  The good news is that sometimes brain cells don’t die during stroke — instead, the damage is temporary.  Over time, as injured cells repair themselves, previously impaired function improves (In other cases, undamaged brain cells nearby may take over for the areas of the brain that were injured).  Either way, strength may return, speech may get better and memory may improve.  This recovery process is what stroke rehabilitation is all about.

Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, means the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. Heart failure does not mean that the heart stops beating — that’s a common misperception.  Instead, the heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met.  Heart failure can get worse if left untreated.  If you or your loved one has heart failure the good news is it is a treatable condition.

Arrhythmia refers to an abnormal heart rhythm.  There are various types of arrhythmias.  The heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly.  Bradycardia, or a heart rate that’s too slow, is when the heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute.  Tachycardia, or a heart rate that’s too fast, refers to a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute. An arrhythmia can affect how well your heart works.  With an irregular heartbeat, your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.

Heart valve problems occur when heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, a condition called stenosis results.  When the heart valves don’t close properly and thus allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation.  If the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called prolapse. 

If you think you are having cardiovascular problems or if you have already been diagnosed with cardiovascular problems Dr. Whiteley encourages you to schedule an appointment to have your case evaluated.  As your family physician Dr. Whiteley can customize your care for your personal needs and may advise you to see  cardiovascular specialists to create a customized cardiovascular care team to meet for your personal needs.