Posts Tagged ‘Heart Attack’

Growing blood vessels

November 20, 2009

Here’s a medical discovery made by cancer researchers that can benefit Funky Hearts, too. Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have recently discovered a protein that controls the growth of new blood vessels. These researchers want to limit blood vessel growth in cancer patients, at least temporarily: if a tumor connects to a blood vessel, it then has access to all the resources it needs to grow. It’s almost like throwing gasoline on a fire.

But for someone with a Congenital Heart Defect it could be useful to encourage blood vessel growth. Everyone is born with a set of Collateral Blood Vessels – these are tiny “extra” blood vessels that are the body’s backup blood delivery system. Normally, they never really have to do anything.

But if you suffer a heart attack (or are born with a Heart Defect) your collaterals can “wake up” and begin to pump blood to the affected heart muscle while avoiding regular blood vessels that are damaged or missing.

Now that we are learning how to slow down or stop blood vessel growth, perhaps we can figure out how to make certain blood vessels grow more.  Wouldn’t it be really cool if a doctor could diagnose a heart defect and then take steps to counter it by injecting a localized drug right where it is needed?

The main stumbling block to this idea is the fact that even when they are active, the collaterals are still tiny blood vessels. We’d need a lot of them, and there is really no rhyme or reason in determining where they are located. They grow as needed. Right now we don’t have any visualization equipment that is sensitive enough to find all these extra blood vessels. And surgery of any kind in an area where the location of the blood vessels aren’t known would be pretty risky. There are a lot of obstacles to be overcome before this idea could ever be a reality.

But who knows what the future holds?

“The time has come to speak of many things.”

November 14, 2008

Katie’s father continues to write on her website, working through his emotions at this trying time. He’s a really good writer! I’m sure he’s not writing for style or content, but he’s very eloquent.

While not concerning Congenital Heart Defects, this is important information to have in case of a heart attack: Find out if a hospital in your area supports the STEMI protocol, and try to find out their Door to Balloon time. Then contact the organization in charge of Ambulance Services in your area and find out if and how their vehicles and First Responders are coordinated with STEMI. During a heart attack, time is muscle – the longer it takes to get quality care, the worse the damage to the heart. A properly organized STEMI response can cut that time. Here’s a good example of STEMI in action: Ambulance dispatched: 8:07; Catherization Balloon inflated: 9:08. Another example is provided by Elaine, a brand new nurse who sees a STEMI developing in the ER. The STEMI system isn’t perfect, but it is a good start. CHDer’s usually don’t have “traditional” heart attacks, but it is good to know this information, just in case a friend or family member has one.

How to help prevent medical mistakes. Also, ten questions you should ask about your scheduled surgery.

If you see an elf, blast ‘im! (Link from The LawDog Files. The title of his blog always reminds of the classic line from the movie Tombstone.)

Gene therapy for Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)! If that doesn’t work, perhaps a gas will. (Careful of that gas, though! This is not a Do-It-Yourself treatment!)

This will be great – a pacemaker powered by the heart itself! Here’s a photo. And here’s Georgia Tech’s version.

Just in case you haven’t figured it out, we’re spending a lot of money on health care for chronic diseases. How much? TOO much – just read question 1. More than half of us can’t afford what we need, but a lot of that money could be saved… both in the private sector and in Medicare costs. New MRI scanners and CT scanners add a LOT to total Medicare costs – and that’s not installation costs.

There are two ways to cut your heart attack risk – take Crestor, which cuts your heart attack risk 44% (and costs a pretty penny) or get up off your butt, lay down the smokes, and take care of yourself! Exercise even helps Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) patients, who usually show up in the Cardiologist’s office so much, we qualify for frequent flyer miles. The problem is, given a choice between taking a pill (and perhaps having someone else pay for it) and taking care of ourselves, a lot of Americans would take the easy way out. And that little fact is making The Happy Hospitalist have a 100% officially certified BAD DAY.

I tend to agree with him.

Heart Defect or Heart Disease?

August 10, 2008

It really should be a no-brainer. After all, a defect is a design flaw. A disease is an illness. But a lot of people, including me, use the terms interchangeably.

Actually, both words can be used together. My heart defect (Tricuspid Atresia) causes me to have various heart diseases, such as Cyanosis, Congestive Heart Failure, and Atrial Flutter. I occasionally use the phrase “Congenital Heart Disease”; when I do, I use it as a plural of the phrase “Congenital Heart Defect.” (Example: In an earlier post titled The Great Eight, there is a photo of eight people with Congenital Heart Disease.)

Helen Taussig, acknowledged as the Mother of Pediatric Cardiology, preferred the phrase “Congenital Malformations”, (her book is titled Congenital Malformations of the Heart) but even she fell into the Heart Defect/Heart Disease trap occasionally.

Today, the phrase Heart Disease is correctly associated with the various illnesses that can affect a person’s heart as they age. But it is being mutated into a code phrase for unhealthy behavior. After all, you wouldn’t have clogged arteries, high cholesterol, hypertension, or suffered a heart attack if you had taken care of yourself… right? Obviously, so this “logic” goes, you’ve been misbehaving.

I have been sitting in the Cardiologist’s waiting room and been asked “So what are you in for?” (In the same tone of voice used to ask Prisoner #6298965 what he is in for!) When I replied that I had a heart defect, I was told in no uncertain terms that I should have been more careful! Her husband had the exact same problem and she had thrown the salt shaker away, cut out the cholesterol, and didn’t fry any foods at all! I sat there with a bemused smile on my face as I wondered if her husband actually enjoyed eating cardboard boxes at every meal and how often was he able to slip away for a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger.

It seems to be a grim comment on our society that it is assumed if you have an illness, you’re automatically at fault. When I volunteered at the museum, my boss was participating in a county fair parade when he suffered a heart attack and fell off of his horse. During his recovery period we occasionally heard comments about how he was going to have to lose weight, watch what he ate, and other advice. But my boss was as healthy as the horse he fell off of — earlier in life he had had a bout with Bacterial Pneumonia. Recent research has shown that some types of Bacterial Pneumonia can increase the possibility of a heart attack.

This has also led to almost making “obesity” a crime. The problem is, today’s definition of an “obese” person would have been quite acceptable in the past. Look at any of the paintings by the great masters: since most of the subjects were at least partially nude, it is easy to tell that they carry a few extra pounds. But what was recognized as healthy and attractive back then is seen as repulsive today.

And it is not because we have gotten smarter or more health conscious or “nutritionally aware.” Young people today, especially young ladies, are held to an impossibly high standard. Anything less than perfection is unacceptable, and open to ridicule.

CHDer’s have proven to themselves that despite their limitations and the funny lines on their chests, most of us have an inner strength that others can only dream of.  We’ve been through at least one heart operation, usually more. We’ve given gallons of blood, one vial at a time. Countless doctor’s appointments and hospital stays have caused us to come to grips with our mortality. We get knocked down all the time, but rarely are we beaten.


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