The Heart Truth — Free Heart Health Screenings at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital
Think of your heart as your body’s delivery system. It pumps out the good stuff—oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood—to every inch of your body through a network of arteries.
But heart disease throws a wrench into things. “The most common form, coronary heart disease, is the number one cause of death for both men and women in most countries,” said Dr. Toussaint Smith, board-certified cardiologist with Houston Methodist Cardiology Associates.
Coronary artery disease starts with artery damage caused by smoking, high blood pressure or a number of other factors. The damage triggers the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries and limits blood flow to the heart. If the heart cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, it struggles to function properly. Worse yet, plaque can break loose and form a clot, causing a heart attack when blood supply is cut off.
The best way to beat coronary artery disease? Never get it in the first place. You can do that by managing risk factors: reduce high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, quit smoking, lose weight if overweight or obese, and lead an active lifestyle.
“The combination of living healthier, knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and taking medication if you need to is the formula for prevention,” Smith said.
Heart Basics. The pulmonary artery carries blood out to the lungs, where it is oxygenated. The pulmonary veins transport the oxygen-rich blood back to the heart. The aorta then distributes this oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. Once depleted of oxygen, blood returns to the heart and the process restarts.
Aortic stenosis. When it comes to the arteries, the aorta is the main work horse. This main artery is responsible for carrying most of the blood to the body. In a condition called aortic stenosis, calcium deposits can build up in the aortic valve, causing it to narrow and limit blood flow.
Atrial fibrillation. With atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers beat erratically, causing an irregular pulse. When left untreated, it can double the risk of a heart-related death and dramatically increase the chance of having a stroke.
Heart failure. In some cases, the heart struggles to pump enough blood to the body. Heart failure is measured by ejection fraction (EF), the percentage of blood pushed out with each heartbeat. An EF less than 40 may indicate heart failure.
Cardiomyopathy. This disease causes the heart muscle to become enlarged or stiff. Both blood flow and maintaining a regular heartbeat become difficult tasks. The condition can be inherited, or it can surface because of another medical condition, such as high blood pressure.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Toussaint Smith or another cardiologist at Houston Methodist Cardiology Associates, simply go to houstonmethodist.org/online-scheduling or call 281.491.6808.
FREE HEART HEALTH SCREENINGS
Join us on Thursday, February 25 from 5-7:30 p.m. at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Conference Center to learn your 10-year risk for heart disease and receive cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. Screenings are by appointment only, followed by an opportunity to speak to our specialists. Registration required. Register online at houstonmethodist.org/events or call 281.274.7500.