What is a Heart Murmur and What are the Signs?

What is a Heart Murmur and What are the Signs? A heart murmur is an unusual sound in the heartbeat’s cycle that’s caused by blood moving improperly through the valve system of the heart. The normal “lub-dub” sound that can be heard through a stethoscope is the sound of the heart valves opening and closing as they guide the blood through the heart during normal circulation. A murmur occurs when the valves aren’t doing their jobs properly and blood is flowing backward through the heart instead of following the normal pathways. Symptoms A heart murmur can cause poor circulation, which may result in cold or bluish extremities, especially the fingertips, toes, and lips. A victim may also experience swelling and weight gain, heavy sweating with minimal exertion, dizziness and fainting, chest pain, chronic cough, or shortness of breath. In young children and infants, symptoms may also include a poor appetite and a failure to grow normally. Any of these symptoms should be a sign that it’s time to talk to your doctor about underlying causes for your symptoms. Types of Heart Murmurs There are two types of heart murmurs; “innocent” and “abnormal.” An innocent heart murmur is caused by blood flowing more rapidly than normal through the heart. This can be caused by physical activity, pregnancy, fever, anemia, and even rapid growth phases during development. Innocent heart murmurs may disappear over time or stay with the patient their entire lives without causing further complications. Abnormal heart murmurs may be caused by a variety of reasons, like disease, surgery, trauma, congenital heart problems,  or other medical conditions, and are more...

Did you Know? Higher Risk of Blood Clots while Traveling/Flying

Did you Know? Higher Risk of Blood Clots while Traveling/Flying Long distance traveling can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, also known as a blood clot. Long distance flights or rides that last more than four hours may increase your risk of a blood clot. Knowing the risk, and how to minimize it, can make travel much safer. Risk Factors Not everyone experiences the same risk of blood clots. Certain conditions can increase your risk, and may affect your ability to travel long distances safely. Certain cancers, recent surgeries, and chronic inflammatory diseases increase your risk. Other risk factors include pregnancy, age (if you’re over 60,) a family or personal history of blood clots, smoking, a recent trauma, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and prior central line placement. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor when planning a long trip. Signs to Watch Out For When you’re sitting in a confined space for any length of time, the risk of a blood clot forming increases. The blood flow is restricted, meaning that there are more opportunities for clots to take shape. The risk factor increases the longer you remain in a confined position. The longer the flight or drive, the greater the risk of a blood clot forming. In some cases, a clot will dissolve naturally, without the sufferer ever being aware it existed. In others, however, it can break loose and travel to the heart or lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism or even a heart attack. If you experience swelling in the leg, ankle or calf, redness or...

Anatomy of the Heart

Anatomy of the Heart The heart is located just behind the sternum, slightly to the left.  It’s protected by a tough sac called the pericardium. The heart needs all the protection it can get; it beats an average of 100,000 times a day, pumping about 2,000 gallons worth of blood through the body. The pericardium protects the roots of the major blood vessels. It’s attached to the spinal column and diaphragm with strong ligaments that keep the heart in place and protect it from movement within the chest. Walls of the Heart The heart’s walls are made up of three main layers; the epicardiam, myocardium, and endocardium. The epicardium is the outermost layer, a membrane that covers and protects the heart, producing lubricating fluid. The myocardium is what is commonly referred to as the heart “muscle.” It is the tissue that contracts and relaxes to produce the heartbeat, pushing the blood through the body. The endocardium is a very smooth layer of tissue that lines the interior of the heart and prevents the formation of blood clots. 4 Chambers The heart contains four chambers- the left and right atriums, and the left and right ventricles. The atria makes up the upper part of the heart. They are smaller than the ventricles, and act as the receiving chamber for blood coming back into the heart, while the ventricles push blood out into the body. There are two circulatory loops attached to the heart. The right loop circulates blood to the lungs, while the left loop pushes oxygenated blood out into the body. 4 Valves Moving blood through the heart requires...

Heart Healthy Foods for the Spring

Heart Healthy Foods for the Spring With the warmer weather, farmers markets and grocery aisles provide more fresh produce and better opportunities to eat fresh foods that are heart-healthy choices. With the influx of barbecue and heavy desserts comes opportunities to acquire fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s a time to make heart-healthy choices for yourself as the warm months roll in. Nuts Snacking on nuts like almonds, peanuts, and seeds like pumpkin or sunflower seeds can help reduce inflammation, which is one of the markers for heart disease. They also help reduce the risk of blood clots and can help improve the health of the lining of the arteries. Packed with fiber, vitamin E, and protein, nuts are an excellent low-fat snack. Add nuts to dishes to add crunch and flavor, as well as making things like salads more filling and satisfying. Try a handful of walnuts in a crunchy apple salad for a sweet treat that’s not too heavy on sugar. Barley, Oats and Grains Fiber is your heart’s best friend, helping to clean cholesterol from the body’s storage systems and keeping your digestive health on track. Oats and other whole grains provide a slow-burning source of energy and carbohydrates. Unlike highly-processed foods and simple sugars, they don’t create a spike in your blood sugar, which can be hard on your heart. Instead, oats and other whole grains provide a slow, steady release of energy, keeping you feeling full longer and offering your body a longer-lasting source of energy. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables With the onset of spring comes the growing season, and a significant increase in...