How Likely Are You to Have a Heart Attack in the Next 5 Years?

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Calcium Tests for Atherosclerosis: A Prime Predictor for Cardiovascular Disease

What is your risk for a heart attack in the next 5 years? The artery test making more accurate predictions

What puts a person at risk for a heart attack?

You can likely name various issues such as a poor diet, lack of exercise, and cholesterol problems. While those are factors that increase a person’s risk for a heart attack or developing other cardiovascular issues, it only scratches the surface.

We have probably all heard stories of the middle-aged man who ran daily and died of a heart attack, yet a man in his 90s who smoked his whole life never suffered any cardiovascular issue. So, we know there’s more to it than lifestyle.

How can we get a better prediction at who is more likely to face a heart attack or stroke over the next five years? Fortunately, new research that began in the year 2000 has gotten us closer to answering that question. Scientists have learned that one test was vital in identifying an individual’s risk for suffering a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem.

How likely am I to have a heart attack? Exercise is only one factor to help determine your risks

A study was initiated in 2000 to drill down these risk factors to provide a more accurate and early prediction for a given individual’s specific risk. If taking moderate heart-healthy measures are not enough to decrease your specific risk, you would have the information and tools to take additional steps to further protect your heart health.

This study was called MESA, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

Blocked Blood Vessels: Testing for Calcium

For your heart to work well, it needs clear vessels for blood to pump through. When those vessels become blocked or damaged, that is coronary artery disease. The primary cause of coronary artery disease is atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis cardiovascular disease is probably something you never heard of, but it is quite common. More than 3 million cases of it are identified in the United States every year. Fortunately, there is treatment for someone with this disease or at risk for developing it.

Testing for atherosclerosis involves looking for calcium in your arteries. While calcium is great for your bones, it can be disastrous for your heart when there is a build-up of it in your arteries. It indicates your arteries may also have a build-up of plaque. Enough plaque in your arteries that harden could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Having calcium in your arteries is not something you would notice or feel. It requires specific technology to test. Here in Wichita, technicians at Zepick Cardiology perform CAC tests to get this important information on an individual’s unique cardiovascular risks.

The MESA Study was able to determine that finding calcium in the arteries was a preeminent sign for being at risk for heart disease.  Simply put, if you had a large amount of calcium in your arteries, you were going to be much more likely to have some cardiovascular event occur within the next few years. Other tests on arteries, while still important, did not lead to as much conclusive evidence for future heart problems.

These calcium tests are so predictive, it helped identify high risk in persons that were considered low risk by American Heart Association guidelines. Reevaluating the risk using this more predictive test meant people could be given beneficial statin therapy who otherwise might not have been prescribed them.

Heart Attack Risks: Understanding your Coronary Artery Calcium Score

Patients who undergo the CAC test are given a rating from 0 to 300. A score of CAC = 0 means there was no calcium detected. A score of over 100 indicates a person who would benefit from a statin treatment.

While it is vital to identify when a person is at increased risk for a fatal condition, it is also incredibly valuable to identify when their risk is low. It can keep a person from taking medications or other treatments when it is not actually necessary for them at this time.

How does one get a coronary calcium screening? First, you would need to have it prescribed by a doctor, either your primary physician or a cardiologist. The test itself is done in a CT scanner.

CT scan to find calcium artery score in screening for cardiovascular disease risks
Patient undergoing CT scan test in the hospital

Bottom Line: The New Impact on Your Heart Treatment

The MESA study has given cardiologists greater knowledge in knowing a person’s specific cardiovascular risks. There are now more signs cardiologists like those at Zepick Cardiology can look to in order to better predict your risks for heart disease. The CAC test to determine calcium levels in your arteries provides an excellent indication if you need to start treatment, such as taking statins.

Should you still worry about making lifestyle choices that are proven to help prevent heart disease? Absolutely. But modern medicine can help make sure you have a clearer picture of what risks you really have and, more importantly, what you should do about protecting yourself.

If you are wondering about your risk factor, you can start by taking the ASCVD risk estimator plus calculator available for anyone online by clicking this link. This will provide you with a 10-year risk estimate for a heart attack or stroke.

If you know your CAC score already, you can enter it into this online CAC score assessment tool to determine how your score compares to others with similar heart disease risks.

If you have questions regarding your coronary artery health or are wondering if you need to undergo a CAC test to determine your individual risks, give Zepick Cardiology in Wichita a call at (316) 616-2020.

Zepick Cardiology on Hillside in Wichita, KS

The Standout Study Leading Today’s Heart Care

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The Research Unlocking the Answers of Cardiovascular Risks & Treatment

The care you receive for heart disease and other cardiovascular issues is incredibly different than a century ago. Advances in heart research gives cardiologists like those at Zepick Cardiology the most current and well-researched information to provide patients the best care available today. It was only a few generations ago that heart disease issues often went undetected or not treated successfully.

The reason behind so much of what doctors and scientists know today about the heart can be traced back to one amazing long-running study.

Cardiology doctor listening to heartbeat of Wichita senior patient with stethoscope

The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 when we didn’t have a good understanding on what people at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Also back then, the medical community did not have many answers for how to successfully treat it.

The Framingham Heart Study was so extraordinary at unlocking such life-saving information that it never stopped. In fact, the study continues to this very day with the children and grandchildren of the original participants. The study itself is an incredible story of scientific discovery. You can learn about how the Framingham Heart Study and the origins of modern heart care in this article.

What We Know About Heart Health Today Thanks to the Framingham Study

There are many things that we know about heart health we simply didn’t know 70 years ago. Some of the conditions that put people at risk for heart problems that may seem obvious to us now were not known before this study.

Thanks to the Framingham Study, in the 1950s we learned the following health issues increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Being overweight

In the 1960s, the Framingham Study added these risk factors to the list:

  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity

More risk factors were identified in the 1970s, including:

  • High blood pressure levels
  • Postmenopausal women

In the 1980s they discovered:

  • High levels of HDL cholesterol reduce risk of heart disease

In the 1990s, another big advancement occurred:

  • The Framingham Risk Score is published which correctly predicts 10-year risk of coronary heart disease

More findings came out in the 2000s including identifying increased risks from having prehypertension (blood pressure levels of 120-139) and the effect of a person’s social contacts. Researchers looked how the people you spend your time with affect such things as obesity, smoking cigarettes, and efforts to quit smoking.

Nearly 4000 medical journals have been published based on data from the Framingham Heart Study.

life-saving heart health discoveries from the Framingham Study on cardiovascular risks and treatments

The 10 Most Important Framingham Heart Study Findings

  1. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a serious risk factor for heart disease. Before the study, it was believed that hypertension was a normal part of the aging process. Understanding this connection allowed for changes in treatment and further research into high blood pressure, including the contemporary SPRINT Trail that revised the standards of acceptable blood pressure rates.

  2. The study created the first and most impactful information on the risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD). These primarily related to physical activity, cigarette smoking, diabetes, cholesterol levels and obesity. The study led to creation of a 10-year coronary heart disease risk calculator. Here is a link to the American College of Cardiology’s risk calculator.

  3. The major risk factors for heart failure were clearly identified as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and parental heart failure.

  4. The Framingham Heart Study was one of the first to report on atrial fibrillation risk factors. In addition, it linked atrial fibrillation to higher instances of stroke, heart failure, and cognitive decline.

  5. The study looked at the connection between the heart and the brain. Framingham was the first study to show a higher level of a type of amino acid in your blood (serum homocysteine) increases your risk for dementia as well as heart disease.

  6. It identified a connection between smoking and intermittent claudication, a condition where a person has leg pains or aches while exercising. That symptom is an indication that there is likely too little blood flow to the muscles.

  7. The use of cardiac imaging was found to be a helpful tool in locating cardiovascular issues by looking at such things as heart wall thickness and atrial dimension. The study established normal levels of ventricular mass, cavity volumes and systolic function measures.

  8. The Framingham Heart Study established verifiable biomarkers in the prediction of cardiovascular risk for individuals.

  9. Thanks to having participants that span 3 generations, much was learned regarding the genetic and hereditary factors for heart disease.

  10. The study continues providing insight that delves into the molecular level of biology. For example, Framingham research is looking at how our gut microbiomes affect our risk for various diseases. This type of research has already solved the mystery of why some people absorb cholesterol from the intestines, yet others do not (it has to do with having certain bacteria inside the gut that metabolizes cholesterol).
cardiovascular technology using cardiac imaging to detect heart disease

The Future of Solving Heart Mysteries & Saving Lives

There is still so much to learn about the heart. Fortunately, the Framingham Heart Study continues into its 7th decade with an even greater ability to discover more cardiovascular disease risk factors and, even better, solutions to improving heart health and saving lives.

The data collected over the years continue helping scientists unlock new information about the heart. Using modern medical research technology, they can look at decades-old blood samples and discover even more information about what puts a person at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Today, the Framingham Study includes new research into the effects of exercise. Smartphones and devices participants can wear to track such things as activity and heart rate have been added to the information researchers are gathering.


“It is an exciting time for cardiologists and medical researchers. The scientific community continues gathering even more information into what makes the heart healthy and strong, allowing our doctors here at Zepick Cardiology to provide the most up-to-date information and best treatment for all our patients.”

-Dr. Lyle Zepick, Cardiologist, Board Certified in Cardiovascular Disease


The Origins of Modern Heart Care

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The Story Behind the Amazing 7-Decade Study into the Heart

When you receive treatment for your heart health at Zepick Cardiology or other cardiology clinic across the country, you are receiving expert care based on decades of medical research. Knowing what puts you at risk for heart disease and how to treat it came from intensive scientific study done over the past century.

Most of the cardiovascular knowledge we have today is thanks to a long-lasting and highly involved research done in one small town. In fact, the life-saving information we have today regarding heart disease can be traced back to a remarkable study that began 70 years ago.

For as long as many of you have been alive, scientific research has been (and continues to be) underway in one incredibly long and intense study on the heart. The longest-running cardiovascular study of its kind is the Framingham Heart Study.

A Brief History Lesson

The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948. Up until that time, cardiovascular disease was not as significant of a health concern as it is today. Not much was known about cardiovascular disease – neither where it came from nor how to prevent it.

President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944

Take for example President Franklin Roosevelt who died in office in 1945. FDR had a history of high blood pressure.

It was high before he entered office and became worse over time, reaching 210/100 the year before his death. On the day of his death, President Roosevelt’s blood pressure was an astounding 300/190.

While today we recognize this as a very serious case of hypertension, medical experts simply didn’t have that information back then.

Today, presidential blood pressure numbers like FDR’s would send the country’s leading doctors racing down hallways,” remarked Daniel Levy, Framingham Heart Study Director.

For the first half of the 20th century, the primary cause of death was from communicable diseases. We simply did not have the antibiotics and vaccines then as we do today.

But as medicines and vaccines were developed and started reducing deaths from illnesses like rheumatic fever and pneumonia, heart-related diseases started to come to the forefront.  In a rather short period of time, non-communicable diseases like cancer and heart disease became the leading causes of death. By 1950, 68% of all deaths were from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and renal disease.

The Participants of Framingham

This instrumental, decades-long heart study is named after a modest-sized town in Massachusetts. Framingham, located just about 20 miles away from Boston, was home to about 25,000 people in 1948 when the study began.

Nearly one in five Framingham residents were involved in the study. More than 5000 men and women of the town participated in this study at its start. All these participants were considered normally healthy and free from apparent cardiovascular disease.

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Framingham Heart Study physicians in 1948

The original plan of Framingham Heart Study was to follow the participants for 20 years.

There was an atypical number of women participating. Just over half of the participants were women, which was not usual for medical studies on chronic disease at that time.

The study initially failed at including a variety of ethnicities among the participants. But as you continue reading, you will see how the study’s great successes led them to include participants among more demographics.

Continuing the Heart Study: More Generations & Ethnicities

The Framingham Heart Study was proving to provide such great results, researchers didn’t want to it to end after two decades as was originally planned. Not only did they pursue continuing the study, but they also expanded it to include more participants.

Starting in the 1970s, many children of the existing participants were included in the expanding Framingham Study.

But the study would further expand beyond this 2nd generation. Beginning in 2002, many of the grandchildren of the original participants were included in the study. Having three generations of participants allowed for great opportunity to research genetic patterns related to cardiovascular disease.

The study also expanded to include more demographics to better match Framingham’s racial and ethnic population. Starting in the 90s, the study began including a diversity of ethnicities in the study. They expanded to include people of African American, Asian, Native American, Indian, and Pacific Islander descent.

To date, more than 15,000 people have been participants in this ongoing study of the heart.

Thanks to the dedication of researchers diligently looking into cardiovascular care and risk factors, cardiologists like those at Zepick Cardiology are able to provide exacting care to treat patients with heart disease. Decades of science and research have allowed doctors today to treat patients for cardiovascular issues better than ever before.

Imagine how much more will be learned from this ongoing Framingham Study and how more we can even improve cardiovascular care in the future!

Better Blood Pressure Management Can Save Lives

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How the Landmark SPRINT Trial is Reducing Risk for Cardiovascular Illness & Death

cardiology tools for checking blood pressure, used in the SPRINT study

Getting control of your blood pressure is an important step in reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease. The extent at how low to reduce your numbers and just how beneficial this is to your heart was proven in a recent landmark clinical trial.

While advancements are made in the medical industry every year, an intensive study into blood pressure is proving to provide great opportunities to decrease some people’s risk for cardiovascular disease. This is helping the cardiologists at Zepick Cardiology and doctors across the country provide the most informed treatment to better reduce patients’ risk for heart attack, heart disease and other serious illnesses.

This new research breakthrough came from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, aka the SPRINT Study. The research focused on answering one question:

“Will lower blood pressure reduce the risk of heart and kidney diseases, stroke, or age-related declines in memory and thinking?”

This was exciting news for us at Zepick Cardiology. Our cardiologists constantly stay on top of the latest medical information, especially pertaining to the study and treatment of heart-related issues and diseases. Having the latest knowledge and proven data allows us to better treat our patients here in the Wichita area.

Blood Pressure: A Growing Problem

Our county faces a serious problem with blood pressure rates. It is estimated that as many as 103 million American adults suffer with high blood pressure. That means one in three people have issues from it, and it gets worse with age.

If you are over 65, chances are you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. As many as 60% of seniors suffer with hypertension and that percentage is only increasing.

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High blood pressure is a serious concern because of the increased risk it brings to developing other dangerous conditions. Having hypertension means you are more likely to experience health problems including:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Cognitive decline

What is a Healthy Blood Pressure Level?

For many decades prior to the SPRINT study, it was established that rates of acceptable numbers were up to 140 mm Hg for healthy adults and up to 130 for those with kidney disease. That would mean that a person with a blood pressure rate in the 130s would typically not receive treatment to lower it. 

The SPRINT study intended to find out if there was enough proven benefit to increase these standards, to lower the desired blood pressure rate of patients down to 120.

The study put about half of the participants in an intensive group. These people received the necessary treatment to bring their number down to 120. The other half comprised the standard group and received less intensive treatment, only enough to keep their blood pressure down to under 140.

On average, the intensive group received three medications for blood pressure versus the standard group participants who received on average only two.

In the intensive group, they were able to bring the rating down to an average of 121.4. In the standard group, it was brought down to an average of only 136.2

The Expansive SPRINT Study

Despite its name, this trial was nothing like a sprint. For any scientific research to provide reliable information, it must meet rigorous standards. The SPRINT study was expansive, and its results were conclusive.

More than 9000 people participated in the SPRINT trial. While the average participant was 68, every participant was at least 50 years old. At least a quarter were 75 or older.

Each person had blood pressure rates of at least 130 and had increased cardiovascular disease risk. Some were previous or current smokers. And many were overweight according to their BMI.

The study began in late 2010 and was expected to last as long as 8 years. However, the results came back so reliable, the study was concluded earlier than expected, with the completion date of July 2016. It was important to health and medical experts that the findings be spread and utilized immediately to best serve the public’s best interest.

We now had new medical data that could help save lives. The experts knew the results were so conclusive, there was no reason to wait.

SPRINT Study Results

This Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial proved that lowering blood pressure below 130 reduced rates of several cardiovascular events, including strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure by nearly a third. It reduced the risk of death by nearly 25%.

The trial found that increased treatment for reducing blood pressure is beneficial, specifically for people who:

  • Are elderly
  • Have a high blood pressure (at/over 130 mm Hg)
  • Have a high risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Are tolerating their blood pressure medications well

According to the National Library of Medicine, if the new guidelines informed by the SPRINT study were put in place for adults across the country, we could prevent hundreds of deaths every year.

Danger of Increased Treatment?

With increased medications can come potential for harm from that treatment. Therefore, this study evaluated any harmful effects created by the increased treatment used to reach the lower 120 goal. They looked for such things as electrolyte abnormalities, fainting from a rapid drop of blood pressure, and increased risk of falls.

The study found that the intensive blood pressure treatment was indeed beneficial. It determined that any potential harm from the additional medication did not outweigh the overall overwhelming benefit of reducing to lower numbers.

“These results are extraordinary and provide us even better knowledge and tools in treating our patients’ heart health,” stated Dr. Zepick. “With this proven research, we can put a greater emphasis on reducing blood pressure levels, knowing that such treatment is a safe option to greatly reduce their risk of serious, even fatal, cardiovascular issues.”

Lessons learned in this landmark clinical study are changing treatment procedures for the better.

It helped inform new high blood pressure clinical guidelines of the American Heart Association as well as the American College of Cardiology. Previously, a blood pressure rating was considered high at 140. Now with the results of the SPRINT study, 130 is now considered a high rate, which means:

  • People who might not have previously been given treatment for hypertension now will be classified as needing treatment.
  • Patients already receiving blood pressure treatment may now receive more intensive treatment to bring it to lower, healthier numbers.

Beyond Heart Health

what is a healthy blood pressure measuring cuff, SPRINT study

This SPRINT study is the first large prospective trial demonstrating the overwhelming health benefit of a healthy blood pressure rating of 120 in regard to cardiovascular health. But the benefits of the SPRINT study go beyond treating cardiovascular problems.

As mentioned earlier, the study looked at the effects of hypertension on other serious issues including chronic kidney disease and cognitive decline.

The completed research shows that enhanced efforts lowering numbers to more normal 120 rates did improve issues with chronic kidney disease. However, research is still ongoing regarding its effects on cognitive functioning including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

How Can This SPRINT Research Help Me?

If you have high blood pressure, you are at an increased risk for various problems including heart attacks and heart disease. And if you are at least 50 years old, this research suggests you may greatly benefit from a treatment plan to get your number under control.

Seeking out help from your doctor or an experienced cardiologist like those at Zepick Cardiology who understand how to implement the newest guidelines for your heart health is a great first step.

There is no one answer that works for every person. You will want to work closely with your doctor to ensure you are on a proper treatment plan. A good plan is one that works to safely improve your overall health.

“We know now that the lower blood pressure goal of 120 had better outcomes than the 140 goal. This doesn’t necessarily though apply to a given individual. It applies to the population.”

It’s going to be important to determine now what are the individual characteristics that may relate to this new improved goal. What are those factors that would help us to determine whether a given individual should be treated to that goal? Or whether perhaps they should be treated to a different goal?

So, the individualization of blood pressure management is going to take on more energy now given these exciting findings.”

-Dr. William Haley, principal investigator for Mayo Clinic of the SPRINT study

Concerned About Your Blood Pressure?

If you are concerned that your blood pressure is too high, you should get it checked by a medical profession. You can contact your general practitioner, or you can make an appointment with a local cardiologist directly.

Contact Zepick Cardiology here in Wichita. Call (316) 616-2020 to arrange for a visit with a cardiovascular specialist on any heart health concerns you have.

Zepick Cardiology on Hillside in Wichita, KS

11 Reasons to See a Cardiologist

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Health Concerns & Symptoms for a Heart Specialist

11 reasons to see a cardiologist like the Wichita heart doctors at Zepick Cardiology

Simply put, a cardiologist is a specialist providing care specific to your heart health. While you receive the majority of care from your family doctors, a cardiologist in a cardiology clinic provides customized care necessary to look in depth at current or potential heart issues.

How do you know if it is necessary for you to see a cardiologist?

Let’s take a look at the common ways a person does see a cardiologist for the first time.

Often a person will first go to a cardiologist because they’ve been referred to see one by their primary doctor. If your doctor refers you to see one of our doctors at Zepick Cardiology or another Wichita cardiologist, do it. There would have been some reason to be concerned about your heart health for a doctor to make this recommendation.

The first times some people see a cardiologist is after a visit to the hospital. They came in with medical problems that indicate a potential heart issue.

But there are other times when it is prudent to make an appointment with a cardiologist.

When to See a Cardiologist

1. Family History of Heart Problems

Do you have a family history of cardiovascular issues? If your parents and/or grandparents had heart issues, there is good reason to worry about your own heart health. There is no guarantee you will have the same health problems they did, but there is an increased chance for it. Proactive measures are the best ways to keep your heart healthy and work to keep any hereditary issues at bay. A cardiologist can provide you with clear instructions for lifestyle change to help keep heart issues you may be genetically predisposed of at bay.

As you get older, inherited cardiovascular problems are likely to get worse. So, you don’t want to wait until the age your grandfather was when he had a heart attack. Getting checked by a cardiologist can give you the information you need early enough to work to prevent serious problems.

2. High Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can lead to cardiovascular problems. What is quite dangerous about cholesterol problems is that they typically don’t cause symptoms. High cholesterol can be easy to ignore and yet also hard to manage. If you have discovered you have high cholesterol, it is best to take steps to lower your levels.

Diet and exercise go a long way in improving cholesterol levels. But sometimes a person’s cholesterol problems cannot be improved with either diet or exercise. A genetic or hereditary problem with cholesterol often requires medication to keep the bad cholesterol numbers low and to reduce your risk for potential heart problems. A cardiologist can work with you to create a heart-healthy plan as well as supply you with necessary prescriptions.

3. Smoking

If you’ve been smoking for a long time, you are at greater risk of having heart problems.

Quitting smoking can be an incredibly difficult habit to stop. Any medical professional will advise you to quit smoking, not just for your heart but for a variety of other health risks smoking causes. If you are not willing to quit smoking, do not let that stop you from seeking out medical care. Take the steps to speak with a cardiologist to learn what how your heart health may have been affected by a long history of smoking.

4. Embarking on a New Exercise Regimen

You’ve probably seen the warning given by workout programs to first consult with a doctor. This advice is given because starting a new exercise routine that may be difficult or strenuous and could increase your risk for heart or cardiac complications. Increased activity will, after all, put your heart to increased work.

Before starting a new exercise routine or regimen, it is advised that you speak with either your primary doctor or going right to a cardiologist for a heart check-up.

There have been new guidelines regarding medical checks before enhanced activity to help you know if you should seek prior medical advice. According to Penn Medicine, here are 3 questions to ask yourself before you start a new workout practice:

  1. Are you typically not active? If you mostly have a sedentary lifestyle, you may want to consult a doctor before you start a new exercise program.
  2. Do you have signs of heart problems or other conditions that might put you at higher risk for having heart problems? Diabetes, kidney disease and lung disease are just some issues that can predispose you to heart issues. Consult this exhaustive list of conditions that put women at higher risk for cardiovascular problems.
  3. What is the exercise or activity you plan to participate in? If you are looking into starting a high-intensity exercise program (like running), you might want to visit a general doctor or cardiologist first. This is particularly true if you answered yes to the first question that you do not live a typically active lifestyle.

5. Gum Disease

Gum disease has been linked to heart problems. Bacteria from your gums can travel to your heart and lead to infections in your heart valves and inflammation in heart vessels. If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, you should visit with a cardiologist to make sure your heart health is in check.

Symptoms That May Indicate Cardiac Issues

health symptoms that are associated with heart problems - chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, stroke symptoms, leg swelling, heart palpitations

These next 6 reasons that lead to some people scheduling a visit with a cardiologist are because of certain physical ailments. These symptoms are often associated with cardiovascular issues. People who experience one or more of these could have serious heart problems that need to be diagnosed by a cardiologist.

6. Chest Pain

Chest pain, also called angina, is a real cause for concern. This could indicate a lot of serious health problems, including a heart attack or other cardiac issues.

There are many minor health issues that can cause chest pain, so feeling chest pain does not always mean that you are having heart problems. But because it is such a common ailment with someone suffering serious heart problems, it is a symptom that should not to be ignored or minimized.

7. Shortness of Breath

Feeling short of breath, like having chest pain, can mean a variety of different problems, some serious and some relatively minor. Shortness of breath, also called dyspnea, can indicate heart failure or other type of heart disease. For that reason, it is a symptom that may lead you to see a cardiologist.

When should you be concerned? Shortness of breath is a common, normal phenomenon when doing something strenuous or being in a high altitude, but if you experience shortness of breath that is not associated with extra physical activity, high altitude or weather changes, that symptom could indicate a health problem, potentially a life-threatening one.

8. Fainting

While many of us can recall an instance where we have passed out, that does not mean it’s an insignificant symptom that should be ignored. Fainting or passing out can be caused by an irregular heartbeat, which is called an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia occurs when there is a problem with the signals that control your heartbeat.

Diagnosing an arrhythmia isn’t simple, therefore it often requires an experienced cardiologist like those at Zepick Cardiology in Wichita. When getting tested, you may be asked about the circumstances surrounding your fainting spell including what you were doing, what and when you’d last eaten, and if you have any history of passing out.

9. Stroke symptoms (slurred speech, drooping face, numbness)

While cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among adults in the United States, stroke is the second. A stroke is when there is a problem keeping blood to get to the brain.

Are you aware of the acronym to help you quickly detect signs of a stroke?

F – Facial drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulties

T – Time to call 911

These symptoms are key to taking quick action for a person likely experiencing a stroke.

People with heart disease can have an increased risk for stroke. According to the National Library of Medicine, “9 out of 10 strokes can be prevented by controlling CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk factors.”

Issues with your heart such as high blood pressure can put you at greater risk for having a stroke. Getting any cardiovascular problems under control with the expert care of a cardiologist can not only help you prevent heart problems, but strokes as well.

10. Leg swelling

woman suffering swollen leg pain, a symptom of a heart attack or cardiovascular disease

The issue of having ongoing swollen legs from excess fluid is called edema. It is often a sign of a heart problem.

When your heart isn’t accurately pumping blood through your body, the blood can back up in the veins in your legs. You may feel a pain, ache or burning in the muscles of your lower legs or feet. Sometimes these pains can show up during a walk then go away after resting for a few minutes. You may also feel too tired or weak to handle your normal day-to-day activities.

Having problems with swollen legs may be a clear indication that you should seek medical attention from a cardiologist to address your heart and blood flow.

 11. Palpitations (skipping heartbeats)

Do you feel your heart fluttering? Is it pounding? Does it seem to be beating fast or even skipping beats? Having heart palpitations can be disconcerting as it can indicate serious problems with your cardiovascular system.

There are several factors that can cause heart palpitations other than heart disease, including some medications and exercise. A fever may cause palpations, as can depression or having too much coffee. Many people feel these sorts of heart irregularities for rather harmless reasons.

But there are times when this symptom indicates a more serious heart problem. If it’s happening frequently and lasting for longer than a few seconds, it could be from an issue that should be evaluated by a heart expert. This is especially true if it is accommodated by such other symptoms as fainting, chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness.


What should you do if you fit into one of those categories?

One thing you can do if you have any of these concerns is to consult with your regular doctor. You should expect a doctor to listen to your concerns and provide you with some information and advice on next steps. They may refer you to a cardiologist for further medical testing.

You can also make an appointment with a cardiologist directly. To contact Zepick Cardiology here in Wichita, call (316) 616-2020. Even without a doctor’s referral, you can make arrangements to visit with a heart specialist on the health concerns you have.

Zepick Cardiology in Wichita, on south Hillside

The Gold Standard Diet for Heart Health

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How the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet & Intermittent Fasting Helps your Cardiovascular System

There is a saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is often the case, especially when it comes to your heart.

Here at Zepick Cardiology in Wichita, we treat patients dealing with a variety of cardiovascular issues. And in addition to providing the necessary treatment to improve our patients’ heart health, we arm them with the information to make the important lifestyle changes to help prevent future problems.

What you eat makes a major difference to your heart. Simply eating smarter goes a long way. But even better is to eat in a way that specifically improve your heart health. When it comes to improving your heart health, landmark clinical trials have shown that the Pesco-Mediterranean specific diet change will make the most impact.

Who should consider the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet?

  • Someone with current cardiovascular issues
  • Someone with a family history of heart problems
  • Anyone looking for a healthier way to eat

In addition to this diet, you can improve your heart health by making a change to the schedule of when you eat. Combining this way of eating along with intermittent fasting creates an ideal scenario for your heart.

Food on a table eating for heart health: Pesco Mediterranean Diet, Zepick Cardiology Wichita, KS


What is the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet?

Simply put, it is the Mediterranean Diet without red meat or poultry. If you are not familiar with the Mediterranean Diet, keep reading to learn about each of the components. The main ingredients are vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil. It also includes fish, seafood, eggs and fermented dairy products.

The “pesco” prefix is for pescatarian. In regards to individual diet choices, a pescatarian is a person whose diet does not include any meat except for fish and seafood.

Beyond the Heart: Other Health Benefits

Mediterranean appetizer concept. Arabic traditional cuisine. Middle Eastern meze with pita, olives, hummus, stuffed dolma, falafel balls, pickles, babaganush, vegetables, pomegranate, eggplants. List of health benefits of this diet to decrease issues with Diabetes, depression, Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancers

This Pesco-Mediterranean diet does more than help your cardiovascular health. Research shows a diet rich in plants, nuts and lean means also helps your health in many other ways, including lowering your risks for:

  • Diabetes
  • Cognitive decline
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Cancer mortality
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancers

A panel of experts analyzes the top diets every year. In 2020, for the third year in a row, the Mediterranean diet was ranked #1 for benefitting overall health. The experts deem it nutritious, safe, helpful for preventing cardiovascular issues as well as other conditions like diabetes.

It also was found to be effective for losing weight. What is perhaps the most important factor for people who have struggled with dieting for weight loss, nutritionists rank the Mediterranean diet high for being something people can easily follow.

Reasons to Eliminate Red Meat & Poultry

It is a fact that humans are omnivores. Our anatomy shows how our bodies were designed to eat plants and meat. Our bodies can handle the type of fiber available in plants as herbivores can. And just like carnivores, we have certain types of enzymes in our gut that exist to digest that protein.

While our history shows we ate meat, the type of meat our ancestors primarily ate is very revealing. Before we began widespread farming and depending on crops for food, one-sixth to one-half of our diet consisted of animals. This meat consisted of wild birds, fish, eggs, and game meats.  

Many Americans today enjoy a diet that subsists of a similar ratio of animal protein, but that is where the similarity ends. Past humans who were consuming fish, wild birds and game were benefitting from options that are low in saturated fats. The kinds of meat we eat today are much higher in saturated fat.

Why Not Choose a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet?

If the common meat eaten today is high in saturated fat, you may think giving up meat altogether is a good option. You wouldn’t be wrong. Vegetarian diets can be beneficial. You can follow these diets in a way that is healthy and provides the nutrients you need. However, sometimes strict veganism can lead to nutritional deficiencies and cause people to be at risk for osteopenia, sarcopenia and anemia. It can lead to deficiencies in vitamin B12, proteins, iron, zinc, vitamin D and calcium.

It is a misconception that a vegetarian diet is always a healthier one. Simply removing a problematic food group is only part of the equation. Having a meat-free diet that consists primarily of sweets, fries, chips and other processed foods can hurt your cardiovascular health.

Healthy vegetarian diets are ones that emphasize nuts, fresh produce, and whole grains. A balance of healthy foods is what is important. While this is definitely possible with a meat-free diet, it can prove to be more challenging.

Let’s Talk Fish

It’s the focus on fish and seafood that helps put the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet as a top ranked diet to help your heart. Epidemiological studies show the great benefits of fish.

salmon is a good meal in the pesco mediterranean diet

Increasing how much fish you eat can reduce your risk of heart failure.  Consuming more fish can also decrease the conditions that put you at risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Compared to a typical meat-eater diet, other diets have been proven to greatly lower your risk for death from coronary artery disease:

  • Pescatarian – 34% decreased risk
  • Vegetarian – 34% decreased risk
  • Vegan – 26% decreased risk
  • Reduced meat consumption – 20% decreased risk

Note: While a variety of fish dishes can improve your diet, fried fish is not one of them.

Fish and seafood are a great high-quality protein. Fish are good sources of zinc, iodine, selenium, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium. Eating fish is helpful for building and maintaining strong muscles and bones.  

Concerned about Mercury in Fish?

Mercury levels in fish have caused some to be concerned about possible dangers to eating fish over the past decades. Nearly all fish and seafood contain some levels of mercury, but studies show the amount is not a problem for most people.

Fish that have low mercury levels include salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and anchovies. Seafood with low mercury levels include scallops, shrimp, lobster, oysters, and clams.

Let’s Talk Drinks

red wine is acceptable in the mediterranean diet

Drinks to focus on in the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet Drinks include water, coffee and tea. Water is the preferred beverage.

While red wine is often associated (rightly) with the Mediterranean cuisine, only modest alcohol consumption is recommended for this diet. A single glass of red wine with dinner would be in line with keeping to the Mediterranean Diet.

Let’s Talk Nuts

nuts are a great snack option in the Mediterranean diet

Nuts are a great way to change how you snack. In a study conducted on older persons, the Mediterranean Diet that includes nuts was compared with a less specific low-fat diet and was found to create a more significant decreased risk for cardiovascular issues.

Nuts are packed with nutrients including unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. In one trial, adding one daily serving of mixed nuts decreased the risk of dying from cardiovascular reasons by 28%.

Let’s Talk Oil – is Extra-Virgin Important?

extra virgin olive oil is the best source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, a great substitute for butter

Yes. You will see any reference to oil in any Mediterranean Diet will specifically state to use extra-virgin olive oil. This is commonly abbreviated to EVOO. This clarification is because extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined. This type of is extracted by cold pressing olives.

Let’s Talk Legumes

What is a legume? It is essentially a fruit or seed of a plant. Some examples are beans, peas, and lentils. They are usually low in fat, have no cholesterol. On the plus side they are high in folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. They are an excellent source of vegetable protein.

Eating more legumes has been linked with a reduction of risk for cardiovascular disease. Not only that, they can improve blood glucose levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and help with maintaining a healthier body weight.

Let’s Talk Dairy

soft cheese, a great dairy choice in the Mediterranean diet

While dairy is a part of any Mediterranean Diet, it will likely require a shift in what you’re used to. Not only does this diet include a smaller amount of dairy than that in a typical healthy American diet, the types of recommended dairy are different.

Good dairy options in the Mediterranean Diet include fermented low-fat options. Yogurt and soft cheeses are good.

Avoid butter and hard cheeses, as they are high in saturated fat.

Comparing Healthy Diets: American vs Mediterranean

Can you just eat a smart diet without following the specific Pesco-Mediterranean Diet? Yes, a smart diet of any kind will help your health. But when it comes to your heart, research shows a regular American healthy diet is not as beneficial as the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet.

What makes the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet better? Eating for improved health is about more than simply cutting calories. According to 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, health experts recommend the Mediterranean Diet as one of the best ways to change your eating for the better.

Fasting: Time-Restricted Eating

In combination with a Pesco-Mediterranean Diet, you can make great improvements to your heart health by also incorporating intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity over recent years. There can be some confusion and misunderstanding to what this exactly entails. There are actually a few different ways you can choose to intermittent fast to reap its health rewards.

Let us dispel a common myth. Fasting doesn’t always mean you go a full day (or days) without eating. We are discussing a specific eating plan known as intermittent fasting or time-restricted fasting. Intermittent fasting means going without food or drinks (that contain calories) for a duration of 12-16 hours every day of the week.

While you’re fasting, your body burns fatty acids for fuel instead of glucose. This intermittent fasting has been shown to improve glucose metabolism and may reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease risks.

coffee cup with clock - How to schedule your meals for intermittent fasting

How to Schedule your Meals for Intermittent Fasting

Identify the 6-12 hours you want to eat your meals in. A 16-hour fasting is a common choice for those who do intermittent fasting. A schedule that fits this would be finishing your dinner at 7pm and then not eating again until 11am the next day.

During this time when you refrain from eating, you can still drink beverages that do not contain any calories. Good choices would be water, teas, or black coffee.

Eating for Heart Health: Basic Next Steps

The Peco-Mediterranean Diet with Intermittent Fasting incorporates the best diet choices for improving heart health as proven by a variety of scientific studies. Opting for high-protein foods low in saturated fats while also cutting out red meat and poultry and not eating throughout the entire day is the most proven heart-healthy way to eat.

How can you get started? Here are four basic steps to start implementing right now that will put you on the right track.

  • Step 1: Replace red meat and poultry with fish and seafood.
  • Step 2: Cook with olive oil instead of butter.
  • Step 3: Snack on nuts and seeds & choose fruits instead of processed sweets.
  • Step 4: Go without eating for at least 12 hours every day.

Zepick Cardiology: Wichita’s Clinic for Heart Health

cardiology patient getting heart rate checked with stethoscope

Your heart is our number one priority at Zepick Cardiology. We are a team of Wichita cardiologists and trained medical technicians experienced in helping people dealing with a variety of cardiovascular issues. We work one-on-one with our patients to find the solutions to help them live better and longer lives. Give us a call at (316) 616-2020 to learn more about our services or for answers to your cardiovascular questions.

You can learn more about the science and research showing the heart benefits of combining the Pesco-Mediterranean Diet with intermittent fasting in a recent article from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Heart Disease: The #1 Cause of Death for Women

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Understanding Cardiovascular Disease Risks for Women

1 in 3 women die from cardiovascular disease

It’s a sobering statistic. One in three women die from some form of cardiovascular disease.

Nearly half of women over 20 suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease infographic

It is the leading cause of death for women. In addition, it is also a rather common disease for women to be living with. Nearly half of all women over the age of 20 have some form of cardiovascular disease.

But how cardiovascular disease impacts women is different in many ways.  This has become a focus for a lot of new research. The factors that cause a person to be at risk for cardiovascular diseases aren’t always the same for men and women. And sometimes when the factors are the same for both sexes, the risk factors are worse for women.

Science is uncovering new information that is helpful in both the prevention and treatment of heart disease for women.

A New Focus on Women’s Heart Health

Over the past few years, new studies have begun focusing specifically on cardiovascular problems for women. A large summary of recommendations for prevention of cardiovascular disease in women was put out just this year by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  

All this research is great news to women, especially those facing a higher risk for developing heart issues. Instead of a one-size-fits-all treatment, these new efforts to understand how cardiovascular disease is different for women have led to improved guidelines customized for the most optimum and successful treatment specific to the needs of women.

Cardiovascular Risk Factors Unique to Women

Why do women get heart disease? Obesity, poor access to health care, and underlying health conditions are all risk factors that affect both men and women. But studies have found there are specific risk factors that put women particularly at a higher risk for cardiovascular problems.

Various health issues that impact a woman's risk for cardiovascular disease infographic provided by Zepick Cardiology in Wichita, KS. Depression, pregnancy and diabetes among the list

PREMATURE MENOPAUSE

A woman is considered to have premature menopause when she experiences menopause before the age of 40. The body’s response to a drop in estrogen (including such things as changes to the distribution of body fat, glucose tolerance and higher blood pressure) causes in increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The recent research on this has been extensive, involving more than 300,000 women in testing. Early menopause (ages 40 – 44) and relatively early menopause (ages 45 – 49) were also studied and found to increase cardiovascular disease risk, although not as high.

However, there is still much we do not know about the link between early menopause and cardiovascular issues. It may be that there are other factors at play here. It could be that women who have certain factors that increase their chances for having both cardiovascular disease and early menopause.

POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME

Women of reproductive age can develop the hormonal disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women who suffer with PCOS may have infrequent menstrual periods or prolonged ones. The problems are often more severe if the woman is obese. Having polycystic ovary syndrome puts you at a higher risk of developing both heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes.

HYPERTENSION

While hypertension is a problem that can occur in both men and women, there are differences among the genders. Hypertension is less common in pre-menopausal women than of men of similar age. However, after menopause, women are more likely to suffer from hypertension then men of their age group.

Studies show there are various factors unique to women who have it. It is common for women with hypertension to:

  • Be obese
  • Decrease physical activity
  • Increase salt intake
  • Develop diabetes
  • Increase alcohol consumption (more than moderate use)

These activities or factors are also some of the biggest risks that cause women to develop heart disease. Women in this situation are recommended to reduce their salt intake (ideally less than 1500 mg daily) and to increase their daily amount of potassium from foods (ideally to at least 3500 mg daily).

DIABETES

Having diabetes increases a person’s risk for heart disease, making them twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Like hypertension, diabetes affects both men and women. But there are differences between the sexes in this disease and how it affects each gender’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

Girls are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than boys. Because of this, women tend to live longer with this disease than men. Studies show that people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes before the age of 40 are at higher risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease.

While recent studies bring to life information that some may find troubling, it also creates the opportunity to find treatment that is most affective. Studies on gender differences regarding diabetes has resulted in revelations about certain medications working better for men with other medications working better for women.

HIGH CHOLESTEROL

The first noticeable difference between men and women who have high cholesterol is in regard to medications. Women are less likely to be given statin therapy than men for their high cholesterol. Statin therapy has been shown to reduce occurrence of cardiovascular disease. However, a lack of proper studies in the past involving women cast doubt on whether statins were a safe and effective treatment for women.

RAPID OR IRREGULAR HEARTBEAT

Atrial fibrillation is a condition where you have a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Women with atrial fibrillation are 20% to 30% greater at risk of having a stroke than men with this disease.

DEPRESSION

Having depression, emotional stress, or other form of psychological issue has been shown to increase your risk for developing cardiovascular problems. These issues been proven to be risk factors for heart attack and cardiac death. It’s been shown that women diagnosed with clinical depression face twice the risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Depression affects about 7% of the popular each year, and it’s twice as more common for women than

men. Psychological issues are often tied to childhood instances of adversity such as child abuse or neglect. Women have a higher exposure to these adversities. Such early life adversities are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but even more of a predictor for women.

PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been found to increase a person’s risk for heart disease. This is true of either gender but is worth noting as an increased risk factor for women since they experience this problem more than men. PTSD affects 9.7% of women and 3.6% of men.

The problem relating PTSD to cardiovascular disease is increase when you consider lifestyle factors. Those who have suffered childhood trauma are more likely to take part in unhealthy activities and choices. Whether it’s smoking, over-eating or excessively drinking, people with PTSD are often exacerbating their heart risk with such poor health behaviors.

PREGNANCY & CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE RISK

Pregnancy factors that affect your risk for heart disease

There are many issues related to pregnancy and childbirth that put women at a much greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease. From gestational diabetes to low birth weight to pre-eclampsia, the many different types of health problems a woman can face during pregnancy leads to a high risk.

In fact, the various factors related to pregnancy are so many that we put that information out in its own article to go in depth into this article on Pregnancy & Cardiovascular Risks.

What can women do to protect your heart?

For women, this may feel like only a lot of bad news. But in reality, the new information that focuses on women’s health will help lead the way to improved treatment and care and preventative help.

  1. Understand that heart disease is indeed a serious risk for all women.
  2. Be proactive in getting medical care and seeking necessary treatment.
  3. Stop poor health behaviors such as smoking, too much drinking and salt intake.
  4. Start/increase good health activities such as incorporating physical activity in your daily lifestyle.
  5. Take your mental health needs seriously.

Knowledge is power. Knowing how you are uniquely affected by heart disease or the factors that put you at greater risk creates great opportunity for you to take proper steps to help your heart health.

Heart Disease Problem in Kansas

heart disease statistics for Kansas compared to the united states stats for men and women infographic

Do we have a bigger problem with cardiovascular disease here in Kansas than they do in other states? Not really. Kansas ranks right about in the middle among most statistics on heart disease.

As you see in this graph from America’s Health Rankings, 3.6% of all Kansas females and 5.3% of all Kansas males have diagnosed heart disease. This is just a little more than the national average.

If you have any questions or concerns about your heart health or proper treatment and care, feel free to call us at Zepick Cardiology here in Wichita, KS at (316) 616-2020.

Pregnancy & Increased Heart Disease Risk

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Women’s Health: Unique Risks for Developing Cardiovascular Disease

Infographic with pregnant woman and the pregnancy factors that increase women risk for cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. It is an important health concern that women should be aware of. While heart disease does affects both men and women, there are many different factors that can put a woman at an increased risk.

Pregnant woman holding her belly

Among the risk factors that are unique to women is pregnancy. A variety of complications and health issues have been found to make a woman’s chances of facing heart issues double, triple or even worse. Here at Zepick Cardiology, we treat people of all demographics dealing with their own unique issues relating to their heart health.

New medical studies over the past few years have placed a focus on health matters that specifically affect women. There are many issues that put women at increased risk for heart disease from menopause to hypertension. A variety of complications and health issues surrounding pregnancy and birth have been found to make a woman’s chances of facing heart issues double, triple or even more.

Pregnancy: Increased Cardiovascular Disease Risks

ADVERSE PREGNANCY OUTCOMES

About 10% to 20% of all pregnancies have what is referred to as adverse pregnancy outcomes. This includes such situations as preterm birth, stillbirth, and low birth weight. These adverse outcomes have been found to be associated with an increased risk for those women to develop cardiovascular disease in their future. If you had one of these pregnancies, you are more likely to develop heart disease.

PREECLAMPSIA

Pre eclampsia statistics about how this illness increase women's risk for heart disease problems

Preeclampsia is a relatively rare hypertension disorder. It happens typically after 20 weeks into pregnancy and causes the woman to have dangerously high blood pressure. It can lead to serious, even fatal, problems such as seizures. Usually the condition goes away with, or shortly after, childbirth.

The most serious risks usually end when the condition ends with childbirth. But research shows that women who have experienced preeclampsia during pregnancy also face an increased risk of developing heart disease. Studies show that after 10-15 years after having preeclampsia, these women are face the following increase risks:

  • 3.7 times greater risk for hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • 2.2 times greater risk for ischemic heart disease (heart not receiving enough blood)
  • 1.8 times greater risk for stroke
  • 1.5 times greater risk for overall mortality

There are other hypertension disorders a woman can experience during pregnancy. Women who are diagnosed with any hypertensive disorder of pregnancy are at an increased risk for chronic hypertension, even as soon as within the first year after pregnancy. They also have double the risk of being hospitalized for a cardiovascular issue within 3 years of delivery.

Having a hypertension disorder during a pregnancy also increases the risk for coronary disease and for having heart failure and valvular heart disease.

GESTATIONAL DIABETES

Women who develop diabetes during their pregnancy find themselves at risk for further conditions. Not only are they at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, they also face increased risks for heart disease. Women who have gestational diabetes have:

  • double the risk of developing hypertension
  • double the risk for having a stroke
  • nearly three times more likely for having ischemic heart disease.

PREMATURE BIRTH

Giving birth several weeks early increase a woman’s risk for heart issues. Giving birth to a child before 37 weeks into the pregnancy doubles the mother’s risk for cardiovascular disease. It also doubles the risk for dying from coronary heart disease. When the birth happens prior to 34 weeks along, that risk is even high.

PREGNANCY LOSS

Women who have had a miscarriage or a stillbirth face greater cardiovascular disease risk. They have double the risk for having a heart attack (technically called myocardial infarction), a stroke (cerebral infarction), or renovascular hypertension.

Having had a miscarriage also puts you at 1.5 times increased risk of developing some form of cardiovascular disease. Multiple miscarriages increase that risk to 2 times.

A picture with image of pregnant mom containing table explaining how a miscarriage can increase a woman's risk for heart disease

Why it’s Important to Know Your Risks

If you faced one or more of these situations during a pregnancy, it can be disheartening to find out that it has put you at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease. But there is some good news. With new research and knowledge into what puts women uniquely at risk for heart disease, doctors and cardiologists can be more able to react to the care you need. For example, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now recommends that women who have an adverse pregnancy outcome undergo a cardiovascular risk screening withing 3 months after that pregnancy.

Getting correctly diagnosed with heart disease can mean the important treatment you need can begin sooner. In addition, when a physician identifies that a patient is at greater risk for developing cardiovascular issues, they can provide the proper recommendations to help protect the patient’s heart health. Increasing certain activities and making lifestyle changes can go far in helping a person avoid or delay developing dangerous conditions.

For some time in our medical history, women were being underdiagnosed with cardiovascular disease and/or not getting the sufficient treatment or care for it. Knowing how women are uniquely affected by heart disease or the factors that put them at greater risk creates great opportunity to help women better deal with or even prevent suffering with cardiovascular disease.

Questions About Your Heart Treatment?

When you get care at Zepick Cardiology in Wichita, we take the time to talk through your health and your risk factors. Whether you are a man or a woman, we will make sure to address your specific situation and as well as go over the best treatment and care for you.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your heart health, feel free to call us at Zepick Cardiology at (316) 616-2020.

How to Prepare for a Cardiac Stress Test

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What to Know Before Taking the Treadmill Test 

Person on a treadmill taking a stress test with words "Don't stress out about the Stress Test: 4 steps to prepare" from Zepick Cardiology in Wichita

Coronary artery disease is the number one killer of men and women. It affects more than 16 million Americans. This disease is when there is some blockage of the arteries around your heart that restricts the blood flow in your body. If left untreated, a person can suffer serious problems including a heart attack. Fortunately, there are non-invasive tests that a person can take to help diagnose if they are suffering from coronary artery disease. 

Poster of a heart in Wichita clinic showing ventricles

The Stress Test

One of the most common medical tests you can take for determining potential heart issues like coronary artery disease is a stress test. This is the test some people may think of as the Treadmill Test or the Exercise Stress Test. While this is a standard and very safe test, some people have developed concerns and anxiety about the test. 

Here at Zepick Cardiology, we perform this test all the time at our Wichita clinic. This is truly a vital test to help someone receive treatment as early as possible before serious heart issues occur. We want to provide you valuable information to help you better understand this test, help you be prepared for it, and to feel less stress about taking it.

Bottom Line: Don’t stress out about the stress test.

When is a Stress Test Needed?

Most often, if you are undergoing a stress test inside our Wichita clinic, it’s because you were referred to Zepick Cardiology by your primary care doctor. This is a very sensitive test using specific cardiac equipment that tests for blockages in the coronary arteries. 

Why might you need a stress test? You may have been referred to a cardiology clinic for a stress test because you’ve exhibited some of the signs of coronary heart disease. Some symptoms of a potential heart problem include chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and dizziness, among others. 

Discuss with your doctor any problems or pains you are feeling in your chest area. Undergoing a stress test may be what is needed to catch any developing problems before they become severe.

Preparing for your Heart Stress Test

4 Steps to prepare for the cardiac stress test info-graphic - including do not eat, avoid caffeine and wear comfortable clothing

You will be given instruction in advance to make sure you are prepared for the stress test. The first thing to know is that there is very little preparation you need to worry about. It requires a lot of the same basic steps you would undergo for a variety of different medical tests.

The 4 Prep Steps for a Stress Test

  1. DO NOT EAT: For the day of your test, you cannot have anything to eat or drink. However, you can drink water.
  2. DO NOT HAVE CAFFEINE: You will have to skip your daily coffee or tea that day and the night before. Do not ingest anything with caffeine for the 24 hours leading up to your stress test appointment.
  3. DO NOT TAKE BLOOD PRESSURE MEDS: On the day of your appointment, do not take any medications for blood pressure, like beta blockers, before the stress test. 
  4. DO WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES & SHOES: You will be walking or jogging on a treadmill, so be sure you are wearing the necessary clothing to be able to handle that level of activity. Be sure to wear running shoes or another footwear appropriate for a walk or jog.

What Happens During a Stress Test?

When you come to Zepick Cardiology for a cardiac stress test, you will be taken to an exam room and prepped for the test on the treadmill. This preparation includes attaching several small devices called electrodes to your chest. These are sticky patches that adhere to the skin that is connected to an electrocardiogram (EKG). There is nothing painful nor dangerous about electrodes. They simply work to provide our cardiology team images showing how well your heart and arteries are performing. 

Treadmill inside Zepick Cardiology where you would get a stress test done to check for coronary heart disease

Before you even get on the treadmill, we will look at the readings we are getting from the electrodes to see the resting state of your heart and cardiac system. Then you will get on the treadmill and start walking (or jogging) for about 10 to 15 minutes. You will start out slowly and then the treadmill speed will increase gradually.

Throughout the time you are on the treadmill, one of our Zepick Cardiology’s staff will be right in the room with you. The staff will be monitoring the live EKG during the entire time you are walking. 

How fast will you have to go on the treadmill?

For most patients, a brisk walk will be all that’s needed. However, if you are under 25 years old, you can expect to be jogging on the treadmill. 

For the treadmill test to provide necessary results, you are going to be exerting yourself enough to reach your targeted heart rate. Your targeted heart rate is typically 50% – 85% of your safe maximum heart rate. For the stress test, you will need to reach 85%. 

Each person has their own targeted heart rate. It is determined by your age, and there is a simple formula to determine it. 

How to Determine your Target Heart Rate for a Stress Test

  1. Subtract your age from 220. 
  2. Multiple that number by 0.85

Using this formula, you will see that a person who is 60 years old will need to reach a heart rate of 136 on the treadmill.

Pairing the stress test with advanced diagnostic imaging
To improve the accuracy of information we get from the stress test, we usually pair the resting EKG with heart muscle blood perfusion imaging or ultrasound images. 

The stress test itself is no different than taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood. The only real difference is that here you are walking while surrounded by heart experts inside a cardiology clinic. If your heart is in fact at such a great risk for cardiac problems, there is no better place to uncover it than right inside a cardiology clinic surrounded by our team. Your safety and health are our highest priorities.

What Happens After the Treadmill?

After the walking or jogging  is done and we have gotten all the necessary images of your cardiac system, you will be unhooked. The test is over. Our cardiologists will go over the various images we took during your appointment.

Treadmill Room 2 sign outside where you do the treadmill test for your heart at Zepick Cardiology in Wichita, KS

Urgent and extremely abnormal results are available to be interpreted by the doctor immediately following the stress test. But in most cases, the patient will schedule

a routine follow up appointment to go over the results with the doctor and come up with a plan of treatment going forward. It will only take a few days for you to get your results. These appointments are usually scheduled a week or two after the stress test. 

Of course, one reasonable stressor about a stress test is dreading the results. Yes, it’s true that the test may uncover you have serious heart issues. But if left ignored, you could be facing serious illness or death. 

Getting a cardiac stress test and finding out you have an issue like coronary artery disease means you now have hope and a path towards a healthier life. You will be given the medical care and information you need to get healthier and to live a longer life. This knowledge, while scary, may save your life. 

What if I’m Unable to do the Treadmill Test?

Some people are in a condition that will not allow them to walk on the treadmill. Whether they are not able to do this exercise, or it would be unsafe for them to do so, there is an alternative option. We have a medicine for those people to take to provide us with necessary results without use of a treadmill.  

Questions About Your Heart Treatment?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding procedures or preparations for heart stress tests, feel free to call us at Zepick Cardiology at (316) 616-2020.

Zepick Cardiology COVID-19 Safety Measures

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Protecting Wichita Heart Patients during the Coronavirus Pandemic

May, 2020

Zepick Cardiology is a trusted Wichita medical clinic committed to helping patients live better and longer. With the threat of coronavirus, we want to make sure our patients know that their health and safety remain our number one focus. We remain open and available to treat all current and new patients with enhanced protocols to ensure safety throughout your visit.

During the shutdown in Sedgwick County and across Kansas in early spring, Zepick Cardiology always remained open. As a medical facility, we are an essential business. Simply put, you can trust us to be here when you need us.

Ensuring Safety Inside our Wichita Clinic

Front view of Zepick Cardiology, located on Hillside just south of Kellogg in Wichita, KS
Zepick Cardiology clinic – 630 S. Hillside Wichita, KS

The threat of the coronavirus has created sweeping changes for people and companies across the globe. Here in Wichita, our cardiology clinic has also adapted. Keeping the health and safety of our heart patients our highest priority, Zepick Cardiology quickly took necessary steps to ensure our patients and our staff would be protected in every way possible from the COVID-19 virus.

It has already been our routine to implement a variety of hygienic protocols. From protective gear to gloves and masks, our medical staff are always well equipped to maintain safe contact with our patients. But with the additional threat of COVID-19, other non-medical staff at Zepick Cardiology are also now wearing additional protective gear.

Additional Clinic Safety: From Masks to Disinfectant

As we mentioned, some safety procedures were already in place here at Zepick Cardiology. Some procedures have simply been increased. And even some new safety measures have been implemented.

Some steps we are taking to reduce your risk of catching the coronavirus include:

  • All Zepick Cardiology staff wear masks
  • All patients wear masks
  • Rooms are disinfected before each new patient
  • Doorknobs are wiped down after each patient
Telemedicine appointments available from Zepick Cardiology for heart patients in Wichita, KS Call (316) 616-2020

New Telemedicine Appointments for our Heart Patients

Zepick Cardiology now provides a new way for many of our heart patients to receive the care and information they need without leaving their home. Telehealth is a process for getting important care to patients at a distance. At Zepick Cardiology, sometimes a medical visit can be handled via a phone call.

If the appointment does not require a physical examination, patients may be able call in for a one-on-one office consult with one of our trained doctors or medical staff.  Patients will receive the same attention and care in a telemedicine appointment with one of our cardiologists as they would in person.

Call us at (316) 616-2020 to learn more about this telemedicine visit with our clinic.

Heart Patients’ Vulnerability to Coronavirus

Does having a heart condition put you at a greater risk for illness or death if you catch the coronavirus? Unfortunately, yes. According to the Center for Disease Control, people with serious heart conditions may suffer greater if catching the virus.

Graphic image showing high risk heart condition factors for COVID 19 coronavirus, helpful information from Zepick Cardiology in Wichita, KS

Some of the heart conditions that increase your risk for serious complications include:

  • Heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Cardiomyopathies

Advice for People with Heart Conditions

The best thing you can do if you have an underlying heart condition is to continue your efforts to be healthy. Continue taking your medications as prescribed. Make sure you do not run out. It is best to keep at least a 2-week supply of any medications you need.

As people with cardiovascular conditions are at a greater risk for COVID-19 complications, you need to be sure that you are taking necessary precautions to avoid contact with others. Realize that many people without symptoms could be carriers of the coronavirus, so minimize how much contact you have with others and maintain a 6-foot distance. It is recommended you wear a mask, and ask that friends and family also wear masks to help protect those like you who are more vulnerable to the virus.

Questions About Your Heart Treatment?

A question some people may be wondering: Is it safe to see my doctor? The short answer is ‘Yes’. We have implemented additional safety measures beyond our already rigid procedures to further minimize contact and risk of catching the coronavirus. You do not need to reschedule your appointment or delay getting the care you need at our cardiology clinic.

Knowing that our patients are in this vulnerable group, Zepick Cardiology is doing everything possible to keep our heart patients safe and free from risk. Contact us online or call us at (316) 616-2020 with your questions or concerns about clinic visits or care.

You can learn more about other factors that put some people at greater risk of suffering from COVID-19 at the CDC’s website.