Doctors work to prevent heart attacks |

Doctors work to prevent heart attacks

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart is reduced, or stopped all together.

The reduction, or stoppage, happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart is blocked, which usually occurs by a buildup of plaque.

Eventually the plaque can burst, tear, or rupture the artery creating a spot for blood clots to form, blocking an artery, and leading to a heart attack, according to Dr. Greg Feinsinger MD of Glenwood Medical Associates in Glenwood Springs.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death for Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That is why Dr. Feinsinger, and his colleagues at GMA Dr. David Lorah MD and Dr. Christiaan Maurer MD work to prevent heart attacks in patients from happening.

“The big problem is that 15 percent of those who die from heart attacks, the first symptom they experience is their last, meaning they die before they get to the hospital,” Feinsinger said. “That is why it’s so important to identify the risk before that happens.”

The GMA Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention program is designed to do just that, prevent a person from having a deadly heart attack or stroke by paying attention to their bodies.

“So the question is, how do we identify people early on to abate this problem,” Feinsinger said.

The doctors have a list of risk factors which include the usual suspects such as: smoking, poor diet, inactive lifestyle, and most importantly, a family history of heart disease or stroke.

“The problem is that the risk factors don’t always explain everything,” Feinsinger said. “There are some who have those risk factors that are OK, and some who don’t have any of them and they are not OK.”

Then the problem becomes, how do you determine if they have a problem or not?

According to Feinsinger, clinicians in prevention believe that knowing the condition of a person’s arteries gives doctors a pretty good idea of determining their chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

The biggest organ system in the body is the lining of the arteries, called the Intima, Feinsinger said. Testing the Intima’s elasticity is how physicians can determine how much of a risk a patient is for heart attack. But Feinsinger said that today, there are ways to test the Intima’s thickness before a problem develops.

A carotid Intimal thickness test, is a ten minute painless soundwave picture of the arteries in your neck, Feinsinger said. It’s easy to test and provides physicians with a lot of good evidence that if a patient has a thickening of those arteries, other arteries within the patient’s body are not healthy either.

Feinsinger said in many cases hardening of the arteries happens as early as infancy.

GMA recommends people ask their doctor about the Berkeley HeartLab’s advanced testing, which they utilize, and the 4myheart program to reduce the risk of heart attack.

A common misconception, according to Feinsinger is that exercise alone can prevent heart attack and strokes, but that is not the case.

“If you’ve got the wrong genes, you can’t exercise it away,” he said.

Feinsinger often recommends medications depending on the age of the patient and other factors which have proven to help prevent heart attacks. Everyday medications like fish oil have shown to prevent heart attacks and strokes, he said, and Aspirin if a patient does have plaque to prevent blood clots from forming as well.

While statin drugs like Lipitor, used to control cholesterol levels, can reduce the risk of heart attack by 30 percent. However, when used with other natural medications such as niacin, a B-vitamin, can reduce the risk by as much as 90 percent.

But, Feinsinger said that patients should only take such medications under a doctor’s supervision.

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