When It Comes To Your Heart, Is Time On Your Side?

Thank you for tuning in to our recent livestream Q&A event on why time is critical to your heart health. And, if you missed the broadcast, you can view it now!

Keeping your heart healthy is a lifelong commitment. Whether you are looking to prevent heart disease or already have a heart condition, our experts discuss what is most critical to heart health.

Many of you raised questions in the comments section of our broadcast. Below are responses to the questions that were not covered during the live event:

Several studies have shown that people with poor oral health, such as gum disease or tooth loss, also have higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Reasons vary, but often include the following possibilities:

  • Gingivitis- and periodontitis-causing bacteria travel beyond the gums to blood vessels elsewhere in the body where they can cause inflammation and damage.
  • It is the body’s immune response, rather than the bacteria, which causes vascular damage throughout the body.
  • An indirect connection, such as smoking, lack of exercise, poor access to healthcare or another health condition, causes the risk factors for both the heart disease and poor oral health.

Whether the link is direct or indirect, however, a healthy mouth and a regimen that includes not smoking and regular dental care, are crucial to having good overall oral and heart health.

A preliminary study was reported in late April indicating that, "tens of incidents" of myocarditis, a type of, not enlargement, but inflammation, of the heart, was identified in 62 of the more than five-million people in Israel who had received the Pfizer vaccine, usually after their second dose.

The majority of the affected patients were males and under 30 years old.

An Israeli health ministry committee advised that it is examining the small number of these heart inflammation cases but has not yet drawn any conclusions as it was still unclear whether the number was an unusually high one. Determining a link, they said, would be difficult because myocarditis, a condition that often goes away without complications, can be caused by a variety of viruses and a similar number of cases were reported in previous years. Pfizer noted it has not observed a higher rate of the condition than would normally be expected in the general population.

The American Heart Association urges all eligible individuals to get vaccinated to keep themselves, their family and their community healthy and safe: “As a science-based organization committed to health equity, we are heartened that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved to protect individuals, their loved ones and their communities from the pandemic…In particular, people with cardiovascular risk factors, heart disease, and heart attack and stroke survivors should get vaccinated as soon as possible because they are at much greater risk from the virus than they are from the vaccine.”

Diagonal branches of the important left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery supply blood flow to the front (anterior) walls of the left ventricle (main lower pumping chamber). They are termed "diagonal" because they branch out from their parent vessel at an extreme angle.

If a heart blockage — a build-up of plaque that narrows the arteries supplying the heart with blood (coronary artery disease or CAD) — is severe enough, it can prevent the heart muscle from getting the blood it needs to function. This leads to symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

A moderate amount of heart blockage typically occurs in the 40-70% range. Blockages in this intermediate range do not cause significant limitation to blood flow and so do not cause symptoms. 

Moderate CAD is treated in much the same way as a mild form of the disease, with attention focused on risk factors, medication and a healthy lifestyle. Occasionally, a heart blockage at the higher end of the moderate range (50-70%) may require additional testing to determine whether it is significant or not.

In addition to continuing with a healthy diet and at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity a minimum of five times a week, it is important to avoid smoking and excess amounts of alcohol. It may also be a good idea to get tested for sleep apnea if you are experiencing severe snoring or sleep problems. Getting enough shut-eye has been shown to significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. 

A thorough evaluation by your cardiologist and interventional cardiologist can best advise you on the course of treatment that is right for you.

Yes. Cardiac ablation to treat irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) such as atrial fibrillation (AFib)—the most common arrhythmia—can be performed more than one time. In fact, up to 25% of all AFib ablation patients will have two ablation procedures and doctors do not consider even a third to be unreasonable if symptomatic arrhythmias persist.

Cardiac ablation is used to treat arrhythmias when medications are not tolerated or effective. The procedure itself involves threading a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) through a blood vessel, typically through the groin area, to the heart.

Your electrophysiologist (heart rhythm cardiologist) then helps to restore your heart’s regular rhythm by using radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) to destroy the tiny amount of malfunctioning heart tissue.

The procedure takes approximately two to four hours to complete and is done in a state-of-the-art electrophysiology (heart rhythm) lab where you will be monitored closely. The procedure is low risk and you are awake, though sedated, throughout.

Learn more about our advanced lab and our latest-generation technology that allows greater precision and safety. 

To learn more about  AFib  and its treatment, view this Q&A video featuring our heart rhythm experts on  Facebook or YouTube

Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are heartbeats that occur earlier than they should. These early beats briefly interrupt the heart's rhythm.

While PVCs are common in people of all ages and can occur in individuals without any heart disease, they tend to happen primarily in the older population and in individuals with prior heart disease.

The condition rarely causes problems unless they occur repeatedly and over a long period of time.

Specific treatments to help prevent PVCs, such as ablation—a minimally invasive cauterization process—are used only if you are symptomatic or if there is concern that the PVCs are frequent enough to be damaging your heart. Heart damage is detected using an echocardiogram.

The safe and effective ablation procedure has been performed for many years and is successful in eliminating PVCs in 80 percent of cases.

If you have symptoms and/or risk factors of heart disease, you should see a cardiologist for a thorough cardiac evaluation. PVCs are treated by a specialist called an electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and management of heart rhythm problems.

Pacemakers are used to treat slow heart rhythms only. Defibrillators (ICDs) treat dangerous fast heart rhythms by shocking them back to normal, and also act as a backup pacemaker.

A thorough evaluation by an electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and management of heart rhythm problems, can help determine what your best course of treatment may be.

Sick sinus syndrome — also called sinus node dysfunction or sinus node disease — is the inability of the heart's natural pacemaker, the sinus node, to create a heart rate that's appropriate for the body's needs. Patients can experience fatigue if the heart rate is too slow, or dizziness/fainting. A pacemaker is recommended for symptomatic sick sinus syndrome if other causes, such as medication side effects, are excluded.

Despite its name, congestive heart failure (CHF) does not necessarily mean that the heart has stopped working. Heart failure, though, affecting more than six-million people in the US, is a serious chronic condition in which the heart does not pump blood as well as it should and is inadequate to meet the body’s needs.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs (edema) and a rapid heartbeat.

Among CHF risk factors are diabetes, obesity, smoking, anemia, thyroid problems and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) such as atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Therapies can include reduced salt and fluid intake and the use of medication. In some cases, a defibrillator or pacemaker may be implanted.

Doctors can’t always reverse the damage that CHF does to the heart, but treatments can provide symptom relief and improve a person’s quality of life.

Anyone who experiences symptoms or has risk factors should see a cardiologist for a diagnosis. Learn more about heart failure. 

Cardiac amyloidosis occurs when fatty deposits (plaque) of a protein byproduct called amyloid build up in heart muscle, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood. Cardiac amyloidosis is a serious condition that requires a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach.

Although the condition cannot be reversed, treatment may be able to slow the progression of the amyloid deposits and address damage to the heart.

Despite its longtime reputation as a mostly men’s thing, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States—responsible, in fact, for nearly one-third of deaths among women.

Men and women share pretty much equally the most common heart attack symptom, chest pain. But women are more likely to experience subtler symptoms, as well, particularly shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue and back or jaw discomfort—often chalking these up to less life-threatening conditions like the flu or acid-reflux—and causing a delay in seeking treatment.

Almost 90 percent of women who have had a heart attack report having had a feeling that something was just not right.

You are your own best advocate when it comes to your heart health. If you feel strongly that something’s not right, trust your gut and intuition. 

We encourage you to request a heart evaluation appointment if you have noticed signs or symptoms of heart disease or are concerned about your overall cardiovascular health.

If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Learn more about Long Island’s only accredited Chest Pain Center.

The Stony Brook Difference

  • Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) has been named one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals™ for 2021 in coronary intervention and cardiac and stroke care by Healthgrades, the first organization in the country to rate hospital quality based on actual clinical outcomes, placing SBUH in the top two percent of hospitals nationwide.
  • Testing and treatments are delivered by medical faculty physicians, making Stony Brook the only academic-based facility of its kind in Suffolk County.
  • Stony Brook Heart Institute's team of cardiac specialists combined with its advanced Cardiac Catheterization and Electrophysiology (EP) Labs and state-of-the-art procedure suites offer advanced capabilities so that all your heart care needs — whether routine or complex — can be treated on-site without losing valuable, lifesaving time.

Put Your Heart Health First

If you are at risk or if someone in your family has a heart condition, it’s important to schedule a visit with a cardiologist for preventive care. Our cardiologists can help you improve your heart health and/or prevent the progression of cardiovascular disease with a comprehensive heart disease risk assessment and treatment options.

Do something good for your own heart health by taking a free heart health assessment now.

For information and appointments

Call (631) 44-HEART (444-3278)