Heart Health (Cardiology)

A guide to understanding your heart health

By Kai Wade, Director of Communications & Social MediaLast modified: October 10, 2011

Heart Care (Cardiology)

The heart is the most vital organ of the body, ultimately ensuring that blood pumps fluidly. If the heart becomes damaged, due to a genetic defect, illness or age, your overall health will be affected.

The heart works to transfer blood through the veins and arteries. If an obstruction prevents normal flow of blood from the heart, serious health problems can arise. Cardiologists are specialized doctors ensuring your heart keeps pumping.

Heart Tests

Heart tests are employed to detect common heart problems are EKGs (electrocardiograms), echos (echocardiograms), coronary calcium scans, and blood tests.

Who Becomes Affected From Heart Conditions?

Many individuals are inclined to think that heart disease predominantly affects men, however that is not accurate. Today, more women die of heart disease than men. It is the leading killer of women, unrelated to race or ethnicity.

Heart Attack

A heart attack transpires if blood flow through a coronary artery is entirely blocked. The warning signs of a heart attack in women are frequently elusive than documented in men, and are easily confused with stress, weakness or simply not feeling good.

Due to this, many women don’t even recognize they’re suffering a heart attack therefore over sighting the emergency to seek immediate, life-saving aid. Heart attack symptoms experienced by men and women alike include severe crushing discomfort or heaviness in the center of the chest, tightness that ranges from the back, neck, shoulder, jaw, or arms and severe shortness of breath.

What Is An Angioplasty?

Angioplasty is a common medical procedure implemented to aid in the shortness of breath or reduces damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack. During angioplasty, a small balloon is expanded inside the coronary artery to relieve the blockage.

Our valves unite the four chambers in the heart, allowing blood to flow freely between them. If these valves are blocked surgeons need to restore the blood flow around the body either by clearing the obstruction with valvuloplasty surgery or by replacing the valves.

Healthy arteries are a key to a strong heart. The aorta is the main artery in the body and safeguarding a clear aorta passageway is one of the main jobs of cardiologists. Heart bypass surgeries and artery repairs are common procedures. 

Heart Transplant Surgery

Sometimes there is nothing cardiologists can do to repair damage to the heart and patients must undergo heart transplant surgery. The waiting process for a donor heart and waiting to ensure the body has not rejected the donor heart is a challenging course. Heart transplant surgery is always the final option and cardiologists do their best to ensure you are as comfortable and as informed as possible. For peace of mind, ask a sympathetic cardiologist any questions you have about heart transplant surgery. A healthy heart keeps the body strong.

Artial Septal Defect

A hole in the heart (atrial septal defect) is a congenital heart problem that is commonly identified at birth. Atrial septal defects (ASD) are commonly known as a heart murmur due to the sounds made when cardiologists listen to the beating heart through a stethoscope. The 'hole' is in the wall/septum of the heart that separates the right and left ventricle chambers.

A hole in the heart will often close by itself. Cardiologists will monitor the development of children born with ASDs, usually at twice yearly appointments. Holes in the heart normally close by the time a year is 5 years old.

Large atrial septal defects are operated on when the child is between 2-5 years old. There are two methods of surgery a cardiologist can use to close the hole and repair the heart - a catheter procedure or open-heart surgery.

Causes of heart disease

The heart works to pump oxygen-rich blood around the body. Anything that prevents the blood from circulating properly is a cause for concern. Heart disease and heart conditions can be caused by a congenital defect from birth, an unhealthy lifestyle and diet or a problem with an artery, heart valve or heart muscle.

Common heart problems

Heart problems can remain undetected and many congenital heart problems will not have obvious symptoms. It is important that anyone who thinks they may have a problem with their heart visit a cardiologist who will perform routine heart checks. 

Common heart conditions include:

Angina - narrowing of the coronary arteries

Heart Palpitations - irregular heartbeat

Heart Valve Disease - blood cannot enter or leave the heart efficiently

Hole in the Heart - a common defect affecting 1/4 people

Heart Attack - sudden blockage in the arteries preventing blood flow

Heart problems can be fatal if neglected. It is important you are aware of the symptoms of heart disease and visit a doctor immediately if symptoms appear.

Coronary Angioplasty

Coronary angioplasty is a procedure used to open blocked or narrowed coronary arteries caused by plaque build-up. The procedure improves blood flow to the heart muscle and relives symptoms of myocardial ischemia. During the coronary angioplasty procedure, a small balloon is inflated in the blocked or narrowed artery region. Usually, coronary angioplasty is finished with an implantation of a stent, which is a mesh-like tube, often made of metal.

Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart bypass surgery is a procedure to widen clogged coronary arteries to improve blood flow and circulation of oxygen to the heart. Clogged arteries can lead to heart attacks, strokes and chest pain. Also known as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), heart bypass surgery replaces the blocked vein with an open, healthy vein taken from another area of the body.

Heart Transplant

Heart  transplants are necessary for patients who are suffering from final stage heart failure. Heart transplants involve replacing a damaged heart with a healthy donor heart.

Heart Valve Stents And Angioplasty

Heart Valve Stenting is a procedure that may be done in conjunction with angioplasty. Both procedure are done to repair clogged or blocked arteries and to reduce the symptoms of heart disease.

Heart Valve Surgery

There are four chambers in the heart. Heart valves control the blood flow between these chambers, the heart and the rest of the body. Defective heart valves prevent correct blood flow, and if left untreated, damaged heart valves put pressure on the heart, which can lead to heart disease. Heart valves may need to be repaired or replaced if they do not open properly [stenosis] or do not close and let blood flow to other chambers of the heart.

Percutaneous Balloon Valvuloplasty

A cardiac treatment to open constricted heart valves as an alternative to heart valve replacement, percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty involves a balloon being used to open the restricted valve.

In a procedure similar to a coronary angioplasty, a catheter is placed through a vein, usually in the groin. A balloon is attached to the end of the catheter and is inflated once inside the valve. The inflated balloon opens the valve and allows blood to flow normally between the chambers of the heart.  

Prevention Of Heart Disease

Heart disease or heart conditions caused by a congenital defect cannot be prevented, however many heart problems develop as a result of a non-active lifestyle with a high cholesterol, high fat diet. To prevent heart disease developing; lose weight; start exercising; quit smoking; drink alcohol in moderation; eat healthily and have regular medical consultations.


Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the elderly and one of the main causes of death in people over the age of 65. Strokes are caused by a disruption in the blood flow to the brain. The brain becomes starved of oxygen which damages the brain cells. This damage to brain cells is what causes disabilities after stroke as the brain controls all movement and speech. Knowing the F.A.S.T test can help identify stroke and get help quickly, reducing the risk of permanent brain damage.

Symptoms Of A Heart Attack

Heart attacks happen when the blood and oxygen supply to one of the heart muscles is stopped. If blood and oxygen flow is prevented from reaching the heart for a prolonged period, the heart stops working to pump blood around the rest of the body.

Contrary to popular belief, heart attack symptoms usually come on slowly with symptoms becoming more intense. Heart attack symptoms may not be as obvious in women so it is important to note the different signs that may indicate a heart attack in women

Sypmtoms of Heart Disease

Heart disease and disorders can often go undetected as the symptoms can be confused for another problem. Many heart disease, especially genetic defects, are not diagnosed until the symptoms become severe. Knowing what to look for can help diagnose heart problems before they lead to heart attack or stroke.

Warning signs include: 

  • Tiredness 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in the legs or face
  • Feeling unusually cold
Symptoms for a heart attack and stroke may vary and it is recommended patients are able to recognise these symptoms. 

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