We often hear of an enlarged heart, what does it mean? How does one’s heart get enlarged? And how does it affect our health?
Our heart is a pear-shaped muscle pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Sometimes due to certain factors, birth defects- congenital heart defects, our heart muscle has to work much harder causing it to enlarge or become bigger in size.
Once the heart becomes enlarged, it is almost impossible to get it back to the original size.Therefore timely detection and management is the key.
Let’s try and explore factors which lead to an enlarged heart, a medical condition, which is impossible to cure but can be managed medically.
Congenital heart defects or heart defects one is born with us as PDA, VSD, ASD, Mitral valve defect, left untreated lead to high pulmonary pressures, which in turn lead to thickening of the arterial wall and also an enlarged heart.Though most babies are routinely scanned for congenital heart defects in developed countries, treatment upon detection and early intervention and management still remains the key.Many parents despite detection, are often scared to get surgical interventions without realizing that they are hampering both mental and physical growth and putting children at risk of enlarged heart and other complications later on in life.
Lifestyle-related complications such as hypertension or high blood pressure also lead to an enlarged heart over a period of time.In case of high blood pressure, the heart has to pump harder to deliver blood to the rest of your body, thereby thickening and enlarging the heart muscle.High blood pressure may also enlarge the upper chambers of the heart, the left ventricle and also weaken the heart long-term.
Coronary artery disease or CAD (blocked arteries requiring stenting, angioplasty) can also lead to a heart attack. A part of the heart muscle dies during a heart attack, causing the heart muscle to work harder to supply blood to the entire body which over long-term leads to an enlarged heart.
Abnormal Heart Beat or Arrhythmia is often ignored but may cause an enlarged heart over a period of time.
Anemia or low level of iron in the body, where the body doesn’t have enough Red Blood Cells to carry blood to the body, leads to rapid, irregular heartbeat causing the heart to pump harder to make up for lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood.Sicklers or patients suffering from sickle cell anemia are at an increased risk and despite hearsay, a Bone Marrow Transplant or a BMT remains the only curative treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia Major.
Thyroid disorders, also lead to various heart diseases over a period of time leading to an enlarged heart.
The biggest complications arising from an enlarged heart are heart failure, SCA or SCD (sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death) or what is known as a silent heart attack in laymen language.
Heart Failure: During heart failure, the heart muscle weakens and the ventricles, stretch or dilate to a point that the heart cannot pump blood efficiently, leading to a sudden cardiac arrest.
Silent heart attack or SCD: An enlarged heart causes the heart rhythm to be so slow that the muscle is unable to move blood or it may cause a heart rhythm, so fast that the muscle is unable to beat properly resulting in sudden death.
More on diagnosis and treatment options in our next post.
The PET CT Scan is one of the sought after diagnostic tests. Let’s find out more about what is a PET CT and why is it preferred over other diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, CT Scan or an ultrasound.
What is a PET Scan?
A PET Scan is a nuclear medicine technique which produces images of the human body at a molecular level.
A PET CT uses radioactive tracers in conjugation with isotopes such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon etc. These radioisotopes act at a molecular level and work as probes which seek out disease, cancer in the body while giving out radio signals which are captured to produce an image.
This can help in the diagnosis of even the tiniest lesions, thus increasing the accuracy of the investigation, subsequent diagnosis and hence cancer treatment.
A PET CT Scan, therefore reveals a lot more about the body than standard diagnostic tests such as MRI, CT Scan or an ultrasound.
What happens during a PET Scan?
A PET CT Scan, is always on a price appointment basis as the radioisotopes, having a very short half-life need to be brought in just before the scan.
A PET CT, is usually carried out empty stomach on overnight or at least 6 hrs fasting.
The creatinine levels, need to checked prior to conducting the PET CT by simple blood tests called KFT or Kidney function test
If the creatinine levels are in order, the patient is tested for blood sugar and if found in order, the patient is given an injection of glucose with a radioactive tracer.
After the injection, the patient is made to rest for about 90 mins and then taken for the actual scan which takes about 30 mins to 45 mins depending on the imaging required.
During the scan, the patient is made to lie on a comfortable table that moves slowly through the ring like PET scanner.
After the scan, the patient can leave immediately. However close contact with others especially children and pregnant women is best avoided for the next 4-6 hrs.
It is also good to drink a lot of water, to flush out the radioactive tracer from the body.
The imaging can be seen by the doctors and the nuclear medicine specialists almost immediately for evaluation, though a formal written report takes a day to be handed over to the patient.
Are there any side effects or discomfort due to the scan?
There are no side effects or discomfort due to the PET CT Scan, except the minor prick while injecting the tracer.
The PET CT scanner also does not make any sounds while the scan is going on, unlike a few other diagnostics tests.
What are the diseases for which a PET CT Scan can be used?
The most common use case for a PET CT Scan is for detecting and treating cancer. However other applications, include diagnosing cardiac or heart problems and also neurology.
During the initial stages of the disease, a PET CT helps distinguish between benign and malignant disease and also cancer staging, that is knowing and determining the stage of the disease and also its characteristics, which further helps oncologists decide the best treatment option for the patient.
During the course of treatment, it helps determine response to therapy or cancer treatment and if the metabolic activity decreases on the PET CT Scan, the oncologists know that the drugs being administered are working.
On the other hand, if the metabolic activity on the scan increases, it indicates that the treatment option is losing its efficacy or is not working and helps oncologists change the line of treatment to benefit the patient.
Neurology: Alzheimer’s at an early stage can be diagnosed using a PET Scan leading to early intervention.
A PET CT Scan helps locate tumors, distinguish between benign and malignant tumors and also scar tissue for brain surgery.
A PET CT is also useful for the treatment of epileptic seizures. It can help locate the origin and focus of seizures and assess sites for intervention if any is required.
What is the difference between a PET CT and an MRI or a CT ?
A CT or an MRI works on the physical level and can give the size and location of the tumor with accuracy.
However since both tests do not work on the molecular level, they cannot indicate metabolic activity of the tumor which only a PET CT Scan can indicate, thereby making a PET CT, a diagnostic test of choice for oncologists, cardiologists, cardiac or heart surgeons and interventional neurologists.
To know more about, PET CT Scans, cost, and implications, from the best cancer hospitals in India, write to us on email@example.com or send us a query.
The minute most of us hear “Diabetes”, we think of Blood Sugar.
Blood sugar is elevated level of sugar or glucose in the blood which if unchecked overtime, leads to diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates, inability of our body to convert sugar into glucose and subsequently elevated levels of glucose in the blood.
We all know about Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes but whats important is what happens in the body, when we have elevated levels of sugar in the body for long.
Common Effects and Risks associated with high sugar levels and diabetes are:
Risk of stroke: Diabetes or elevated sugar levels, increase our risk of stroke, about 4 times more than non diabetics
Risk of Heart Disease: Diabetes increases risk of heart attack , heart disease. As the blood vessels get damaged, it puts the heart under pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks. High glucose levels also lead to fatty deposits. Coupled with obesity, high blood pressure, it puts you at a severe risk and an angioplasty or an open heart bypass surgery may even be required.
Risk of Cataract: Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing cataracts
Risk of Glaucoma: Glaucoma risk is significantly more for diabetics. If left untreated, Glaucoma can lead to blindness.
Risk of Pancreas Malfunction: A malfunction in pancreas leads to diabetes and higher blood sugar levels in turn continue to damage the pancreas. Risk of Gastroparesis: Increase in blood sugar levels also makes it hard for the stomach to empty completely. This also in turn leads to an increase in blood sugar levels. Nausea, vomiting, bloating, and heartburn are common symptoms. Risk of Kidney Damage: Unchecked High sugar levels and diabetes, damages the kidneys, leads to diabetic neuropathy and eventually one may need a dialysis or even a kidney transplant. Risk of Nerve Damage: Diabetics often have tingling sensation in the foot and suffer from nerve damage. Lack of sensation or peripheral neuropathy is dangerous as due to lack of sensation, one may fail to notice injuries
. Foot Problems: Unchecked diabetes can lead to diabetic foot where the entire foot may even need to be amputated. Ketoacidosis: In absence of insulin, the body uses alternate hormones to turn fat into energy, which creates a high level of toxic chemicals such as acids and ketones, which may lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis often leads to loss of consciousness and other life threatening complications. A Fruity Breath or a sweet smelling breath is often an indicator of diabetes and calls for a check on blood sugar levels. Visual Problems: Diabetics often face visual problems, as high glucose levels often lead to swollen, leaky blood vessels in the eye, leading to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. These vision problems, may even lead to partial or total loss of vision Vision problems can be gradual hence routine eye checkups if you are diabetic or have pre diabetes are a must.
Risk of damage to blood vessels: High blood sugar levels or high glucose levels,
restrict blood flow, damaging the blood vessels.
As unchecked diabetes, leads to a host of problems, it is important to make life style changes. Pre diabetes conditions can be reversed by exercise and dietary changes. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled and even reversed if significant life style changes are made.
One of the most important life style change is to Quit smoking as diabetes and smoking leads to an enhanced risk of heart disease.
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Heart disease kills more people than any other disease. Over 30% of deaths across the world are due to heart disease as per WHO estimates.
Ignorance, lack of awareness, refusal to get basic routine checkups, account for the high mortality rate.
Unhealthy dietary habits, alcohol abuse, use of tobacco, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and genetics are the primary reasons for developing heart disease.
Most cases go undiagnosed till the patient suffers a heart attack.
Here is a list of types of heart disease which we should all know about.
Clogged Arteries: Fat and cholesterol build up in the arteries leads to plaque and mineral deposits which restricts or blocks blood flow to the heart. Usually clogged arteries are not diagnosed unless one gets chest pains or gets breathless. An angiography is often carried out for diagnosis. Stenting or an angioplasty takes of blocked arteries. A surgeon may insert a balloon or a wire mesh to open up your arteries. If the blockage is severe, a CABG or open heart bypass surgery may be required. In CABG, or open hear bypass surgery, blood vessels from other parts of the body are taken and damaged blood vessels of the heart are replaced or bypassed.
Arrhythmia: Irregular heart beat can either be too slow or too fast. Although rarely fatal, arrhythmia increases pre disposition to heart attack, heart failure and even stroke.
An ICD detects irregular heart beat and send electric impulses to takes care of Arrhythmia.
Hole in the heart : PDA, VSD, ASD, Mitral Valve Defects, commonly known as hole in the heart, sometimes congenital heart defects are not diagnosed even till adulthood. Growth milestones may be compromised and problems may persist later in life.
Serious defects require surgical intervention however some can be managed with medical management.
Heart Muscle Disease: Our heart is a muscle which weakens due to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and hence the heart struggles to pump blood in the body.
Heart muscle disease or cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
A Pacemaker is implanted to take care of heart muscle disease.
Enlarged Heart: As the heart muscle becomes weak, the heart enlarges in order to pump blood and the rhythm increases. However the heart also becomes weaker and consequently it leads to decreased blood flow.
Heart Attack: Clogged arteries can restrict and even stop blood flow to the heart. Without blood flow, our heart doesn’t get the oxygen required which damages the heart and this is what is known as a heart attack. The more restricted the blood flow, the more life threatening and severe, the heart attack.
Heart Failure: Failure of the heart to pump blood to the body is known as heart failure and this can lead to death.
Without surgical intervention or medical management as may be required, heart disease progresses and even post diagnosis and surgical intervention, drastic life style changes are required for managing the medical condition.
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