Author: Caitlin Giesler

CT Scan My Heart?

What is this Heart Healthy CT? How many possible tests can there be for my heart? It is getting a bit confusing trying to navigate the different tests from ECGs (or is it EKG?), to echocardiograms and stress tests.

Well, the Cardiac CT or Calcium score can provide very helpful information, especially for women. This test takes about 5 minutes. They do a CT Scan (aka Cat Scan) of the heart. We can not see all of the blood vessels completely during this quick scan. However, the computer can calculate the amount of calcium that has built up in the arteries …

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Heart Disease Overview from the Functional Girl

I recently had the pleasure of meeting CJ Legare, Austin’s own, Functional Girl. CJ has a broad background spanning modeling to marketing. She is now using her experience and talent to, in her words, “empower women to celebrate themselves, to embrace sisterhood and to love the way they live every day.” She has started Functional Girl which has a website and a team of women working to fulfill her mission.

During our meeting, we talked about Heart Disease in Women. She asked questions that I am sure many women have. She put the answers together in a …

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Mitral Valve Prolapse causing chest pain

Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) is a diagnosis that tends to occur in women more often than men – although there are many men with the condition. It is a diagnosis based upon a physical examination by a physician and sometimes by imaging studies such as an echocardiogram (sonogram of the heart).

MVP means that the mitral valve in your heart is prolapsing into the left atrium slightly when it closes as the heart beats. The valve normally closes during a heart beat to prevent blood from going backwards towards the lungs. If the valve is prolapsing, it can occasionally also be …

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‘Tis the Season…For Heart Disease

Just as everyone is getting ready for the holiday season, cardioligists are getting ready for a busy season of heart disease. Starting after Thanksgiving, there is a significant increase in heart attack rates with two distinct peaks at Christmas and New Year’s.


The increase over the next 2-3 months is thought to be due to:

more stress
more eating
colder weather (although the trend is also seen in warm climates)
more respiratory illness
delayed treatment (because people do not want to stop and make an appointment with their doctors with all the shopping and prep to be done)

Therefore, things to consider:

avoid delay in seeking medical attention, …

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Heart Attacks Twice as Deadly in Women in Recent Study

A new presentation delivered at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress shows that heart attacks remain more deadly for women than men. The research group showed that there was a higher rate for intra-hospital death from acute heart attacks in women versus men (9% vs 4.4%). This difference was seen on an international level. Women around the world are dying from acute heart attacks at higher rates than men.

Why is there still such a big difference in death rates? The research group has some ideas:

Women had longer delay between onset of symptoms and calling for medical assistance
Women had longer …

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Why Rosie’s experience should be a wakeup call for women

I’m hopeful that Rosie O’Donnell’s blog post about her recent heart attack opens the eyes of Central Texas women about heart disease. All too often women think they have to experience the classic, “elephant sitting on my chest” crushing pain when they’re having a heart attack. But the fact is, women often experience very different symptoms than men.

O’Donnell said she experienced flu-like symptoms and aches and pains in her arms and chest. While they’re not the dramatic symptoms often portrayed on television or in the movies, they are the typical heart attack symptoms in women.

According to reports, she did a …

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“I heard about a marathoner who had a heart attack at the finish line…”

Austin is a fit city, for sure. Everywhere you go, people are in spandex or wicking workout gear and look really fit. There are countless opportunities for exercise and adventure. Just when you decide to get on the bandwagon, you hear about someone who had a heart attack after running the Austin Marathon. How does that happen?  em>Why bother with fitness when it doesn’t prevent heart disease?

Case in point: The world famous ultra-marathoner, Micha True (a.k.a. Caballo Blanco), was recently found in the Gila National Forest having died while on a trail run. He was a man who ran 50+ miles at …

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Seton Heart Institute collaborates with Gynecologists – making headlines

We at Seton Heart Institute have been privileged to be part of a recent project that engenders collaboration between cardiologists and gynecologists. Seton Heart is the only group in Central Texas working on this project. Along with 10 other sites across the country, we have been working with gynecologists to use a screening survey among women over the age of 40 to determine how many women have risk factors for coronary heart disease. The preliminary results were reported at the Society for Angiography and Coronary Intervention (SCAI) Meeting this past week with an article found in Medpage Today.

This collaboration is very exciting because so …

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You make my heart flutter…

Palpitations. What are they? What do we mean when we say, “Palpitations?”

Usually, when physicians refer to palpitations, we are talking about feelings of your heart beating. This feeling is often a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly or “skipping beats.” The term can also mean a sensation of feeling your heart race – especially when you are not exercising or otherwise expecting an elevated heart rate.

Why does this happen?

Your heart has its own electrical system that regulates your heart rate and causes a beat about once each second. This system can have “short circuts” than cause the racing heart rates. …

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What does High Blood Pressure REALLY mean?

Driving anywhere on I-35 is enough to make anyone’s blood pressure skyrocket. Can you stay heart healthy in Austin just by avoiding traffic? If you don’t feel the high blood pressure, is it harmful? How?

The answers: blood pressures over 140/90 are often not felt but are damaging. High pressures put a lot of stress on organs causing problems over time – by the time symptoms arise, some damage is irreversible.

Blood Pressure is the pressure measured within the arteries in your vascular system. If the pressure is too low, the overall blood flow is not enough to deliver oxygen to your organs causing weakness, fatigue, light-headedness or loss of consciousness. …

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Statins – worth the risk?

The FDA has issued new safety warnings for the labels on statin drugs (Lipitor, Crestor, simvastatin, etc). Statins are one of the types of cholesterol medications available, and they have the best data for preventing heart disease in women and men. The warnings state that statins may cause reversible confusion or memory loss. They also state that statins can increase blood sugars and lead to diabetes in the long run.

In light of these warnings, are statins worth the risks?

YES. Statins can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people who are at increased risk. Therefore, you should …

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Pregnancy as a predictor of Heart Health

Anyone who has been through it knows that pregnancy is tough – physically and emotionally. It is the ultimate stress test of a woman’s body. We in medicine are fascinated at the changes that women undergo to handle the demands of a growing fetus. Blood volume increases, hormones go crazy, and blood vessels change so that the baby gets adequate oxygen and nutrition. The heart pumps much harder and often the heart rate increases.

Many women develop high blood pressure as a result of some of these changes, and the blood pressure often returns to normal levels after delivery. Some women are …

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Go RED, Save Lives

February 3rd is National Go Red for Women Day. It’s a great chance for us to remind all the women we know – and even those we don’t – that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. 1 in 3 women die from heart disease compared with 1 in 30 women who die from breast cancer. We MUST get the word out!

Wear red to show you know and you care. Take the opportunity to remind women of the risk and that they can prevent heart disease. Ask women to Know Their Numbers. And, take some extra time on Friday to …

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Eat for Health – in Austin

We Austinites are fortunate to have access to so many heart healthy living options. One of my favorites is the Health Starts Here program at Whole Foods.

This month, Whole Foods (via their Healthy Eating Specialist, Dan Marek) is starting another 28 day challenge. They provide guidelines for healthy eating, recipes, and shopping lists. They will send motivational emails, and they have cooking demonstrations throughout the month. To sign up, send an email to Dan with “Add me to the List” in the Subject line:

Every little bit makes a difference. Give it a try – you’ll be amazed at …

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HAPPY Holidays?

The stress of holiday prep can be overwhelming. For most women, it means continuing all regularly-scheduled activities PLUS shopping, shipping, preparing for guests or packing. It is easy to lose sight of why we celebrate and come together. It is also easy to forget to take time for yourself. Who can go for a walk when there are stockings that need to be stuffed?

Unfortunately, the high levels of stress (and therefore adrenaline and cortisol in your system) increase your risk of heart attack. With the addition of holiday treats and cold weather, the risk for heart attack is much higher this time of year.

Rather than feeling …

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