Heart & Cardiac Screenings
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA), each year nearly 800,000 Americans experience a new or recurrent stroke. And, close to 130,000 deaths occur every year from stroke. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the number one cause of adult disability.
Ischemic, hemorrhagic, transient ischemic attack (TIA) and cryptogenic stroke are the four types of stroke recognized by the AHA and ASA. An ischemic stroke occurs from a blocked artery. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery leaks or ruptures. A TIA occurs when a blockage temporarily interrupts blood flow to the brain. Cryptogenic strokes have no definitive cause.
Ischemic strokes are divided into two categories: thrombotic and embolic. Thrombotic strokes occur when a blood clot, or thrombus, forms within an artery that provides blood to the brain. Embolic strokes occur when an artery within the brain is blocked by a blood clot or embolism (an embolus, or blockage, formed from plaque or another substance) that has traveled through the bloodstream to the brain.
Hemorrhagic strokes are, also, divided into two categories: intracerebral and subarachnoid. An intracerebral stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain leaks or ruptures. A subarachnoid stroke occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain leaks or ruptures. Both types create swelling and pressure, from the leaking blood, resulting in cell and tissue damage in the brain.
Transient ischemic attacks can be described as temporary embolic ischemic strokes or “mini strokes.” TIAs are caused by a temporary blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Patients with atherosclerosis, carotid artery disease, atrial fibrillation and other medical conditions have a higher risk of experiencing one or more TIAs. In addition, patients that have experienced one or more TIAs have a greater risk of ischemic stroke.
Typically, signs and symptoms of an impending stroke develop quickly. However, they sometimes develop slowly over hours or days. Dizziness, weakness, partial paralysis, loss of coordination, speech impairment, confusion, difficulty breathing, severe headache and unconsciousness are some symptoms of stroke. Stroke symptoms require emergency medical care.
Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, age, ethnicity, gender, family history, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity and other pre-existing medical conditions are recognized as risk factors for stroke. Stress, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, drug use, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle are some additional risk factors. After evaluating your risk of stroke and conducting a physical examination, Dr. Alonso may recommend one or more stroke screening tests.
During the exam, Dr. Alonso will check your blood pressure and listen to your heart with a stethoscope. Using the stethoscope, he will listen for a whooshing sound (a bruit) in your carotid (neck) arteries. And, he may use an ophthalmoscope to check the blood vessels in the back of your eyes for clots or tiny cholesterol crystals. If needed, initial screenings will include blood tests and a carotid artery ultrasound. Additional screenings may include echocardiography to view heart size, performance, any clots and any aortic abnormalities or an electrocardiogram to help detect heart problems.
These screenings, aside from the blood tests, are painless. After assessing the results, Dr. Alonso will discuss preventative or corrective measures with you. Options or treatments may include lifestyle changes, medications, continued observation or surgery.