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Having a healthy heart is essential for living life to the fullest. With every beat, this remarkable organ sends blood through the blood vessels to deliver oxygen and nutrients to each cell in the body. Smart lifestyle choices and annual physical exams contribute significantly to keeping your heart healthy.

Helene Hutchinson, MSN, FNP-BC, nurse practitioner at the Cardiovascular Center at Beverly Hospital at Danvers, says, “As amazing as our heart and vascular system are, we have a responsibility to ourselves, and those who care about us, to do our part to help them continue to do their jobs well.” The risk of developing conditions of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease and carotid artery disease may be reduced significantly by identifying risk factors and taking steps to reduce those risks. Work with your healthcare provider to identify and reduce cardiovascular risk factors including: smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Although you cannot control all of the risk factors, lifestyle changes will decrease your risk and help keep your heart and vascular system healthy.

Just as important as choosing healthy lifestyle habits are regular check ups and screenings with your healthcare provider. He or she can detect a number of issues-just by listening to what your heart has to say. A great example is when a primary care or family doctor listens to a patient’s carotid artery-which supplies blood to the brain-with a stethoscope and hears a “rushing” sound called a bruit. This is a sign there may be a blockage. If left untreated, William Irwin, RVT, chief vascular technician at the Cardiovascular Center at Beverly Hospital at Danvers, says, “A blocked carotid artery can lead to stroke or produce symptoms of a stroke. Subsequently, a blocked coronary artery can lead to a heart attack. A blocked peripheral artery can lead to considerable discomfort in the leg muscles which can progress to significant arterial problems.”

In order for the heart muscle to pump effectively, it relies on its own “electrical system” to coordinate heartbeats. When this “electrical system” does not work properly, the heart may beat too fast, too slowly or erratically. An irregular heartbeat is called an arrhythmia. Arrhythmias reduce the heart’s ability to pump and circulate blood effectively. Tachycardia is a heartbeat that is too fast. Bradycardia is a heartbeat that is too slow. Ms. Hutchinson says, “Arrhythmias may not cause any signs or symptoms. In fact, your doctor might be the first to detect it during a routine examination. However, abnormal heart rhythms sometimes cause noticeable symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness and fatigue. Seek urgent medical care if you suddenly or frequently experience any of these symptoms at a time when you wouldn’t expect to feel them.”

“With specialized non-invasive testing we can diagnose the specific arrhythmia and decide how best to treat it,” says Ms. Hutchinson. Treatment options may include medications, ablation (a procedure that destroys the cells in the area of the heart that is malfunctioning), and implantable devices such as pacemakers and internal cardioverter defibrillators.

Beverly Hospital offers a full range of cardiovascular services to help you keep an eye on your heart’s health. Through the Lifestyle Management Institute, screenings and risk reduction programs such as cardiac risk reduction and vascular risk reduction are available to help identify and reduce potential problems. Beverly Hospital’s cardiovascular specialists use the latest diagnostic and procedural technology, including a 64-slice CT scanner and carotid artery ultrasound and offer the most advance treatment and intervention options, such as endovascular repair for blocked arteries and implantable defibrillators for heart rhythm disturbances.

To take a free heart health risk assessment, go to: or to find the physician who is right for you, visit us online at: or call our HealthConnection at 888-253-0800.

Beverly Hospital

85 Herrick Street, Beverly, MA 01915