Millions of Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease and Coronary Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in the country today. Rebecca Fox gives us an overview of the diagnosis and shows us what options are available.
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Rebecca Fox: On just an ordinary day in a typical American town, Charles Beckham is getting a routine checkup of his heart. Female Speaker2: I will tell by looking at the aortic valves, see how bright it is that it has calcium on it. Rebecca Fox: Beckham says, it's a habit born out of necessity, his family's medical history. Charles Beckham: Well, my dad had a congestive heart failure at 72, which is about my age. My younger brother has had two bypasses so far and the third one is, he doesn't feel too well, he has got problem for that also. Rebecca Fox: His family joins millions of Americans who have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease. Doctors say, unfortunately Beckham's routine visit is more of the exception than the rule when it comes to care. Dr. Amy Epps: As everyone probably knows now, I mean it's the most common killer in the United States. Cardiovascular disease out ways the next five or six common causes of death, when you add them all together, compared that with the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease. So I mean, it's rampant. Rebecca Fox: But treatable and preventable, cardiologist Amy Epps says, it's important to know what cardiovascular disease looks like. It's a disease that can effect the vascular system as well as the heart. Dr. Amy Epps: From a coronary artery heart attack's standpoint, and that can be the most fatal quickly and the most prevalent in this country, especially coronary artery diseases, and that there's very classic symptoms, one is pressure in the chest. They sort of -- lot of people describe as a heaviness or a squeezing sensation in the chest. But not everyone will have that as a presenting symptom, and that's why it's very important to recognize that these other atypical sort of warning signs or symptoms such as unexplained pain in the jaws, especially the lower jaw. Pain down the arms, especially the left-arm. It sort of radiates, sort of an achiness, dullness sensation. Episodes of breaking out in a sweat, or cold and clammy for no reason. Profound shortness of breath for no reason or things that you used to be able to do without any problem like walk up a flight of stair, suddenly you get very short of breath doing that. Rebecca Fox: Doctor Epps says, the most common misconception of a cardiovascular disease is that those atypical symptoms don't present a problem. She says the risk and the test don't lie. Dr. Amy Epps: Just because you're not having the classic crushing chest pain does not mean you're not having some form of heart disease, particularly a heart attack. Rebecca Fox: Before you make that trip to the ER, Epps says, learn your risk. They include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity, excess body fats, family history, and diabetes. Dr. Amy Epps: When I see a patient with diabetes, in my mind, I look at them as already having a heart attack. I treat them that seriously, so even if they haven't had a heart attack, I still look at them through that lens, because diabetes is such a strong risk factor for heart disease . Rebecca Fox: A disease that continues to claim lives at a dizzying pace. It's estimated the forms of cardiovascular disease killed nearly 2400 Americans each day. That's an average of one death every 36 seconds, and in 2007, it's estimated the direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease will total more than $431 Billion. Despite the high numbers, Epps says, headway is being made impart through better treatments. Dr. Amy Epps: From a coronary standpoint, the stents that we use are getting more and more designer so to speak. They now have drug coated stents that we actually -- they are coated with a type of almost chemotherapy that continues to treat that diseased area, even months after you put the stent in. So that's been promising and patients have done very well, and have really decreased the amount of people who come back over time with blockages in their coronaries. From another heart standpoi

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