Ask the Doctor: American Heart Month

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 12:48 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Dr. Bob Cassady from the South Bend Clinic joins us every Tuesday on 16 News Now at Noon to answer your medical questions.

This week’s edition is all about heart health, as it’s American Heart Month. Cassady tells us about a few different problems that can affect the heart.


DR. BOB: The heart is a complex organ with many different moving parts.

I think when people hear they have a heart problem it can be tough to sort out exactly what is going on. So, let’s review a few common types of heart problems.

The first is blood flow problems. This is what we are referring to when we say someone has had a heart attack. The blood supply to the heart itself is interrupted and thus the heart can’t function properly.

As most people know, problems like high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure put you are risk of heart attack.


DR. BOB: Our hearts have a beautiful and fine-tuned electrical system. The heart has a pacemaker that responds to our body’s changing need for blood.

There can be many different problems with the electrical system of the heart but a very common one is atrial fibrillation.

In atrial fibrillation there are changes in some of the cells in the heart. These changes lead to the wrong parts of the heart trying to act as the pacemaker.

Unfortunately, those parts of the heart do a really bad job as pacemakers, which can lead to an irregular and fast heartbeat. This can cause people to feel sick or have a stroke.

Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include blood flow issues as we discussed above, thyroid problems, and heavy alcohol use.


DR. BOB: A third class is heart valve problems. We talked about the blood supply and electrical system of the heart.

Well, the heart has a series of valves that allow the blood to move in one direction only and not to back up.

Again, there are many different types and causes of valve problems, but once a valve stops to work it can lead to two general issues.

If a valve doesn’t open enough (which is called stenosis), then not enough blood can get through, which can lead to dizziness and other problems.

If a valve doesn’t close properly (which is called regurgitation), then the blood backs up and can lead to water in the lungs and other problems.

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