Diagnosing and Treating Cardiovascular Disease

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  • 0:02 Fixing a Problem
  • 0:38 Diagnosing…
  • 2:29 Treating…
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will describe the many different ways cardiovascular diseases can be diagnosed and treated. For example, you'll learn the differences between angioplasty and angiography.

Fixing a Problem

Some people just have a really great knack for fixing things around the home and at work. They can just look at a problem, like a broken desk, and quickly figure out what the problem is and then how to deal with it. While medicine doesn't 'fix' things, per se, we can diagnose and treat disease in a fundamentally similar way to a handyman. First, we must analyze the problem using diagnostic testing, and once we've established a diagnosis, we can more appropriately and safely tailor treatment to a specific problem in order to try to minimize it or, in some cases, even absolve the patient of it.

Diagnosing Cardiovascular Disease

With respect to cardiovascular disease, there are many tools in a doctor's tool belt, if you will, for diagnosing cardiovascular disease. We'll cover some big ones in this lesson.

The first is known as a radiograph, or more commonly, an X-ray. You know what this is; it's the thing that can see right through your clothing and skin to produce a black and white image of internal structures. One of these structures is the heart, which in some cases of heart disease may be really big, immediately pointing to a problem.

But X-rays aren't always diagnostic. Some cardiovascular issues are just too subtle for an X-ray. Therefore, we can sometimes use advanced imaging modalities, or techniques, to diagnose a problem. These include:

  • A CT scan: this is a procedure that takes many X-ray slices through a person in order to come up with a very detailed and even a 3D image of the heart or blood vessels.
  • An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, which is a procedure that uses a magnetic field to peer inside the body.
  • Angiography, a procedure where a dye is injected into the blood vessels in order to visualize them. The dye that's injected is able to be visualized thanks to X-rays.
  • Ultrasound, a medical imaging technique that uses sound waves to peer into the body. If you've ever seen those movies where they show a baby moving inside the womb, that happens thanks to ultrasound. Doctors also use it to see what the heart is doing inside the body.
  • And, finally, an electrocardiogram (ECG), a procedure that measures and plots the electrical activity of the heart on paper or a computer screen. This procedure is very useful because it helps to pinpoint the exact electrical problem occurring in the heart and how best to treat it.

Treating Cardiovascular Disease

Once these and many other diagnostic techniques are used to help diagnose the cardiovascular disease or its causes, then the doctor must decide on the most appropriate treatment plan for the patient. As you can only imagine, there are a ton of different medications and procedures that are used to treat cardiovascular diseases, so we'll cover as many of the more famous or important ones as we can.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is managed with everything from dietary modification (meaning decreasing the intake of salt) to medication such as ACE inhibitors, which are drugs that help to lower blood pressure. People suffering from coronary heart disease can take statins to lower cholesterol. Those who have arrhythmias of the heart can take medication to stop these potentially dangerous things, such as beta blockers.

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