Common Signs of Heart Disease | Evaluation & Diagnosis | Prevention, Treatment & Referral | More Information

Cardiovascular conditions affect more Americans than any other disease in the United States. A complex organ with many moving parts, the heart requires a wide-range of general to specialized cardiovascular services to ensure the best patient-centered care.

While someone dies every 33 seconds in this country from heart disease, many cardiovascular conditions can be successfully treated, if not easily prevented, with expert care delivered by qualified specialists. The NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute brings together a multidisciplinary team of nationally and internationally renowned cardiologists, cardiovascular and vascular surgeons, interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists, cardiac imaging experts and other highly trained specialists who work as one in a highly collaborative environment.

Most patients first access our cardiovascular services through our general cardiology program. Our general cardiologists provide expertise for all of the common cardiovascular conditions you would expect of a premier cardiovascular center, such as:

Thanks to NorthShore’s fully integrated system, they can ensure that you will receive, if need be, more advanced and highly coordinated care from the appropriate NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute specialist(s).

Common Signs of Heart Disease

Shortness of breath. Pain in the upper torso. Lightheadedness. All of these symptoms may signal serious heart disease or they may occur for many other health conditions ranging from asthma and anemia to muscle soreness and obesity. Once your primary care physician has ruled out “non-heart” factors, a knowledgeable NorthShore general cardiologist can help identify the possible cardiovascular reasons for your symptoms:

  • Feeling winded or breathing rapidly. A very general symptom associated with many heart disorders, it can occur due to blocked arteries, faulty heart valves or a weak heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). From a chronic problem that has recently worsened to one that has suddenly developed, shortness of breath could indicate your heart is not working properly to supply your body with energy.
  • Chest discomfort and pain. Also known as angina, chest pain related to heart disease can feel sharp, dull, burning, aching, squeezing or stabbing depending on several factors, including the position of your body or whether you’ve exerted yourself or not. Heart attack, viral infection of the heart lining (pericarditis) or a tear in the coronary artery (coronary artery dissection) are just a few causes of chest pain of varying severity.
  • Fatigue or weakness.  When your heart muscle fails to adequately pump blood throughout your circulatory system, you may feel lethargic, overly tired and unable to exert yourself like you once could. Leaky heart valves, cardiac arrhythmias and congestive heart failure are just a few of the conditions that can contribute to these symptoms.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Your NorthShore general cardiologist will ask about your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and/or a prior stroke are several of the factors that will go into developing your “risk profile” for a cardiovascular condition.

Skilled diagnosticians, our experts may recommend that you undergo one or several cardiac diagnostic exams to aid in a complete and thorough evaluation of your heart. At our facilities, we offer the latest in non-invasive cardiac imaging such as echocardiography, nuclear imaging and electrophysiology. NorthShore Evanston Hospital also has capabilities for 3-D transesophageal echo. A higher level of imaging not found in all medical centers, this advanced technology provides unmatched detail of the inner structures and functions of the heart in real time.

You may also need to undergo stress testing, with or without cardiac imaging, to examine how well your heart functions beyond its resting state. We offer treadmill and bike as well as chemical stress testing for patients who may not be able to exert themselves. Another unique feature at NorthShore is supine bike echo stress testing in which you lie flat while pedaling on special equipment. This diagnostic tool provides an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the coordination, balance or strength for traditional exercise equipment.

Prevention, Treatment and Referral

Our general cardiologists usually serve as your “primary” physician within the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute and provide referrals to the many experts within our Institute and throughout our health system. Because of our highly integrated structure and close collaboration, you always have timely and easy access to our dedicated cardiac specialists who have vast experience and expertise handling the most advanced or complex cases of heart disease.

NorthShore provides patients with the very latest cardiovascular treatment, from novel drug therapy to innovative minimally-invasive and surgical techniques. Every year we perform hundreds of cardiac catheterizations, coronary and heart valve interventions, cardiac surgeries and electrophysiological procedures.

Of course, helping prevent a first heart attack or stroke remains our ultimate goal as your healthcare provider. In addition to medical management of your heart condition, our general cardiologists may recommend healthy lifestyle changes that can greatly influence and improve your heart health, from diet modification to smoking cessation.

For More Information

Please call 847.570.2250 for more information on heart disease or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.

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