Varicose Veins: Are They Just a Cosmetic Problem?

Now that the weather is starting to warm up and become “shorts & t-shirt” weather, it’s around this time of year where I start to get a lot of questions about varicose veins. For a long time, these had mostly been considered just a cosmetic problem, however, new research over the past decade has shown a link to deeper issues – particularly deep vein thrombosis.

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Spring Into Better Heart Health

Spring is finally here! The snow is all but melted, the grass is turning green, and the cold temperatures are starting to become a thing of the past. It also means more opportunities to get outside, get active, and spring into healthier habits. If you’ve spent a little too much time as a couch potato this winter, here are four HVI-recommended tips for getting back into a healthy routine.

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Hunters: Make Sure Your Heart is Healthy Before Heading into the Woods this Season

Deer hunting season in Wisconsin is a Fall tradition that ranks right up there with football and pumpkin pie. Head to any Packer game at Lambeau Field in November and you’ll see as many people decked out in blaze orange and camouflage as you will in green and gold. This year alone, the Wisconsin DNR anticipates more than 600,000 hunters will take to the woods during the nine-day gun hunt season from November 20-28 – with even more participating in this year’s bow and muzzleloader seasons.

Hunters up here mean serious business when they get in the woods, too. The Wisconsin DNR expects hunters to spend upwards of $2.1 billion in retail sales to get ready for the latest season. From new cold-weather gear to the latest trail cams, deer stands, and everything in-between, you can be sure hunters in Wisconsin will be heading into the woods fully-prepared this year.

That said, as you start prepping your gear and planning your hunts, there’s one preparation that you can’t afford to overlook: your heart health.

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Intermittent Fasting Isn’t Just for Weight Loss, It Also Helps Your Heart

Have you heard your doctor mention the words “intermittent fasting” before? Maybe you’ve read about it online. Today, more and more people are turning to intermittent fasting — not eating, or limiting their food intake, for a period of time — as a way to lose weight. However, in addition to its weight loss benefits, there is growing clinical research which suggests that eating less at certain times of the day can also help improve your heart’s health.

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What You Should Know About Coronavirus in Wisconsin

Updated March 28th – Updated the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wisconsin and changed risk level.

As of March 28th, COVID is a serious threat in the state if Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Governor Tony Evers have declared a public health emergency in the state of Wisconsin. So far, there have been 935 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the state, along with 16 deaths.

The DHS has created a webpage dedicated to tracking the number of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. Below, you can see the latest data as of March 27th, with the latest information updating each weekday at 2 p.m.

What does this mean for you?

With the threat of coronavirus growing in northeast Wisconsin, it’s extremely important that you’re taking the proper precautions to avoid contracting the illness.

Influenza and other respiratory viruses are common in Wisconsin this time of year, so you should be following the proper preventative measures to stay healthy regardless. This means:

  • Staying inside and avoiding contact with people
  • Avoiding large groups of people
  • Washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer
  • Avoiding hand-to-mouth contact
  • Covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough and sneeze
  • Not sharing food or drinks
  • Staying home when you are sick

If you plan to travel somewhere where the threat of the virus is higher, it’s important that you take further preventative measures – even going as far as cancelling all unnecessary travel plans for the time being. You can see the total number of coronavirus cases in each state by checking this up-to-date coronavirus map by the New York Times.

Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin’s Coronavirus Stance

Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak to see what the best plan of action will be moving forward. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we promise to keep all of our patients updated as more information becomes available. At this time, we believe the threat in northeast Wisconsin is looming, but so far, we haven’t made any significant changes to our daily routine.

You can read our latest COVID-19 policy RIGHT HERE.




How Much Exercise is Too Much Exercise for Your Heart?

While there’s no denying that the benefits of aerobic exercise far outweigh the risks for cardiac patients, a new report from the American Heart Association shows that some types of exercise might actually be detrimental to your long-term health.

One example cited by researchers is when people participate in extreme endurance events like marathon and triathlon training, but aren’t accustomed to the high intensity. In instances like these, researchers found a link between increased activity and increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation, and heart attacks.

“Exercise is medicine, and there is no question that moderate to vigorous physical activity is beneficial to overall cardiovascular health,” says Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D., director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan. “However, like medicine, it is possible to underdose and overdose on exercise – more is not always better.”

To put things perspective, researchers found that the risk of atrial fibrillation is highest in people who are sedentary, but the risk is nearly as high in people who engage in high volumes of high-intensity training, like running 60-80 miles each week.

What does this mean for you?

While extreme levels of exercise can be detrimental to your heart, don’t let that stop you from finding a happy medium. Not exercising at all is still a far greater risk to your health, so it’s important that you find a physical activity that you enjoy. If you don’t exercise at all, even daily tasks like shoveling snow can become a burden and cause a rapid spike in heart rate, blood pressure, and shortness of breath when you participate.

Likewise, don’t let these findings discourage you from setting your fitness sights on a lofty goal like running a marathon. There are healthy ways to start an exercise program, it’s just important that you take your time so that you don’t over strain your heart.

To help you do just that, here are several tips for starting a heart-healthy workout routine:

  • Talk to Your Doctor – Before you start a strenuous exercise routine, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re healthy enough to begin. This is especially important for anyone at a moderate to significant risk of suffering a cardiac event, anyone with previous cardiac problems, or for anyone who’s currently inactive/sedentary.
  • Start Slow – Even if you were athlete in high school or college, it’s important that you start slow and gradually work your way up to different levels of physical activity. If you’ve been sedentary for several years, for example, start by walking on a level surface for 6-8 weeks before progressing to walking up hills, jogging, and running. You want to make sure there aren’t any symptoms of chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath before you advance to more strenuous activities.
  • Don’t Forget to Warm Up – In the same mindset of “start slow”, make sure you take the time to properly stretch and get your heart rate up a little bit before starting your exercise routine. Jumping directly into intense exercise can put you at a greater risk for suffering a cardiac event.
  • Acclimate to Your Environment – If you’re going to be exercising at altitude or running in extremely hot and humid conditions, make sure your prepared beforehand and know your limits. In altitude conditions, try acclimating to the altitude for 24-48 hours before exercising if possible, and don’t be afraid to cut your exercise short as opposed to overstraining your heart and body.
  • Cool Off – Once you’re done exercising, it’s important that you take the time to properly cool off and allow your heart rate to return to its resting rhythm. If you experience any persistent chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath after you’ve ended your exercise and have had time to rest, make sure you talk to a doctor right away.

If you have any questions for your cardiologist about starting an exercise program, make sure you schedule an appointment before getting started. Current Heart and Vascular Institute patients can also use the Patient Portal to contact their cardiologist electronically.


Is a Calcium Score Test Right for You?

If you have a moderate risk for heart disease, you might have heard your doctor mention a test called a coronary calcium scan. Coronary calcium scans are a helpful, non-invasive diagnostic test that help today’s cardiologists determine the amount of calcium build-up a patient has in their arteries.

Over time, plaque can slowly develop in your arteries, and with plaque build-up comes calcium deposits that also like to grow over time. Build-up of this plaque and calcium on your artery walls can block blood from flowing properly, greatly increasing your risk of coronary artery disease and a heart attack.

By running a CT scan on your heart, doctors can easily see how much calcium build-up is in your arteries. Where there’s calcium build-up, there’s also plaque too, and doctors can use this information to calculate your risk of future adverse cardiac events, along with a calcium score.

If you score a zero on your calcium score, that means there’s no calcified plaque in your arteries and it’s unlikely for you to have coronary artery disease. Any score less than 100 indicates there is some calcified plaque, but you’re at a low risk, while any score between 100 and 399 puts you at a moderate risk. If your score reaches above 400, it means you’re at significant risk for heart attack, and the calcified plaque levels in your arteries are dangerously high.

How Do You Know if a Calcium Scan is Right for You?

First and foremost, calcium scans provide the most benefits for patients that do not exhibit any symptoms of heart disease, but have a moderate or significant risk of heart disease based on things like their family history of heart disease. Healthy patients at a low risk of heart disease likely won’t have much (if any) plaque build-up in their arteries. That said, heart disease is known as a silent killer, which makes it all the more important to diagnose it early.

Not sure what your risk level is? Talk with your cardiologist to learn more about what your exact risk factor might be based on your medical history and health habits. Apart from some exceptions, it’s recommended that men wait until they are 35 years-old and women wait until they are 40 years-old before having a calcium scan, as younger patients are much less likely to have calcium build-up in their arteries.

Likewise, make sure you consult with your insurance company before asking for a coronary calcium scan, as most health plans will not pay for this test. That said, calcium score tests are only $25 here at HVI – the lowest price in the country – making them very accessible for anyone who isn’t covered.

Depending on the results and calcium score, your doctor may also recommend several important lifestyle changes to lower risk your risk of heart disease, such as more exercise, losing weight, eating healthier, and quitting smoking and drinking. They may also instruct you to start taking cholesterol and/or blood pressure medications, so it’s important to be prepared for these changes.

Schedule Your Appointment for a $25 Calcium Score Test Today!

Think a coronary calcium scan is the test you need? Use the link above to set up an appointment for a $25 calcium score test here today. Remember, it’s never easy to predict when a heart attack is going to happen, but tests like these are one of the few instances where cardiologists have a chance. If you’re a man over 35 or woman or 40, make sure you ask your doctor about it during your next appointment.




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