What is the number one cause of death in the world? Heart disease is the number one killer in the world.
The most common cause of a heart attack is blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The blockages in the arteries is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits called plaque on the inside lining of the arteries. When your artery is blocked by more than 70%, the blood will not flow to the heart as well as it should and you will be at risk for a heart attack.
When a heart attack occurs, the question is whether the physician should have diagnosed and treated heart disease before the heart attack. Let’s say you present to your primary care physician because of chest pain. The critical issue for your doctor is whether you have stable angina or unstable angina.
Angina is chest pain that is caused by lack of oxygen to the heart muscle and it can be a sign that you are about to have a heart attack. Angina is either stable or unstable.
Stable angina is chest pain that occurs while you are at maximum physical activity. Let’s say while you’re sprinting up a hill, you have chest pain but this only happens when you are running and the pain goes away when you stop. When you are sitting down or walking, you’re fine. The chest pain is predictable and occurs only when you are running. This type of chest pain is called “stable angina” because it is predictable and only occurs at maximum physical activity. When you have stable angina, you should be checked out by a cardiologist, but it’s highly unlikely to cause a heart attack in the next week or month.
Unstable angina is chest pain that occurs at rest or moderate physical activity. Let’s say you’re watching TV or vacuuming your living room when out of nowhere you have chest pain. At rest, there is very little demand upon your heart for oxygenated blood and the most likely explanation for your chest pain is that the arteries to your heart are blocked off by fatty deposits. When the fatty deposits on the inside lining of your arteries rupture or break off, you can have a complete loss of blood to a part of your heart and when that occurs, you can have a fatal heart attack.
When you have chest pain at rest or moderate physical activity, you have unstable angina and you need to get to a hospital immediately. Your heart is ticking time bomb that can have a heart attack at any moment. Testing, such as a 24-hour Holter Monitor or a cardiac catheterization can show whether the arteries supplying blood to your heart are blocked and whether you need angioplasty or a stent to open the arteries to your heart.
Malpractice lawsuits are brought against primary care and cardiologists for failing to recognize the signs of unstable angina or failing to do testing to rule out heart disease.
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