Tag Archives: columbia cardiology

How To Tell If You Have Heart Disease

If you have heart disease, you get chest pains, right?

Not all heart problems come with such clear warning signs. Coronary disease includes a number of conditions, which have different symptoms. Learn the symptoms and you’ll be better prepared to head off a dangerous health episode.

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease develops when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed. This is often caused by build-up of cholesterol and other materials called plaque in your arteries. This build-up is called atherosclerosis. As it increases, it can reduce or block blood flow to the heart.

The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina or chest pain. People with angina describe it as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or painful feeling in the chest. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw, teeth or back.

Coronary heart disease may lead to a heart attack. It can also weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure or heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias).

Heart attack

A heart attack occurs when blood supply to your heart is reduced or blocked, causing part of the heart muscle to die. Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest discomfort ─ it can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, heaviness, squeezing or pain in the center or the left side of the chest
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, neck, and one or both arms.
  • Fullness, indigestion or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting or lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue that can last for days, anxiety or shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats


Arrhythmia (heart rhythm problems) happens when the electrical impulses that regulate your heartbeats don’t work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. Atrial fibrillation is one type of heart arrhythmia. Symptoms of heart arrhythmia can include:

  • Palpitations ─ a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or flip-flop sensation
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near fainting
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • A racing or slow heartbeat
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired)

Heart valve disease

Heart valve disease occurs if one or more of your four heart valves don’t function properly. Birth defects, age-related changes, infections or other conditions can cause your heart valves to not open or close properly, or leaking which can cause blood to flow backwards into the heart chambers. Symptoms of heart valve disease can include:

  • Shortness of breath and or difficulty catching your breath
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles, feet and abdomen
  • Fluttering, irregular or racing heartbeat
  • Dizziness or fainting

Heart failure

Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Some causes include coronary heart disease, heart valve abnormalities, heart attack, diabetes and high blood pressure. If you have heart failure, you may experience:

  • Shortness of breath during activity or at rest, especially when lying flat in bed
  • A dry, hacky cough that doesn’t go away or wheezing
  • Rapid weight gain, as much as 2-3 pounds per day
  • Swelling in ankles, feet, legs and abdomen
  • Fatigue or lightheadedness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats


Pericarditis is inflammation of the lining around the heart. It causes chest pain and accumulations of fluid around the heart. Causes of pericarditis include infections, injury and radiation treatment. Pericarditis usually begins suddenly and is short lived.

The most common symptom of pericarditis is chest pain, but it’s different from the pain of a heart attack. It may be sharp and located to the center of the chest. It gets worse when lying down, taking a deep breath, coughing or swallowing. Sitting up and leaning forward improves the chest pain.

Symptoms of heart disease aren’t always clear-cut, and it may be difficult to tell what’s really going on. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, check with your health care provider. Or if they’re severe, call 911. It’s the fastest way to receive life-saving treatment.

David Jackson, M.D.

Dr. David Jackson, M.D., FACC is a MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Cardiovascular and Internal Medicine. He sees patients in the Columbia Cardiology office.


Heart Smarts: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. David Jackson, MPCP Columbia Cardiology

The Centers for Disease Control reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. You aren’t able to change some risk factors ─ such as family history, sex or age – but heart disease is often linked to lifestyle, and you can significantly reduce your risk by making healthy choices. February is National Heart Month, so now’s a good time to get started.

1. Keep an eye on your plate. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.

2. Get moving. Regular exercise helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. But if you can’t make it to the gym, activities such as housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog count toward your total.

3. Kick the habit. Most people know smoking causes cancer, but it can also damage your heart and blood vessels, causing narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and ultimately leading to a heart attack. The good news is it’s never too late to stop smoking, and when you quit, your risk of heart disease drops almost to that of a nonsmoker in about five years.

4. Get on the scale. Being overweight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which uses your height and weight to find your percentage of body fat. Try this online BMI calculator.

If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss will help you. Reducing your weight by just 5 to 10 percent can help decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes.

5. Get enough quality sleep. It may surprise you to learn that people who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. If you wake up without your alarm clock and you feel refreshed, you’re getting enough sleep. But, if you’re constantly reaching for the snooze button and it’s a struggle to get out of bed, you need more sleep each night.

6. Get screened. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels, but without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have them. If you have high risk for these diseases, such as obesity and family history, check with your doctor to see if you need these screenings.

Additionally, Maryland Primary Care Physicians offers a new testing method, called Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT), which can help identify people who may be at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. CIMT uses ultrasound to detect thickening in the inner lining of the carotid arteries in the neck, a risk factor for developing atherosclerosis, which often leads to a heart attack or stroke. Having this information can help you and your doctor devise a plan to lower your risk and prevent future problems.

David Jackson, M.D.Dr. David Jackson is board-certified in cardiology with extensive experience in all aspects of cardiovascular disease. He is is available for office consultations to assess patients’ cardiovascular risk factors. The Columbia Cardiology office provides high-quality, on-site cardiac stress testing and cardiac ultrasound testing. Contact us at 410-740-0789 or visit our site page.

New Test Identifies Heart & Stroke Risk Earlier

MPCP Cardiologist, Dr. David Kim Explains CIMT

We’ve made great strides in understanding the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. And we try to prevent them by eating well, exercising, controlling our blood pressure and cholesterol and avoiding bad habits, like smoking. But many people still suffer heart attacks and strokes despite these efforts. What if there was a way to identify a person’s risk earlier- and non-invasively? A new testing method, called Carotid Intima-Media Thickness- or CIMT- is doing just that.

CIMT testing utilizes ultrasound to examine the inner lining (i.e., Intima and Media layers) of the carotid arteries in your neck. These layers are known to gradually thicken over the years as part of the normal aging process. But if this thickening is accelerated, it suggests that that person may be at higher risk of eventually developing full atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) –the step that often leads to a heart attack or stroke. Indeed, multiple research studies have shown that premature intima-media thickening identifies those at a higher risk for a cardiac event even more than previously thought. Knowing your CIMT may be very useful in formulating a more precise strategy of prevention that is targeted for you.

CIMT testing is most appropriate for individuals between 40 and 70 years old, especially in those with a history of smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or family history of heart disease. This test is NOT recommended if you already have a history of coronary artery disease (such as previous heart attack, bypass surgery, or heart angioplasty/stent), previous stroke, or known peripheral arterial disease.

CIMT testing is quick (about 20 minutes), non-invasive and pain-free. Because it uses ultrasound technology, there is no exposure to any harmful radiation. No special preparation is needed.

CIMT testing is available at our MPCP Columbia Cardiology practice. It costs $70 and is not covered by insurance. After the completion of the study, a result report with detailed explanation will be mailed to you and your health care provider(s). Your CIMT result can then be used in conjunction with known cardiovascular risk factors to more precisely assess your risk of future cardiovascular events.

If you have any questions, or would like to make an appointment, please contact the Columbia Cardiology office at 410-740-0789 or visit our site page.

David Jackson, M.D. Dr. Jackson is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Cardiovascular and Internal Medicine. Dr. Jackson is a graduate of Harvard College in Cambridge, MA. He received his medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1980 and completed his residency program in Internal Medicine at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in 1983. Dr. Jackson completed his cardiology fellowship at Norwalk Hospital, an affiliate of Yale University School of Medicine, in 1985.


David Kim, M.D.Dr. Kim joined Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC in 2012 and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Cardiovascular and Internal Medicine. Dr. Kim is a graduate of Duke University. He received his medical degree from State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine in 2002 and completed his residency program in Internal Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in 2005. Dr. Kim completed his cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry in 2008.

Heart Scans: A Valuable Diagnostic Tool

by David Jackson, M.D.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This couldn’t be more true than in the field of cardiology. Once an individual is diagnosed with heart disease, we have amazing modalities to treat patients, ranging from new age pharmaceuticals to drug eluting coronary stents. But, once a patient is diagnosed with advanced heart disease, this is the culmination of a process that has been going on for many decades. Heart disease is silent throughout most of a patient’s life until a lipid plaque becomes so obstructive that it results in progressive angina or a heart attack.

Heart scans to the rescue. This new radiology test can detect early, asymptomatic heart disease in middle aged individuals who are at risk for developing strokes and heart attacks. This is a CT scan (x-ray) of the heart, gated to the heart beat. There is no IV, no injection, and no dye. The test detects coronary artery calcification, this being a marker of arteriosclerosis. Normal arteries do not have calcium. Diseased arteries, where cholesterol plaque begins to develop, will be lined with calcific deposits (hardening of the arteries). A Heart Scan (other equivalent terms include Calcium heart test score, Virtual Scan, Virtual Physical) can detect these early deposits. This knowledge can then help the physician and patient develop a strategy for making sure the arteriosclerosis does not progress. This can take the form of treatment for diabetes, hypertension, and elevated blood lipids.

Heart scans are safe, economical, and have become invaluable as a tool to screen appropriate patients for heart disease. There are many centers throughout the area performing this test.

David Jackson, M.D.Dr. Jackson is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Cardiovascular and Internal Medicine. Dr. Jackson is a graduate of Harvard College in Cambridge, MA. He received his medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1980 and completed his residency program in Internal Medicine at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in 1983. Dr. Jackson completed his cardiology fellowship at Norwalk Hospital, an affiliate of Yale University School of Medicine, in 1985.