Women, the Electric System and Pacemakers

By Guest Blogger

Dr.   Suzanne Steinbaum
Director, Women’s Heart Health
Heart and Vascular Institute, Lenox Hill Hospital

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Suzanne Steinbaum  Heart disease is the number one killer of women but that doesn’t mean heart disease must be a death sentence. It does mean that we owe it to ourselves, our wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters to better understand signs and symptoms of heart disease and related issues so we can get it treated as soon as possible.

Often times, the symptoms of heart disease in women are subtle and more difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of dizziness, fatigue and being light-headed are often attributed to being stressed or exhausted, when in fact it could be something more serious.  Heart rate and rhythm can be the etiology of these symptoms, and the treatment could be simple.  It all comes down to recognizing the symptoms and making the diagnosis.

With a slow heart rate, the electric system fails to beat at an adequate rate or misses beats that are essential for adequate oxygen delivery.  These symptoms may be reflective of this underlying electrical issue. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, it is important to see a physician immediately and discuss treatment options. In many cases, a pacemaker can be used to help restore normal heart rhythms and an active lifestyle.

Pacemakers send an electrical current to the heart to restore normal rhythms and keep the blood pumping to deliver needed oxygen. When this happens, patients are equipped to feel better, and remain active and healthy. I always explain to my patients the significant difference they will feel before and after receiving a pacemaker. Fixing the electric system, by aiding it to work as best as it can, can alleviate all the symptoms they had before.

There are many options for pacemakers and therefore it is important to speak to your physician about which pacemaker will help you achieve the best possible quality of life today and tomorrow. Pacemakers today are so advanced in what they can do and how they can affect your life. When discussing options with your physician, consider asking about the following device options that can help improve quality of life and provide peace of mind:

MRI Conditional: Today, patients have access to FDA-approved pacemakers that are safe for use during MRI scans. This is incredibly important for patients—women and men—suffering from heart disease as MRI scans are often used to diagnose coronary artery disease, pericardial disease, and cardiac tumors.

Closed Loop Stimulation (CLS): CLS is a physiologic rate-adaptive technology that ensures optimal heart rates under varied circumstances, even mental and emotional stress.

Home Monitoring: Many pacemakers are equipped with home monitoring technology that enables physicians to monitor patient or device changes from afar. Through wireless transmission, a physician receives details that can help alert of issues or concerns before the patient experiences distress.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned, talk to your doctor so the right diagnosis can be made.  This is the most crucial part of understanding whether or not a pacemaker is a necessary part of your treatment plan.  Open communication between patients and physicians is critical. Remember fatigue may be a symptom of a much more serious issue and may be related to other issues beside your heart. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do your own research and demand a conclusive review of various treatment options.  You and your heart are worth it!

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