Help for the heart

Having trouble walking up stairs and experiencing tightness in your chest? If the arteries around your heart are clogged, your doctor will try to remove the blockage by performing an angioplasty. If that doesn’t help, the only remaining option is open-heart ­surgery. But does open-heart ­surgery really work? ­According to Nortin Hadler, a University of North Carolina ­professor and the author of The Last Well Person, the procedure doesn’t prolong life or prevent heart attacks except in a minority of ­patients with severely blocked arteries. What’s more, there’s a risk the ­patient won’t survive the operation (between 1 and 2 percent don’t) and patients ­undergoing the operation also have a 40 ­percent chance of suffering side effects. 
 

Los Angeles cardiologist Fouad Ghaly uses an ­alternative treatment: Enhanced External Counterpulsation Therapy (EECP). Cuffs resembling the kind on a blood pressure monitor are wrapped around both legs: two pairs around the thighs and one pair around the calves. Between heartbeats, the cuffs are quickly inflated, squeezing the legs and raising blood pressure. Right before the next heartbeat, the pressure is brought back down, so the left ventricle doesn’t have to work as hard to circulate the blood. 
 

The method was developed in the 1960s, but in those days the equipment was imprecise. Nowadays, the machines keep good time with the heart’s rhythm. The patient undergoes daily one- to two-hour treatments for four to seven weeks at a cost of $5,000 to $6,000. In patients who have had the treatment, Ghaly found that overall physical condition and oxygen uptake increase, the heart pumps harder and the condition of blood vessels improves. A study published in Clinical Cardiology in 2000 found the effects lasted at least five years. According to a 2007 study described in The International Journal of Clinical Practice, the method also appears to help erectile dysfunction, which can also be the result of clogged arteries. Specialists who use EECP believe the improvement in ­circulation causes new blood vessels to form; the body effectively bypasses the blocked arteries on its own. EECP is available throughout the U.S. | Find out more: eecp.com

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Help for the heart

Having trouble walking up stairs and experiencing tightness in your chest? If the arteries around your heart are clogged, your doctor will try to remove the blockage by performing an angioplasty. If that doesn’t help, the only remaining option is open-heart ­surgery. But does open-heart ­surgery really work? ­According to Nortin Hadler, a University of North Carolina ­professor and the author of The Last Well Person, the procedure doesn’t prolong life or prevent heart attacks except in a minority of ­patients with severely blocked arteries. What’s more, there’s a risk the ­patient won’t survive the operation (between 1 and 2 percent don’t) and patients ­undergoing the operation also have a 40 ­percent chance of suffering side effects. 
 

Los Angeles cardiologist Fouad Ghaly uses an ­alternative treatment: Enhanced External Counterpulsation Therapy (EECP). Cuffs resembling the kind on a blood pressure monitor are wrapped around both legs: two pairs around the thighs and one pair around the calves. Between heartbeats, the cuffs are quickly inflated, squeezing the legs and raising blood pressure. Right before the next heartbeat, the pressure is brought back down, so the left ventricle doesn’t have to work as hard to circulate the blood. 
 

The method was developed in the 1960s, but in those days the equipment was imprecise. Nowadays, the machines keep good time with the heart’s rhythm. The patient undergoes daily one- to two-hour treatments for four to seven weeks at a cost of $5,000 to $6,000. In patients who have had the treatment, Ghaly found that overall physical condition and oxygen uptake increase, the heart pumps harder and the condition of blood vessels improves. A study published in Clinical Cardiology in 2000 found the effects lasted at least five years. According to a 2007 study described in The International Journal of Clinical Practice, the method also appears to help erectile dysfunction, which can also be the result of clogged arteries. Specialists who use EECP believe the improvement in ­circulation causes new blood vessels to form; the body effectively bypasses the blocked arteries on its own. EECP is available throughout the U.S. | Find out more: eecp.com

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