Chat Transcript: Dr. Oz on Heart Health

Chat Moderator: We’ll be chatting today with Dr. Mehmet Oz, an attending heart surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia University Medical Center.

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jerrydawson asks: What is the best way to find out the condition of the interior of my arteries?

Dr. Mehmet Oz: There are two parts to figuring out how healthy your arteries are. Part 1 is to actually see the arteries. Part 2 is to see if there’s enough blood passing through the arteries. The best way to see inside the arteries is a CT angiogram, which actually allows us to see great details of the heart. However, it is not as important as finding out if enough blood is passing by whatever blockages we might see. The best way to find that out is a stress test, with the addition of an echocardiogram if you’re a woman.

Danielle asks: A friend of mine said her doctor recommended she floss every day and see the dentist regularly because your teeth tie into your heart health — is this true??

Dr. Mehmet Oz: Absolutely, yes. The teeth sit on gums that can get infected, and that’s called gingivitis. Like any chronic infection of the body like vaginitis or prostatitis, the body’s immune system becomes overstimulated, and overreacts to the small cracks that occur in our arteries, which causes acute closure of blood vessels. When these happen in the heart, they are called heart attacks. They can kill us, because they are so unpredictable. Flossing daily is the best treatment for gingivitis.

vickcha asks: What tests should you take for mitral valve prolapse?

Dr. Mehmet Oz: The best test is an echocardiogram, which shows us the mitral valve, which is like a big floppy sail that billows, and that’s what happens in prolapse.

Danielle asks: What’s the deal with aspirin? Does it really battle heart disease? How much – and how often – should I take it?

Dr. Mehmet Oz: Aspirin absolutely benefits the heart and prevents clots from suddenly closing off an artery. Most men and women over the age of 50 should take 2 baby aspirin a day. The reason we give 2 rather than one is that many Americans are resistant to aspirin. And because the side effects are so minor, it makes sense to give double the dose.

respiterri asks: What is your position on statins in an otherwise healthy 48-year-old woman whose LDL is 161 but HDL is 66 and triglycerides are 67. Seems like a life sentence of unnecessary meds to me.

Dr. Mehmet Oz: Generally speaking, I tend not to treat these lab values too aggressively, because I understand your reluctance to start on medications. Especially if you are a woman, the HDL number appears to be more important than the LDL.

jujuz asks: Would a thickening of the left ventricle cause shortness of breath?

Dr. Mehmet Oz: Yes. Most people think that you have to have a weak heart to get shortness of breath, but too strong a heart that is unable to relax can also cause problems. This is called diastolic dysfunction, and is very common in people with high blood pressure.

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