Make Time for Your Heart this Holiday Season

By Alexander H. Hou MD, FACS,

Make Time for Your Heart  this Holiday SeasonDuring this time of year, it is common practice to put others in front of our own needs. But we must be vigilant and keep in mind having a healthy body enables us to enjoy more life experiences that are important to us. Vascular screenings allow for patients to be proactive about their health. The preventative health screenings go beyond regular checkups to provide you and your doctor with valuable information about your health. You’ll be able to get information you need to take action to prevent chronic disease before it’s too late.

Most Americans are familiar with heart disease and with the consequences of blockages in the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. But few people realize that blockages caused by a buildup of plaque and cholesterol affect more than coronary arteries. Arteries throughout the body carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart, so blockages can occur in all arteries with serious effects.

Vascular conditions affect the veins and arteries in your body, which conduct oxygen to every living cell. Think of your veins and arteries as expressways or rivers. When there are traffic jams or road construction, or when dams break, trouble ensues. But in most cases, vascular conditions are highly treatable, often without surgery.

It is important to see a vascular surgeon, even when surgery is not needed. Vascular surgeons specialize in treatments of every kind of vascular problem except those of the heart (treated by cardiovascular surgeons) and the brain (treated by neurosurgeons). A common condition such as atherosclerosis may show up in the legs, for example, but affects the whole body.

Vascular surgeons will talk to you about how exercise, diet and medication can be the first step in regaining your health. When surgery is needed, vascular surgeons are trained in all types of interventions, not just one or two.

The more common types of vascular conditions include: Atherosclerosis, Carotid Artery Disease, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Lymphedema, Peripheral Arterial Disease, and Stroke.

Vascular Screenings Available
What kinds of vascular tests are most common? What happens when you have one? Will it hurt? Will it mean you need surgery? The most commonly prescribed vascular tests include:

An angiogram is an X-ray procedure that can be both diagnostic and therapeutic.  It is considered the gold standard for evaluating blockages in the arterial system. An angiogram detects blockages using X-rays taken during the injection of a contrast agent (iodine dye). The procedure provides information that helps your vascular surgeon determine your best treatment options.

Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)
A non-invasive test that uses inflatable cuffs to gauge circulation (blood flow) and measure blood pressure in the arteries at various locations on the thigh, calf, foot and toes. Patients experience minimal, brief discomfort, similar to what you feel while having a routine blood pressure test with an inflatable arm cuff.

Carotid Duplex
This painless, noninvasive test is used to see and measure the rate at which blood flows through your carotid arteries and look for possible blockages.

No radiation, dye or needles are used. A carotid duplex test determines whether plaque has accumulated in your arteries, causing carotid artery disease (hardening of the arteries).

There are other screening tests available to determine your risk for developing a vascular condition. Make time for your health this holiday season, schedule a vascular screening today. As with most health conditions, earlier detection of an abnormality results in greater survival rates. For more information about available vascular screenings or to schedule a consultation, call 606-324-1070.

Alexander H. Hou MD, FACS, is a skilled Board Certified and fellowship trained vascular surgeon specializing in the treatment of arterial and venous diseases employing both open and endovascular techniques. Dr. Hou is a member of Society for Vascular Surgery, a premier society for vascular surgeons, in addition to several other regional vascular societies, also a Fellow of American College of Surgeons. He has publications in several peer reviewed journals focusing on vascular diagnostic and interventions using duplex ultrasound.

Dr. Hou has been practicing in Ashland since 2005 and is known for delivering high quality vascular care exemplified by the “minimal incision” surgical technique resulting in less pain, better healing and esthetically more appeasing scars.


Medical Plaza A
617 23rd Street, Suite 105
Ashland, KY 41101

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