CONSUMER HEALTH

Ask the Doctor: Dr. Aalap Chokshi

The hardest-working organ in the human body is none other than the heart. Roughly the size of a fist, the average heart pumps about five liters of blood every minute. The vast network of organs and blood vessels that carries this blood is the cardiovascular system. It is responsible for transporting nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hormones throughout the body. If the fitness of your cardiovascular system is ever in question, you will likely pay a visit to a doctor like Aalap Chokshi, MD. Board certified in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine, Dr. Chokshi is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of adult heart disease. His particular focus on advanced cardiac imaging allows for more accurate and timely diagnoses.

What are some ways we can protect our cardiovascular system?

Dr. Chokshi: Caring for your cardiovascular system is one of the best investments you can make in your long-term health, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Exercising five days a week (at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate intensity aerobic activity), eating a well-balanced diet, and appropriately managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all effective ways to help preserve your heart health.

What is cardiac imaging, and what are the most common techniques you use in advanced cardiac imaging?

Dr. Chokshi: Cardiac imaging is a wide umbrella of various technologies used to visualize the heart size and function, valve function, and coronary arteries. This helps doctors diagnose a cardiovascular condition and design the most appropriate treatments. The most common tests are echocardiography and nuclear stress testing. I also specialize in cardiovascular CT and MRI, the most advanced techniques.

When is CT the most appropriate imaging tool to use?

Dr. Chokshi: Well, the first kind of CT is a coronary artery calcium score. This is a simple CT scan of the chest without contrast—often ordered by pulmonologists to look at the lungs—that allows us to detect any calcium in the arteries. If we do detect calcium, especially in younger people, we take a more aggressive approach to managing risk factors for heart disease. The second kind of CT is a coronary CT angiogram, which is done with contrast. This allows us to see blockages in the coronary arteries without having to do an invasive angiogram. This is a good choice for people who have symptoms and are deemed to be low or intermediate risk for coronary disease by their cardiologist.

When is an MRI appropriate?

Dr. Chokshi: MRI has been around for decades, but only recently has it become more commonly used. MRI is the gold standard for evaluating heart function, especially when there are limitations to standard echocardiography. More important, it is critical for evaluating heart tissue in people with thickened heart muscle or very weak heart muscle (heart failure).

Posted May 2019


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