Ischemic Heart Disease Can Lead to the Need for Social Security Disability
Heart disease as a general category of illness covers a broad range of conditions. It covers not only problems with the heart such as “heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); heart infections; and heart defects an individual is born with (congenital heart defects),” but also problems with blood vessels due to blockage or narrowing “that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke.” Ischemic means “blood flow (and thus oxygen) is restricted or reduced in a part of the body.” So ischemic heart disease is when the blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced by narrowed heart arteries. Symptoms Some symptoms of ischemic heart disease are “chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, and pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in the legs or arms, if the blood vessels in those parts of the body are narrowed.” “Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing, or painful feeling in the chest.” Some individuals experience little to no symptoms until they suffer a heart attack. Causes The most common cause of ischemic heart disease is “a buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries” known as atherosclerosis. Most causes of atherosclerosis are controllable and include “an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking.” Additional causes are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and a family history of cardiovascular disease. Diagnosis As with most diagnoses, doctors take a full medical history and perform a physical exam. Blood tests are used to look for triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Electrocardiograms (ECGs) are used to record electrical signals in the heart to detect irregularities. Echocardiograms are ultrasound scans used to image the heart's structure and function. Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates images of the heart, which a doctor can use to determine if the heart's arteries are narrowed. Cardiac catheterization is used to view the heart muscle through a catheter (a thin flexible tube) threaded through a vein or artery. The catheter can be used to inject dye into the local blood vessels to check blood flow through the heart as well as the heart's blood vessels. Treatments When an individual is first diagnosed with any type of heart disease, the first line of treatment is lifestyle changes. These include a low-fat and low-sodium diet, regular exercise most days of the week, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption. Doctors recommend losing weight, managing stress, and having regular blood pressure measurements and cholesterol checks. Additionally, patients are highly encouraged to floss and brush regularly because recent studies have shown mouth germs have significant impacts on the heart muscle. In addition to lifestyle changes, medications “such as diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or beta blockers; blood thinning medications, such as daily aspirin therapy; or cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins or fibrates.” If medications do not do the job, then doctors may perform a coronary angioplasty where a catheter with a small balloon is threaded to the blocked artery and inflated to reopen the artery. “A small metal coil called a stent is often placed in the artery during angioplasty. The stent helps keep the artery open.” Social Security Disability Since many individuals live and work with ischemic heart disease, the Social Security Administration evaluates an individual's “symptoms, signs, laboratory findings, response to the regimen of prescribed treatment, and functional limitations.” A Social Security Disability applicant must show reduced function during an exercise tolerance test or 3 ischemic episodes requiring angioplasty within a consecutive 12-month period or imaging showing 50 percent or more narrowing within specific arteries. SSD applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.