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Heart disease

Nationally recognized treatment for heart disease

Heart disease and diseases of the heart’s arteries and veins, also called cardiovascular diseases, refer to a range of conditions that can affect your heart and circulation. Heart disease is one of the most common illnesses that affects American adults and includes conditions like heart attacks and angina (chest pain), which are presentations of coronary artery disease. We know that finding out you have heart disease can be life changing. We’re here to help you manage your condition and return to doing what you love.

Our board-certified cardiologists, prevention specialists, advanced practice providers, nurses and other specialists work closely together to make sure you get the exact care you need every step of the way. After each appointment, we’ll communicate with your primary care doctor and help you schedule follow-up appointments so you‘re never left to wonder what your next step is to recovery.

At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we’re nationally recognized experts in treating heart disease and our Heart Attack Center is accredited by the American Heart Association. We were also recognized as a Blue Distinction Center for high-quality, cost-efficient specialty care in 2019. With over 20 Minnesota and Wisconsin clinics, expert heart care is always close to home.

Heart conditions we treat

Our board-certified experts are leading the way in heart care. We can treat different types of heart disease and heart conditions like:

Congestive heart failure

Your heart is in charge of pumping blood throughout your body to deliver much-needed oxygen. If you heart weakens and can’t keep up with your body’s demand, that’s congestive heart failure.

Coronary artery disease

Sometimes, plaque can build up in the artery walls in your heart. This is called coronary artery disease. Plaque made of cholesterol and fat can stick to the walls of your arteries and limit the flow of blood to your heart. Coronary artery disease can lead to heart attacks. It is related to many factors, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, genetics, diabetes, smoking, age and excess weight.

Irregular heartbeat

An irregular heartbeat (heart arrhythmia) happens when there is a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heart. An irregular heartbeat can cause a fluttering sensation in your chest, difficulty breathing, feeling light-headed, a racing heartbeat, chest pain or fainting.

A heart arrhythmia can happen several ways. It can happen when your heart beats abnormally fast (known as tachycardia), abnormally slow (known as bradycardia) or with an irregular pattern. The causes of heart arrhythmia will vary, but many are caused by disruptions or irregularities in the electrical pathways that set the rhythm for your heart.

HealthPartners and Park Nicollet have a team of electrophysiologists who are heart rhythm specialists. They use electrophysiology tests with specialized electrodes that measure and evaluate the electrical rhythms in your heart.

Heart valve disease

Your heart has four chambers that push blood through your heart and into the rest of your body. And each of your heart’s chambers has a valve that helps ensure blood flows in the right direction.

Heart valve disease happens when one or more of these valves doesn’t open and close as it should.

There are two main types of heart valve disease: stenosis and regurgitation.

Stenosis – This occurs when a heart valve has a narrow opening, reducing the amount of blood that can flow through the valve.

Regurgitation – When a heart valve doesn’t close all the way, it can cause blood to flow backward into the chamber.

Heart valve problems can have wide-ranging health consequences and often require surgical intervention.

We evaluate:

  • Angina and other causes of chest pain
  • Arrhythmia and palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
    • Fluid retention (edema)
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol

      Symptoms of heart disease

      Symptoms of heart disease may differ from person to person. People with heart disease may experience shortness of breath, fatigue or chest pain. If you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms that concern you, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care doctors. Our primary care doctors are experts in diagnosing hundreds of conditions. When the help of a specialist is needed, your primary care doctor will refer you to one of our heart care experts.

      Diagnosing heart disease

      We use a variety of heart tests and screenings to diagnose different types of heart disease. Our doctors will talk to you about which tests we’ll use to diagnose your condition. Common ways to diagnose heart disease include:

      Electrocardiogram (EKG)

      When your heart beats, it creates an electrical wave that causes the heart to pump blood. An EKG measures the electrical wave and can show us if your heart beats normally or if the heart is working properly. EKGs aren’t painful. We simply place sensors on your chest.

      Holter monitor

      A Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that tracks your heart’s activity. It tracks your heart’s electrical waves, like an EKG, for up to 48 hours. The battery-operated device uses small sensors that attach to your skin. A Holter monitor is able to track your heartbeats during your regular activities and help your cardiologist diagnose an irregular heartbeat.

      Zio patch

      A Zio patch is a wearable, wireless heart monitor that can record your heart rhythm information for short- or long-term monitoring. It can record information for up to 14 days, which will help detect heart rhythm issues when your symptoms only show up occasionally.


      We’ll use an ultrasound to create pictures of your heart so we can examine your heart’s chambers, walls, valves and arteries. This is a painless, non-invasive test. A small device is passed over your chest and soundwaves are bounced off your heart. This can tell your cardiologist more about your heart’s strength, shape, size and blood flow.

      Stress tests

      During this test, you’ll exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike while our team monitors your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and fatigue. There are a few different types of stress tests, including:

      Graded Exercise Test (GXT) – We evaluate your symptoms, blood pressure and heart rate during exercise.

      Stress Echocardiogram – These tests allow us to evaluate and visualize your heart structure and function, in addition to all the features of the GXT.

      Nuclear stress tests – Nuclear stress tests involve similar exercise to stress echocardiogram tests. The key difference is nuclear stress tests use mild, short-lived, radioactive dye and an advanced camera to take detailed images of your heart and closely measure how blood is flowing.

      Cardiac computerized tomography scan (CT scan)

      This test takes detailed X-rays of your heart. It can check for blockages and other abnormalities to the heart’s structure. During this test, you will lie on a table inside a machine that looks like a donut. The machine rotates around your body so your doctor can view your heart from every angle. Your doctor might suggest a CT scan to diagnose the cause of angina (chest pain), check for congenital heart defects or check to see how well your heart is working.

      Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

      An MRI is a painless, non-invasive test that produces an image of the inside of your body so your cardiologist can spot anything out of the ordinary. During an MRI, you’ll lie on your back inside a machine that’s shaped like a tube. The machine uses a magnetic field to produce 3D images of your body. Your doctor might suggest an MRI to check for disease of the heart muscle, coronary disease, valve disorders and heart failure.

      Treating and managing heart disease

      Heart disease can be treated and managed with treatment options ranging from medicines to surgery. Our cardiologists will work with you to create a treatment plan that works with your lifestyle and helps improve the overall well-being of your heart. Common treatments we might prescribe for heart disease include:

      Heart medicines

      Medicines are often used to treat risk factors and symptoms of heart disease. Depending on your condition, your cardiologist might prescribe medicine to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood clots and heart failure. Your cardiologist will talk to you about your options and recommend the best approach for your specific situation.

      Cardiac rehabilitation

      Cardiac rehabilitation is often used along with other treatments to help patients heal from heart attacks, coronary angioplasty, heart surgery or heart failure. In cardiac rehabilitation, you’ll learn how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Supervised exercise, educational programs, help with quitting smoking and continued monitoring of your progress are all part of cardiac rehabilitation.

      Comprehensive heart surgery (cardiac surgery)

      There are different kinds of heart surgeries your doctor might recommend to treat heart disease. Surgeries are designed to help clear blockages, remove damaged tissue or provide structural support for the heart. We’ll talk to you about whether or not heart surgery is the best option for you.

      When surgery becomes necessary, our cardiothoracic surgery team is here for you. Our professionals are experts in using the latest surgical techniques to correct heart issues and put you and your heart on the road to recovery.

      Bypass surgery

      If you have coronary artery disease and there are significant blockages in the arteries that supply blood flow to the heart, your doctor may recommend coronary bypass surgery. In this type of surgery, your surgeon will move a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body and attach it to your heart. This bypass creates a new path around the clogged artery to improve blood flow to your heart.

      Angioplasty and stents

      When you have blockages in your arteries, your cardiologist might recommend angioplasty or stenting. Angioplasty is a procedure where tubing is threaded through your arteries to clear blockages and help your blood flow freely. Sometimes, you might need stents. Stents are tiny, expandable mesh tubes left inside your arteries to clear the way for blood flow.


      Sometimes, irregular heartbeats or slow heartbeats are treated with a pacemaker. Pacemakers are small, battery-operated devices that set your heart’s pace when it beats too slowly. A pacemaker is connected to your heart and helps control your heartbeat through electric waves. We use several types of pacemakers. Your cardiologist will consider the type of arrhythmia you have when recommending a pacemaker.

      CardioMEMS Heart Failure System

      When treating heart failure, we use this system to monitor your pulmonary artery (PA) pressure. PA pressure is the blood pressure between your heart and the arteries in your lungs. Your PA pressure lets us know how well your treatment is working and helps us detect changes to your heart condition before you have symptoms. A small sensor, about the size of a dime, is implanted into your pulmonary artery. It electronically tracks your PA pressure and sends the information back to your cardiologist.

      Hemodynamic support (heart pumps) during acute intervention

      A heart pump is used to reduce your heart’s workload. A heart pump mimics the way your heart pumps blood and is inserted into the heart. We use the Impella® heart pump, the smallest heart pump in the world. Heart pumps are commonly used to help patients with coronary artery disease who require circulation support.

      Heart valve surgery

      When heart valve disease interferes with your heart health, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the affected heart valve. When repair is not possible, you may need surgery to replace the heart valve with a medical device.

      Minimally invasive structural interventions for heart valves

      Our surgical team uses the most up-to-date technology for heart valve repair and replacement, including the following minimally invasive techniques.

      Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

      TAVR is a heart valve replacement of a narrowed aortic valve that restores its function. This procedure can help when you have a diagnosis of stenosis of the aortic valve, meaning the valve between your heart and the aorta (the largest artery in your body) does not open as widely as it should. This procedure is done through a catheter inserted in the leg, avoiding the necessity of open-heart surgery. It is indicated for specifically selected patients.

      Mitral valve repair

      Mitral valve repair, or a mitral valve clip, is designed to repair a mitral heart valve that can’t fully close. This minimally invasive procedure can be accomplished through an incision in the leg. It is indicated for selected patients with a leaky mitral valve.

      Watchman implant

      Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can cause blood clots to form in the heart, with potentially life-threatening consequences. This includes heightened risk for suffering a stroke. For certain people who have AFib and can’t take long-term blood thinners, we use the Watchman implant , which can prevent blood clots from forming within the heart and reduce the long-term need to take blood thinners (anticoagulants).

      Frequently asked questions (FAQs)