Heart finds a way around bun­dle branch block

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM / LIFESTYLES - Keith Roach Dr. Roach re­grets he is un­able to an­swer in­di­vid­ual letters, but will in­cor­po­rate them in the col­umn when­ever pos­si­ble. Email ques tions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cor­nell .edu or re­quest avail­able health news­let­ters at 628 Vir­ginia Dr., Or­land

DEAR DR. ROACH: I’m a fe­male, age 70, 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 125 pounds. I have no prob­lems with choles­terol, di­a­betes or blood pres­sure. I do not take any med­i­ca­tions, just vi­ta­mins. I take dance ex­er­cise classes and walk of­ten. I re­cently went for my checkup and found that I have a left bun­dle branch block. How did I get this? Is there any­thing I can do?

Do I con­tinue tak­ing ex­er­cise classes, or will it make my heart worse? At about the age of 6, I was told I had scar­latina. I had to take peni­cillin for a year and had a heart mur­mur. The mur­mur went away in my 40s. — Anon.

AN­SWER: The bun­dle branches carry elec­tri­cal im­pulses in­side the heart, and in the ven­tri­cle, there are two main branches — the left bun­dle branch and the right. A left bun­dle branch block is the block­age of one of the main “wires” to the heart. For­tu­nately, the im­pulse still can be car­ried across the mus­cle cells, so usu­ally there are no symp­toms, and you need not make changes to your busy lifestyle. Your doc­tor will have done a care­ful checkup on you, since other heart is­sues, in­clud­ing block­ages in the ar­ter­ies and a weak­ened heart mus­cle, some­times are as­so­ci­ated with LBBB.

Scar­let fever (I like the de­light­fully old-fash­ioned term “scar­latina”) is a com­pli­ca­tion of strep throat and is oc­ca­sion­ally con­fused with rheumatic fever, another com­pli­ca­tion. Scar­let fever causes a char­ac­ter­is­tic rash with a sand­pa­per qual­ity, whereas rheumatic fever can cause per­ma­nent dam­age to heart valves. Scar­let fever does not af­fect the heart.

Most peo­ple with bun­dle branch block have an ex­cel­lent prog­no­sis; how­ever, if there is fur­ther dam­age to your con­duc­tion sys­tem, you likely will need a per­ma­nent pace­maker. I would not stop your ex­er­cise classes.

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