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The Sleepy Heart

heart and EKGDid you know that 1/3 of your life is spent sleeping? Sleep is not just “time out” from your daily life. It’s a time for the entire body to rest and repair itself.

Not getting a good night of sleep can lead to drowsiness during our daily activities. But that’s not all. Some sleep problems can also harm our hearts.

Sleep and waking have direct impacts on our hearts. Any time we wake from sleep, our blood pressure and heart rates increase – and our hearts have to work harder.

Some sleep-related breathing disorders also impact the heart. In Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the upper air passage is blocked, preventing oxygen from getting into the lungs and resulting in low blood oxygen levels. In Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), the air passage remains open, but the person fails to make an effort to breathe.

People with sleep-related breathing disorders are more likely to have high blood pressure and are more at risk for heart disease and stroke. The drop in oxygen from not breathing and the increase in heart rate and blood pressure caused by waking up put stress on the heart. The continued fluctuations in blood pressure eventually lead to increases in blood pressure even during the day.

Studies have shown that OSA increases the risk of death from coronary artery disease. And, an estimated 40% of people with congestive heart failure also have CSA.

The good news is that treating sleep-related disorders can actually decrease a person’s chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

Lexington Sleep Solutions, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, offers many types of treatment for sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders are treatable and appropriate treatment can lead to a healthier heart. Visit

Meet Robert A. Leonardi, MD, Cardiologist with Lexington Cardiology

Dr. Robert Leonardi of Lexington Cardiology

Dr. Robert Leonardi of Lexington Cardiology

Robert A. Leonardi, MD has joined Lexington Medical Center’s network of care as a cardiologist at Lexington Cardiology.

We asked Dr. Leonardi why he chose to pursue cardiology and what he likes about the job.

LMC: Why did you want to become a doctor?
Dr. Leonardi: I was a wildlife biology major at Clemson and thought I would pursue a career managing private hunting and fishing properties. But during an animal physiology class, I became interested in cardiac physiology. That’s when I started working toward medical school.

LMC: When did you know that you wanted to be an interventional cardiologist?
Dr. Leonardi: In medical school, I was working a shift in the emergency room when a hospital employee suffered a STEMI, one of the most dangerous types of heart attacks, where an artery is completely blocked. I was able to observe the cardiologists unblock the artery in a catheterization lab procedure. Their work produced an immediate result, stopping a life-threatening heart attack.

LMC: What are your favorite parts of the job?
Dr. Leonardi: I’ve completed fellowships in interventional cardiology and structural interventional cardiology. I enjoy performing procedures that can help fix problems related to the structure of the heart and the heart valves.

Lexington Cardiology has two locations.

Downtown Columbia
2601 Laurel Street
Suite 260
Columbia, SC 29204
(803) 744-4900

West Columbia
131 Sunset Court
West Columbia, SC 29169
(803) 744-4940

Heart Fair 2014

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Hundreds of people came to Lexington Medical Center’s inaugural Heart Fair at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Columbia on Sunday. From healthy cooking demonstrations to health screenings and physician lectures, community members learned about optimizing their cardiovascular health. Did we see you there?