Heart & Vascular Center

Heart Health FAQs

Blood Pressure Questions

What is blood pressure?

Like it sounds, “blood pressure” refers to the pressure of the circulatory system’s blood. Blood pressure directly corresponds with things like a person’s heartbeat and arteries. Blood pressure is at its highest level when the heart beats and lowest in the resting period between beats.

What are some steps to take to lower blood pressure?

People with high blood pressure should consult their doctor before changing their diet or implementing an exercise routine. Some doctors may also recommend medication that can help lower blood pressure. Simple steps everyone can take to lower their blood pressure include eating a healthier, lower-sodium diet, exercising, avoiding stressful activities, and limiting smoking and alcohol consumption.

How does high blood pressure contribute to heart disease?

Blood pressure is essential to moving oxygen through the body. When blood pressure becomes too high, it puts extra pressure on the body’s circulatory system

Heart Disease Questions

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a term that encompasses a range of different heart-related conditions. Usually this is distinguished from cardiovascular conditions such as congenital heart disease, which is a result of a birth defect.

What causes heart disease?

A variety of things can cause heart disease. Some of the common factors include tobacco smoking or secondhand smoke, high-fat diets, high blood pressure, high blood sugar (common in diabetics), plaque buildup in the arteries, and more.

Does smoking increase risk of heart disease?

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease because the chemicals found in tobacco smoke damage blood cells. This type of damage causes plaque to build up in the arteries. When plaque builds in the arteries, the arteries become smaller and less flexible, putting a serious strain on the flow of oxygen. Smoking alone can put an individual at risk for heart disease, and is extremely dangerous in conjunction with other risk factors like high cholesterol and being overweight.

Does heart disease run in families?

If you know that heart disease or stroke runs in your family, there is a chance that you may be at a greater risk for developing heart disease at some point in your life.

Heart Attack Questions

What causes heart attack?

Heart attacks are caused by blocked arteries. Arteries become blocked when plaque builds up and strains the flow of blood and oxygen. Other potential causes of heart attack include coronary spasms and heart artery tears.

What are the symptoms of heart attack in men and women?

The most common indicator of a heart attack is severe chest pain or pressure in that region. Some men also experience pain in various parts of their head like the jaw or teeth. Some men find it difficult to breath during a heart attack or experience pain in their left arm (sometimes the right arm).

The symptoms are similar for women, but often much less severe. Many women who experience heart attack never notice any symptoms. Although men can experience arm, back, neck, and jaw pain during a heart attack, these symptoms are more common on women. Women can also experience abdominal pressure, nausea, fatigue, and light-headedness.

What can be done to reduce risk of heart attack?

If your doctor tells you that you are at a high risk for heart attack, they will likely recommend that you take steps like improving your cholesterol, exercising, losing weight at a healthy pace, and managing your stress levels.

Prevention Questions

What is a stress test?

Most stress tests involve monitoring a patient’s heart while the patient performs rigorous exercise.

Does obesity cause heart disease?

Overweight and obese individuals are certainly at an increased risk of heart disease, but it isn’t necessarily the weight that causes heart disease. Usually, overweight people are characterized by a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet and minimal exercise. It is these factors that can lead to heart disease.

What is a “heart healthy” diet?

Heart healthy foods are things like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, chicken, nuts, and foods that are low in sugar - especially refined sugars.

How does regular exercise help reduce the risk of heart disease?

Physical activity can help people reach and maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, and increase good cholesterol.

What are some good resources to learn more about heart disease and prevention?

The American Heart Association is a great resource for finding out more about heart disease and prevention. We also strongly recommend consulting your physician for more tailored advice, recommendations, and treatment regarding your specific health needs.