Thursday, March 10, 2011

Is your heart working overtime?

Have you ever worked overtime only to go home and fall -- exhausted -- on to your couch? That’s exactly how your heart feels if you have untreated high blood pressure or hypertension. In fact, eventually it will work itself to death.

“The heart is just like any other muscle in your body,” says Dr. Rishabh Sharma, a cardiologist on Sentara Potomac Hospital’s medical staff. “When you work it hard it gets bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, when it gets too big from being overworked, it can actually fail.”

According to Dr. Sharma, high blood pressure also stresses out your arteries. “High blood pressure speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries,” says Dr. Sharma. “When the arteries harden they become narrower and less elastic, which causes a decrease in blood flow to the heart and other organs. In turn, your heart starts working even harder to compensate for the blocked arteries.”

Also, says Dr. Sharma, blood clots can get lodged in narrow arteries. “Blood clots can result in stroke, heart attack and other serious health conditions,” says Dr. Sharma. “It is vital that everyone has their blood pressure checked regularly so that the risk of heart disease and stroke can be decreased.”

Take a Load Off Your Heart

There are ways to reduce your heart’s workload. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding smoking, getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods and controlling your weight, can help decrease or prevent high blood pressure.

“The first course of action is to prevent high blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Sharma. “If you already have high blood pressure, you should still make healthy lifestyle changes and continue to take any medications your doctor has prescribed. Keeping blood pressure in the normal range is paramount to avoiding potentially life-threatening health problems.”

Dr. Rishabh Sharma encourages everyone to have their blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure is called the ‘silent killer’ because for many there are no symptoms.

To learn more about doctors on Sentara Potomac Hospital’s medical staff call 703-221-2500 to receive our free Medical Team brochure. You can also request one online.