Tag Archives: arteries

Understand Heart Disease

Understand Heart Disease

It’s American Heart Month, and in honor of it, we want to help you better understand heart disease. Heart disease includes many problems caused by a substance called plaque building up in the arteries of your heart. This makes your arteries narrow, which makes it harder for blood to get through. Clogged Arteries   A heart attack is when blood flow to part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot in your arteries. If it cuts off blood flow completely, that part of the heart starts to die. How Heart Attacks Happen   The most common type of stroke is also caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain, which can cause brain damage. The longer those cells go without blood, the more damage it causes. Blood Clots and Stroke   Heart failure is when the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should be, so the cells in your body aren’t getting enough oxygen. The longer heart failure is untreated, the worse it gets. What's Heart Failure?   Heart arrhythmia is when your heart beat’s rhythm is off. It can be too fast, too slow, or just irregular. Learn more about arrhythmia. Understand Heart Arrhythmia   Heart valve disease is when your heart valves aren’t working correctly, like not opening enough, not closing properly, or bulging into a different part of the heart. Learn more about heart valve disease. Heart Valve Disease   Your yearly visits with your doctor should help identify risk factors or signs of heart disease. These screenings can help them find issues or recommend preventive steps.
Understand Blood Pressure

Understanding Blood Pressure

Getting your blood pressure checked is nothing new. But do you understand it all?

What Exactly Is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure’s the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common disease when that pressure of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is too high.

If your blood pressure gets too high, it can cause serious damage which can lead to blockage which can cause heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.

There are 2 main types of high blood pressure:

  • Primary high blood pressure is the most common type and it tends to develop as you age.
  • Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines and it usually goes away when this issue is treated.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

  • Age – Men usually develop it around age 45 and women after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure and serious complications are more common for African Americans.
  • Family history – It tends to run in families.
  • Certain chronic conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active
  • Tobacco use
  • Too much salt
  • Too much alcohol
  • Too little potassium
  • Too little vitamin D

If you have some of these other risk factors, your doctor may set your blood pressure target lower.

What Are the Numbers?

  • Systolic is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts, the top number.
  • Diastolic is when your heart rests, the bottom number.

 What Are They Doing?

When a nurse takes your blood pressure, you might wonder what they’re doing. These are the steps they’re following:

  • They wrap the blood pressure cuff around your arm.
  • They place a stethoscope under the cuff at the crease of your elbow (where the major blood vessel of the upper arm is.)
  • They inflate the cuff until it stops the flow of blood.
  • They slowly loosens the cuff’s valve to let the blood start to flow again and listen for sounds in the blood vessel.
  • Then, the first tapping noise they hear, they’ll note as the systolic number, the maximum pressure when the heart contracts.
  • The taps fade, and they note the pressure at the last tap as your diastolic number, the minimum pressure while your heart’s at rest.
  • Along with your numbers, they note which arm they took your blood pressure on and how you were positioned, like sitting with your feet flat.

 Where Should My Numbers Be?

Systolic Measure

Diastolic Measure

What to Do

Normal

Below 120

Below 80

Maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid raising your levels.

High-normal

120 to 139

80 to 89

Make lifestyle changes.

High

140 to 159

90 to 99

Make lifestyle changes. Possibly start a low-level diuretic.

Extremely High

160 or higher

100 or
higher

Often 1 or 2 meds are required right away, plus lifestyle changes.

Source: Consumer Reports, “onHealth”, Volume 23 Number 2

It’s also normal for your blood pressure to change when you sleep, wake up, are active, and are excited or nervous.

If you’re worried about your blood pressure, keep an eye on your levels and take them with you to your next appointment. A broad look at your numbers can help your doctor put you on the right track for heart health.

Know Your Heart Meds

Your Meds and Your Heart

Know Your Heart Meds

You don’t need to be an expert on your drugs, that’s what your doctor’s for, but you should ask questions and know the basics about your heart meds.

Whether it’s a pill for high cholesterol or your blood pressure medicine, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • What’s the name of my medicine?
  • What does it do?
  • What are its side effects?
  • What can I do to reduce those side effects?
  • How does this drug work with other drugs, dietary supplements, foods, or drinks?
  • How much is a one dose?
  • When’s the best time to take this medicine, like when you wake up, with breakfast, or before bed?
  • How long will I take this medicine?
  • What should I do if I miss a pill?

Helpful Terms for Understanding Your Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood vessels move blood through your body. These are the types of blood vessels:

  • Arteries – These carry blood away from your heart
  • Capillaries – These connect your arteries to your veins and help move water and chemicals between your blood and tissues.
  • Veins – These carry blood from your capillaries back to your heart

Did you know? If you laid all the blood vessels of an average adult in a line, it would stretch over 100,000 miles.

Kinds of Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood pressure meds fall into 11 different classes, but they all have the same goals, to lower and control your blood pressure.

Classes

How It Works

Possible Side Effects

Diuretics Help your body flush extra salt and water through your urine.
  • More trips to the
    bathroom
  • Low potassium
Beta-Blockers Reduce your heart rate and how much blood it pumps to lower your blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness
  • Low heart rate
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) Narrow your arteries and make you produce less angiotensin, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Dry cough
  • High potassium levels
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers Block your blood vessels from angiotension, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • High potassium levels
Calcium
Channel Blocker
Prevents calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and arteries, which makes your heart’s job easier, and helps your blood vessels open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Low heart rate
  • Uneven or rapid heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Ankle swelling
Alpha-Blockers Reduce nerve impulses to your blood vessels to let blood pass more easily.
  • Headache
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Small decreases in bad cholesterol
Central
Agonists
Decrease your blood vessels’ ability to narrow, which also helps to lower blood pressure.
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
  • Fever

Via the American Heart Association.

Kinds of Cholesterol Heart Meds

Depending on the type, cholesterol meds help:

  • Lower your bad cholesterol.
  • Lower your triglycerides, a fat in your blood that raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Increase your good cholesterol, which guards against heart disease.

Types of Cholesterol Meds

How It works

Possible Side Effects

Statins
Altoprev (lovastatin)
Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Lescol (fluvastatin)
Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Mevacor (lovastatin)
Pravachol (pravastatin)
Zocor (simvastatin)
Lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and cause small increases in good cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Bile Acid Binding Resins
Colestid (colestipol)
Questran (cholestyramine/ sucrose)
Welchol (colesevelam)
Lower bad cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach
  • Gas
  • May increase triglycerides
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor
Zetia (ezetimibe) Lowers bad cholesterol, and causes small decrease in triglycerides and small increase in good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle soreness
Combination Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin
Vytorin (ezetimibe-simvastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Fibrates
Lofibra (fenofibrate)
Lopid (gemfibrozil)
TriCor (fenofibrate)
Lower triglycerides and increases good choleterol.
  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach pain
  • Gallstones
Niacin
Niaspan (prescription niacin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Upset stomach
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • High blood sugar
  • Peptic ulcers
Combination Statin and Niacin
Advicor (niacin-lovastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lovaza (prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement)
Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl)
Lowers triglycerides.
  • Burping
  • Fishy taste
  • Increased infection risk

Via The Mayo Clinic

When Should I Take My Heart Meds?

Your body’s inner clock can affect how well some medications work. Since, you can’t read your body’s clock though, researchers have studied how well heart meds work when they’re taken at different times of the day.

According to a clinical trial from Medscape, blood pressure meds are most effective when taken at night. The random trial tested the effect of taking blood pressure meds at bedtime versus in the morning.

It found that treatment at bedtime was the most cost-effective and simplest strategy to reach the right blood pressure when sleeping and of getting a normal 24-hour blood pressure pattern.”

It also estimated that each 5-mm-Hg decrease in overnight blood pressure reduced the risk of heart events by 14%.

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before you make a change to your meds or their schedule. You can also learn more about the importance of taking your heart meds regularly and on-time in our Health section.

Reasons You Have High Blood Pressure

Breaking Down Why You Have High Blood Pressure

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Some people are more likely to have high blood pressure, and this can be because of things you can’t control, or because of lifestyle choices you make.

  • Age – The risk of high blood pressure increases with time. Men usually develop it around age 45 and women after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure and serious complications are more common for African Americans.
  • Family History – High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Certain Chronic Conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy – Your blood pressure may be raised during pregnancy.
  • Being Overweight – The more you weigh, the more blood your body has to pump to perform normal tasks like carrying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. That more blood that’s pumping, the higher the pressure.
  • Not Being Physically Active – Not being active usually makes your heart rate higher, which means your heart’s working harder than it should and pumping more.
  • Tobacco Use – Smoking and chewing tobacco raise your blood pressure temporarily, but it can also damage your arteries which raises your blood pressure in the long-term.
  • Too Much Salt –  When you eat too much salt, you also gain water-weight, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Too Much Alcohol – Heavy drinkers can damage their heart over time.
  • Too Little Potassium – Potassium helps balance sodium in your body.
  • Too Little Vitamin D – Not enough vitamin D in your diet might affect an enzyme your body makes that affects your blood pressure.

If you have some of these other risk factors, your doctor may set your blood pressure target lower.

Other Causes of High Blood Pressure

If you have secondary high blood pressure, it’s caused by an underlying condition. It usually appears suddenly and goes away when the condition has been treated. These things might cause it:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Birth defects in your blood vessels
  • Certain meds, like birth control pills, anti-depressants, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine

Reasons for High Blood Pressure After Meds

Some find that even though they’ve gotten on a medication, their blood pressure is still not low enough. If you find that your blood pressure is higher than normal at certain times, think about these factors.

Lifestyle Choices

Some of your lifestyle choices could be raising your blood pressure.

  • Quit smoking, and cut back on alcohol and caffeine.
  • De-stress.
  • Watch your diet.
  • Get active.
  • Make sure you’re taking your meds exactly as your doctor prescribed.
  • Visit your doctor for regular checkups.

The Season

Believe it or not, studies show that the season can have an effect on your blood pressure. It’s more likely to go back to normal levels in the spring and summer than it is in the winter, no matter if you live in a very cold climate or a very warm one.

Perhaps it’s because it’s harder to get out and exercise and because of the extra pounds you can pack on during the holiday season. Either way, this means in the winter, it might be necessary to take higher doses of meds or even different drugs. Talk to your doctor if you notice this seasonal difference in your readings.

Medications

Did this raise go hand-in-hand with a new pill you started? Did you get a cold and start taking some over-the-counter meds you don’t normally?

Check to make sure that what you’re taking isn’t to blame. And talk to your doctor about the risk or if you should make changes to your prescriptions.

Bigger Problems

If your blood pressure is still strangely high, your doctor might need to adjust your meds. And if this still doesn’t help, it might be a sign of something more serious, like kidney problems or a chronic condition. Then, it’s time for a doctor’s appointment and maybe some tests to find the cause.