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Your Everyday Ailments May Be Causing Hidden Heart Problems

Contributed by Shazia Chaudry, MD

Everyday aches, pains, stress or illness can disrupt your life but these ailments could be damaging more than your mood. Your heart can become damaged and you may not even know it until a serious issue arises.    Ailments

With Heart Month upon us, I’m sure you are hearing more about heart disease and the importance of taking care of your heart. Well, as a Primary Care Physician, I truly encourage you to do so. Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. As women, we have a greater risk of developing heart disease—the number one killer of women and more deadly than all forms of cancer. Fortunately, understanding heart disease and knowing the unique symptoms of heart disease helps to reduce risk.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a result of several heart related problems, many which are related to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the artery walls, causing narrowing which makes it harder for blood to flow through your body. There are several forms of heart disease including heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems. Read more in our Health Library.

High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease and Pain

High blood pressure can be a very tricky condition especially when you don’t realize you have it. If you experience frequent pain – mild or severe – I recommend talking to your doctor. I encourage you, not only during Heart Month, but every month of the year, to make your heart health top priority. Remember, this is Your Year!

You may not have known, but pain causes elevation of blood pressure and heart rate thanks to the nervous system and the release of adrenalin. When you’re in pain, your nervous system is stimulated by electrical pain signals. Pain also signals the hypothalamus and pituitary glands to release adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) which stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenalin. The release of adrenalin also causes an elevation of blood pressure and heart rate. Ultimately, these responses to pain, may cause hazardous stress on your cardiovascular system that doesn’t always show symptoms until damage to your heart (heart disease) has already begun.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is when the pressure your heart is pushing out to your arteries is higher than it should be.  Blood pressure is measured as two numbers. The top (systolic) number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom (diastolic) number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80. High blood pressure for an adult is 140 or higher (systolic) and/or 90 or higher (diastolic) that stays high over time. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms and affects 1 in 3 adults.

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