Healthcare Library

<div class=media-desc><strong>Tracking your blood pressure at home</strong><p>Following your blood pressure at home has gotten a lot easier in the last few years. I'm Dr. Alan Greene. I'd like to share with you a little bit about that. Not too long ago when you wanted to follow your blood pressure at home, you had to have the old fashion sphygmomometer, and the device was a complex as that word sounds. You had to pump something up, and put a stethoscope in your ears, and fumble all these different tubes and even so wouldn't get a very accurate reading. Now, there are simple, high quality, digital blood pressure cuffs. They're easy to use at home. They're built so they snap on the arm very easily, just press a single button, and the chip inside does the work for you. It blows it up, it gives you the reading, and some of the newer models even connect it to your PC and track the readings for you. Now, how accurate are they? They're really pretty good. I wouldn't trust a single reading that much if you get one that's high or low. I wouldn't be either reassured or panicked. But, I would trust the pattern of readings. So, if you have one that tracks it for you, that's great, if not, just write them down what date and time you took it and see what the pattern is over time. If there's anything of concern, be sure to report it to your physician.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Arterial plaque build-up</strong><p>The build-up of plaque in the inner layer of the wall of an artery may lead to narrowing and irregularity. Where the narrowing is severe, there is a risk that the vessel can block completely if a thrombus forms in the diseased segment.</p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Heart failure</strong><p>If you cough a lot, often feel weak, have lost your appetite, and need to urinate a lot at night, you might have symptoms of heart failure. Heart failure is a long-term condition that usually comes on slowly. However, it can develop suddenly, for instance, after a heart attack. You have heart failure when your heart does not pump blood out of your heart very well, or when your heart muscles are stiff and do not easily fill up with blood. When you have heart failure, your heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body, especially when you exercise or move around a lot. As the heart loses the ability to pump blood, blood backs up in other parts of your body, including your lungs, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and your arms and legs. The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease, the narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to your heart. So, how do you know if you have heart failure? Get to your doctor. You may have trouble breathing, an irregular heartbeat, swollen legs, neck veins that stick out, and sounds from fluid built up in your lungs. Your doctor will check for these and other signs of heart failure. A test called an echocardiogram is often the best test to diagnose your heart failure. Your doctor can also use this test to find out why you have heart failure, and then monitor your condition going forward every three to six months. Your doctor will talk to you about knowing your body and symptoms that mean your heart failure is getting worse. You will need to learn to watch for changes in your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, and weight. You will also need to limit salt in your diet, stop drinking alcohol, quit smoking if you need to, exercise, lose weight if you need to, and get enough rest. Your doctor will probably ask you to take medicines to treat your heart failure. These medicines can treat your symptoms, prevent your heart failure from getting worse, and help you live longer. If you have heart failure, taking your medicines, changing your lifestyle, and treating the condition that caused heart failure can go a long way toward improving your health. But heart failure is a chronic, or long-term, illness, which means it may get worse over time. Make sure you call your doctor if you start coughing more, have sudden weight gain or swelling, or feel week. Have someone take you to the emergency room right away if you have trouble with fainting, a fast and irregular heartbeat, or feel severe crushing chest pain.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>ECG</strong><p>The electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) is used extensively in the diagnosis of heart disease, ranging from congenital heart disease in infants to myocardial infarction and myocarditis in adults. Several different types of electrocardiogram exist.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Cardiac catheterization</strong><p>Millions of Americans are living with heart disease and some of them don't even realize they have it. Heart disease is the number one cause of death; above cancer, diabetes, and injuries. That's why it's important to get it diagnosed and treated quickly. Fortunately, we doctors have a lot of tests and treatments at our disposal to combat heart disease. One procedure that is both a test AND a treatment is called cardiac catheterization. It can show your doctor how healthy your heart and blood vessels are, and treat heart valve problems, clogged arteries, and heart defects. Let's talk today about cardiac catheterization. So, why would you even need cardiac catheterization? Well, doctors use cardiac catheterization to diagnose and evaluate common heart and blood vessel problems, like chest pain or an abnormal stress test due to coronary artery disease, heart valve conditions like a leaky or narrowed valve, a high blood pressure condition in the lungs, blood clots in the lungs from an embolism, and an enlarged heart.  You'll need to have this procedure in a supervised hospital setting. You may need to stay overnight at the hospital the night before the test, or you may be admitted the morning of the procedure. The whole cardiac catheterization procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes. You'll be given medicine to help you relax, but you'll be awake during the procedure. First, the doctor will insert an intravenous, or IV line into one of the blood vessels in your groin or neck. Through this IV line, your doctor will pass a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. That tube will be threaded into either the left or right side of your heart. The doctor will use an x-ray as a guide to see where the catheter is going. While the catheter is in place, your doctor can check how well the blood is flowing into and out of your heart, and through the arteries around your heart, collect blood samples from your heart, measure the oxygen level in your heart, and even take a tiny piece of heart tissue, called a biopsy, when there's a situation of unexplained heart failure. Cardiac catheterization is a safe procedure when performed by an experienced medical team. But, some possible risks include bleeding, infection, and blood clots.  A heart attack or a stroke can happen in very rare situations. But, remember, it's done in a closely supervised setting in a hospital. After a cardiac catheterization, your doctor should have a pretty good idea of what's causing your heart, valve, or blood vessel problem. Knowing exactly what the problem is can help your doctor find just the right way to treat your particular problem.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Effects of age on blood pressure</strong><p>Blood vessels become less elastic with age. The "average" blood pressure increases from 120/70 to 150/90 and may persist slightly high even if treated. The blood vessels respond more slowly to a change in body position.</p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Hardening of arteries</strong><p>Blood is the fuel that keeps your body alive and working. It's your blood that transports the oxygen your cells need to survive. To get to your heart and out the rest of your body, blood needs a clear pathway through your arteries. But as you get older and if you eat too many French fries and cheeseburgers your arteries can harden and narrow, fill with plaque leaving less room for blood to flow through. Let's talk today about atherosclerosis. Your arteries are like the pipes your water flows through to get to your bathroom sink. When the pipes are clear, water flows easily through them. But when rust, minerals, and other debris get stuck in the pipes, it clogs them up, leaving less room for water to flow through. That's why you get nothing more than a drip when you turn on your bathroom sink. In your arteries, clogs are caused by plaque. Plaque is a substance made up of fat and cholesterol which are found in unhealthy food like those French fries and also bacon. Because plaque is sticky it collects on your artery walls and blocks the flow of blood. Sometimes a clump of plaque breaks off and floats away to a smaller blood vessel leading to your heart or brain. If it gets stuck in that vessel, you can have a heart attack or a stroke. Or, the plaque can weaken an artery wall which is called an aneurysm. If that aneurysm breaks open, you could have a very life threatening bleeding. How can you tell if you have atherosclerosis? Well, that's the tricky part because often atherosclerosis doesn't cause any symptoms until you've got a blocked artery. And by then, you could already be having a heart attack or stroke. So that you don't discover the problem too late, see your doctor for regular check-ups. Get your cholesterol screened by age 35 if you're a man, age 45 if you're a women. Also, have your blood pressure checked every one to two years before age 50. And then once a year after that. You may need to have your blood pressure checked even more often if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or if you have already had a stroke. Although you can't reverse atherosclerosis once it starts, you can prevent it with some easy lifestyle changes. Eat a balanced diet that's high in heart healthy fruits, vegetables, and fish. Exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day. Stop smoking because that's really bad news for your arteries. If your cholesterol is high, ask your doctor whether you should be taking cholesterol lowering medication. Lastly, you may also need to take aspirin or another blood thinning drug to prevent clots from forming in your arteries.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Coronary artery disease</strong><p>The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle itself. Blood supply through these arteries is critical for the heart. Coronary artery disease usually results from the build-up of fatty material and plaque, a condition called atherosclerosis. As the coronary arteries narrow, the flow of blood to the heart can slow or stop, causing chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, heart attack, or other symptoms.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Cholesterol and triglyceride test</strong><p>Maybe you've been eating fast food more often than you should, or you're not getting your recommended two-and-a-half hours of exercise each week. Or, it could be that you smoke, or your blood pressure is too high. Well, for whatever reason, you may be concerned about your risk of getting heart disease. Well, a few tests can help you learn that risk, so you can start making healthy lifestyle changes to reduce it. A coronary risk profile is a group of blood tests that measure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Why is it important to know these levels? Because if you have too much of these substances in your blood from eating foods like burgers and French fries, they can clog your arteries. Eventually your arteries can become so clogged that you'll have a heart attack or stroke. Men should have their cholesterol tested by the time they're 35. Women should have it checked by age 45. If you have a condition like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure, have your cholesterol checked now, no matter what your age. To measure your cholesterol, your doctor will give you a blood test. If you're also having your triglyceride level checked, you may be told not to eat or drink anything for 8 to 12 hours before the test. Depending upon your heart risk, the doctor may measure just your total cholesterol level, or your total cholesterol along with your LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides. If you're of average risk of getting heart disease, your goal is to have total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter, LDL cholesterol lower than 130 milligrams per deciliter, HDL cholesterol higher than 40 milligrams per deciliter if you're a man, or 50 if you're a woman -- the higher the better, and triglycerides of less than 150 also, the lower the better. Although some illnesses, like arthritis, can raise your cholesterol level, generally having high cholesterol means that you're at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. It's a sign you need to work harder to keep your heart healthy. If your cholesterol levels are normal, that's great! That means that you're eating right, you're exercising, and you're taking good care of your health. You don't need to have another cholesterol test for about five years. But if your cholesterol level is high, or you've already got heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, you'll need to have your cholesterol levels checked more often. Keeping close tabs on your cholesterol and triglyceride levels is one way that you can take charge of your health, and change it for the better.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Hypertension</strong><p>
Hypertension is a disorder characterized by consistently high blood pressure. Generally, high blood pressure consists of systolic blood pressure (the top number, which represents the pressure generated when the heart beats) higher than 140, or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number, which represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart is at rest) over 90.</p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Essential hypertension</strong><p>Carrying a lot of extra weight around your middle or sprinkling too much salt onto your food at each meal can cause high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. Stress and your genes can also bring your blood pressure up. Sometimes when your blood pressure is high, your doctor might not be able to find any direct cause for it. That's what's called essential hypertension. When your doctor talks to you about your blood pressure, he's referring to the force of your blood pushing against your artery walls. The top number in your blood pressure is called the systolic blood pressure. That's the pressure in your blood vessels while your heart is pumping. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure and that's the pressure when your heart rests between beats.  You want your blood pressure to stay at 120 over 80 or less. A blood pressure of 140 over 90 or more is considered high. Why is high blood pressure a problem, you ask? Well, you can think of high blood pressure as being like a river that's rushing too hard, eventually it's going to damage its banks. With high blood pressure, the extra force of your blood pushing against your artery walls eventually damages them. It can also damage your heart, your kidneys, and other organs. So, how do you know if you have high blood pressure? Often you don't know, because high blood pressure doesn't have symptoms like a fever or cough. Usually there are no symptoms at all, and you won't be able to find out that you have high blood pressure unless you've had it checked, or you've developed complications like heart disease or kidney problems. You can check your blood pressure yourself with a home monitor, or have it checked at your doctor's office. If it's high, you and your doctor will set a blood pressure goal. You can achieve that goal in different ways, like eating a healthy diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, quitting smoking, eating less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day, and using programs like meditation and yoga to relieve your stress. But if these lifestyle changes aren't enough, your health care provider might prescribe one or more medicines to lower your blood pressure. The reason why doctors are so serious about a patients' blood pressure is that having uncontrolled blood pressure can cause a lot of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and loss of vision. When it comes to your blood pressure, it's best to be proactive. Call your doctor for a check-up if you haven't had one in a while, and get your blood pressure checked. If it's high, follow your doctor's advice for bringing it back into a healthy range.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Coronary artery stent</strong><p>An intraluminal coronary artery stent is a small, self-expanding, stainless steel mesh tube that is placed within a coronary artery to keep the vessel open. It may be used during a coronary artery bypass graft surgery to keep the grafted vessel open, after balloon angioplasty to prevent reclosure of the blood vessel, or during other heart surgeries.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Stent</strong><p>If you have a blocked artery in your heart, legs, or neck, you may need a stent to keep your blood flowing to prevent serious problems. Let's talk today about stents. A stent is a tiny tube we place in an artery, blood vessel, or other duct (such as the one that carries urine) to hold the tubes open. A stent is left in permanently. Most stents are made of metal or plastic mesh-like material. Stent grafts made of fabric are often used in larger arteries. Stents are used to treat a variety of artery and other problems. Your doctor will make a small cut in a blood vessel in your groin and thread a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to the place in your body where you need a stent. In the heart, a fatty substance called plaque can build up inside the coronary arteries. Plaque narrows the arteries, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. One stent, called an intraluminal coronary artery stent, is a small, self-expanding, metal mesh-like tube that is placed inside a coronary artery after balloon angiography. This stent prevents the artery from re-closing. Another stent is coated with medicine that helps further prevent an artery from re-closing. In the carotid arteries, which are on both sides of your neck, plaque can build up and slow the flow of blood to your brain. Stents can keep the carotid arteries open.  Stents can also open up narrow arteries in your legs caused by peripheral arteriole disease. They're also used to treat an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to your abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large and balloons.  After a stent procedure, your doctor will probably recommend that you take aspirin and another anti-clotting medication to prevent blood clots from forming in the stent. Make sure that you talk to your doctor, before getting a stent, about the risks associated with placing a stent to treat your condition, such as tissue growing around the area where the stent was placed.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Stroke</strong><p>A stroke involves loss of brain functions caused by a loss of blood circulation to areas of the brain. The blockage usually occurs when a clot or piece of atherosclerotic plaque breaks away from another area of the body and lodges within the vasculature of the brain.</p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Venous insufficiency</strong><p>If you have dull, aching, or cramping pain in your legs, and pain that gets worse when you stand, you may have a condition called venous insufficiency. In venous insufficiency, the veins in your legs have trouble sending blood back to your heart. Normally, valves in your legs keep your blood flowing back towards your heart so it doesn't collect in one place. But the valves in varicose veins are either damaged or missing. This causes your veins to remain filled with blood, especially when you're standing. A blockage in your vein from a blood clot, called a deep venous thrombosis, can also cause this problem.  So, how do you know if you have venous insufficiency? Well, you'll probably feel a dull aching, heaviness, or cramping in your legs. Your legs will swell up when you're on them too long. Your legs may itch or tingle. Pain will get worse when you stand, and better when you raise your legs. Your legs and ankles may also be red. You may notice skin color changes around your ankles. You may see varicose veins on the surface of your legs. You may feel thickening and hardening of the skin on your legs and ankles. So, what can you do about venous insufficiency? Well, your doctor will tell you to use compression stockings to decrease the swelling in your legs. You'll probably have to avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Even moving your legs slightly will help the blood in your veins return to your heart. Walking helps in that same way.  Your doctor may recommend surgery or other treatments for varicose veins if you've tried everything and you still have leg pain that feels heavy or tired, skin ulcers or sores caused by poor blood flow. If blood clots are causing you problems, your doctor may prescribe anticoagulant or blood-thinning medicines, to treat existing blood clots and prevent others. Your doctor may suggest you try to keep your legs elevated above your heart when you lie down. You may improve your circulation through exercise. And finally, if you need to lose weight, weight loss can be a very helpful treatment of venous insufficiency and swelling.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Cholesterol</strong><p>Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that is present in all parts of the body including the nervous system, skin, muscle, liver, intestines, and heart. It is made by the body and obtained from animal products in the diet. Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver and is needed for normal body functions including the production of hormones, bile acid, and Vitamin D. Excessive cholesterol in the blood contributes to atherosclerosis and subsequent heart disease. The risk of developing heart disease or atherosclerosis increases as the level of blood cholesterol increases.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Hypertension</strong><p>If your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure, you may have wondered, what's the big deal? Well high blood pressure IS a big deal, because it can lead to a heart attack, stroke, vision loss, and kidney disease, sometimes before you even realize you have it. When you have high blood pressure, you'll want to control it before it can lead to these dangerous complications. Let's talk about high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. Blood pressure measures the force at which your blood rushes against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it through your body. The higher the force, meaning the higher your blood pressure, the harder your heart has to work. High blood pressure damages not only your heart but also your arteries. When your doctor or nurse measures your blood pressure, you'll see two numbers. The top number is called systolic blood pressure. That's the force of blood in your arteries whenever your heart beats. The bottom number measures diastolic blood pressure, or the force of blood in between heartbeats. A measurement of 140 over 90 or higher is considered high blood pressure. When your blood pressure is 120 over 80 or higher, you have pre-hypertension. That means you're at risk for high blood pressure, but you're not quite there yet. You're more likely to have high blood pressure if you don't exercise regularly, you're obese, you eat too much salt, you have diabetes, you smoke, or you have a family history of high blood pressure. Most of the time, you won't know that you have high blood pressure. That's because high blood pressure usually doesn't cause symptoms. Unless you get your blood pressure checked, you may have no idea there's a problem until you develop heart disease or another complication. If your blood pressure is high, a few simple lifestyle changes can help bring it back down, and prevent its complications. Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, avoid fatty, salty, and sugary foods, exercise at least 30 minutes a day, limit salt to 1,500 milligrams or less a day, that's less than a teaspoon per day, and if you smoke, now is the perfect time to quit. Ask your doctor for tips on how to kick the habit. If these measures don't work, your doctor may prescribe one or more medicines to control your blood pressure. Because high blood pressure can sneak in without warning, stop it before it starts. Stay healthy, and have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you already have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice to get it under control.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>DASH diet</strong><p>A diet that is effective in lowering blood pressure is called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Electrocardiogram</strong><p>If your heart has been beating too fast, or you've been having chest pain, both you and your doctor will want to find out what's causing the problem so you can get it treated. One way to diagnose heart problems is with a test of the heart's electrical activity, called an electrocardiogram or ECG, or EKG for short. Your heart is controlled by an electrical system, much like the electricity that powers the lights and appliances in your home. Electrical signals make your heart contract so that it can pump blood out to your body. Heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, and other heart problems can affect those signals. Using an ECG, your doctor can identify problems in your heart's electrical system and diagnose heart disease.  So, how is an ECG done? First you'll lie down on a table. You'll have to lie very still while the test is done. Small patches, called electrodes, will be attached to several places on your arms, legs, and chest. The patches won't hurt, but some of the hair in those areas may be shaved so the patches will stick to your skin. The patches are then attached to a machine. You'll notice that when the machine is turned on, it produces wavy lines on a piece of paper. Those lines represent the electrical signals coming from your heart. If the test is normal, it should show that your heart is beating at an even rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute. Many different heart conditions can show up on an ECG, including a fast, slow, or abnormal heart rhythm, a heart defect, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, or an enlarged heart. An abnormal ECG may also be a sign that you've had a heart attack in the past, or that you're at risk for one in the near future. If you're healthy and you don't have any family or personal history of heart disease, you don't need to have an ECG on a regular basis. But if you are having heart problems, your doctor may recommend getting this test. An ECG is pretty accurate at diagnosing many types of heart disease, although it doesn't always pick up every heart problem. You may have a perfectly normal ECG, yet still have a heart condition. If your test is normal but your doctor suspects that you have a heart problem, he may recommend that you have another ECG, or a different type of test to find out for sure.  </p></div><div class=media-desc><strong>Aerobic exercise</strong><p>
Aerobic exercise gets the heart working to pump blood through the heart more quickly and with more force than normal. As blood is pumped faster, it must be oxygenated more quickly, which quickens respiration. Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and boosts healthy cholesterol levels. Low impact aerobics include walking and swimming. Running, tennis and dance are high impact aerobics.</p></div>
Heart Topics

Health Library

Arrhythmias, Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease, more...

Start here

Healthy Lifestyle

Heart disease and diet, Wellness tools, Fitness, more...

Start here

Tests and Treatments

Heart bypass, Open Heart Surgery, Valve repair, more...

Start here

Alternative Medicine

Atheroscierosis, High blood pressure, Myocardial infarction, more...

Start here
Health Assessments

Minimize your risk

Receive a personalized message to improve your health and lifestyle.

Diet and Nutrition

Fitness

Heart Attack

Stress and Anxiety

Wellness Tools

Resources for better health

A variety of wellness tools to support your journey towards heart health and wellness

Desirable Body
Weight Calculator

Nutritional Needs
Calculator

Smoking Cessation

Target Heart
Rate Calculator

My Checkups

Schedule routine exams

Select gender and age

ways to give

view all

news room

view all

healthcare library

view all
Event Calendar

Hunterdon Healthcare offers an array of educational events, including childbirth, healthy living and fitness classes.

LEARN MORE
Health and Wellness Centers

Where health and fitness meet to help you stay healthy at every age.

LEARN MORE
Heart & Vascular

Heart and Vascular Services Department brings world-class cardiovascular care to our community.

LEARN MORE