Providers Weigh In: A Healthy Heart is the Best Way to Prevent Hypertension

Friday, June 10, 2016

Nancy Miranda, M.D.

Nancy Miranda, MD
Family Medicine

Without even the slightest indication, hypertension is one of the most prevalent and potentially dangerous health conditions we face.

Hypertension — also known as high blood pressure — is a chronic condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated beyond a healthy level. The more blood the heart has to pump, the more strain is put on the heart as a muscle, resulting in the lining of the arteries wearing down more quickly.

“Hypertension is the result of a number of unhealthy conditions and lifestyle choices that make your heart work harder and increase your risk, such as obesity, inactivity, and high sodium intake,” says Dr. Nancy Miranda, a family medicine practitioner at the Mile Square Health Center – Back of the Yards site.

Because there are largely no symptoms of hypertension, many people go without ever knowing that they are have it and may reach the severe and life threatening levels of hypertension where they begin to experience side effects, such as nosebleeds, shortness of breath, and headaches. At this point, the heart and other organs have already experienced substantial, permanent damage, and the person is at risk of heart attack, kidney and heart failure, stroke, and aneurysm.

Although hypertension affects a large portion of the population, especially as people age, it is not a “normal” part of the heart’s life cycle.

Dr. Miranda suggests exercise and a healthy diet as two major ways to lower the risk of developing hypertension. When someone has excessive weight, the heart has to pump more blood to meet the body’s needs. Exercising – especially cardiovascular exercise — helps the heart grow stronger, which makes pumping blood easier.

Too much sodium in your bloodstream causes the heart to do extra work to wash out your blood, which causes your blood pressure to rise. Consuming less salty and fatty foods will both help you lose weight and increase the quality of your blood — reducing your risk of hypertension.

Do your heart a favor – be gentle with it! Visit Family Medicine at UI Health to schedule an appointment to discuss your heart health or to get help with dieting and exercise.