Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The more forcefully that blood pumps, the more the arteries stretch to allow blood to easily flow. Increased force or stretch equates to high blood pressure.

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The effects decongestants have on the circulatory system make them dangerous for anyone who has an irregular heart rhythm, heart disease, glaucoma or high blood pressure. People who have these or related conditions should not take decongestants. Antihistamines don’t present a danger unless decongestants accompany them.

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What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (A fib) is one of the most common heart rhythm disorders, affecting more than two million people in the United States. In A fib, the heart beats rapidly and irregularly. Although not directly life threatening, A fib can cause palpitations, other rhythm problems, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and stroke. The chance of a stroke is increased five-fold in patients with A fib.
The likelihood of developing A fib increases with age but can occur in young patients as well. Treatment of A fib includes medications to establish normal rhythm, medications to slow the heart rate during A fib, and medications that reduce the chance of a blood clot forming which can lead to stroke. Often A fib can be difficult to control. New procedures are now available which can cure A fib in selected patients.

I often feel like my heart skips a beat. Is this normal?

One of the most common presenting complaints to a cardiologist is the complaint of a “skipped heartbeat.” Normal heart rhythm is dictated by the sinus node, the pacemaker of the heart, which resides in the top right cardiac chamber. The sinus node sends electrical impulses to the bottom chambers of the heart, the ventricles, through specialized conduction tissue. The resulting rhythm is regular – the top chambers, the atria, beat first followed by beating in the ventricles.  The sensation of skipped beats usually comes from extra electrical beats originating in the atria or ventricles. These extra beats are very common and can increase with stress or increased caffeine intake. As we get older, the frequency of these extra beats tends to increase. Generally, these extra beats do not represent a serious problem, but if they persist consultation with a physician is recommended.


What does a Holter monitor tell me about my heart?

A: A Holter monitor is a portable electrocardiogram (EKG) that monitors the electrical activity of an ambulatory patient’s heart for a 24-hour period. It is most often used when your physician suspects an abnormal heart rhythm, often based on complaints of a sensation of a beating heart, a fast heartbeat, or palpitations.