CIS Cardiologist Dr. Akshit Sharma answers questions and addresses myths about cardiovascular disease

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As February 2023’s Heart Month comes to a close, local cardiologist Dr. Akshit Sharma, MD answered some important questions as part of a series on how community members can stay heart healthy, happy, and avoid cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Sharma is an interventional cardiologist at the Cardiovascular Institute of the South in Thibodaux. He attended Thanjavur Medical College in India and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine in Kansas City, Missouri. Dr. Sharma went on to complete his cardiovascular diseases and interventional cardiology fellowships at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Dr. Sharma is board-certified in multiple areas and is a member of many professional societies. 

How prevalent is cardiovascular disease and what are the different forms? 

Cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure, heart defects, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and more. Essentially, it is a broad term that we use to describe any narrowing or blockages within the legs, the hearts, or the arteries. Nearly 86 million people across the world died of heart disease in the year 2019 alone. As these numbers reflect, it is highly prevalent, and is the number one cause of death in America. 

How does leg pain and cramping relate to cardiovascular disease?

I hear so many myths from community members that leg pain and cramping is only muscular or arthritic, but this is not true. The cause of leg pain can be muscles, joints, nerves, but it can also be a cardiovascular circulation issue, which is what we call peripheral vascular disease. In this case, this is caused by the narrowing or blockage of vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs and back up to the heart, which causes the leg pain. The vascular disease does not just present with leg pain and cramping, but also pain walking, leg sores, and changes in skin color. So yes, patients with leg pain and cramping often relate to cardiovascular disease. 

How does CIS treat peripheral disease?

At CIS, we focus on providing comprehensive care for our patients. We don’t just focus on treating our patients who have symptoms, but also treating patients who are at a high risk for heart attack or stroke, such as people with peripheral vascular disease. We often treat peripheral vascular disease with medications or with surgery if needed. A lot of times, patients with peripheral vascular diseases are treated with antibiotics for infections and inflammations, when really there is an underlying vascular issue. As I said earlier, at CIS we treat a wide variety of patients, from asymptomatic to advanced cases.  

Thank you to Dr. Sharma, for answering these useful American Heart Month questions and helping to keep the Terrebonne Parish community heart healthy for years to come!