We talk a lot on our blog about sudden cardiac arrest, but today let’s look at a broader topic in heart health. The CDC lays out some scary statistics from the American Heart Association about cardiovascular disease in their article on Heart Month:
“Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities. CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.”
As the Mayo Clinic explains, “Cardiovascular disease is caused by narrowed, blocked or stiffened blood vessels that prevent your heart, brain or other parts of your body from receiving enough blood.” Unfortunately, these conditions aren’t often found until after a patient experiences a heart attack or stroke. So understanding the symptoms of these diseases is critical in order to get the right care as quickly as possible.
Symptoms vary depending on what type of heart ailment is present, and the Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive review in their article on CVD.
Always remember that there are three hallmark symptoms which indicate immediate action should be taken. Seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Risk factors for CVD
- Age. Aging increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle.
- Sex. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, women's risk increases after menopause.
- Family history. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).
- Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
- Poor diet. A diet that's high in fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
- High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
- High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. Both conditions share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
- Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
- Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with many forms of heart disease and some of its other risk factors, as well.
- Stress. Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors for heart disease.
- Poor hygiene. Not regularly washing your hands and not establishing other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put you at risk of heart infections, especially if you already have an underlying heart condition. Poor dental health also may contribute to heart disease.
The next time you see your doctor, be sure he or she has a record of any family history of heart disease that may impact your health, and explore together the preventative measures you can take to keep your heart going for many years to come.
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