Heart Disease affects 84 million people in America. 1 in 4 deaths each year is caused by heart disease. Various heart conditions including diseased vessels, structural problems, and blood clots contribute to the disease. In honor of Heart Month, we’ll discuss the most common types of heart conditions that contribute to the overwhelming death rates and common symptoms to look for to ensure you can recognize any possibility of heart disease.
Coronary Artery Disease
Currently the leading cause of death in women, coronary artery disease is damage or disease in the heart’s major blood vessels (arteries). Coronary artery disease can have no systems, but people may experience pain in the chest, indigestion or nausea, lightheadedness or sweating. The most common sign is a fast heart rate or shortness of breath.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition in which the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. There are usually no symptoms for high blood pressure but if left untreated, can lead to more severe heart disease including stroke.
Commonly confused with heart attacks, it differs in that it occurs suddenly and most often without warning signs. Cardiac arrest is caused by another heart condition, arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat in which the heart beats too fast or too slow. Sometimes arrhythmia can cause dizziness, fluttering of the chest or chest pain and can be warning signs of cardiac arrest.
Congestive Heart Failure (Heart failure)
A chronic progressive condition in which fluid builds up around the heart causing an inability to pump enough blood to your body. Eventually, blood and other fluids can build up in other parts of your body such as your lungs, abdomen, liver, and lower body. Some symptoms of congestive heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs and rapid heartbeat. There is no cure for congestive heart failure
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
A circulatory condition in which the peripheral arteries that serve the legs, stomach, arms and head, narrow. Leg pain, especially when walking is an indicator of PAD. If left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation.
Strokes occur when the blood flow to the brain stops. This may be caused by a blocked artery or the leaking or busting of a blood vessel. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Stroke symptoms are sudden and include, numbness or weakness in the face, arm or body, confusion, trouble speaking, trouble seeing, trouble walking or lack of coordination.
Congenital Heart Disease
A defect with heart structure that develops before birth. This is a rare condition that results in defective blood vessels, leaky heart valves or a hole in the heart. Some symptoms include, bluish tint to the skin, abnormal heart beat, swollen body tissue or organ, trouble breathing and feeding difficulties.
Heart disease is preventable by making healthier life choices and taking care of any existing conditions.
- Eat a balanced diet; eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and those high in fiber. Limit salt and sugar.
- Workout regularly; the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise for adults and 1 hour of physical activity for teens and children.
- Maintain a healthy weight; see you doctor to calculate your body mass index (BMI) and determine if you are at a healthy weight.
- Limit alcohol use to keep your blood pressure at healthy levels. Too much alcohol raises blood pressure.
- Don’t smoke or kick the habit – smoking is detrimental to the health and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you need help quitting, see a doctor immediately.
If you have an existing condition such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s important to maintain your health and get proper treatment.
- Have your cholesterol checked at least every 5 years
- Have your blood pressure checked every 2 years or more frequently if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure
- Manage your diabetes by monitoring blood sugar levels by carefully following your doctor’s instructions, including monitoring your blood levels and taking any medications as prescribed
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you are displaying very serious signs such as an inability to wake up, seizures, or repeated vomiting, it is a time-sensitive medical emergency and you should seek immediate care and proceed to the emergency room right away.