Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, claiming an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. That’s one in every five deaths in the United States, with one person dying every 34 seconds according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But cardiovascular disease is also a preventable condition. Paying attention to your heart health can help you stay informed and make smart decisions when it comes to improving your overall health and quality of life. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about heart disease and how you can prevent it.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a general term for any type of disorder that affects the heart. Different types of heart disease include conditions such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, and congenital heart defects.
Types of heart disease
There are several types of heart disease, each with their own specific causes and symptoms. Here are a few of the most common types:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): This is the most common type of heart disease and occurs when the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle) become narrowed or blocked by plaque buildup. This can lead to chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, and heart attack.
- Heart valve disease: This occurs when one or more of the heart valves (the structures that control the flow of blood in and out of the heart) do not work properly. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.
- Arrhythmia: This occurs when the heart beats too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly. This can cause symptoms such as lightheadedness, fainting, and chest pain.
- Heart failure: This occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.
- Cardiomyopathy: This is a disease of the heart muscle that can make it harder for the heart to pump blood. This can lead to heart failure, arrhythmias and blood clots
- Aortic Aneurysm: This is an abnormal bulging of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. If left untreated, it can rupture and lead to serious complications or death.
These are only some of the types of heart disease, and it’s important to speak with your doctor about your specific risk factors and symptoms.
Risk factors for heart disease
Heart disease is caused by a combination of family history and lifestyle factors. Risk for heart disease includes:
- Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure
- Lack of exercise and physical inactivity
- High blood pressure
- High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol
- Unhealthy diet
- High cholesterol
It’s important to be aware that many risk factors can be controlled through lifestyle choices—so if you’re living with any of these heart conditions, make sure to talk to your doctor about ways to manage them.
Signs and symptoms of heart disease
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heart disease is crucial in catching it early on. Common symptoms of heart disease include:
- Chest pain or angina
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
- Swelling in leg (edema)
- Pain, numbness or weakness in other areas like the arms, neck, jaw, throat, upper belly area or back
If you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few minutes at a time (or multiple times over the course of days or weeks), talk to your doctor right away—early detection is key!
It’s also important to remember that even if you don’t experience any of these warning signs, it doesn’t mean your heart is healthy. Some individuals may not experience any symptoms, or their symptoms may be mild and not always obvious.The only way to be sure is to see your doctor for regular checkups and screenings.
It’s never too late to start making healthy lifestyle changes—especially when it comes to preventing heart disease. Here are some of the best ways to protect and keep your heart in tip-top shape.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a heart healthy diet is a key factor in keeping yourself healthy and strong. Eating plenty of healthy food such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins provides essential vitamins and minerals that keep your heart functioning properly.
Avoiding processed foods with high levels of sodium or fat can help reduce your risk for developing cardiovascular diseases. Seeking the advice of a registered dietitian or nutritionist can provide you with personalized diet advice and help you create a cardiovascular dietary management plan that’s tailored to your needs.
And don’t forget about hydration. Drinking enough water every day helps keep blood flowing throughout your body more efficiently and helps keep your heart from having to work as hard.
Regular exercise is essential for keeping your heart healthy. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a few times per week to keep your cardiovascular system strong and functioning properly. Even just going for a walk is enough to get your blood flowing and make sure that everything is running smoothly.
Exercise also releases endorphins which help boost mood and reduce stress levels, both positive benefits for overall heart health.
Manage stress levels
Stress is an unavoidable part of life but having high levels of stress on an ongoing basis can have a negative effect on the health of your heart. Learning how to manage stress effectively is essential if you want long-term good health for yourself and those around you.
Meditation, yoga, journaling or other forms of creative expression are excellent ways to release tension without resorting to unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking alcohol in excess.
Get regular checkups
The first step is one that we should all be taking anyway—regular checkups with your doctor. Even if you don’t feel any symptoms or discomfort, it’s still important to get regular checkups so that you can catch any potential problems before they turn into serious issues such as heart attack or stroke.
Your doctor will be able to tell you if there are any risk factors for heart disease that you need to be aware of, as well as suggest lifestyle changes or medications that may help reduce those risks.
Your heart health matters
Taking care of our hearts means living healthier lives with greater energy levels and improved quality of life in general. Visit a Nao Medical near you to talk with a healthcare provider about any concerns you might have regarding cardiovascular health. It’s an opportunity for you to discuss your individual needs and learn more about heart disease awareness and how to take preventive measures for heart health.
With convenient online scheduling, there’s never been a better time to visit Nao Medical and get the expert advice you need to protect your heart.