Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States – more than cancer or accidents – and accounts for one of every four deaths. Of the 735,000 Americans who have a heart attack each year, for 525,000, it is their first heart attack.1
Are you putting yourself at risk?
While “heart disease” includes congenital heart defects (those you are born with), many forms of heart disease can be treated – or avoided altogether – with healthy lifestyle choices. Risk factors include:
- Age. Your risk of heart disease increases with age.
- Gender. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease.
- Genetics. If a close relative developed heart disease before the age of 55, you may be at increased risk.
- Smoking. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
- Cancer therapies. Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Diet. A diet that’s high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
- Blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to hardening and thickening of your arteries.
- 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.
- Obesity. Carrying extra weight can lead to other contributing factors.
- Inactivity. Lack of exercise increases your risk of developing heart disease.
- Stress. Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries.
- Hygiene. Poor hygiene, including dental care, can lead to viral or bacterial infections that can put you at risk of heart infections.2
Protect your heart with healthy behaviors
There are things that you can do to protect your heart and reduce your chance of developing heart disease. If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, these lifestyle changes can help you avoid further complications:
- Quit smoking. Your lungs aren’t the only organ that will benefit when you become a non-smoker. After just one year as a non-smoker, you will cut your risk of developing heart disease by 50%! Talk to your doctor about medications that can help you quit or to your Health Mart pharmacist about over-the-counter cessation aids.
- Get active. Are you one of the four in five American adults who do not get enough physical activity? Find activities you will enjoy and can do in your own home or community.
- Eat healthy. A recent study found that about 45% of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes were from poor eating habits. The big culprits? Too much salt, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened drinks and too few nuts, omega-3 fats, vegetables, and fruits.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Even if your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers currently look good, obesity can still increase your risk of heart disease.3
- Consult with your doctor. Stay in touch with your doctor to monitor your heart health with regular check-ups. Know your numbers – blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar – and follow your doctor’s
Don’t wait – call 911
Know the warning signs of a heart attack and act quickly if you or someone you know might be having a heart attack. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of a positive outcome.
Common warning signs include:
- Chest pain or discomfort (uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It may last a few minutes or go away and come back)
- Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats4
Women may experience a heart attack very differently than men. While women can experience the classic symptom of chest pain or pressure, they may instead experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.
Because their symptoms can vary from classic signs of a heart attack, women often pass off signs of a heart attack as acid reflux, the flu, aging or other non-life-threatening ailments.5
Health Mart. Caring for you and about you.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
- CDC: “Leading Causes of Death.” Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm Accessed 1-17-19.
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118 Accessed 1-17-19.
- Benjamin EJ et al. Circulation. “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2018 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association.” Available at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000558 Accessed 1-17-19.
- CDC: “Heart Disease Facts.” Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm Accessed 1-17-19.
- American Heart Association: “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.” Available at: http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack/heart-attack-symptoms-in-women Accessed 1-17-19.