causes of heart disease

Preventing heart disease, part 1:
Risk factors for developing heart disease

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the three leading causes of death in the US are:

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  • Accidents

The number one on the list, heart disease, is so prevalent that it alone accounts for more than 1 in 4 American deaths!

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Recognizing the signs of a heart attack

Everyone should know the signs of a possible heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort: pain, pressure, tightness that may spread to arms, neck, jaw, or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Light-headed
  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
Women and people with diabetes may show other signs of a possible heart attack:
  • Vague chest or Abdominal discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Obvious difficulty breathing

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not drive to the Emergency Room!

Recognizing the signs of a stroke

Walk: ls there sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination?
Talk: ls speech slurred or face droopy?
Reach: ls one side of the body weak or numb?
See: ls there trouble seeing with one or both eyes?
Feel: ls there a sudden severe headache?

If any of these symptoms happen suddenly, call 911 immediately. It is important to take action right away.

Risk factors for developing heart disease

While genetics and age are two heart disease risk factors beyond our control, there are a number of lifestyle choices all of us can make to lessen our chances of developing heart disease and stroke:

  1. Control our Cholesterol
    1 in 6 Americans has high cholesterol and this factor alone doubles a person's risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, high cholesterol can affect the kidney's ability to regulate fluids and hormones.

  2. Control our Blood Pressure
    1 in 4 Americans has high blood pressure but most of us don't realize it. Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure often displays no symptoms. And once a person has high blood pressure, it usually lasts a lifetime so prevention is crucial.

  3. If you have Diabetes, work with your healthcare provider to manage it.
    1 in 12 Americans are believed to be affected by diabetes however 1/3 of those with diabetes are undiagnosed. Unfortunately, the disease is growing at epidemic proportions. The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has grown from 1.5 million in 1958 to 18.8 million in 2010. In addition, another 79 million adults, 1 in 4 of us are pre-diabetic -- a condition where our blood glucose levels are high but not to the level where we would be diagnosed as diabetic. The encouraging news here is that, by losing weight and increasing our activity level, those of us who are pre diabetic can often delay or even prevent the condition from progressing to diabetes.

What does a heart healthy diet look like?

heart healthy dietEating right can help to 1) lower cholesterol levels that contribute to artery-blocking plaque, 2) minimize plaque-caused blood clots and 3) reducing blood pressure levels.

Fortunately, many of the foods that support brain health, such as fruits, vegetables and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, trout, herring and mackerel) may also help to lower one's risk of developing heart disease. In addition, a heart-healthy diet should include plenty of whole grains, beans and lean meats -- while minimizing saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar.

For more information on the affects that cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes have on heart health, visit:
http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
http://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/hbp/intro.htm
http://ndep.nih.gov/diabetes-facts/index.aspx
http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/#fast

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