What disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S.? If you answered cancer, you are wrong. heart disease kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Research completed by the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows; in 2005, 652,091 people died in the U.S. Fifty and one half percent of those deaths were women. These numbers project an eerie picture, one out of every four women who die each year will die from heart disease. In 2004, nearly sixty percent more women died of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) than from all cancers combined.
There are many different types of heart disease one may be affected by, and the best method of prevention is awareness.
(CAD) Coronary artery disease – This most common type of heart disease is also the leading cause of heart attacks. When a person has CAD, their arteries begin to narrow and harden due to plaque build-up, limiting the amount of blood flowing to the heart. Plaque consists of excess cholesterol, calcium, and other substances which float in the blood supply. Atherosclerosis is another name for the hardening of the arteries. CAD can lead to other problems such as Angina.
Angina – this is a pain or discomfort experienced when the heart does not get the amount of blood it needs to function properly. This pain which may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain occurs most often in the chest, but may also affect the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back. Angina is a sign you are more likely to have a heart attack.
Heart attack – this occurs when an artery is partially or completely blocked and prevents the heart from getting the blood it requires for twenty minutes or more.
Heart failure – this condition occurs when the heart is prevented from pumping the proper amount of blood through the body. This is not a heart attack; this is where the other organs of the body do not receive enough blood. Following are a few signs of heart failure: shortness of breath, swelling in feet, ankles or legs, or extreme tiredness.
Heart arrhythmias – this occurs when there are changes in the beat of the heart. These changes are harmless for most people. Most people have felt dizzy, faint, out of breath or chest pains from time to time; however if this is something that keeps happening one should seek medical help as these may be the signs of an arrhythmia.
Atrial Fibrillation – This is the most common cause of all irregular heartbeats and having this condition increases a person’s risk of stroke and heart disease. This condition is a problem with the electrical activity of the heart.
Congenital heart defects – This condition is something that has been present since birth, an abnormality in the formation of the heart. Although unsure of the exact causes of these deformities, heredity and a fetus being exposed to infection, radiation or other toxic substances while in the womb have been found to be causes in some cases. These defects will also cause an increased risk of developing heart failure, endocarditis, atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
Myocarditis – This condition causes the heart muscle to become inflamed. This condition may occur after a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection such as diphtheria, rheumatic fever, or tuberculosis which is more common heard of today than the two previous infections.
Cardiomyopathy – This disease affect the heart muscle, and the way it pumps. Cardiomyopathy may be an inherited condition, or it may also develop as a result of damage to the heart caused by a heart attack. This disease may also lead to heart failure and atrial fibrillation.
There are three different types of cardiomyopathy:
– Dilated cardiomyopathy – the chambers of the heart become enlarged and weaken.
– Restricvtive cardiomyopathy – the heart muscles stiffen.
– Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – the heart muscles cannot relax properly due to the muscles thickening.
The diseases and conditions listed above may have you thinking, “What could I do to prevent this from happening to me?” Exercising regularly and eating healthy are two steps in the right direction. Listed below are some other tips to prevention of heart disease.
Watch your cholesterol level. The liver actually produces cholesterol which is used by the body to build new cells, insulate nerves, and help produce hormones. The liver produces the proper amount of cholesterol for the body to use. Consuming foods such as milk, cheese, and eggs, which are animal-based foods; also causes cholesterol to enter into the body. The build-up of excess plaque is what causes the hardening of arteries. Even if your cholesterol level is already high, lowering that level will reduce your chances of having a heart attack and of dying from heart disease. There are no symptoms for high cholesterol; therefore it is recommended that a person have their cholesterol checked every five years after the age of twenty.
Watch your blood pressure. A normal healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. A person with a pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is considered to have pre-hypertension, which means if they do not adopt different lifestyles they will develop hypertension. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, heart failure, and stroke. Some ways to prevent high blood pressure are:
– Exercise regularly
– Eat healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables.
– Avoid foods that are high in salt.
– If you do consume alcoholic beverages, do it in moderation.
– Maintain a healthy weight, and if you are over- weight try to lose weight.
Learn how to control your stress. Everyone has to deal with stress at some point in their lives, and most likely it will be something you have to deal with very often over the years. Work stresses such as starting a new job or unemployment, and personal stressors such as a friend or family member becoming ill or dying are just a few examples of how common life can put us under pressure. Most people have been able to feel their blood pressure rise when they are in a situation which causes anger, frustration, or anxious feelings. Many people will go and binge eat, or smoke like a chimney when they are stressed out, not realizing they are just adding fuel to the fire. The key is to deal with these pressures in a therapeutic way, and not to let them build up and eat away at your health. Find a hobby or activity that you can focus on when these feelings occur, you’ll find the effort you direct to these activities will help alleviate a great deal of the stress you experience.
Stop smoking. 20% of deaths from heart disease are directly related to smoking, and the more cigarettes you smoke the higher your risk of having a heart attack. Second hand smoke is harmful as well causing chronic respiratory conditions, cancer and heart disease. An estimated 35,000 people die each year from heart disease related to exposure to second-hand smoke.
Research and technology has helped us devise interventions for those affected by heart disease and some of the associated risk factors. We now have medications and special diets to help us in lowering our cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as medications to help us quit smoking, lose weight, and reduce stress. One downfall to these treatments is every medicine you put into your body has some type of side-effect. Angioplasties, Stents, Bypass Surgery, Defibrillators, and Pacemakers are a few of the technologies we have been able to evolve and perfect over the years; making it possible to save the lives of some affected by the many types of heart disease. For people living with heart disease, it is important to remember, intervention isn’t a cure. The same methods of prevention suggested for those unaffected by this disease, is imperative to those who have been affected who want to achieve a long healthy life.