Protecting Your Heart: The Importance of Heart Health
posted by The Live Better Team | April 1, 2016
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women? As of 2015, one out of every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease kills more women every year than any other medical condition, including all forms of cancer combined.
Americans suffer approximately 720,000 heart attacks annually, and over 370,000 people die from coronary heart disease each year. The American Heart Association reports that over 7 million Americans have experienced a heart attack.
“Heart disease” refers to many different conditions. It’s possible to have heart disease for years without noticing any symptoms.
Coronary artery disease, or cardiovascular disease, refers to a blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Atherosclerosis is caused by the build-up of plaque in artery walls that narrows them, restricting blood flow. If a clot forms, blood flow is further impeded, and the result is a stroke or heart attack.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks one of the blood vessels that feed the brain. The death of the brain cells causes a loss of function associated with that region of the brain, such as limb movement or speech.
Approximately 370,000 people die from coronary heart disease each year.
Arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, are irregularities in the heartbeat’s rhythm. It may be very fast and chaotic, as in tachycardia, or too slow, called bradycardia.
Cardiomyopathy is a thickening or stiffening of the heart muscle that is often symptomless. Arrhythmias combined with cardiomyopathy can lead to sudden death.
Congestive Heart Failure is often caused by high blood pressure or coronary artery disease that leaves the heart too weak to pump effectively.
Aging, smoking, obesity, and a family history of heart disease are major risk factors. Although men are at greater risk of heart disease, menopause increases the risk for women because low levels of estrogen contribute to the development of small vessel heart disease. Other risk factors include:
“Almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms,” according to the CDC, and unlike men, women don’t always experience chest pain when having a heart attack. Women under age 55 who do visit an emergency room during a painless heart attack are more likely to die than men, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Some of the other symptoms of a heart attack in a woman include:
The Mayo Clinic reports that many forms of heart disease are both treatable and preventable with healthy lifestyle choices.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Walking is one of the best ways to achieve this. Just one half hour of brisk daily walking lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of diabetes, decreasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. What if we told you that every hour you walk adds two hours to your life expectancy? You can even break up your walk into 15-minute sessions and enjoy the same benefits.
Eat a heart healthy diet with abundant fruits and vegetables. Oats, saltwater fish, berries, and citrus fruits are especially smart cardiovascular-protective choices.
Research shows a link between the inflammation caused by gum disease and heart disease and stroke. Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.