The number one killer of men and women in America is heart disease. It is responsible for approximately 26 percent of all deaths. The American Heart Association estimates one person in the United States dies from a heart attack every 34 seconds. Three quarters of a million people will experience their first heart attack this year, and nearly half a million will endure another heart attack. Nearly 27 million people in America have been diagnosed with heart disease with millions more who go undiagnosed until it is too late. The disease can strike any person no matter their race or gender.
Heart disease is the umbrella term used to cover a number of conditions, including heart attack. Coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease and ischemic heart disease are just some of the conditions that fall under the heart disease category.
Most people are aware of one key symptom of heart attack. That symptom is sudden chest pain. The pain may be excruciating or just a dull ache. A burning sensation may also accompany the chest pain, leading many to believe they are experiencing indigestion. The pain may spread throughout the back, arms and face. Sudden nausea, sweating or dizziness are also common heart attack symptoms. An irregular or rapid heart rate may be noticed as well.
Heart disease is typically used to describe a person who is at risk for a heart attack. The symptoms are similar to heart attack symptoms but may be more chronic. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath may accompany a tight feeling in the chest area. Pressure in the chest is also common. A person may notice their heartbeat is irregular and may even skip beats. A feeling of weakness or being lightheaded may indicate heart disease.
Heart disease can be hereditary, but in many cases it is the result of poor lifestyle choices. Unhealthy diets and a lack of regular exercise are common culprits. Eating a diet high in fat can lead to a lining or hardening of the arteries. This lining slows or restricts blood flow to and from the heart. These poor choices often lead to obesity, which is a leading cause of heart disease. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse can also cause heart disease.
Heart disease is diagnosed through a series of tests. A person who has any of the earlier mentioned risk factors will most likely be tested for heart disease early in life. Risk factors or signs that indicate heart disease may also include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history and obesity.
A series of tests ordered by a doctor will determine if a person has heart disease. Symptoms alone do not guarantee a diagnosis. An EKG, echocardiogram and chest x-rays will give a doctor an inside view of what is going on inside the heart. A stress test may be ordered to evaluate the heart’s response to physical activity. An MRI and CT scan are also common tests used to diagnose heart disease. More extensive testing may be ordered that includes running a catheter into the heart via an artery in the leg. This allows the doctor to evaluate blood flow.
Treatment of heart disease will typically include prescription medication to reduce some of the risk factors. Surgery may be necessary to repair blocked or damaged arteries and heart valves. Lifestyle changes are a must. A doctor will give strict orders about diet and exercise that must be adhered to.
It is never too late to start making healthy lifestyle choices. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day can help reduce the risk of heart attack. Eating a diet low in fatty foods that are high in cholesterol is also helpful. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 supplements and Fish Oil supplements are available and safe to use. Quitting smoking and recreational drug use is imperative.
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