A Change of Heart: Your Guide to Better Cardiac Health
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The Scope of Heart Disease
Nearly half of all Americans are affected by at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. These risk factors contribute to 735,000 heart attacks annually in the United States. In fact, every 34 seconds, someone in the US suffers a heart attack—525,000 for the first time and 210,000 repeat victims. The financial ramifications of these conditions cannot be overlooked; the annual cost of heart disease in the United States is approximately $320.1 billion, which accounts for both direct and indirect costs, including medical expenses and lost productivity.
Globally, heart disease results in 17.3 million deaths per year, and women are particularly at risk: although it is commonly thought of as a man’s disease, heart disease is the number one cause of death in women around the world. Four in five women are unaware that heart disease is their greatest health threat, and 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
Know the Symptoms
Despite the prevalence of heart attacks in the United States, only 27 percent of Americans are aware of the symptoms of this threat. Similarly, few Americans are aware of the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat that increases the risk of heart failure and stroke. While the symptoms of these cardiac conditions may not always be evident, they are important to recognize; knowing these signs can save a life.
Heart attack symptoms:
- Chest pressure or discomfort
- Discomfort in one or both arms
- Back, neck, jaw, or stomach discomfort
- Shortness of breath
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) symptoms:
- Fatigue or dizziness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Fluttering or thumping feeling in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety or confusion
- Chest pain or pressure
If you think someone is having a heart attack or suffers from atrial fibrillation…
- Sit the person down
- Keep them calm
- Loosen tight clothing
- Help them take medication for known heart conditions
- DO NOT give the person oral medications unless prescribed
- DO NOT wait to see if symptoms disappear - call 911 immediately
Leading a healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. Cardiologists have concluded that eating healthy, managing your blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, committing to regular exercise, reducing your blood sugar, and quitting smoking are the best prevention methods. In fact, only one year after quitting smoking, an individual’s risk associated with smoking is cut in half.
Unfortunately, less than one percent of US adults meet the American Heart Association's guidelines for an ideal healthy diet. For a well-rounded, heart-healthy diet, incorporate fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts while limiting red meat, sodium, and sugary foods and beverages. Avoid high cholesterol by reducing saturated fats to no more than five to six percent of total calories consumed in a day (13 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet). In addition to careful health and dietary monitoring, The American Heart Association recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, which can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by up to 30 percent.
Having a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can help you manage your blood pressure and blood sugar, which can consequently lower your risk of developing heart disease. Furthermore, the risks are higher for those who don’t maintain a healthy body weight: a body mass index (BMI) over 25 is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. With nearly 70 percent of US adults classified as either overweight or obese, cardiologists consider it essential to educate patients about the benefits of healthy eating. Additional risk factors include diabetes, which puts adults four times more at risk for heart disease, and high blood pressure, a condition from which one in three Americans suffers. Many adults don’t know they have high blood pressure, so patients are encouraged to have theirs checked by a doctor.
Contact your cardiologist for more information about heart health and the specifics of your own cardiac health. To find a cardiologist who fits your health and insurance needs, call HealthFinder at 504-456-5000.