2/8/2012: Heart Disease – Prevention and Common Warning Signs

How Common is Heart Disease in the United States?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. It is estimated to affect more than 750,000 people each year. In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 25 seconds and every minute, someone dies from a heart-related event.

What are the most common factors that put me at a high risk for developing heart disease?

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Uncontrolled stress

What can I do to lower my risk?

  • Improve your cholesterol levels. You should try to keep your total cholesterol below 200mg/dL; keep HDL, the “good cholesterol,” higher than 40mg/dL in men and 50mg/dL in women; and keep LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” less than 130mg/dL. If you do not know your cholesterol levels search the internet to find places that offer free cholesterol screenings in your area.
  • Control high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure control it with diet, exercise and, if needed, medication.
  • Keep your type 2 diabetes in check. If not controlled, type 2 diabetes can lead to heart attack and even death. You can control diabetes through diet, exercise, weight management and, if required, medication.
  • Stop smoking. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack compared to a nonsmoker. If you smoke, quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese greatly increases your risk for heart disease by putting strain on your heart. It also puts you at a higher risk for developing other heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Eating right and exercising reduces your risk.
  • Eat balanced and nutritious meals. Eat a diet low in salt, saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol and sugar. Try to consume foods high in vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. Fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and whole grains help fight heart disease.
  • Stay physically active. People who do not exercise regularly have higher rates of heart disease. Even mild to moderate exercise reduces your risk.
  • Control stress. Excessive and un-controlled stress can lead to heart attack and stroke. Manage your stress by practicing relaxation exercises, performing yoga, setting manageable and realistic goals, and allowing yourself time to relax.

What are the most common warning signs of a heart attack?

  • Chest pain
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other symptoms include nausea, light-headedness and sweating

Can people with bleeding disorders have heart disease?
Since a heart attack usually occurs because a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart, you might think that a person with a bleeding disorder would have a low risk of having a heart attack. While some studies have found this to be true, others have seen similar heart disease rates between those with hemophilia and the general population. People with hemophilia are just as likely to have other heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. Even if you have a bleeding disorder, it is best to take good care of your heart by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Read more about reducing your risk and identifying the signs of a heart attack by visiting the National Institutes of Health “Act in Time” resource at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/actintime/index.htm.

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