According to the World Health Organization, heart disease kills more people than any other disease on earth. Despite this statistic, however, many people don’t know what to look for and are taken by surprise when they fine themselves faced with this disease. Fortunately, a little education can go a long way in reducing your risk for developing this debilitating and life threatening condition.
Keep Up on New Technology
Technology has advanced the way doctors diagnose and treat heart disease and other conditions closely associated with cardiovascular disease. For example, a special ultrasound can detect heart disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who are at special risk for certain types of cardiovascular conditions.
Heredity Versus Lifestyle
Understand the risks you cannot change. Heredity plays an important role in cardiac health as does age, race and gender. According to the American Heart Association, 82 percent of people who die from heart disease are over the age of 65. Men are at greater risk for heart attacks, although a woman’s risk increases after menopause. African Americans are more apt to have high blood pressure than Caucasians, along with a higher risk for heart disease.
Those with a strong family history of heart disease frequently have other modifiable risks for heart disease.
Learn everything you can about heart disease. Ask your doctor smart questions and ask her to explain anything you do not understand.
Do not smoke or use tobacco products. Chemicals in cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless tobaccos can damage your heart and blood vessels.
Exercise for 30 minutes a day, at least four days a week. Studies show exercise reduces the risk for heart disease, especially when done in conjunction with other lifestyle changes. Keep your weight within healthy limits.
Eat a diet low in fat, calories and salt. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Get regular health screenings. Address other health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.
Learn the symptoms of heart disease so you can recognize this killer in its earliest stages. Don’t wait until your heart disease has progressed to a life-threatening condition before you take action.
Heart disease is a general term to describe a set of conditions that affect the heart, including blood vessel disease, heart rhythm problems, infections and heart defects. Symptoms vary, depending on the type of heart disease developing within your chest.
Generally, the symptoms of heart disease include:
- Chest pain
- Feeling short of breath
- Pain, numbness or coldness in your arms or legs
- A fluttering in your chest
- A racing heartbeat
- A slow heartbeat
- Fainting or near fainting
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
- Bloating of the abdomen with fluid
Seek emergency medical care if you have these heart disease symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Questions for the Doctor
Learn your inherited risk for heart disease by finding out how many family members suffer from this condition. Those with a strong family history of the disease should investigate lifestyle changes to reduce their risk. Ask your doctor if he thinks you are at special risk for heart disease. Your physician may recommend laboratory tests to determine the health of your heart.
Find out if your doctor is keeping up with the latest advances in medicine. Don’t be shy to ask if he or she uses ultrasound to detect heart disease, and if those ultrasound machines undergo routine maintenance.
The health of your heart depends on how well you educated yourself on heart disease. The more you know, the better you can control your risk for developing the world’s number one killer – heart disease.
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