For a long time, it was understood that men were more susceptible to heart issues than women. Today, studies show that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both sexes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Heart disease takes on many forms including arrythmia or abnormal heart rhythm, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, and heart failure. You may be at risk for these conditions based off of your lifestyle, not just your anatomical makeup.
Preventing Heart Disease
There are many lifestyle choices that you can adopt to help prevent cardiovascular issues.
Lack of physical activity is the most common way your health affects your heart and vascular system. The goal is to be active in a moderate intensity level for at least 30 minutes a day. You could simply go on a walk or bike ride. Not only will this help improve your health, but physical activity is a great way to practice self-care and improve your happiness.
Many diseases and conditions of the heart are also attributed to unhealthy eating habits. Diabetes, cholesterol levels, and a variety of other conditions can overwhelm your heart if you’re not careful. Some insurances may cover a standard assessment session with a registered dietician to go over healthier eating options. Both exercising and eating a healthy diet will help you manage your weight, ultimately fighting heart disease.
Stress negatively affects your heart health, both independently and by increasing the risk for other cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can damage your arteries overtime and increase the likelihood of a heart attack. Making time to unwind or participate in activities you like, talking to others about your feelings or concerns, and taking breaks from social media and the news are just a few ways to help manage stress.
Finally, it is highly advised to quit smoking. Smoking can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, a reduction in blood flow, and increase clotting and fatty substance buildup. Stopping the use of tobacco will reduce your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Signs of a Heart Attack
Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States. Pain or discomfort in the chest is often the most recognizable sign that something serious is happening with your heart. However, symptoms can be more subtle than previously believed. In addition to chest pain, the following symptoms may be signs of a heart attack:
- Acute onset of difficulty breathing or lightheadedness
- Cold sweats, nausea, or indigestion
- Pain in the jaw, especially if shooting down the right arm
- General unwell feeling and fatigue
You may not know there’s an issue until complications start so it is important to participate in regular screenings with your physician. A simple check-up can help prevent future issues and may end up saving your life.
Kashif Chaudhry, M.D., is an electrophysiologist with UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute and sees patients at the UPMC Health Innovation Center, 740 High St., Williamsport. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Chaudhry, call 570-321-2800. For more information, visit UPMC.com/HeartNCPA.