Heart Disease - the Leading Cause of Death in the US
February is American Heart Month; this month is dedicated to educating Americans on heart disease and encouraging those to join the battle against it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. For this reason, it is so important for people of all ages to learn more about this common disease. “Heart disease” refers to multiple types of heart conditions, it’s also called cardiovascular disease, which means heart and blood vessel disease. The most common type is the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the hearts blood flow, which can cause a heart attack.
About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020—that’s 1 in every 5 deaths.
Continuing reading to learn more about Heart Disease, symptoms, risks, tips, treatments, prevention, and when to see a doctor.
Sometimes heart disease isn’t diagnosed until a person is experiencing signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia.
Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.
High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of people in the United States (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
Overweight and obesity
Excessive alcohol use
Know your five numbers
1. How many steps you take per day – Moving a lot improves the disease risk. The AHA recommends walking up to 10,000 steps per day. Another rule of thumb is to exercise 150 minutes per week.
2. Your blood pressure – A score of 120/80 is optimal, and 140/90 is normal for most people. Higher readings mean that arteries aren’t responding right to the force of blood pushing against artery walls (blood pressure), directly raising the risk of heart attack or stroke.
3. Your non – HDL cholesterol – That's your total cholesterol reading minus your HDL cholesterol, a measure of fats in the blood that can narrow and clog arteries to the heart. Lower is better: Aim for a score lower than 130 mg/dl or, if you’re at risk of heart disease, lower than 70 – 100 mg/dl.
4. Your blood sugar – High blood sugar ups your risk of diabetes, which damages arteries. In fact, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are among the most harmful risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
5. How many hours of sleep a night you get – Although there is no one “right” answer for all, consistently getting the number of hours that works for you helps lower the risk of heart disease. Most people need to sleep six to eight hours a night.
Treatments will vary depending on the specific type of heart disease a person has, how serious the symptoms are, and what other health conditions they have. Possible treatments may include:
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes
Procedures or surgeries
Lowering risk of certain heart diseases may be possible by making heart-healthy lifestyle changes and managing any other medical conditions one may have.
By living a healthy lifestyle, it can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels normal and lower risk for heart disease and heart attack.
Choose healthy meals and snacks to help prevent heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans-fat may contribute to heart disease.
Eating foods high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol can help prevent high cholesterol.
o Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.
o Limiting sugar in your diet can lower your blood sugar level to prevent or help control diabetes.
Do not drink too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women no more than 1 drink per day.
People with overweight or obesity have a higher risk for heart disease. Carrying extra weight can put extra stress on the heart and blood vessels.
Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
Cigarette smoking greatly increases risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
When to see a doctor
Always call 911 or emergency medical help if you think you might be having a heart attack or if you have these heart disease symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, if you are experiencing symptoms, have concerns, or have a family history of heart disease, talk to your health care provider. You can discuss ways to reduce your heart disease risk with your doctor.
If you think you may symptoms of heart disease, make an appointment to see your doctor.