Heart Disease 101
1. Most common types of heart disease
Heart disease is essentially a catchall term that encompasses several conditions that impact the functioning of the heart and blood vessels. Here are just a few that fall under the umbrella of heart disease:
- Coronary artery disease
This is the most common type of heart disease. It’s caused by plaque buildup in the arteries. That sticky plaque coats the walls of the arteries and gradually narrows the passageway for blood. If the condition goes untreated, it can cause heart attack and stroke.
- Heart failure
This can be caused by coronary artery disease or other circumstances. It may sound alarming, but heart failure is not necessarily an emergency situation. Rather, it simply means that the heart cannot pump hard enough to provide adequate blood supply to the body. This causes fluid to build up in the lungs and lower extremities.
In this condition, the heart beats irregularly. It could be slow, fast, or an erratic combination of both. The most common type of arrhythmia, called atrial fibrillation, causes blood clots and stroke.
2. Common risk factors of heart disease
Heart disease can affect anyone, but the risk is considerably higher if these circumstances apply to you
- You’re over the age of 45
In general, this is when the risk of heart disease shows a steep incline. It’s a few years later for women. Before a woman hits menopause, certain hormones protect her against heart disease. After that point, that incidence of heart disease between genders is nearly equal.
- You have a direct relative who suffered from heart disease
Many forms of this disease are genetic. This is especially true for conditions that developed in relatives before the age of 55 (for a male) or before the age of 65 (for a female).
- You have high cholesterol or high blood pressure
Both of these conditions force the heart to work harder. They contribute to blocked arteries and can cause heart attack.
- You have diabetes
Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, is closely linked with heart disease. More than half of all diabetics die from complications of the heart.
- You have an unhealthy lifestyle
Obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, excessive stress, smoking, and alcoholism contribute to heart disease.
3. Strategies for preventing heart diseaseMany of the risk factors listed above—like age, gender, and family history—cannot be controlled. However, there are several steps you can take in order to prevent heart disease or lessen the impact it has on your health.
Please consult your health care professional before making any drastic changes to your diet or exercise routine, especially if you suffer with any chronic ailments or have health concerns that involve diet or exercise restrictions.
- Stick to a heart-healthy diet
Fruits, vegetables, and fiber are wonderful for your heart. Avoid consuming a lot of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
- Exercise (your heart)
Physical activity strengthens the heart and promotes healthy blood vessels. Aim to get your heart rate up for 30 minutes at least three times each week.
- Keep your weight in check
Eating healthy and exercising will help you keep your weight under control.
- Stop smoking
When you quit smoking, your risk is reduced immediately and the body is able to repair a portion of the damage that was done.
- Be kind to yourself
Watch your stress levels and develop coping techniques that can keep you relaxed.
Remember, even if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, lowering your risk factors and striving for a heart-healthy lifestyle may greatly improve your health. If you’re taking any heart disease medications, and need help affording them, click on the “Get Your Free Card” link or text CARD to 95577. The card is available to everyone at any time. For more information about how the free prescription card works, check out our video.
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Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.
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