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How to Prevent Heart Disease

The life-threatening, dreaded and scary occurrence of the many different types of heart disease is often avoidable even though so many people experience its wrath. If only more people knew how easy it is to prevent many of the conditions, we could start cutting down on the leading cause of death within the United States, England, and Wales [1]. Heart disease is an umbrella where numerous conditions fall under – some of which are well known, while others are less spoken of. Hopefully, you can use the information below to reduce your risk of becoming a common statistic.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

What is Heart Disease?

Any disease that attacks the heart is considered heart disease – a menacing entity that is easily thwarted by a combination of various prevention measures. The wide-ranging list of different types of heart disease illustrate varying symptoms that are different for each patient, especially when it comes to the severity of the heart condition and the kind of ailment one is diagnosed with. Some of the common medical concerns that strike the heart include the following conditions:

a) Coronary Artery Disease:

The most common symptom of this heart condition is angina, which creates discomfort, aches, pressure, heaviness, and pain in the chest. A burning sensation is often reported. While angina typically brews in the chest – the throat, jaw, back, neck, shoulders, and arms may also experience symptoms. Coronary artery disease can also cause shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, sweating, nausea, irregular heartbeat, weakness, and dizziness.

b) Heart Attack:

The well-known threat of a heart attack (also known as myocardial infarction or MI) is associated with a discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain that develops in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone. Discomfort may radiate to the back, throat, or jaw. Symptoms similar to heartburn (fullness, choking sensation, or indigestion), intense weakness, shortness of breath, and anxiety are also reported. An individual may experience nausea, sweating, vomiting, or dizziness. The heart may speed up and produce irregular heartbeats. When suffering a heart attack, an individual typically encounters symptoms that usually last for 30 minutes or more [2].

c) Arrhythmias:

Arrhythmias is a complicated way of referred to an irregular heart rhythm. An individual experiencing this type of heart disease may undergo palpitations, chest pounding, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting spells, shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest, weakness, and an increased feeling of tiredness.

d) Atrial Fibrillation:

This type of heart disease is a kind of arrhythmia that produces one of more of the following signs or symptoms: heart palpitations, drained energy, dizziness, lightheadedness, pain or pressure in the chest, and shortness in breath, especially when completing routine activities on a daily basis. In some cases, individuals with atrial fibrillation will display no symptoms at all.

e) Heart Valve Disease:

A patient with heart valve disease has one or more compromised heart valves and may undergo shortness in breath, weakness, dizziness, chest discomfort, irregular heartbeat or other palpitation. Sometimes this disease can lead to heart failure, where an individual may experience swollen ankles, bloated stomach, and rapid weight gain (two to three pounds in one day).

f) Congenital Heart Disease:

Congenital heart defects are often diagnosed before birth, soon after birth, or during childhood. Some people may possess a heart defect and show no symptoms at all. As a patient grows older, a heart murmur may show up in a physical exam. An abnormal EKG or chest X-ray will also reveal a heart defect. In adults, they may face shortness in breath and a limited ability to exercise or play sports. Their symptoms may also mimic heart failure or valve disease.

In infants or children, congenital heart disease can produce rapid breathing, poor feeding, low weight gain, reoccurring lung infections, and trouble exercising. Cyanosis is another symptom associated with this heart disease, which causes a bluish tint to emerge on the skin, fingernails, and lips.

g) Heart Muscle Disease (Cardiomyopathy):

The majority of people with heart muscle disease will show no symptoms, yet minor signs are detected. Other people will showcase a variety of symptoms that continue to worsen as the function of the heart becomes more compromised. Typical symptoms of heart muscle disease include chest pain or pressure, fatigue, fainting spells, and a fluttering in the chest caused by irregular heart rhythms. A patient may also experience swelling in the lower extremities. In a small number of people suffering cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias can lead to an unexpected death.

h) Pericarditis:

When inflammation settles in the fibrous sac that surrounds the heart, pericarditis is the result. A patient is most likely to suffer acute pericarditis rather than chronic pericarditis, which can arise due to infection or heart attack. A patient with this condition may experience chest pain, an elevated heart rate, and a low-grade fever.

i) Hypentensive Heart Disease:

High blood pressure causes this type of heart disease, which can possibly lead to coronary heart disease, left ventricular hypertrophy, cardiac arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure.

j) Inflammatory Heart Disease [3]:

When inflammation of the heart muscle and/or the surrounding tissues takes place, a patient may experience endocarditis (inflammation of the inner layer of the heart); inflammatory cardiomyopathy; or myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular part of the heart). Myocarditis is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection characterized by chest pain, quick signs of heart failure, or immediate death.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

When it comes to the risk factors of heart disease, there are two different categories you should consider: major and contributing. A major risk factor has been proven to elevate the risk of heart disease, while a contributing factor is something that physicians believe will lead to an increased risk, but doesn’t possess a concrete role in the overall condition. The more risk factors you display, the more likely you are to face heart disease. However, while some risk factors are inevitable, others are treatable and can be modified or changed. Below you will find examples of both major and contributing heart disease risk factors:

a) Hypertension:

High blood pressure not only increases the risk of heart disease, but can also lead to heart attack and stroke.

b) Cholesterol Levels:

A high level of cholesterol in the blood can contribute to the risk of heart disease.

c) Diabetes:

People with diabetes face a higher chance of suffering heart problems, which is especially prominent amongst patients with adult-onset or Type II (insulin-dependent) diabetes.

d) Obesity:

Since being overweight contributes to increased total cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a higher chance of developing coronary artery disease, being overweight is considered a major risk factor for heart disease.

e) Tobacco Products:

Smoking is considered a major risk factor and increases the chance of peripheral vascular disease, which attacks the vessels that ship blood to the arms and legs.

f) Lack of Exercise:

A decent amount of activity is required to combat the high risk of heart attack that occurs when one doesn’t get enough exercise. Without exercise, the heart muscle becomes weak.

g) Gender:

On the whole, men face a higher risk of heart attack than their female counterparts. However, the gap between the genders narrows after a woman enters menopause. By the time a woman and man both hit the age of 65, their risk of heart disease is about the same.

h) Family Tree:

Heart disease is a condition that tends to follow people throughout the generations. If your parents or siblings encounter heart or circulatory issues before they reach the age of 55, chances are that you possess a higher risk than someone who doesn’t have this type of disease within the family, especially if high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes is common amongst relatives.

i) Age:

The older you are, the higher your risk for developing heart disease. About four out of every five deaths attributed to heart disease is seen in an individual older than 65 years old. This risk factor takes place because the heart starts to weaken as people age. Arteries and the heart wall may harden. Over time, the heart does not pump blood to the muscles the same.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

While heart disease is known as the leading cause of death in both men and women, you don’t have to fall victim to its wrath. Although some risk factors cannot be helped (like age, race, and your family tree), a multitude of prevention techniques can help increase your chances of beating the disease. They include:

a) Quit Tobacco Products:

One of the most powerful blows to heart disease is when an individual quits smoking or leaves behind their use of tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, and low-nicotine cigarettes. There are nearly 5,000 different chemicals found in tobacco smoke and most of these substances can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels. Women who take birth control pills and smoke are at an especially high risk for heart attack and stroke. When they reach beyond the age of 35, the risk continues to increase. Just imagine – it takes just one year to see a dramatic decline in risk after saying ‘no’ to tobacco.

b) Get Moving:

How many times have you heard that physical activity is good for the body? Well, it’s good for the heart too, as it reduces your risk of suffering life-threatening heart disease. When you exercise, you lessen your chances by 25%. Routine exercise also increases the flow of blood to the heart and allows heart contractions to become stronger, allowing the heart to better pump blood throughout the body with less effort. Physical fitness also helps fight contributing factors to heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress, and diabetes. Try to get in at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise.

c) Eat a Healthy Diet:

In order to prevent heart disease – follow a diet that targets heart-healthy practices. This includes eating a lot of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and legumes. Also, avoid foods and meals with a high saturated fat content, such as whole milk, butter, fried fast foods, and coconut oils. It is also suggested to increased your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods like fish, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil [4].

d) Watch Your Weight:

It is important to maintain a healthy weight in order to lessen the chances of suffering conditions that promote heart disease, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Losing even a couple of pounds can make a difference. If you are able to lose 10% of your weight (when overweight), you can significantly reduce many health risks concerning the heart.

e) Regular Check-Ups:

Since high blood pressure and high cholesterol is damaging to your cardiovascular system (including your heart), it is important to test for these conditions on a routine basis. Regular screening can alert you to a problem and allow you to receive proper attention. On the whole, adults should check their blood pressure at least every two years, where cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years [5]

f) Control Stress:

People with a weak heart should avoid stressful situations that cause emotional tension and anxiety, as this can lead to the heart working overtime, which can develop concerns for heart disease [6].

g) Coenzyme Q10:

Research suggests that this essential nutrient can boost cardiovascular function and does not cause any side effects in a patient.

h) Herbal Supplements [7]:

Cardiotonics consisting of natural ingredients (like dan shen – red sage) are known to improve the regularity and strength of the heart’s contractions. Taking an herbal circulatory stimulant (like cayenne) can heighten blood circulation delivered to different parts of the body.


[1] http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/hsq0506.pdf
[2] http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-disease-symptoms
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_disease#Types_of_heart_disease
[4] http://www.health-heart.org/
[5] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-prevention/WO00041
[6] http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=11064
[7] The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevelier (pg. 13)

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