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Healthy Heart Prescription
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States. Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. More than 58,800,000 Americans live with some form of cardiovascular disease. That’s about one in five Americans, and more than 2,500 Americans die from it every day. More than two out of every five Americans with cardiovascular disease die from cardiovascular disease. Among heart disease patients, 52.2% were men and 47.8% were women; 88.2% were white, 9.5% were black, and 2.4% were other races. Clearly, heart disease is a national problem.
Every year at least 250,000 people die from a heart attack before reaching the hospital. Half of heart attack victims wait more than two hours before getting help. Studies have shown that people with low levels of education are more likely to suffer from heart disease. An estimated 3 million Americans experience occasional chest pain.
As many as 50 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, the leading cause of heart disease. Of those people, 35 percent didn’t know they had it. High blood pressure is easy to detect and usually manageable.
If all forms of cardiovascular disease were eradicated, life expectancy would increase by 7 years.
What is heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common cardiovascular disease. Each year, approximately 7 million Americans suffer from coronary heart disease, and more than 500,000 die from heart attacks caused by coronary heart disease. This type of heart disease is caused by narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. A heart attack occurs when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart.
Like any muscle, the heart requires a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered by blood in the coronary arteries. Coronary heart disease is the result when the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked and cannot supply enough blood to the heart. The pain you feel when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen is called angina. This pain usually occurs in the chest and/or left arm and shoulder. However, sometimes there are no symptoms. This is called silent angina. When the blood supply is completely cut off, the result is a heart attack. Parts of the heart deprived of oxygen begin to die, and the heart muscle may be permanently damaged.
What are the symptoms of coronary heart disease?
For many people, the first symptom of coronary heart disease is a heart attack. But not all heart attacks start with a sudden, sharp pain in the chest, as shown on TV or in the movies. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs so you can get treatment within an hour of your first symptoms.
The most common warning signs are:
o Chest pain (angina) or discomfort. Usually in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes. A person may feel pressure, pinching, tightness, burning, or pain, usually behind the breastbone. Discomfort can be mild or severe, and it can come and go. It is also possible to have a heart attack without any of these symptoms.
o Discomfort elsewhere in the upper body. There may also be pain or pressure in one or both arms, neck, back, jaw, or stomach.
o shortness of breath. May or may not be accompanied by chest discomfort.
o Other symptoms. Other early signs may be nausea, dizziness, or a cold sweat.
Women are less likely than men to have chest pain and more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and jaw or back pain.
What causes coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease is caused by a buildup of fat and cholesterol in the blood, causing the blood to become abnormally thick (sticky). The thicker the blood, the greater the risk of clogged arteries. Thick blood forces the heart to pump harder, raising blood pressure. The increased pumping action creates friction along the artery wall, leading to progressive thickening and hardening, leading to the formation of plaque, almost like a callus. A buildup of fat and cholesterol can also attach to artery walls, causing the walls to shrink. This process is called atherosclerosis.
Hardening and narrowing of the arterial walls further increases blood pressure. The increased pressure could cause the deposits to rupture, triggering a heart attack or stroke. Plaque buildup can also restrict the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart, which can lead to further damage.
In addition to high blood fat and high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity also increase the risk of heart disease. This is why it is so important to take action to prevent and control these conditions.
Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the likelihood that existing conditions will worsen. Some can be changed and some cannot. Important risk factors for heart disease that you can control are:
o High blood pressure
o High blood cholesterol
o Lack of exercise
Risk factors beyond your control are:
o Genetic (family history of coronary heart disease)
Tips to Help Protect Your Heart
While some risk factors cannot be changed, it is important to realize that you can indeed control many other factors. No matter your age, background, or health status, you can reduce your risk of heart disease—and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Protecting your heart can be as simple as brisk walking, eating a variety of vegetables, or getting the support you need to maintain a healthy weight.
o Healthy eating. Limit sodium (salt) intake to less than 2,000 mg (2 g) per day. Eat foods rich in fiber and potassium. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids or take a daily fish oil supplement. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, at least 5 servings a day. Limit foods high in fat (especially saturated fat), cholesterol, and sugar. If necessary, reduce your total daily calorie intake to lose weight.
Exercise regularly. Doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, and biking, 4 days a week can strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, and help control your weight. If you have heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure, a regular cardiovascular exercise program prescribed by your doctor will help improve your overall health and make you feel better. It can also reverse the progression of heart disease.
o Control your weight. If you are overweight, start a weight loss program now. Studies have shown that obesity is a contributing factor to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Women in particular, who are overweight in their mid-section, are at higher risk of heart disease. Researchers at Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City analyzed data on 6,000 women and found that 90 percent of women with waists larger than 35 inches also had at least one major risk factor for heart disease.
o Medication/treatment. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood cholesterol, or high blood pressure and have been prescribed medications to manage these conditions, take them. Seek additional herbal and vitamin supplements to boost your immune system and improve your overall health.
o Reduce psychological stress. Most of us tend to downplay the role of stress in the development of heart disease. Studies have shown a direct link between work stress and heart disease. Stressful jobs and workplace injustice can increase the risk of heart disease, according to a recent study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, Finland. If you feel that stress is an issue in your life, get help finding a stress reduction program. Find ways to cope with stress, such as supplements, exercise, and meditation.
No one is going to have a heart attack. But just like you would have a plan in the event of a fire, it’s important to have a plan in place for a possible heart attack. Here are some steps you can take to manage this possibility:
o Become familiar with the warning signs of a heart attack.
o Discuss these signs and the need for a quick 9-1-1 call with family and friends.
o Discuss your risk factors and how to reduce them with your healthcare provider.
o Take herbal supplements and vitamins to reduce your risk factors and prevent others.
o Write a Heart Attack Survival Plan with medical information and keep it handy.
If you feel the symptoms of a heart attack, don’t delay. Don’t wait to call 9-1-1. Your chances of survival or less serious injury increase if you start treatment within an hour of your first symptoms.
American Medical Association, Guidelines for Family Medicine, 4th Edition
Women’s Health Journal, January 2006
Desease control Centre
American Heart Association
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