Is heart disease inside you?
February is National Heart Awareness Month. Heart disease is considered a silent killer. It is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States. Only half of the people affected know they have a problem before it becomes critical. For your health and piece of mind, if you have or are concerned about, these symptoms or risk factors consult your physician.
Can Heart disease be prevented? What causes it? How do I know if I have it?
These are all great questions to ask. While heart disease cannot be prevented, there are contributing factors and behavior modifications that can help you stay healthy and minimize your risk of heart disease or heart attack.
- High Blood Pressure (1 in 3 people have it but only 1/2 know it)
- High Cholesterol
- Body Weight and Body Mass Index
- Unhealthy diet
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Family history
- Sleep apnea
Symptoms of heart disease include
- Chest pain; tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest.
- Shortness of breath while doing everyday tasks
- Continued pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in the legs or arms if a blood vessel is blocked
- Continued pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
Am I having a heart attack?
Symptoms include a dull ache in the chest (like someone sitting on your chest); sudden acceleration of heartbeat – usually a pounding feeling; pain down the arm usually under the arm and in the armpit; shortness of breath; persistent cough and coughing up blood. Severe perspiration – profuse sweating especially combined with a cold sweat feeling; discoloration of the skin especially around the eyes and numbness especially in the hands and arms are also symptoms of a heart attack. These symptoms occurring as stand alone symptoms are not necessarily indicative of a heart attack but the combinations of several symptoms is more concerning and should be addressed by a physician or call 9-1-1 if any symptoms are extreme in nature.
Heart Healthy Lifestyles
The following are a few items that help you maintain a heart healthy lifestyle.
- Stay active. 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise combined with 2 days of muscle strengthening that work all major muscle groups, each week will help keep your body and heart in shape. Moderate exercise means that you should be able to talk but not sing while exercising.
- Eat healthy. Eat heart healthy foods like omega rich fish at least twice per week. Avoid food with high trans fat content. Hydrogenated oil is a primary source of trans fat. Avoid heavily salted foods. Season with spices instead of salt.
- Maintain a “normal” body weight and BMI for your height. Overweight and obese people have more of a chance of developing heart disease than fit people. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. Calculate your BMI by using the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s calculator.
- Control Diabetes. Balanced diets low in carbohydrates are best. Carbs become sugar which cannot be metabolized correctly if you have diabetes.
- Manage stress levels. Find your “calm place”. Yoga, meditation or something else totally unique to you is critical for stress management.
- Be aware of you family history. Family history makes the tendencies to heart disease more common within the family.
- Sleep Apnea. If you have sleep apnea you stop breathing for short bursts of time. This puts a strain on your heart. See a specialist to get this condition under control for your heart health.