Each February, the American Heart Association sponsors American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease. The purpose of this month is to raise awareness on the importance of heart health and what you can do to prevent heart disease in yourself and your loved ones.
Heart disease is a common term for coronary artery disease. It is the number one cause of death in both men and women over the age of 60 in the United States.
Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis—a buildup of plaque in the inner walls of the arteries—which narrows, slows or blocks the flow of blood to the heart.
Controllable risk factors for heart disease include the following:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
The symptoms you experience depend on the type and severity of your heart condition. Common signs and symptoms of heart disease include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Heart palpitations
- Weakness or fatigue
Call your doctor if you begin to have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.
The goals of treatment for heart disease are to relieve symptoms, control or reduce risk factors, stop or slow further damage to the arteries, and prevent and treat cardiac events. Treatment includes several options:
- Self-care and prevention
- Procedures to open blocked or narrowed arteries or to bypass them
- Cardiac rehabilitation
Self-care and Prevention
You can follow a healthy lifestyle to help prevent heart disease:
- Get regular medical check-ups.
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Take medications as prescribed.
- If you are at a higher risk for heart disease, ask your doctor about low-dose aspirin therapy.
- Watch for signs of diabetes and see your doctor if you have any symptoms.
- Follow a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
- Limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams per day.
- Exercise regularly.
- Manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Check with your doctor to find out if and how much you should drink.