According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One in every four deaths each year or about 655,000 Americans per year die from heart disease. Heart disease is made up of several different kinds of heart conditions. Coronary artery disease (CAD) which can cause a heart attack, is the most common. In the United States, a heart attack happens every 40 seconds based on data from the National Center of Health Statistics. Other forms of heart disease occur when the heart valve or heart pump don't work properly. In some cases, people are born with heart disease.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
CAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries causing the arteries to become more narrow and decrease blood flow to the heart. Blood clots can also form on the plaque blocking the flow of blood. About half of all Americans have 1 of 3 major risk factors, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other risk factors include diabetes, overweight or obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and excess alcohol use.
How is heart disease diagnosed?
For many the first signs of heart disease are chest discomfort or heart attack. The following test can be done to diagnose heart disease: chest x-rays, coronary angiograms, electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG), and exercise stress tests. Ascension St. Vincent provides $49 heart scans to those over 40 years of age and with specific risk factors. To learn more, visit ascension.org/stvincentheart or call 866-432-4457.
Can heart disease be prevented?
The following are suggestions on ways to decrease your risk of heart disease:
- Eat a healthy diet. Consume a diet rich with whole grains, lean protein, heart-healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. Limit intake of saturated fats, trans fats, salt, and added sugars.
- Limit the intake of alcohol to 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. One drink is considered 12 ounces of regular beer, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, and 5 ounces of wine.
- Aim for a healthy weight. Losing 5-10% of your current body weight can help improve heart disease risk factors, high blood pressures, diabetes and high cholesterol.
- Get regular exercise. Go for a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away at the store. Join a gym or get together a group of friends to exercise to help with accountability.
- Quit smoking. Consider a smoking cessation program or talk with your doctor about medications that could help you quit.
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