Posts Tagged ‘heart attack’

Here’s To Your Heart

January 23rd, 2023

February, not suprisingly, is American Heart Month. The human heart is about the size of a clenched fist and weighs between 8 and 12 ounces, depending on gender and body size. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 600,000 Americans each year. That’s one out of every four deaths.

There are many types of heart disease – from rhythm disorders to genetic defects to valve conditions to blood vessel diseases. But this blog will focus on the most common type: coronary artery disease, or CAD.

CAD is very common in this country. More than 18 million adult Americans suffer with it. According to the Cleveland Clinic, that’s roughly the combined populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

The coronary arteries are blood vessels that wrap around the outside of the heart and supply it with oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients. With CAD, the coronary arteries become narrowed by a buildup of plaque, which is made up of fat, cholesterol and other substances floating around in your blood. This process of plaque buildup in the arteries is called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis occurs over many years, and you may experience no symptoms while it is happening. But as your arteries become increasingly narrow, you may begin to notice symptoms such as pressure or tightness in your chest (angina), shortness of breath and fatigue.

The buildup of plaque in coronary arteries can eventually block the flow of blood to the heart, leading to a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort; feeling weak, lightheaded or faint; pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back; pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders; and shortness of breath.

If you experience these symptoms, seek medical help right away.

Over time, CAD can weaken your heart and cause complications such as heart failure, a condition in which your heart can no longer pump blood efficiently; abnormal heart rhythms; and cardiac arrest, the sudden and unexpected loss of heart function.

There are multiple risk factors for CAD, some you can’t control and some you can. Risk factors you can’t control include age. Men face a higher risk after age 45, and women are at a higher risk after age 55. Another uncontrollable risk factor is family history. Your risk increases if one of your family members has heart disease.

Risk factors you can control include being overweight and physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet that is high in saturated fat and complex carbohydrates, smoking, and drinking more alcohol than is recommended.

If you’re at high risk for CAD or already have symptoms, your doctor may recommend one or more tests to assess your heart function and make a diagnosis. These tests include:
• Electrocardiogram, which records your heart’s electrical activity.
• Echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to evaluate your heart’s structure and function.
• Exercise stress test, which evaluates how your heart responds to vigorous activity.
• Cardiac catheterization, which involves inserting tubes into your coronary arteries to view the plaque and confirm CAD.

The first step in treating CAD is making positive changes to your lifestyle. Don’t smoke, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week, limit your alcohol intake, get seven to nine hours of sleep a night and work to control any chronic conditions you may have, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Some people need a procedure or surgery to treat their CAD. Coronary angioplasty is an interventional procedure in which a small balloon is used to widen your narrowed coronary arteries. Your doctor may place small mesh tubes called stents to help keep the arteries open.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a surgery that takes a blood vessel from another part of your body and attaches it to the coronary artery above and below the narrowed area or blockage. This “bypass” restores blood flow to your heart.

CAD can’t always be prevented because some of its risk factors are out of your control. But the positive lifestyle changes used to treat the disease can also be used to lower your risk.

Patti DiPanfilo

Holding Off Heart Disease

February 17th, 2019

It’s February, and you know what that means – it’s American Heart Month. It’s that annual opportunity to review what we know about heart disease. And it’s our chance to be sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent or manage it in our lives.

After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. In fact, one in every four deaths in this country is the result of heart disease, to the tune of about 610,000 deaths each year. What’s more, almost half of all Americans are at risk for developing the condition. The good news is heart disease is preventable in most people.

Heart disease encompasses a wide array of different conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. These include arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, heart infections and the main form of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD).


Heart disease is often grouped with stroke and related conditions under the more global term cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD involves a number of diseases of the heart and circulatory system. Other conditions that fall under CVD include heart attack, heart failure and valve disorders.

While stroke, heart attack and the other CVD disorders are serious conditions, we’ll concentrate our discussion today on heart disease and primarily on CAD, its most prevalent form.

CAD is a disorder of your coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply your heart muscle with fresh, oxygenated blood. In CAD, the coronary arteries become blocked with a fatty material called plaque, which prevents the oxygen and nutrients from getting to your heart. This can lead to a heart attack and to the death of  heart muscle tissue.

Common symptoms of CAD include chest pain or discomfort, a sensation of pressure or squeezing in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea and feelings of indigestion or gas. Symptoms of heart disease can differ in women and may include dizziness or lightheadedness; anxiety; jaw, neck or back pain; cold sweats and fainting.

There are certain factors that put you at a higher risk for developing CAD. They can also make it more likely existing heart disease will get worse. Some of the risk factors, such as age, having a family history of heart disease or a history of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy cannot be changed.

Age is a big factor. Your risk increases if you’re a women over age 55 or a man over 45. The same is true if your father or brother had heart disease before age 55, or your mother or sister had it before age 65. These are all things you can’t do anything about.

There are other risk factors, however, that you can control. These include having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, having diabetes or prediabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet and drinking a lot of alcohol. These are the risk factors you should be putting your energy into.

The best way to determine your risk for CAD or other type of heart disease is by partnering with your doctor. He or she will evaluate your blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood glucose to check for diabetes, weight, personal and family medical history, and lifestyle.

Your doctor can then recommend steps to lower your risk for heart disease or treat the condition if you already have it.

If you are at risk for heart disease or have been diagnosed with it, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting heart disease or keep it from getting worse. Your doctor may recommend simple lifestyle changes and/or drug treatments.

One of the changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease or slow its progression is by controlling your high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This can often be done by adjusting your diet and getting more exercise, but it may require medications. Be sure to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly.

Lifestyle changes are pretty much common sense. They including eating a heart-healthy diet rich in high-fiber foods and low in saturated and trans fats; becoming more active; getting and staying at a healthy weight; quitting smoking; drinking alcohol in moderation and managing stress, which can have a negative effect on your heart.

If you’re at high risk for heart disease or already have it, your doctor may recommend you take an aspirin every day to reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Don’t take aspirin on your own without talking to your doctor first, however. It isn’t the best course of action for all people.

Now that you’ve been reminded about the basics of heart disease and CAD, you can better take care of your heart health.

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