Heart Disease – Public Enemy #1?

by Richard H Ealom

INTRODUCTION: Heart disease is a number of abnormal conditions affecting the heart and its blood vessels. Also called cardiovascular disease, it mainly affects older people and indicates that there are problems with the heart and blood vessels.

It has become the leading cause of death in the United States, is a major cause of disability, doesn’t go away, but by working with your doctor, you can live longer and feel better. Types of cardiovascular disease include: Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type and is the leading cause of heart attacks.

In 2003, almost two times as many women died of cardiovascular disease (both heart disease and stroke) than from all cancers combined. The older a woman becomes, the more likely she is to develop cardiovascular problems; however women at all ages should be concerned.

African American and Hispanic American/Latina females are more prone to get heart disease because they tend to have a greater number of risk factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes than White females. Women of color are also more likely to die of the disease.

Having diabetes elevates your chances of developing heart disease and high levels of triglycerides are linked to the disease in some people. Also Being obese increases your risk. Chest or arm pain or discomfort can be a symptom of cardiovascular problems and a warning sign of an actual or impending heart attack.

If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, or if your mom had one before age 65, you’re more likely to get heart disease. Birth control pills can present risks for some women, especially women older than 35, women with elevated blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol and those who smoke.

Almost 700,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year. You can find out more about heart disease by contacting the National Women’s Health Information Center at 1-800-994-9662.

The risk of coronary disease can be decreased by taking steps to prevent and control those factors that put people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack. The very best ways to prevent heart disease are to control your blood pressure, diabetes or a higher than normal cholesterol level and, if you smoke, STOP SMOKING.

CHOLESTEROL: What does a high level of cholesterol have to do with heart disease? It can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting necessary blood. People with high blood cholesterol or elevated blood triglycerides often have no symptoms, so have your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked often. If your levels are high, talk to your physician about what you can do to lower them. You may be able to decrease your levels by eating better and exercising more, if not, your physician may prescribe medication to lower and bring it under control.

When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries, forming plaque and causing blood clots. There are basically two types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called the “bad” type because it can clog the arteries that carry blood to your heart. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good” type because it takes the bad cholesterol out of your blood and keeps it from building up in your arteries.

All women 20 years of age and older should have their blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked at least once every five years. If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce your total cholesterol and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels.

Try to eat more foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Skim (fat-free) or low-fat (1%) milk and cheeses, and low-fat or nonfat yogurt, Fruits and vegetables (try for 5 a day), Cereals, breads, rice, and pasta made from whole grains (such as “whole-wheat” or “whole-grain” bread and pasta, rye bread, brown rice, and oatmeal), Eat less organ meats (liver, kidney, brains), Egg yolks, Fats (butter, lard) and oils, Packaged and processed foods.

There are two diets that may help decrease your cholesterol: Heart Healthy Diet and Therapeutic Lifestyles Changes (TLC) Diet. Exercise can help decrease LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and raise HDL (“good cholesterol”). If your physician has prescribed medicine to decrease your cholesterol, take it exactly as you have been told to.

CONCLUSION: Heart disease is not contagious – you can’t catch it like you can influenza or a cold. It is a general term that refers to a variety of acute and chronic medical problems that affect one or several components of the heart. The symptoms you describe to your MD will help to decide if you need to be tested for heart disease. Your MD will also check if you have any conditions that can increase your risk of getting the disease.

These conditions include: high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, elevated cholesterol level, menopause in women, family members who have had heart disease at a young age. If you have cardiovascular disease, your angina can be treated by treating the heart disease. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight in addition to a regular exercise program can help you avoid developing heart disease.

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