Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This means that one in every four deaths in the United States is from heart disease. Although heart disease is a common and well-known condition, it encompasses a broad spectrum of heart conditions and symptoms. Since not all symptoms of heart disease are easily recognizable, one of the best ways to prevent delayed treatment is to know the warning signs your body gives you. In this post, we will specifically be focusing on the causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention options for coronary artery disease. (This was a patient recommended topic for KHC University; click here to tell us what YOU want our next post to be about!)
Types of Heart Disease
As stated before, heart disease is a broad term that includes many different cardiac conditions. Below is a list of common conditions that are considered to be heart disease.
- Coronary Artery Disease: Coronary artery disease is classically defined as a build up of cholesterol within your coronary arteries. This process is what is typically associated with a person who has suffered a heart attack.
- Arrhythmias: An arrhythmia is a disturbance within your heart’s electrical system. Just like our home or car, your heart has a series of electrical pathways that are sometimes disturbed, causing your heart to enter into an abnormal rhythm. One of the most common and well-known heart arrhythmias is atrial fibrillation (AFib).
- Cardiomyopathy: A cardiomyopathy is typically a condition where your heart’s normal structure and function is altered. Usually, this occurs when your heart becomes weak, excessively thick or a combination of both.
- Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis occurs when the cholesterol within the arteries of your body builds up. This refers to not just your heart, but your entire body. Atherosclerosis can affect the arteries found in your heart, neck, head, abdomen, arms and legs.
- Ischemic Heart Disease: Ischemic heart disease is the term used when a person has developed blockages within the arteries of their heart. This is the end result of atherosclerosis described above, and limits the blood flow to your heart, causing chest discomfort for most individuals.
- Rheumatic Heart Disease: Rheumatic heart disease typically refers to a heart condition that arises from a previous infection most commonly encountered in your younger years. The most common instances are rheumatic or scarlet fever. Today, with newer antibiotics, this condition is far less common than it was 50 years ago in the United States. Underdeveloped countries that do not have access to antibiotics still have a large occurrence of these heart conditions, which over a long period of time typically results in abnormalities of the heart valves.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
It is important to note that we often describe a woman’s symptoms as atypical as they are sometimes rather subtle and require an increased index of suspicion from their doctor to accurately diagnose the condition.
Developing Heart Disease: Men VS Women
Generally speaking, men and women are equally at risk to develop heart disease. The difference lies in the age at onset. In general, heart disease is seen later in life, typically after the age of 50 in men and after the age of 60 in women. Many agree that the atypical symptoms that women experience contributes to a delay in the diagnosis, thus accounting for the 10 year difference in the onset of heart disease. Although women are often diagnosed at a later age, they often have a more severe disease at the time of diagnosis.
For both genders, a presence of risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, smoking, elevated cholesterol and family history increases your likelihood of developing heart disease. The more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to develop heart disease later in life.
If My Parents Have Heart Disease Will I?
A family history of heart disease is a well-recognized predictor of future heart disease in first degree relatives; this includes your mother, father, brothers and sisters. Distant relatives beyond these have not been shown to predict the presence of heart disease. Moreover, we consider premature heart disease a significant predictor as well. This means that if your father had a heart attack before the age of 50 or your mother had a heart attack before the age of 60, your risk of developing heart disease is increased. This being said, heart trouble in a family member over the age of 70 has not been shown to significantly increase a person’s risk for heart disease.
Heart Disease Prevention
The prevention of heart disease is similar for men as for women. Controlling the risk factors noted above in addition to regular exercise, a healthy diet and maintaining a normal body weight will lower one’s risk for future heart disease. Control of your blood pressure and cholesterol along with avoiding smoking are three BIG things anyone can do throughout their life to decrease their risk of future heart disease. In addition, adequate control of diabetes will also, over the long term, lower an individual’s risk for subsequent heart disease.
Eating healthy with fruits and vegetables, low salt foods and limiting carbohydrates is a great start at preventing not only heart disease but also many other chronic illnesses. If you need heart healthy recipe ideas, consider joining our Heart Healthy Recipe Facebook Group where we regularly post heart healthy, low-sodium and diabetes friendly recipes! Moderate exercising at least three to four times a week is widely accepted as a way to decrease a person’s risk for heart disease. This includes but is not limited to walking, riding a bike, swimming, jogging, weight training and other aerobic exercises.
Treating Heart Disease
The treatment of heart disease is generally the same as it relates to men and women. There are many different options for therapy that include, lifestyle modification, medications, bypass surgery and coronary stenting. One or more of these strategies may be used in a single patient. The best combination is determined by your family physician and your cardiologist.
Karing Hearts Cardiology Treatment Options
Karing Hearts Cardiology offers comprehensive treatment plans to prevent, diagnose and treat any number of heart conditions. We have experienced staff ready to sit down and talk with you about your risks, diagnostic strategies and ultimately decide upon a personalized treatment strategy suited for your specific needs. If you feel you or someone you know may be at risk for heart disease, please consider making an appointment at one of our offices and we can talk it over. To become a patient of Karing Hearts Cardiology, you can submit a contact form by clicking here or call (423) 926-4468 and one of our team members will contact you shortly.
We hope this short information session has been helpful in giving you a better understanding of coronary artery disease. We’ll be back next month with a new topic and until then, live well and healthy!
Thanks for letting us Kare for your heart!