Heart Health and You: Tips for Avoiding the #1 Killer

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally. In 2015, an estimated 17.7 million people died from a heart-related problem-- that's 31 percent of the total deaths that year. It's not just the United States, either. Over 75 percent of cardiovascular disease-related deaths take place in low-and middle-income countries. Yet the problem is gravely serious here at home, as well. One in four deaths in the United States is a product of some kind of heart disease.

Read more in terms of news: Cardiac Arrest Survival Rate Can Be Increased

Types of Heart Disease


● Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the muscles of the heart cannot receive enough blood and oxygen because buildups of fatty plaques block the coronary arteries. This leads to heart attacks, damage to the heart, and can result in sudden death.

● Silent Ischemia is a type of heart disease in which the blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced, but the subject experiences very little pain or symptoms. They may experience discomfort when exerting themselves physically.

● Myocardial Infarction-- better known as a heart attack-- occurs when blood flow is blocked and the heart muscle is damaged. The damage can be reversed if the blockage is removed and the heart eventually receives the blood, oxygen, and nutrients it needs to repair itself.

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● Congestive heart failure is when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the subject's body. There are various causes of congestive heart failure-- it's really more of a cluster of symptoms, rather than a single disease. Typically, heart failure happens gradually over time rather than suddenly, meaning millions are living with congestive heart failure right now. According to data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the number of adults living with heart failure increased from 5.7 million in 2009-2012 to an estimated 6.5 million in 2011-2014. The number is expected to increase even more in the coming years.

● Arrhythmia occurs when the heart’s electrical system does not function normally, causing abnormal rhythms or "arrhythmias."

● Heart defects occur when obstructions called stenosis develop in the subject's heart valves, arteries or veins, partly or completely blocking the flow of blood.

● Peripheral artery disease develops when fatty plaques or atherosclerosis can also affect arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to other areas of the body including the legs and feet. The blockage deprives the limbs of oxygen and nutrients, producing symptoms including numbness, pain, swelling, and ulcers. 

Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

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The staggering statistics regarding the prevalence of heart disease have many people wondering what they can do to help protect themselves and prevent an early death due to this all too common killer. While a few of the types-- arrhythmia and heart defects, for instance-- are not preventable, most cases of heart disease are largely preventable with a healthy lifestyle. The leading causes of heart disease include many food-related issues such as obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. The most common cause is plaque buildup or atherosclerosis, which is caused by correctable problems including being overweight, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and smoking. Furthermore, physical and emotional stress both put quantifiable and reproducible demands on the heart that can lead to significant cardiovascular issues.

● Eating a healthy diet reduces your risk of heart disease. Incorporating "good" fats into your meals while avoiding "bad" fats helps to keep your arteries free from blockage. Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish help the body develop high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol which removes low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from the body. "Bad" fats including saturated and trans fats found in junk food cause the body to develop too much LDL cholesterol which leads to plaque formation in the arteries. A diet full of minimally-processed foods packed with heart-healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids should be the goal. Learn more about “good” vs. “bad” fats here.

● Physical exercise helps to keep weight in check, works the heart muscles, and reduces stress that can damage the heart muscles.

● Smoking is a huge risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, quit. If you do not smoke, do not start and avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.

● Excessive alcohol consumption damages the heart and raises blood pressure. Limit alcohol intake to two servings per day at most.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world, yet it is largely preventable. There are various kinds of heart diseases and while some of them are genetic, a number of them result from plaque buildup caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding smoking as well as alcohol can greatly reduce a person's risk of developing heart disease.

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