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February 24, 2022 | Heart Health

What is Heart Disease?

Heart rate levels surrounded by a heart

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.?

That stat, along with the stats below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show just how prevalent heart disease is in the United States:

  • One person dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease
  • About 695,000 people die from heart disease each year
  • 1 in every 4 deaths is from heart disease

Whether you are currently dealing with heart disease, or you’re wondering how to avoid heart disease, below we explain how you can keep your heart healthy.

What is heart disease?

The CDC explains that the term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. Related heart conditions can include arrhythmia, angina, and heart defects. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD) which restricts blood flow to the heart. When there is a restriction in blood flow, heart attacks are more likely to occur.

How is heart disease diagnosed?

While many people may think of a heart attack as being the warning sign to heart disease, in many cases, people are unaware that they even suffer from heart disease. For example, The American Heart Association explains that high blood pressure (or hypertension) is commonly called “the silent killer” as many people don’t realize that their blood pressure is high or they don’t see any other warning signs or symptoms.

For others, heart disease is evident through a heart attack, arrhythmia, or heart failure. While there are similarities between these three events, there are some things to look for if you think you’re having one of these heart disease symptoms:

  • Heart attack. Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
  • Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Risk factors for heart disease fall into two categories:

  • Unpreventable: gender, family history, certain health conditions, age
  • Preventable: lifestyle

Nearly half of all Americans exhibit at least 1 of 3 main factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other health conditions related to heart disease can include diabetes and obesity. However, you can decrease the risk for heart disease through some lifestyle changes.

The most common lifestyle behaviors that contribute to heart disease include consuming a diet high in fat and cholesterol, limited physical activity, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and tobacco use. Changing these lifestyle behaviors  can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

As an example, if you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, making changes to your diet by limiting the amount of fat you consume and adding in more nutritious options such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, can lower cholesterol over time and therefore lower your risk for heart disease. Additionally, adding in more exercise, and practicing moderation with other unhealthy habits can help as well.

How to keep your heart healthy

It’s important to note that while you may be at risk for heart disease, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have it, you just have to be careful. In addition to following some of the lifestyle changes above, you can stay on top of your heart health with diagnostic testing. Your healthcare provider can order blood tests, such as a lipid panel that measures your cholesterol levels. Staying in touch with your healthcare provider can help you prevent heart disease, or find better ways to manage it.

Additionally, you can add Scarlet® to your bucket of health resources. With Scarlet, you can stay home for your blood draws, and fit them into your schedule when it’s most convenient.

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