The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.
Your heart is a hollow muscle, made of two pumps side by side. Each pump has two chambers: the atrium and the ventricle. Your heart is responsible for pumping blood (and oxygen and nutrients) to all parts of your body. Once the blood is ready to be re-oxygenated, it moves through your veins back to your heart, and then on to your lungs where it gets re-oxygenated. It also pumps blood from the rest of your body to the lungs, where blood is re-oxygenated. Weighing between 8 to 10 ounces, this miraculous organ beats about 100,000 times and pumps 1,980 gallons of blood through your body every day. This process runs continuously every minute of your life. Amazingly, the system of blood vessels moves your blood over 60,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries, yet it only takes about 20 seconds for your blood to travel the entire vascular system!
Risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease include many factors including age, family history, lifestyle and diet. Some chronic health issues like High blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows or diabetes increases your risk of heart health issues. Both conditions share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
Are You at Risk For Heart Disease?
If any of the following conditions apply to you, consult your physician as they can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. You can also request various blood tests to get a more accurate picture of your risk.
- You have a family history of heart disease
- You are a smoker
- You weigh 10 pounds or more than your ideal body weight and/or have a body mass index above 24
- You have high blood pressure
- Your total cholesterol is above 200 mg/dL
- You suffer from chronic stress
- You live a sedentary lifestyle
- You have type-2 diabetes
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Common Symptoms of Heart Disease
The following warning signs are typical for heart disease. If you experience any of them, consult your physician immediately.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms (especially the left arm)
- Pain in the upper back, neck, shoulder blade, or jaw
- Indigestion or vomiting for no apparent reason
- In men, inability to achieve or maintain a firm erection
You might not be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until you have a heart attack, angina, stroke or heart failure. It’s important to watch for cardiovascular symptoms and discuss concerns with your doctor. Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular evaluations.
Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, so talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding your heart health. If you’re concerned about developing heart disease, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. This is especially important if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease.