According to the American Heart Association , one in four deaths is caused by heart disease. It’s important to understand what heart disease is, the symptoms and conditions.
- Heart disease can damage coronary arteries, heart function or heart rhythms.
- Having a family member with heart disease increases your risk of heart disease.
- Many women believe breast cancer is their biggest health threat. But heart disease affects more women than all forms of cancer combined.
- Women over age 55 are most at risk for heart disease. Women produce less estrogen during and after menopause, which can cause high cholesterol, high blood pressure and weight gain.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease includes many conditions that affect the heart and its blood vessels:
- Coronary artery disease: Blood flow to the heart is decreased when arteries become hard and narrow due to fatty cholesterol deposits. This can lead to chest pain or discomfort (angina), or a heart attack if an artery becomes blocked.
- Heart failure: Other organs may not get enough blood when the heart can’t pump as well as it should. This can cause shortness of breath, extreme tiredness and swelling in the feet, ankles and legs.
- Heart arrhythmia: Small changes to the beat of the heart are normally harmless. But, if you have flutters with symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath, call 911 immediately.
Prevention is better than cure
Heart disease is a lifelong condition that can’t be cured. But, it can be prevented. To keep your heart strong and healthy:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce salt intake.
- Increase potassium intake.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products while reducing total and saturated fat intake.