Early Detection of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the nation’s number one killer of men and women. About half of all Americans (47%) have at least 1 of 3 key factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Consequently, doctors and researchers focus their attention on the controllable risk factors and how to prevent heart disease. The major risk factors of heart disease include:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol Levels
- Family History
The majority of risk factors of heart disease are controllable to some extent, with the exception of family history and age. With research and healthy lifestyle habits, there are effective ways to reduce the risk. It is crucial to understand the importance of the relationship between the factors. Risk factors for heart disease amplify each other. For instance, if you have two risk factors, your risk of having a heart attack is increased by more than adding the individual risks together. Conversely, reducing or eliminating your controllable risk factors can have a substantial positive impact on your health.
Being aware of the early signs of cardiovascular disease provides you with a better chance to catch threats early on.
Getting Your Numbers Checked
Blood pressure is referred to as the “silent killer” because there are typically no symptoms. It is a medical condition that occurs when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high. This high blood pressure causes damage because it makes the heart and blood vessels work harder and less efficiently. The best prevention is knowing your numbers and making changes that matter in order to prevent and manage high blood pressure. By reducing your risk of high blood pressure you also reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver. Your liver provides enough cholesterol, however we often obtain extra cholesterol from certain foods we eat. This extra cholesterol builds up in the wall of the arteries, including those of the heart. Consequently, the arteries narrow and decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body. High blood cholesterol usually has no sign or symptoms. In order to identify if you have high cholesterol you must get your cholesterol checked. Once you have done so, you must manage your lifestyle habits to lower your cholesterol or maintain a low cholesterol.
Avoiding Unhealthy Habits
The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells and can also damage the function of your heart and blood vessels. Atherosclerosis is the disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries. When the plaque hardens and narrows your arteries it limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body. Smoking causes damage that increases your risk of atherosclerosis. Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can help reverse heart and blood vessel damage and reduce heart disease risk.
Obesity is excess body fat. This disease is linked to higher “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower “good” cholesterol levels. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes as well as heart disease. Obese individuals require more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to their bodies which results in an increase in blood pressure. Furthermore, obesity can lead to diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, at least 68% of people aged 65 or older with diabetes also have heart disease. Individuals with diabetes are said to be two to four times more likely at risk for heart disease. Additionally, the American Heart Association lists diabetes as being one of the top seven major controllable factors to prevent heart disease.
Genetic factors play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of heart disease share common environments and other factors that may increase their risk. The risk for heart disease can increase even more when genetics combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices. Examples such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet without exercise. Because you can’t change your genetics, it’s even more important to treat and control any other modifiable risk factors you may have.
Men are at risk for heart attack earlier in life than women. The average age for a heart attack in men is 66, whereas the average age for a heart attack in women is 70. Heart disease can occur at any age, but the risk increases as you get older.
Heart Disease Tests
In order to detect heart disease early on there are a number of different tests a doctor can perform. Besides blood tests and a chest X-ray, tests to diagnose heart disease can include:
- Holter Monitoring
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- Stress test
- Cardiac catheterization
- CT scan (Cardiac computerized tomography)
- MRI (Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging)
- Coronary calcium scan
Early detection of heart disease can be the difference between life and death. Being aware of the early signs of cardiovascular disease provides you with a better chance to catch threats early on. Screening tests allow doctors to identify early cardiac functional and structural abnormalities in asymptomatic individuals without clear-cut risk factors for heart disease.
Heart Disease in Women
According to the American Heart Association, 44% of women are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Cardiovascular disease kills one woman every minute in the United States. Furthermore, one out of every three women will experience some form of cardiovascular disease during their lifetime. It is pivotal that people become aware of the risk factors and treatment precautions in order to increase their chance of survival. A recent study found that nearly 75% of heart disease cases in women can be prevented with better lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, exercising, and eating a healthy diet. This study also discovered that women who led healthy lifestyles in their young adult years were 92% less likely to have a heart attack, compared to women who lived unhealthier lifestyles. Most cases of heart disease are preventable by early detection and leading a more heart-healthy lifestyle.
About half of all Americans (47%) have at least one of three key factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
In order to reduce your risk of a heart attack and increase your odds of surviving a heart attack it is recommended to make these lifestyle changes:
- Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. A healthy diet and physical activity will help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Additionally, a doctor may recommend medications that will help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- If you smoke, quit smoking.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet that is full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Get physical activity every day.
Heart disease is the major cause of death and is still under-recognized and under-treated. It is never too late to lower your chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Take your heart health into your own hands in order to reduce your risk of heart attack.
Know what is going on in your heart. If you have any arrhythmias or heart issues, contact us today. ACS Diagnostics can get you in touch with a Cardiologist, or get a remote test sent directly to your home. Don’t ignore your heart, take control today!