Heart disease and the conditions that can lead up to it can happen at any age. While it is commonly thought of as a problem in older adults, it is actually happening in younger adults more and more often. Why is this happening? Partly because the conditions that lead up to heart disease are happening at younger ages. Conditions such as obesity and high blood pressure among younger adults (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life.
About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. It’s the leading cause of death in both men and women. The term “heart disease” or “cardiovascular disease” is the term of all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. This includes coronary heart disease (buildup of plaque inside the coronary arteries, which can cause heart attacks), stroke, congenital heart defects (problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth), and peripheral artery disease (build up of plaque in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, and limbs).
Plaque is a waxy substance made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances, that are found in the bloodstream. Plaque can build up in your arteries thereby reducing the amount of oxygen-rich blood getting to your heart. Plaque can lead to blood clots, which block blood flow and are the most common cause of a heart attack.
A heart attack or a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough blood flow. Time is of the essence during a heart attack. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.
You should know the five major signs and symptoms of a heart attack:
Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
Chest pain or discomfort
Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
Shortness of breath
Unusual or unexplained tiredness
Nausea or vomiting
Men and women can have varying signs and symptoms. Some experience no symptoms, while other experience all the symptoms above. Women are more likely to describe the cheat pain as sharp and burning and more frequently have pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back.
Remember, if you notice these symptoms of a heart attack in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately.
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
Unhealthy eating patterns
Preventing Heart Disease:
○ Eating a healthy, balanced diet
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods (which contain a lot of sodium). Eating foods low in saturated, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt in your diet can help lower blood pressure and limiting sugar can lower blood sugar levels to prevent or help control diabetes.
○ Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease
○ Getting enough physical activity
Being active can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. For adults, 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking or bicycling) is recommended every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
○ Not smoking or using other forms of tobacco
○ Limiting alcohol use
○ Don’t smoke
○ Manage conditions
Be sure to manage any conditions such as blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes with your doctor.