Annually, over 831,000 people die from heart disease, making it the #1 killer of Americans; however, millions more have symptoms of cardiovascular disease, as well. Some common heart diseases are:
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – CAD occurs when the blood vessels in the heart become so heavily lined with plaque that they begin narrowing and eventually close. Plaque comes from an unhealthy diet involving the consumption of too much LDL cholesterol.
Valvular Heart Disease – This disease can be genetic but at times is caused by infection in the heart.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – The heart weakens or becomes stiff with CHF and fails to function properly.
Aortic Aneurysms – A weakness in the aorta causes it to bulge from the pressure of the blood pumping. It can burst if the wall of the aorta becomes too thin.
Arrythmia – An arrythmia means that the heart is beating either too fast, too slow, or irregularly.
Genetic Heart Defects – Heart defects from birth can include holes in the heart or the failure of a natural prenatal opening to close.
Some of the most common heart diseases start slowly with no symptoms at all, but eventually symptoms begin to appear and it is best to seek medical attention immediately. See your doctor if you begin experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Chest pain (this symptom is experienced more often by men than women)
- Shortness of breath (with some heart conditions, like CHF, this will get worse while lying on your back
- Swelling of your ankles, legs, or any other part of your body, usually most noticeable in the extremities
- Pressure in your chest (could be caused by a build-up of fluid congestion)
- Chronic Cough
- Racing heart, slow heartbeat, or any other discernible feeling of irregularity in your heartbeat, even if this is only an occasional happening – be aware and if it happens more than a couple of times, tell your doctor
- High or low blood pressure
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the chest
- Severe heartburn
- Pain or a heavy discomfort that radiates from above or below the sternum to your jaw and down your arm (this can be a sign of a heart attack, which requires more immediate attention than an advancing heart condition)
- Dizziness or a feeling of light-headedness
- A feeling of anxiety that continues
Experiencing any of these symptoms means that your heart disease has most likely begun advancing. Catching your heart problem in its beginning stages is ideal, which is why as you age it is wise to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor and stay in touch with your caregiver. You can also take advantage of the blood pressure machines in the grocery stores. Be proactive and help nip the problem in the bud by monitoring and being aware of your heart’s health. Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet regardless of age or body weight as well as incorporating a cardiovascular exercise regimen into your daily lifestyle can prove to be beneficial. If you suffer from any type of heart disease, always make sure that you have a caregiver or home health aide in close proximity to help you with your day-to-day needs.