- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
The Leading Cause of Death in America is Heart Disease - How You Can Prevent It
Heart Disease is currently the leading cause of death among both men and women in America. In 2008, over 616,000 people died of the deadly disease. It currently causes a whopping 25% of all deaths in America. Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease, which affects the arteries in the heart. In most cases, the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart are narrowed, due to the buildup of plaque caused by fatty material and other substances. As a result, blood flow to the heart can slow down, or even stop, leading to a heart attack.
What Puts Me at Risk?
There are many things that may put you at risk for heart disease that you cannot change. One being age. The older you get, the higher risk you have of developing heart disease. Another factor is your gender. While heart disease is still the leading cause of death among women, men do have a higher risk than women who are still getting their menstrual period. After menopause, however, the risk for women is about the same as it is for men. Genes are another risk factor that you unfortunately can’t control. If your parents or other close relatives have had heart disease, you are at a higher risk for it too. Race is among the last factor in that African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans tend to have a higher risk for heart problems.
There are some lifestyle changes that you can make, to lessen your risk for heart disease. First, diet plays a strong role. Eating right, and getting any high blood pressure or high cholesterol under control is crucial. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and heart failure, while extra cholesterol in your blood builds up inside the walls of your heart’s arteries. Quit smoking. Smokers have a much higher risk of the disease. Substance abuse can also cause the disease, especially cocaine use. Keep your weight under control. Studies have shown that lack of exercise and being over-weight can dramatically increase your risk for heart disease.
How Do I Know if I Have Heart Disease?
Symptoms can be very noticeable in some, but in others, it can be a “silent killer.” And unfortunately, symptoms don’t typically appear until they have become symptoms of a heart attack. The most common symptom of heart disease, however, is chest pain or discomfort. This happens when your heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. Many patients describe the feeling of having their heart squeezed, or feeling pressure in their sternum, neck, arms, stomach, or upper back. Shortness of breath with little activity can be another symptom of heart trouble. Regular check-ups with a doctor should keep you informed of your risk of heart disease. If you have many of the risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may want to monitor you regularly, and may put you on certain medications to control some of those factors. A change in diet and lifestyle may also be recommended.
Causes of Americans' Heart Disease in 2005-2008:
High Blood Pressure: 32%
Cigarette Smoking: 21%
High Cholesterol: 15%
This shows that inactivity and obesity give people the highest risk for the disease. These are completely preventable risk factors!