Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. Men and women experience different types of symptoms for heart disease, and the severity of the symptoms vary. Therefore, it is very important that people are aware of the symptoms of heart disease and learn how they can help prevent it.
The severity of coronary heart disease symptoms varies greatly from one person to the next. Some people may not experience any symptoms at all before suffering a heart attack. Other people will only have mild, infrequent chest pain to alert them to a problem. Some people’s symptoms are so severe, however, that everyday activities such as walking or mowing the lawn are difficult to perform.
The two major warning signs of heart disease are angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath. Angina involves feelings of heaviness, pain, squeezing or burning in the chest. These sensations may also travel into the left arm, neck or jaw. Angina is oftentimes mistaken for indigestion in women and is therefore frequently missed by doctors on the first diagnosis. Some people suffering from heart disease may also have trouble breathing, either while they are performing physical tasks or while at rest.
Other Warning Signs May Include:
- Feeling fatigued for an extended period of time
- Swelling of the ankles or legs
- Fluttering, rapid heartbeats
- Nausea and dizziness that cannot be explained by other causes
There are both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors associated with heart disease. Although there is nothing you can do to change the uncontrollable risk factors, there are still many ways to reduce your chances of developing heart disease. The first step is to know what the risk factors are and then take steps to address the ones that can be changed.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
There are many risk factors associated with coronary heart disease. Unfortunately, some of these factors cannot be controlled. These factors include:
- Heredity. If several members of your family have had heart disease, you will be more likely to develop the disease yourself.
- Aging. The risk of developing heart disease increases as you age. Nearly four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are over the age of 65.
- Gender. Men typically have a greater risk of heart disease than women, and they often develop it earlier in life. However, once a woman has gone through menopause, the risk of heart disease increases.
Controllable Risk Factors
Even if you have some of the uncontrollable risk factors, it is possible to greatly reduce your chances of developing heart disease by making changes to your lifestyle.
- If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can greatly reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
- Eat healthy foods that are low in saturated fats and sodium and high in fiber. Consult your doctor or dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan that is appropriate for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked yearly.
- Exercise regularly. Consult your doctor on the exercise routine that is best for you.
- If you have diabetes, keep it under control with proper medications, diet and exercise.
- Get regular medical checkups. Be sure to inform your doctor if there is a history of heart disease in your family.
For more information to help you control these risk factors, read Eight Steps to a Healthy Heart.
Heart disease is a serious condition that affects both men and women. While there are some risk factors that cannot be controlled, there are many ways to lower your chance of developing the disease. By following an active, healthy lifestyle and eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, you are helping to decrease your chance of developing heart disease and improving your overall health as well.