• Susan L.

Heart of the matter

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Although we usually think of heart disease as happening to older adults, in reality, it can happen at any age. In fact, it is happening more often in younger adults ages 35-64. That's mainly because of the higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure in younger adults that go unmanaged, and increases the risk of heart disease earlier in life. The good news is; it can still be prevented by managing these health conditions and living a healthier lifestyle.

There are certain things that can increase the risk of heart disease, some of them include:

  • smoking

  • obesity

  • being physically inactive

  • poor eating habits

  • diabetes

  • high cholesterol

  • high blood pressure

Now that I am in my mid-fifties, I am particularly concerned about my own heart health, mainly because of my strong family history of heart disease. Having one or more blood relatives (siblings, parents, grandparents) with heart disease can greatly influence our cardiac risk factors. According to one study; if one of your parents had heart disease at a young age (before 55 or 65), your risk of getting heart disease is 60-75 percent greater than it otherwise would be. You obviously can't change your genes, but you can change the things that influence your risk of developing heart disease by educating yourself, and taking preventative measures to avoid stroke and heart attack.

Although maintaining a healthy lifestyle by simply eating right, exercising, and keeping your weight down is very important, knowing the symptoms of a heart attack is equally important. It could very well save your life, or even the life of a loved one! The symptoms of a heart attack can be different for each person, and even with each heart attack a person may have. The most common symptom is chest pain, but symptoms can show up in many ways and can also depend on other factors such as your age, gender, or type of heart disease you have.

Unfortunately, many people procrastinate when they first realize something may be wrong. They may explain away their symptoms, and pass it off as indigestion or just not feeling well. If you suspect that something isn't right; seek help right away! Treating early symptoms can prevent permanent heart damage and increases your chance of a complete recovery. In fact, 85 percent of heart damage happens in the first two hours following a heart attack.

Some early symptoms of a heart attack can include nausea and vomiting, light-headedness, chest pain or discomfort that comes and goes, shortness of breath, anxiety, sweating, pain in shoulders, neck or jaw.

Although these are all common symptoms, sometimes heart attack symptoms can differ between men and women.

Some common symptoms for men include:

  • Chest pain or pressure

  • Pain or discomfort in upper torso, including arms, back, stomach, left shoulder, jaw or neck

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Cold sweat

  • Dizziness or feeling faint

  • Shortness of breath

  • Stomach discomfort

Some common symptoms for women include:

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Feeling light-headed

  • Pain in chest that may travel down the arm

  • Shortness of breath

  • Anxiety

  • Pain in the jaw

  • Gassy feeling or stomach discomfort

  • Pain in back, shoulder or throat

The bottom line is; if you are having symptoms but are not sure, it is still important to seek help right away! It is better to be wrong than suffer long term damage from waiting too long, or risk losing your life. In fact, doctors strongly encourage people to get help if they are experiencing unusual symptoms.

Always trust your instincts, and pay close attention to what your body is telling you!

Wishing you a healthy and blessed week!