Understanding Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Recent statistics show approximately 650,000 people die annually from heart disease. Every year approximately 800,000 people also experience their first heart attack often leading down the road to more serious heart disease. The cost of care for heart disease runs well over 10 billion annually. This disease takes a great toll of many people’s lives. There are numerous things you can do to help lessen your risk of developing heart disease. Most people think of coronary heart disease which is the narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart. However there are many different types of heart disease. These include arrhythmias, congenital heart disease, blood vessel disease, heart failure and congenital heart disease among others.

Arrhythmia: The heart normally beats 60 to 100 times per minute. When there is any abnormality it is considered an arrhythmia. This can occur in various forms; a rhythm change or a rate change to higher or lower than normal. Coronary heart disease: This is when the arteries harden often leading to potential heart attacks. This is due to a decrease in the oxygen that goes to the heart. Heart Failure: This actually is referring to the heart not pumping as effectively as it should. This affects over 5 million Americans, particularly people over the age of 65. It could result in water retention, swelling and shortness of breath. Congenital Heart Disease: This is a disorder that someone is born with. Sometimes the symptoms appear immediately but occasionally they may not appear until the person becomes an adult. Often this is hereditary or the result of some type of viral infection the fetus may have been exposed too. Congenital heart disease can affect the heart structure or blood vessels.

Testing for Heart Disease: There are many diagnostic tests that can be performed to determine if you have heart disease. Your doctor will determine which tests are best for you based on various factors including symptoms and medical history. An initial physical exam will include listening to your heart with a stethoscope to check for any abnormal sounds or rhythms. Your blood pressure will be checked and x rays may be taken to view the shape of the heart to check for abnormalities. If the doctor feels you need more testing that will be determined based on the results of the initial physical exam.

Dietary Considerations: It is important for everyone to follow a heart healthy diet. Doing so will help lesson your risk of developing heart disease in the future. If you have heart disease it is even more important to eat a healthy well balanced diet. This will reduce bad cholesterol also known as LDL, and lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Eat Good Fats Only: Good fats are ones that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. These can be found in fish such as salmon and tuna. It is also found in vegetable oils such as olive and canola oil. You should limit saturated fats and trans fats as these are unhealthier for the heart. Increase dietary fiber: This also helps to lower LDL levels. Fiber can be found in vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit. Lean Protein: Incorporate lean proteins in your diet. These can be found in chicken, turkey, seafood. Occasional lean cuts of beef are okay but beef does have higher levels of saturated fat so moderation is in order. Complex Carbs: These carbs are good for you and include whole grain bread and brown rice. Avoid simple carbohydrates because they contain sugar. Examples include soda, cookies, ice cream, etc. Regular meals: Avoid skipping meals or any type of crash diets. You need to always eat a healthy well balanced diet and have three complete meals daily. Or five to six mini meals is another option. This will help keep blood sugar levels stabilized as well. Limit your sodium or salt intake.

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