Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Cardiovascular disease, listed as the underlying cause of death, accounts for nearly 801,000 deaths in the United States. That’s about 1 of every 3 deaths in the U.S.
Heart problems in your family tree?
Some types of heart disease are hereditary – they run in families. Not all types of heart disease are an emergency, but they’re all serious. Talk to your doctor if you think you might have one of these conditions:
- Coronary artery disease: the arteries get clogged or blocked and cause a heart attack.
- Congenital heart failure: the heart can’t pump enough blood.
- Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats: they feel like pounding or fluttering in your chest. They can make you feel dizzy, light-headed, short of breath, weak, or tired.
- Heart valve disease: the valves don’t work as they should.
- Congenital heart disease: the heart isn’t formed properly.
- Cardiomyopathy or heart muscle disease: this causes the heart to enlarge or become less flexible.
- Pericarditis: the membrane around the heart gets inflamed because of infection, injury, or disease.
You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. While you can’t control your family history, gender, and age, you can control and change other risk factors.
To lower your risk:
- Schedule a visit with your doctor to talk about heart health. It’s important to schedule regular check-ups even if you think you are not sick.
- Add exercise to your daily routine. Start off by walking 15 minutes, 3 times each week. After a week or two, increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week.
- Increase healthy eating. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least 3 times each week and make your favorite recipe lower sodium. For example, swap out salt for fresh or dried herbs and spices.
- Take steps to quit smoking. If you currently smoke, quitting can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. You can help lower both by eating foods rich in whole grains, fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy products.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
Check for signs of heart disease or heart attack
You might experience chest pain when you’re active, excited, or stressed. Sometimes it might show up after you’ve eaten a big meal or been outside in cold weather. It might feel like weight or pressure, aching, burning, or even numbness.
Other signs include:
- Pain in your left shoulder, arms, neck, back, or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular, faster, or skipped heartbeats
- Weakness or dizziness
If you feel something isn’t right, even if you don’t have these symptoms, call your doctor right away.