Heart Disease: What are the Symptoms? 

Heart disease describes a range of conditions, making it difficult to understand; however, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms in order to improve your heart health. Though there are uncontrollable factors like genetics and age that contribute to the risk of heart disease, there are also preventative measures to improve heart health. Two of the most common preventable heart diseases are:

  1. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is defined as getting blockages in the vessels that supply blood to your heart.
  2. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of blood to the heart. The blockage is usually due to a buildup of cholesterol or fat.

Causes of Heart Disease 

Causes can vary between the different diseases; however, they are very similar between coronary artery disease and a heart attack because complications from CAD can lead to a heart attack.

Coronary Artery Disease

Cholesterol deposition or inflammation of the inner walls of the arteries is the main cause of CAD.

Factors that can damage these inner walls include:

  • Poor diet
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • Increased stress
  • Genetics

Heart Attack shares all the same causes as above as well as:

  • Heart surgery
  • Extreme stress

Risk Factors 

There are three main risk factors for heart disease:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. High cholesterol
  3. Smoking

There are also uncontrollable risk factors like age, diabetes and family history.

These behaviors can also increase the risk of heart disease:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Consuming a diet high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Tobacco usage

Symptoms of Heart Disease 

Those with CAD may experience:

  • Chest pain that spreads across the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • A heart attack can happen if there is a complete blockage in the coronary artery
  • Nausea
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Those having a heart attack may experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in the upper body
  • Stomach pain
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations

When to See a Doctor 

If you believe you are having a heart attack, do not hesitate to call 911. If you have many of the risk factors listed above, it could not hurt to go to a doctor and get testing for CAD as it can become dangerous if unchecked and untreated.

Complications

There are many life-long complications associated with a heart attack or CAD, which is why it’s so important to prioritize heart health.

Those with coronary artery disease may experience:

  • Heart attacks
  • Blood clots in the artery
  • Heart failure
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Chest pain

 Those with heart attacks may experience:

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart

How to Improve Your Heart Health

Eating healthy, exercising, quitting smoking and abstaining from excessive drinking are great steps toward improving your heart health. It’s also extremely helpful to schedule regular checkups to monitor cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 

Smoking can increase your risk of numerous heart diseases, including the ones mentioned above. The sooner you can quit the better. Within four years of quitting, your risk of a stroke drops to the same levels as someone that has not smoked at all. Excessive drinking can also lead to heart disease as well as other medical problems, but what exactly is an excessive amount? Studies show only one drink a day is drinking in moderation and will not negatively impact your health.

With exercising, consistency is key. Find a workout you enjoy, whether that is joining a community like a cycling class or taking some alone time to put on your favorite music and go for a walk. Start slow with something like a 10-minute walk. The key is to take that first step.

Eating healthy can sound like a daunting challenge, but substituting foods in your daily routine goes a long way. The major foods to avoid are those high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats. Cholesterol is in a lot of food that we eat every day, such as shrimp, fast food and cheese. Saturated fats are high in fatty or processed meats, butter and coconut oil. Lastly, trans fats are high in fried foods and desserts.

A great first step to eating less of these items is being aware of the cholesterol and fats in your groceries by researching and also reading the nutrition facts on the back of the items. It may sound like everything delicious is off limits, but the goal is to eat fast foods and processed desserts in moderation and to increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grain items. Overall, if you are interested in improving your heart health check out our website to gather ideas for healthy recipes and join our motivated community on our social media.

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