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The leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease is the one of the biggest challenges to our national health. But you can reduce your risk of developing most heart diseases just by adopting healthy lifestyle choices and being aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with heart issues like coronary artery disease.
The impact of heart disease on Americans is staggering, affecting people across all ethnic and gender divides. It's likely you know or have known a person affected by heart disease:
Heart disease can stand for a wide range of different conditions that can affect your heart in different ways, or affect specific parts of your heart. These can include:
Many people also say "heart disease" when talking about cardiovascular disease, which usually involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks, stroke, or angina.
This occurs when the arteries harden and narrow in the damaged surface of arteries (a process called atherosclerosis) due to a buildup of cholesterol, which becomes a plaque, a surface bump that blocks blood flow. When this blocks the coronary arteries responsible for blood flow to the heart, this is coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease, affecting 18.2 million Americans over age 20.
Coronary artery disease can manifest in several ways, such as stable angina (chest pain) or a blood clot resulting from a ruptured plaque. This clot may cause an unstable angina, which is merely painful but dissolves, or can block the artery fully and cause irreversible damage in the form of a heart attack.
Symptoms of coronary artery disease can include:
We're focusing on coronary heart disease today, but you'll want to watch out for signs of arrhythmia, too. A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat that might be too quick, too slow, or irregular. Symptoms can include:
There are many different types of arrhythmias with a number of causes. They may indicate the existence of other forms of heart disease, so recognizing an arrhythmia is vital.
Some heart disease risk factors are inherited, and there are occasional differences in likelihood between different groups of people (for example, men are slightly but consistently more likely to develop it than women). However, many risk factors are based on lifestyle choices. They include:
Much of heart disease prevention is simply about making smart lifestyle changes and sticking with them. Some ways to reduce your risk of heart disease can include:
Treating heart disease will involve adopting a healthy lifestyle as well, but the most vital methods of treatment are medications and surgery.
Medications may include:
Heart surgery may also be an option for more severe cases. This is complex, demanding surgery that comes with a long recovery time. Methods may include: