Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States; one in every four deaths each year is caused by the disease. The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease, which causes 380,000 deaths every year. By recognizing the symptoms and receiving treatment for coronary heart disease, you can greatly increase your chance of survival.
What Is Coronary Heart Disease?
You have probably heard of plaque buildup on your teeth, but plaque can also build up inside your arteries. When plaque, which is composed mainly of cholesterol and fat, clogs up your arteries, it restricts the blood flow to your heart. This causes coronary heart disease.
What Factors Increase Your Risk of Coronary Heart Disease?
There are many different risk factors for coronary heart disease, several of which are preventable. They include:
You are much more likely to have heart disease as you get older: 85% of deaths from coronary heart disease are in sufferers age 65 or older.
Men are more likely to have heart disease, but women are more likely to die from heart disease if they do have it.
- Family History
You are more likely to have coronary heart disease if there is heart disease in your family.
Smokers are up to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers.
- Alcohol Use
People who use alcohol heavily are more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
- High Cholesterol
Untreated high cholesterol is one of the biggest risk factors for coronary heart disease.
- High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts stress on your heart, making your risk for coronary heart disease higher.
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Not getting enough exercise can contribute to your risk for coronary heart disease.
Heart disease is a major killer of people with diabetes; 65% of people with diabetes die from it.
Obesity can raise your likelihood of having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but even without any of those other risk factors you are still more likely to develop coronary heart disease than if you were at a normal weight.
What Symptoms Indicate Coronary Heart Disease?
Coronary heart disease does not always show symptoms, but you can have:
- Chest Pain
Chest pain or pressure, also known as angina, is common in people with coronary heart disease. You may notice it especially after a physically or emotionally stressful activity.
- Shortness of Breath
You may notice that you are more fatigued and short of breath than normal because of the decreased blood flow to the heart.
- Heart Attack
Sometimes, a heart attack is your first warning that you have coronary heart disease. If you notice heart attack symptoms (pain in the chest or the arm, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea), you should get to an emergency room right away.
What Treatments Are Available for Coronary Heart Disease?
- Lifestyle Changes
The most common treatment for coronary heart disease is to change your lifestyle and reduce risk factors. Quitting smoking and drinking, changing your diet, and getting more exercise can greatly reduce your chance of a heart attack.
You can use medications for lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol if lifestyle changes are not enough. You can also take medication that is designed to lower your heart's workload.
Percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as angioplasty, is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a tube with a balloon on the end into your blood vessel. The balloon is used to compress plaque against your artery's wall and restore blood flow to the artery.
No matter which treatment options your doctor recommends, it is important that you address coronary heart disease as soon as you realize that it is an issue. With early intervention, you can reduce your risk of having a heart attack and joining the hundreds of thousands of deaths to the disease each year. For more information, contact a cardiology specialist.