Saturday, February 11, 2012

American Heart Month: Getting Heart Smart

American Heart Month - Go red!Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US and that is why February is American Heart Month. This initiative is sponsored by The American Heart Association to spread awareness about heart disease and educate Americans on how to live heart-healthy lives. I am a firm believer in the impact of preventive behavior. Despite what some believe, your lifestyle does have an influence on disease risk. Yes, genetics/biology plays a role, as well as environmental factors, but all three (genetics, environment, and lifestyle) interact with each other to cause disease. How you live your life can exacerbate any underlying genetic susceptibility you may have and heart disease is a perfect example of this model.

What is heart disease?
There are several conditions that fall under the umbrella term "heart disease." Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the US. This occurs when plaque (cholesterol) builds up in your arterial wall. CAD can lead to a heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias. Other types of heart disease include: congenital heart defect, peripheral arterial disease, and rheumatic heart disease.

What causes heart disease?
Since there are many conditions that fall under the umbrella term heart disease, there are also many causes of heart disease. Each condition will have their own etiology or cause, from genetic abnormalities to infection to damage due to age or medication, and of course poor lifestyle choices.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the following increase the risk of heart disease:
-having high blood pressure
-having high blood cholesterol
-if you smoke
-being overweight
-being physically inactive
-having a family history of early heart disease
-being a woman 55 years or older

Is it preventable and how do I reduce the risk?
There are several ways to prevent heart disease: living a healthy lifestyle and managing current medical conditions.

A heart-healthy lifestyle includes:
-a healthy diet
-watching your weight
-not smoking
-regularly exercising
-minimizing alcohol consumption

Managing medical conditions means:
-monitoring your blood cholesterol
-monitoring your blood pressure
-monitoring your blood sugar level if you have diabetes
-taking medication to control your current conditions

How do you treat it?
Treatment of heart disease varies depending on the type of condition you have. It can range from a simple lifestyle change to medication to surgery. It's best to speak with a physician to find the most appropriate treatment for the specific condition.

How do you live heart-healthy?


Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. The opinions expressed in this post are solely mine. I am not a medical professional and do not claim expertise in medicine.