Be Your Own Valentine and Prevent Heart Disease
At this time of year, we’re all thinking about our emotional heart, making plans and buying presents for our loved ones. While we’re concerned with hearts, this is a good time to think about your physical heart and how to prevent heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of mortality in America and has been since 1950. The good news is its causes are easy to trace and possible to reverse.
The Risks for Heart Disease Have Been Widely Known and Studied
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is caused by the buildup of plaque in the walls of arteries carrying blood to the heart. Those plaques are stuffed with cholesterol, immune cells, calcium, and other detritus. This is a condition known as atherosclerosis and over time leads to a buildup of calcium resulting in a narrowing of the arteries supplying blood, oxygen and nutrients to your heart. When the narrowing gets too severe it can result in chest pain and heart attacks. Heart attacks can also be caused by soft plaque which forms very early in the process. Soft plaque can easily burst leading to a clot that at once cuts off the flow of blood resulting in a heart attack. In fact, soft plaque is the most dangerous kind, a ticking time bomb in your arteries that most people have no idea is present.
The major risk factors for heart disease are well known. They represent both genetic and lifestyle factors. Age, gender and family history are the immutable factors in determining heart disease risk, but smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are the leading heart disease risk factors and ones that can be reversed. The majority of Americans have at least one of these three risks. Other risks include diabetes, obesity and inactivity.
The most common signs of heart attack are shortness of breath; tightness in the chest; chest pain that radiates to the arm, neck or back; numbness or tingling in the extremities; lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea; and indigestion. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a health care professional at once.
Heart Disease Presents Differently in Women
Heart disease occurs in men more frequently than in women. Estrogen offers some protection from women’s heart disease during childbearing years. But post-menopausal women experience heart disease at about the same rate as men. Even pregnancy influences women’s heart disease risk. Pregnancy puts extra strain on the heart. Gestational diabetes also increases the likelihood of heart disease in pregnant women.
Women may not be aware that symptoms are cardiac related. Most of us believe that chest pain and left arm pain are signs of heart attack. But these symptoms are different for women. Women experience: chest heaviness; neck, jaw, back or gastric pain; sweating; excessive or prolonged fatigue. Women are also most likely to experience a silent heart attack, which can go undetected until the heart is examined and tested.
You Can Stop Heart Disease Before you Know that You Have it
It is possible to address the non-genetic causes of heart disease. Maintaining a diet high in fiber, and low in sugar and saturated fat goes a long way to improving the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Engaging in some form of exercise is likely to mitigate obesity as a cause of heart disease. Even eating olive oil can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
But if you want to find out if you’re at risk before any symptoms occur, Fountain Life can help you. Our memberships include coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA), which takes a picture of the blood vessels supplying your heart and, with an AI algorithm, can detect blocked arteries and even the soft, most dangerous plaque before you have any signs of heart disease. Fountain Life also offers genetic testing that can also detect your specific risk for heart disease.
Fountain Life includes these and myriad other diagnostic tests as part of our yearlong APEX membership. Layer in a team of highly trained physicians, nurses, nutritionists, health coaches, and care coordinators to guide your care and ensure your risk factors are addressed. If you are interested in gauging your risk for cardiovascular disease, heart disease, cancer and neurocognitive disease, call us to discuss which options might be best for you.