Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among both men and women, consistently taking more lives each year than all cancers and AIDS combined. Making the sobering statistics even worse is the fact that in many cases cardiovascular disease is entirely preventable. “When it comes to the treatment of cardiovascular disease, the best treatment is through prevention and early detection,” says Coordinated Health Cardiologist David Scoblionko. “It’s also important to know your risks when it comes to COD.”
Women and Heart Disease
Most people associate chest pain and shortness of breath with heart disease. But, heart disease often presents much differently in women than their male counterparts, which may be why so many women fall victim to heart disease each year. Unlike men, women are more likely to experience pain unrelated to their chest. Some of the more common symptoms of a heart attack in women include neck, shoulder, upper back and abdominal pain, and shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating and dizziness. Because these symptoms tend to be less severe than the traditional chest pain associated with a heart attack, many women delay going to the hospital until the damage has already been done to their heart. To prevent heart disease, it’s important for women to be aware of their risk factors. In addition to the common risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, hypertension and obesity, women also need to be aware that other factors could put them at an increased risk for heart disease. For example, mental stress, depression and smoking all tend to affect women more than men. Women also need to be mindful that low levels of estrogen following menopause could increase their risk of cardiovascular disease.
All in the Family: Family History
Heart disease can strike anyone, but some people may be more at risk than others. “Know your numbers and your family history,” says Coordinated Health Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Joyce Dobish. “By that I mean blood pressure readings, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and if immediate family members (parents or siblings) have a history of cardiac disease. A positive family history may predispose one to premature cardiovascular disease.” If you have a close relative who developed heart disease at an early age, you have an increased risk of developing it as well. Early age is generally considered anything below 55 in men and 65 in women. If you have a family history of heart disease, your physician may recommend earlier screenings and choose a more aggressive form of treatment for issues like high cholesterol or blood pressure. The connection between distant relatives and heart disease is still somewhat unclear. Though research shows that there may be some increased risk, many physicians don’t even include a distant relative with heart disease on a patient’s risk profile.
Know Your Numbers: Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Since high cholesterol and blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease and stroke, it’s important to be aware of your numbers and make sure they fall within a healthy range. Though everyone needs a certain amount of cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, too much cholesterol can cause heart disease. High cholesterol occurs when you develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which make it diffi cult for enough blood to get through your arteries and could deprive your heart of the oxygen it needs. Eating foods like whole milk, butter, cheese and certain meats that are high in saturated fat and trans fat can cause high cholesterol. Other causes of high cholesterol include leading a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, certain medication, family history and some chronic conditions. High blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood against your artery walls is too high and causes problems like heart disease. Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the resistance to blood flow in your arteries. Unlike high cholesterol, there is often no clear-cut cause of high blood pressure. However, there are certain things that can increase your risk of high blood pressure. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, excessive sodium intake, stress and chronic conditions. Treatment for both high cholesterol and high blood pressure depend on the individual and the severity of the condition, but ranges from lifestyle modifi cations to medication.
You are What You Eat: Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Making healthy choices on a daily basis is instrumental in reducing or even preventing heart disease. This includes eating a heart healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. While it’s important to watch what you eat, it’s equally important to watch your portion size. Try to eat only the suggested serving size of food. Since it’s often diffi cult to judge a serving size based on sight alone, you may want to use a measuring cups or scale to make sure you’re correct. Another tip to making healthy choices is planning ahead. Many people fi nd themselves making unhealthy food choices because they don’t feel they have another option. But that can change if you create a menu in advance and make sure you have the items necessary to make the meal on hand.
The Cost of Heart Disease: The Physical and the Financial Toll
Heart disease isn’t just the number one killer of both men and women, it’s also the most expensive disease, costing the U.S. around $273 billion each year. It’s estimated that 17 percent of all the money spent in the U.S. health care system goes to treating cardiovascular diseases. One reason for the exorbitant cost is the fact that people are being diagnosed at a younger age, which means they are being pulled from work and being placed on disability. The earlier you are diagnosed with heart disease, the more you can expect to spend during your lifetime on medical costs like hospitalizations, medication, surgery and testing. The best way to protect yourself and your family from the physical and fi nancial strains of heart disease is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeing your doctor regularly. For more information, or to make an appointment with a Coordinated Health physician, visit www.coordinatedhealth.com or call The Coordinated Health Solution Center at (877) 247-8080.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun