Heart Disease: Risk Factors, Prevention

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, one in four people die from heart disease. This amounts to approximately 610,000 deaths annually.

Heart disease is not discriminative. It is the leading cause of death for many populations, especially whites, Hispanics and blacks. Nearly half the American population is at risk for heart disease, and the number is increasing.

Heart disease can be life-threatening, but it can be prevented in most people as well. By adopting healthy lifestyles early, you may be able to live longer with a healthier heart.

What are the different types of heart disease?

Heart disease includes a wide variety of cardiovascular conditions. A number of diseases and conditions are associated with heart disease. Types of heart disorders include:

  • Arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is an abnormality of the cardiac rhythm.
  • Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is an arterial hardening.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This makes the muscles of the heart hard or weaken.
  • Congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are cardiac abnormalities which occur at birth.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is due to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries of the heart. It is sometimes referred to as ischemic cardiac disease.
  • Heart infections. Heart infections can occur due to bacteria, viruses or parasites.

The term cardiovascular disease can be used to describe heart disorders that specifically affect blood vessels.

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

Different kinds of heart conditions can lead to a variety of different symptoms.


Arrhythmias are abnormally rhythms of the heart. The symptoms you feel may depend on the type of arrhythmia you have heart beats that are too fast or too slow. Symptoms of an arrhythmia include:

  • lightheadedness
  • fluttering heart or racing heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • slow pulse
  • fainting spells


Atherosclerosis decreases the blood supply at your extremities. Along with chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms of atherosclerosis include:

  • coldness, especially in the limbs
  • numbness, especially in the limbs
  • unusual or unexplained pain
  • weakness in the legs and hands.

Congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defects are heart conditions that develop as the fetus grows. Some cardiac abnormalities never get diagnosed. Others can be discovered when they cause symptoms, such as:

  • blue-tinged skin
  • swelling of the extremities
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fatigue and low energy
  • irregular heart rhythm

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

CAD is a build-up of plaque in the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood across the heart and lungs. CAD symptoms include the following:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • A pressing or pressing sensation in the chest.
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • feelings of indigestion or gas


Cardiomyopathy is a condition that enlarges the muscles of the heart and makes them rigid, thick or weak. Symptoms of this condition consist of:

  • fatigue
  • bloating
  • swollen legs, mostly ankles and feet.
  • shortness of breath
  • pounding or rapid pulse

Heart infections

The word heart infection can be used to describe diseases such as endocarditis or myocarditis. Heart infection symptoms include the following:

  • chest pain
  • chest congestion or coughing
  • fever
  • chills
  • skin rash

What are the symptoms of heart disease in women?

Women often have signs and symptoms of heart disease that are not the same as men, especially as it relates to CAD and other cardiovascular diseases.

In fact, a 2003 study examined the symptoms most commonly observed among women who had suffered a heart attack. The main symptoms included no “classical” heart attack symptoms such as chest pain and tingling. Instead, the study indicated that women were more likely to say they had anxiety, sleep problems, and unusual or unexplained tiredness.

Furthermore, 80% of the women in the study reported feeling these symptoms for at least one month before their heart attack.

The symptoms of heart disease in women may also be mistaken for other conditions, such as depression, menopause and anxiety.

Common symptoms of women’s heart conditions include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • jaw pain
  • neck pain
  • back pain
  • dizziness
  • paleness
  • shortness of breath or shallow breathing
  • lightheadedness
  • fainting or passing out
  • anxiety
  • indigestion or pain like gas within the chest and stomach.
  • cold sweats

What causes heart disease?

Heart disease is a group of diseases and disorders that cause cardiovascular problems. Each type of cardiac disease is caused by something completely unique to this condition. Atherosclerosis and CAD are a result of plaque accumulation in arteries. Other causes for heart disease are discussed below.

Arrhythmia causes

Causes of heart rate abnormalities include:

  • diabetes
  • CAD
  • heart defects, including congenital heart defects
  • medications, supplements, and herbal remedies
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
  • substance use disorders
  • stress and anxiety
  • existing heart injury or condition.

Congenital heart defect causes

This heart disease occurs as a baby still develops inside the uterus. Certain heart conditions can be severe and diagnosed and treated early. Some may also be undiagnosed for a long time.

The structure of your heart is also subject to change with age. This can cause a heart defect which can result in complications and problems.

Cardiomyopathy causes

There are more than one types of cardiomyopathy. Each type results in a different condition.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy. There is no clear cause most common A type of cardiomyopathy that results in a weakened heart. It may result from previous damage to the heart, such as the type caused by medications, infections, and heart attack. It can also be an inherited disease or a result of uncontrolled blood pressure.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It causes a thicker heart muscle. This is generally inherited.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy. It is often difficult to know what leads to this type of cardio-myopathy, which results in rigid walls of the heart. Potential causes can include scar tissue build-up and an abnormal type of protein build-up known as amyloidosis.

Heart infection causes

Bacteria, parasites and viruses are the most common sources of cardiac infections. Uncontrolled infections in the body may also damage the heart if not treated correctly.

What are some risk factors for heart disease?

There are numerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some can be controlled, while others cannot. This is what the CDC says around 47 percent of Americans have a minimum risk factor for heart disease. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol and low concentrations of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the “good” cholesterol.
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • physical inactivity

Smoking, for instance, is a controlled risk factor. Smokers double their risk for developing heart disease, according to the. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

People with diabetes may also be at a higher risk of developing heart disease, as high blood glucose increases the risk of:

  • angina
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • CAD

If you suffer from diabetes, it is essential to monitor your glucose to limit your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) points out that people with hypertension and diabetes double their risk of heart disease.

Risk factors you can’t control

Additional risk factors for cardiac disease include:

  • family history
  • ethnicity
  • sex
  • age

Even if these risk factors are not within your control, you may be able to monitor their effects. As per the Mayo Clinic, a family history of CAD is particularly worrying when it comes to:

  • a family member under the age of 55, such as a father or sibling.
  • a family member under the age of 65, like a mother or sister.

Non-Hispanic Blacks, non-Hispanic Whites and persons of Asian or Pacific Island origin present a higher risk than Alaska Indians or Amerindians. And men are more at risk of heart disease than women. Actually, CDC estimates in between 70 and 89 percent of all heart events in the United States happen in males.

Finally, your age may increase your risk of cardiac illness. Between the ages of 20 and 59, males and females are among them a similar risk for CAD. However, after the age of 60, the percentage of males affected ranges from 19.9% to 32.2%. Only 9.7-18.8% of women between this age are affected.

How is heart disease diagnosed?

There are several types of tests and assessments your doctor can order to diagnose heart disease. Some of this may be done before you show signs of heart disease. Others can be used to investigate potential causes of symptoms as they develop.

Physical exams and blood tests

The first thing your doctor will do is conduct a physical examination and consider the symptoms you have experienced. They will ask about your family and medical history. Genetics can be a factor in some heart conditions. If you have a close family member who has a heart condition, let your doctor know.

Blood work is usually ordered. This is because they may help your physician to see your cholesterol levels and look for signs of inflammation.

Noninvasive tests

Various noninvasive tests can be used to diagnose a heart condition.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This test may monitor the electrical activity of your heart and help your doctor detect any abnormalities.
  • Echocardiogram. This ultrasound test may give your physician an accurate picture of the structure of your heart.
  • Stress test. This examination is performed while you are performing an intense activity, such as walking, running or stationary biking. During the examination, your doctor may monitor your heart activity as a result of changes in physical exertion.
  • Carotid ultrasound. To obtain a detailed ultrasound of your carotid arteries, your physician can order this ultrasound exam.
  • Holter monitor. Your physician may ask you to wear this pulse monitor for 24 to 48 hours. This enables them to have a wide-ranging view of your heart’s activity.
  • Tilt table test. If you have recently had fainting or dizziness while getting up or sitting, your doctor can prescribe this test. During this time, you are attached to a table and slowly lifted or lowered as they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.
  • CT scan. This imaging test provides your doctor with an extremely detailed X-ray image of your heart.
  • Heart MRI. Like a computed tomography, a cardiac MRI can give you a very detailed picture of your heart and blood vessels.

Invasive tests

If a physical examination, blood tests or non-invasive tests are inconclusive, your doctor may want to look inside your body to find out what is causing unusual symptoms. Invasive tests can consist of:

  • Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography. Your physician can insert a catheter in your heart through the groin and arteries. The catheter will assist them in carrying out tests involving the heart and blood vessels. Once the catheter is in your heart, your doctor may perform coronary artery surgery. When a coronary angiogram is performed, a dye is injected into the delicate arteries and capillaries surrounding the heart. The dye allows the production of a very detailed radiographic image.
  • Electrophysiology study. During this test, your physician may attach electrodes to your heart via a catheter. Once the electrodes are in place, your doctor can send electrical impulses across and record how the heart responds.

What treatments are available for heart disease?

Treating heart disease depends in large part on the type of heart disease you have and the extent to which it has progressed. For instance, if you have a heart infection, your doctor will probably give you an antibiotic.

If the plaque accumulates, they may adopt a two-track approach. prescribe a medicine that may help reduce the risk of additional plaque build-up and seek to help you adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The treatment of heart disease has three major categories:

Lifestyle changes

A healthy lifestyle may help to prevent heart disease. They can also help you deal with the disease and keep it from getting worse. Your diet is one of the primary areas that you can try to change.

A low-sodium, low-fat diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you reduce your risk of cardiac complications. Examples of this include Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).

Also, exercising regularly and quitting smoking may help treat heart disease. Also consider reducing your alcohol intake.


A drug may be required for some types of heart disease. Your doctor may prescribe a medicine that can cure or manage your heart disease. Medications may also be required to slow down or stop the risk of complications. The medication you are prescribed is dependent on the type of heart disease you have.

Surgery or invasive procedures

In some cases of heart disease, a surgical or medical procedure is required to treat the disease and prevent symptoms from worsening.

For example, if you have arteries that are blocked entirely or nearly completely by plaque build-up, your doctor can insert a stent into your artery to restore regular blood circulation. Your doctor’s intervention will depend on the type of heart disease you have and how much damage is done to your heart.

How can I prevent heart disease?

There are risk factors for heart disease that cannot be controlled, such as family history. However, it is always important to reduce your risk of developing heart disease by reducing the risk factors you can control.

Aim for healthy blood pressure and cholesterol numbers

Having healthy blood pressure and cholesterol ranges are just a few of the first things you can do for a healthy heart. Blood pressure is reported in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). Healthy blood pressure is considered to be less than 120 systolics and 80 diastolics, which are often expressed as “120 over 80” or “120/80 mm Hg”. Systolic is the measure of pressure when the heart contractions. Diastolic is the measure while the heart is resting. Higher figures indicate that the heart works too hard to pump out blood.

Your ideal cholesterol level will be determined by your risk factors and heart health history. If you are at high risk for heart disease, have diabetes, or have had a heart attack in the past, your target levels will be lower than those of those at low or medium risk.

Find ways to manage stress

As simple as this sounds, stress management may also reduce your risk of heart disease. Never underestimate the chronic stress that contributes to heart disease. Talk to your doctor if you are often overwhelmed, anxious or dealing with stressful life events, like moving, changing jobs or getting divorced.

Embrace a healthier lifestyle

A healthy diet and regular exercise are also important. Be careful not to eat foods high in saturated fat or salt. Doctors recommend 30 to 60 minutes of exercise on most of the time for a total of 2 hours and 30minutes per week. Consult your doctor to make sure you can follow these directions safely, especially if you already have a heart problem.

If you smoke, give it a rest. The nicotine present in cigarettes causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, which complicates the circulation of oxygen-rich blood. It may result in atherosclerosis.

What lifestyle changes does heart disease require?

If you have recently been diagnosed with heart disease, discuss with your doctor what steps you can take to remain as healthy as possible. You can get ready for your appointment with a detailed list of your daily habits. Possible issues include:

  • drugs you take.
  • Your regular exercise schedule.
  • Your regular diet.
  • any family history of a heart condition or stroke.
  • Personal history of hypertension/diabetes.
  • all the symptoms you experience, such as a beating heart, dizziness or lack of energy.

Seeing your physician on a regular basis is just a lifestyle habit that you can take. Should you do so, any potential problems can be detected as soon as possible. Some risk factors, like high blood pressure, can be treated with medicines to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Your physician can also give you advice on:

  • quitting smoking
  • blood pressure management.
  • exercising regularly
  • maintain a healthy cholesterol.
  • losing weight In case you’re overweight.
  • eating healthy

It could be impossible to make all those changes at the same time. Talk to your healthcare professional about the lifestyle changes that will have the greatest impact. Even small steps towards these goals will help you stay at your highest level.

What’s the connection between heart disease and hypertension?

Hypertensive heart disease is a disorder of chronic hypertension. Hypertension requires that your heart pump harder to move your blood into your body. This increased pressure may cause several types of heart problems, including thick, enlarged heart muscle and narrowed arteries.

The extra power your heart needs to use to pump blood can make your heart muscles harder and thicker. This may have an effect on how your heart pumps. Hypertensive heart disease can cause arteries to become less elastic and stiffer. This can slow down blood circulation and prevent your body from getting the oxygen-rich blood it requires.

A hypertensive heart condition, the top cause of death for people who have high blood pressure, it is therefore important that you start treating hypertension as soon as you can. Treatment can stop complications and maybe avoid further damage.

Is there a cure for heart disease?

Heart disease cannot be cured, nor can it be reversed. It requires a life-long treatment and close monitoring. Numerous symptoms of heart disease can be relieved by medications, procedures and lifestyle changes. When this fails, coronary artery surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery may be used.

If you think you have symptoms of heart disease or risk factors for heart disease, make an appointment with your physician. Together, you can balance your risks, do some testing and plan your health.

It is important to manage your overall health right away, before a diagnosis can be made. This is particularly true if you have a familial history of heart disease or conditions that increase your risk of heart disease. Taking care of your body and heart can be profitable for a number of years to come.

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