Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Think about that: more people die from heart disease than any other cause. In fact, over 27% of people, regardless of age or sex, die from heart disease, and that number rises to over 30% if you only look at people who died over the age of 65. It is obvious that heart disease is a major problem in the United States, and that watching your heart health is an important consideration in leading a healthy and active lifestyle. No other part of your body will have as big an impact on whether you live a long happy life, or short sick life. As the numbers suggest, not enough Americans are taking their heart health seriously.
Understanding heart disease
Before you can start working to prevent the onset of heart disease, it is important to first get an understanding of what your heart does for your body, and what exactly heart disease means.
As you probably already know, your heart is just a muscle. Although it is probably the most important muscle in your body; it is, after all, in charge of moving oxygen rich blood to every cell in your body. Because it works so hard, it needs a steady flow of blood itself so it can receive the oxygen and nutrients it requires to work.
This supply of blood is where the most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease, comes in. Coronary artery disease can develop as a result of the buildup of a material called plaque in your coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that bring blood to your heart. Plaque can be made up of fatty materials, scar tissue, and calcium deposits, the result of bad diet choices. When the plaque builds up to a certain level, it limits the supply of blood to the heart. This means that the heart cannot get enough blood to properly function. Your blood-starved heart can go on to cause a range of problems, from chest pains (called angina) to a full on heart attack.
Another common heart disease that is related to coronary artery disease is congestive heart failure. If your heart does not get enough oxygen, it will not be able to pump as strongly as it should. This means that your body does not get the constant supply of blood that it needs to properly function, leaving you out of breath and limiting your activity. And this, of course, only makes the situation worse.
What can you do to stop heart disease?
Heart disease is preventable and manageable. While your likelihood of developing heart disease will be influenced by a number of factors, such as age and sex, that you have no control over, most risk factors associated with heart disease are a result of lifestyle choices. If you really want to limit your risk of developing heart disease, you need to stop smoking, stop drinking excessively, become physically active, start eating better, particularly by cutting out fatty foods, and maintain a healthy weight. Don't be a statistic, talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve your heart health.
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