Caring for your Heart

Every moment of the day, your heart is pumping blood throughout your body. Do you take your heart for granted?Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. But you can take steps now to lower your risk. 1 out of 3 people in America will die of heart disease, And about 6 out of every 10 of us will have a major heart disease event before we die.”says NIH heart disease expert Dr. David C. Goff, Jr. Heart disease develops when the blood vessels supplying the heart become clogged with fatty deposits, or plaque. After the blood vessels narrow, blood flow to the heart is reduced. That means oxygen and nutrients can’t get to the heart as easily. Eventually, an area of plaque can break open. This may cause a blood clot to form on the plaque’s surface. A blood clot can block blood flowing to the heart. That can cause a heart attack. A heart attack happens when a vessel supplying the heart is blocked and the heart can’t get enough oxygen, which leads to death of heart muscle. The three major risk factors for heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. The study has also uncovered other risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity. Levy’s research team is now hunting for genes that may be risk factors for heart disease. By understanding the factors that play a role in heart disease, scientists hope to find new ways to prevent and treat it. Early heart disease may not cause any symptoms. That’s why regular checkups with your doctor are so important. A vast majority of us has heart disease and we don’t know it. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels can provide early signs. There are many other tests to detect heart disease. An electro-cardiogram, also called an EKG or ECG, measures electrical activity in your heart. Another test called an echocardiogram uses sound waves to detect problems. Although early heart disease might not cause symptoms, advanced heart disease may cause chest pressure, shortness of breath, or fatigue. Some people may feel lightheaded, dizzy, or confused. Tell your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms.

Talk with your doctor about your risk of heart disease and what you can do to keep your heart healthy.“The most important things for everyone to do to keep their heart healthy—to keep their entire body healthy—is to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of physical activity, maintain a lean body weight, and avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.