Whether you realize it or not, we all know someone who has suffered from heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death of men and women in America, and someone dies of heart disease nearly every 30 seconds in this country. It’s an epidemic of extreme proportions. But, as common as it is, it’s a condition that many people don’t know much about. You might be surprised to find out that heart disease is an umbrella term that includes a variety of different diseases. This category of conditions includes disease of the heart muscle or blood vessels, structural issues with the heart muscles and surrounding tissues, and clotting problems.
If heart disease is so pervasive, it leaves us all wondering what we can do to prevent it. And the answer to that depends upon the type of heart disease you have and how you came to have it. When you break down all of the different categories of heart disease you’ll find that two common themes exist.
Some Heart Disease Is Based In Genetics
We’re all born in different bodies, and some of those bodies have defects in them. Heart disease that a patient is born with is called a congenital condition. Some of the most common kinds of congenital heart disease are issues that occur with the structure of the heart, defective valves, and leaky valves. These structural issues can often be treated surgically when caught early.
In addition to being born with existing heart conditions, some patients are born predisposed through genetics to developing heart disease. It is common for families to pass on a predisposition for conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol genetically. This does not mean that if your parents had heart disease you will also. But it does mean that you may have some of the genetic risk factors that would make you more likely to develop the condition in the future.
It’s also important to mention that heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in most ethnic and racial groups in the United States. Data shows that Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than white or Asian Americans to die of heart disease. If you fall into one of these categories you should keep an eye on the risk factors that might put you in danger including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol.
Some Heart Disease Is Caused By Lifestyle
While some people are predisposed to suffer from heart disease, the disease can often be avoided if special attention is paid to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy diet is critical in the fight against conditions like Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). In patients with CAD, blood is unable to pass normally through their veins due to a buildup of plaque often caused by cholesterol in their blood. The more the plaque builds up, the more the heart struggles to pump blood which increases the patient’s blood pressure and leads to damage to the arteries and the heart itself. By maintaining a heart-healthy diet and avoiding habits like drinking alcohol and smoking, patients can fight against their predisposition for heart disease.
Another common cause of heart disease is high stress. We’ve all been in situations of high stress where we can feel our blood pressure rise and our heart beat faster and faster. Frequent bouts of high stress are dangerous for your heart and can lead to high blood pressure and other diseases of the heart. The longer your heart is under stress for extended periods, the more danger you are in.
As you learn more about heart disease you will find that most cases straddle the line between a number of these different causes. There are so many resources for patients suffering from any form of heart disease. Prescription medications, surgeries, and implantable devices can give heart disease patients a whole new lease on life. But when it comes down to it, many patients have much more control over their outcomes than they think. Committing to a healthy lifestyle, minimizing stress, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and getting regular heart-healthy exercise are some of the key things that are known to help reduce the risk of heart disease in patients of all ages and across all ethnicities and racial groups.
Heart disease is a pervasive killer in the United States and as common as it is, we find that it’s more unknown than it ought to be. In our practice we believe the more you know about your health the better you can advocate for yourself and make the best choices available to you. As your cardiology team, we want to help you avoid heart disease and live a long and healthy life. If you have questions about your risks for heart disease or if you need to schedule an appointment to meet with your doctor, contact us today.