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Six Things You Should Know about Heart Disease

What is heart disease? What are the symptoms? How do I control or reduce my risk for heart disease? Here are six things you should know about heart disease.



Facts about Heart Disease

About 1 in 5 people died from heart disease in 2020, and it is the number of cause of death in women. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 58% of Black women have heart disease, followed by 43% of Hispanic women and 43% of Asian women aged 20 and older. Heart disease is the umbrella term for a class of diseases that affect the heart. Common heart conditions include high blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure, heart valve disease, heart rhythm abnormalities, and angina or chest pain. Whether you are at risk for or experiencing some form of heart disease, here are six things you should know about heart disease.


Because each heart condition is unique and has its own set of symptoms and complications, this blog will focus on coronary artery disease or CAD.


1. Know the signs and symptoms of heart disease

The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD). In CAD, blood flowing to the heart is obstructed in some way, often due to plaque buildup. Symptoms of CAD include, but are not limited to, chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath. Chest pain can also be a sign of digestive, lung, and musculoskeletal issues, with pain occurring in different parts of the chest. Chest pain lasting more than a few minutes should be followed up with seeking immediate medical attention.


2. Know the signs and symptoms of worsening disease

Usually the pain felt in the chest, along with fatigue and shortness of breath, will worsen in someone with CAD. Do not wait until these symptoms worsen to call 9-1-1, as they could be signs of a heart attack.


3. Know the signs and symptoms of complications

Possible complications of CAD can include heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, and death. Heart failureoccurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body. Abnormal heart rhythms (also known as arrhythmias) refer to any problem with heart rate or rhythm. Atrial fibrillation, for example, refers to a quivering in the heart's upper chambers, which can increase risk for blood clots.


4. Find a Healthy Weight to Maintain to Lower Heart Disease Risk

The Office of Minority Health reports that Black women have the highest obesity rate compared to other groups, with every 4 in 5 Black women being overweight or obese. The Office of Minority Health also reports that Blacks are 20% less likely to participate in physical activity than Whites. Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk for heart disease. If you are trying to lose weight, goals of 5-10% loss of one’s initial body weight are realistic and can lead to improved cardiovascular outcomes such as blood pressure. Speak with your healthcare provider for safe physical activity options and any plans you may have for weight loss.


5. Manage a Healthy Blood Pressure to Lower Heart Disease Risk

Managing healthy blood pressure can help lower your risk for heart disease. Physical activity can be a great way to manage blood pressure. According to AHA, adults should get 2 ½ hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. Kids should have 60 minutes every day. Another way to manage blood pressure is to eat foods considered heart-healthy. Your healthcare provider can also provide ways to manage or lower your blood pressure as needed.


6. Manage Blood Sugar to Lower Heart Disease Risk

Diabetes can run in families, so it’s important to consult with your provider on any necessary blood glucose monitoring you may need. A diet high in a combination of fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and proteins, and low in sugary goods can help lower heart disease risk. If diabetes is common in your family, speak with your healthcare provider about ways to monitor your blood sugar.






Knowledge is Power

Heart disease is common among those with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and those who smoke cigarettes. A history of diabetes, excessive alcohol, and lack of physical activity can also be precursors for heart disease. If you have experience with any of these concerns, speak with your healthcare provider about how to reduce your risk for heart disease.


As previously mentioned, there are multiple types of heart disease. You can check out American Heart Association for more information.


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References

American Herat Association. (2021, November 8). Angina (chest pain). American Heart Association.


American Heart Association. (2021, November 8). Angina in women can be different than men. American Heart Association.


American Heart Association. (2022, March). Life’s essential 8: how to manage blood sugar [fact sheet]. American Heart Association.


American Heart Association. (2022, March). Life’s essential 8: how to be more active [fact sheet]. American Heart Association.


American Heart Association. (2022, November 22). What is an arrhythmia? American Heart Association.

American Heart Association. (2022, November 22). What is atrial fibrillation? American Heart Association.


American Heart Association. (2017, May 31). What is heart failure? American Heart Association.


Cedars Sinai. (n.d.). Coronary heart disease. Cedars Sinai


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022, July 12). About Heart Disease. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm


Cleveland Clinic. (2022, May 23). Chest Pain. Cleveland Clinic


National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (2022, 24 March) Choose heart-healthy foods. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


Office of Minority Health (2020, 26 March). Obesity and African Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=25


Riegel, B., Moser, D. K., Buck, H. G., Dickson, V. V., Dunbar, S. B., Lee, C. S., ... & American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease; and Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. (2017). Self‐care for the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and stroke: A scientific statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. Journal of the American Heart Association, 6(9), e006997.


Swift, D. L., McGee, J. E., Earnest, C. P., Carlisle, E., Nygard, M., & Johannsen, N. M. (2018). The effects of exercise and physical activity on weight loss and maintenance. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 61(2), 206-213.


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