A Silent Killer: Is Your Heart at Risk?
One of the most pressing health risks that men face today is heart disease. It is one of the most silent and deadly killers that American men must deal with. A whole host of diseases exist under the umbrella term of “heart disease,” so it is imperative to know the types, signs, and risk factors to receive effective treatment early.
Heart disease takes many forms
“Heart disease” is an overarching phrase, as previously mentioned. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- And many others
Within these diseases, there are also subcategories of diseases. It may seem as if heart disease is unavoidable simply because there are so many forms.
The differences between women and men
Heart disease in America is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but there are still key differences in how prevalent these diseases are in each sex, as well as how heavily they affect the disease sufferer.
Women tend to live longer than men, that’s a fact of life. The gap between the life expectancy of men and women is narrowing, but it remains. The current belief is that heart disease is primarily a man’s disease, but this is untrue. Heart disease tends to affect more men up until the age of 75, where the playing field evens out.
No matter the age group, the annual number of deaths due to heart disease in men outweighs that of women. While the total number of deaths is dropping, this statistic remains the same.
Signs and symptoms to watch for
Not every case of heart disease is the same. It’s not all cut and dry in the symptoms department either. There isn’t always chest pain followed immediately by an abrupt heart attack, as some media may coerce you into believing.
That being said, chest discomfort is the most common sign that something is wrong with your heart. Pain or tightness in the chest is usually a red flag, and you should seek a doctor immediately.
Irregular heartbeat can happen any time you’re excited or nervous, but any time it lasts for longer than a few beats or happens persistently, call a doctor.
Issues with digestion can also be common precursors to a heart attack. Vomiting is common, as well as heartburn, indigestion, or other stomach pain. However, these symptoms can be misleading, because they can occur when nothing is wrong with your heart. You need to keep in mind that they can happen during a heart attack, and weigh your risk factors to find out if you need to find a doctor.
Another classic, well-known sign of a heart attack is pain radiating down the left side of the body. Pain in the arm is common among heart attack patients.
Dizziness and lightheadedness are also common signs of heart problems. However, like indigestion, there can be a great many things that contribute to feeling faint. However, if upon standing you feel unsteady coupled with shortness of breath and/or chest pain, that can be a red flag. It could mean your blood pressure has dropped significantly, and you should seek a doctor.
Becoming exhausted after a seemingly simple task, or after something you were previously able to complete with ease, is also a cause for concern. Unexplained weakness and exhaustion can be a symptom of heart disease.
A cough isn’t typically a sign of heart trouble, but if you’re at risk, it could be. If you’re at risk for heart disease, a persistent cough, especially one that produces mucus, can be a sign of heart failure.
Important risk factors
Many different conditions can increase your risk for heart disease. These are otherwise known as risk factors. Approximately half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Quitting smoking is an important step to achieving a healthy heart. A doctor can also help you lower both your cholesterol and your blood pressure. However, there are also risk factors that are not so easily changed.
Having a family history of heart disease means you should keep an eye on your symptoms. Your age can also play a key role; you are far more at risk for heart disease past 55 years of age.
Your overall health can also affect your heart. Being overweight or obese can lead to heart disease, as well as leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.
However, many of these risk factors are a chance to change your overall health, as well as protect yourself from heart disease. Changing diet, quitting smoking, losing weight, etc. are all examples of ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.
The importance of doctor’s visits
How often should you be seeing a doctor? It depends on the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Blood pressure screenings should occur at every regular healthcare visit, or, at the very least, every two years. Blood glucose should be checked at least every three years.
Cholesterol should be checked every four to six years for those who have a regular risk. However, if your risk is above average, then you should be checked more often.
At each regular healthcare visit, your weight and BMI should be checked by a doctor. You should also discuss your diet, activity level, and whether or not you smoke.
Regular visits to the doctor are insurmountable to your health, especially when dealing with something as tricky as heart disease. Regular visits can help your doctor catch symptoms faster, leading to better and more effective treatment, as well as a reduced risk of fatality in the end.
Heart disease isn’t cut and dry. It comes in many forms with many symptoms and there are just as many risk factors. However, educating yourself is the best way to avoid heart disease. Check with your doctor often, and do your best to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. These can all reduce your risks of heart disease and lead to a better, richer life.