Heart disease is a term that includes several more specific heart conditions. The most common heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of plaque. The narrowing and buildup of plaques is called atherosclerosis. Plaques are a mixture of fatty and other substances including cholesterol and other lipids. Blood flow to the heart is reduced, which reduces oxygen to the heart muscle. This can lead to heart attack. Cells in the heart muscle do not receive enough oxygen and begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, increased age, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and having had a previous heart attack or family history of stroke, obesity, or diabetes can increase a person's chances of having a heart attack. Other heart conditions include angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:
Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
Chest pain or discomfort.
Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
Shortness of breath.
If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack immediately call for help as the following minutes after the onset of symptoms are crucial for survival.
Below is a list of important preventive measures which have been proven to protect from heart disease.
- Eat a healthy diet: Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.
- Don't smoke: Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
- Limit alcohol use: Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.