LEXINGTON – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 600,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can cause heart attack. Other kinds of heart disease may involve the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease.
Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease. It occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries. Too much plaque buildup and narrowed artery walls can make it harder for blood to flow through your body. When your heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood, you may have chest pain or discomfort, called angina. Angina is the most common symptom of CAD.
Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart can’t pump blood the way that it should. An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, also can develop.
When this happens, your arteries can narrow over time, reducing blood flow to the heart.
According to ARH Cardiologist Pablo Lopez, M.D., once you get heart disease, you will always have it. “There are effective medicines to slow the progression and procedures which can help blood and oxygen flow to the heart, but arteries remain damaged,” Lopez explained. “Also keep in mind the condition of your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you make changes in your daily habits, take your medicines and control your risk factors.”
Regarding these risk factors, Lopez emphasized: “Pay attention to these health factors and talk to your healthcare provider about making necessary changes to your lifestyle so you can improve your heart health.”
Your healthcare provider can determine your risk of heart attack, and can provide information about various tools you can use to protect your heart, including smoking cessation programs, an exercise regimen, nutrition counseling, blood pressure screenings and cholesterol testing.
For a healthcare professional close to you, go online to Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) at www.arh.org or call your local ARH hospital.