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As we approach a certain age, many of us start to consider heart disease and what we can do to prevent it. Why the worry? Well, as the leading cause of death for men and women, almost 600,000 of us, or 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States is a result of heart disease every year. So, what exactly is heart disease and how can it be prevented? Read on to find out!

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the term given to a group of different health conditions that affect the heart. In the United States, the most common form of heart disease is called coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is often responsible for serious cardiovascular events like a heart attack, heart failure, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat, also called arrhythmia.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

The warning signs of heart disease often don’t appear until you're having a heart attack, but there are some symptoms that could start indicating trouble is on the horizon. Symptoms of an emergency or impending heart attack may include:

  • Chest Discomfort
  • Nausea, Indigestion, Heartburn or Stomach Pain
  • Pain that Spreads to the Arm
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Throat or Jaw Pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Snoring
  • Sweating

Prevention

Diet

  1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables: There is nothing more basic than the fact that vegetables and fruits offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help control cholesterol. If you do nothing else, work on incorporating more plant life into your diet. Some ideas are to eat salads every day, make yourself raw snack veggies like carrots, celery, pepper strips, and cucumbers or grab a banana with breakfast. Soups are also a great way to add vegetables into your diet.
  2. Select Whole Grains: Avoiding overly processed baked goods and white flour are key. When you have a choice to make, go for the whole grain options in pastas, breads, and other types of foods. When possible, skip the bread and eat your grains whole, for example, oatmeal or rice.
  3. Use Flax Seed: Flax seed is a wonder food full of healthy omega 3 fatty acids which are thought to be very protective of the heart and arteries. You need to store the seeds in the fridge and grind them in a coffee grinder right before eating for the best benefits. Add to salads, baked goods, or oatmeal for a nutritious boost. Flax has some laxative effects, so limit yourself to just a tablespoon or two a day.
  4. Cut the Fat: We’ve all heard the reputation that beef and other high fat meats have for “clogging arteries.” Unfortunately, many of us really enjoy a good steak or bacon cheeseburger, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to cut out red meat entirely, try to eat it infrequently and when you do, eat a small portion. Cheese and other dairy products are also very high in the types of fats that lead to inflammation and high cholesterol. When possible, limit your intake and select the low-fat varieties of dairy products for a healthier heart.

Exercise

According to the National Institution of Health, there are four types of exercise: Endurance, Flexibility, Balance, and Strength. Of these, endurance, or “cardio” exercises are the best for a healthy heart. Endurance/cardio exercise increase the heart and breathing rates and include things like walking, running, hiking, swimming, biking, aerobics, etc. It is important to do some cardio every week; how much depends on your health factors, so consult your doctor. It is important to always check with a doctor first before starting any new exercise routine, not just cardio, particularly if you are advanced in age or have any other chronic health conditions. If while exercising you find yourself feeling dizzy or unable to catch your breath, you are probably working too hard and should stop.

Consult Your Doctor

At least annually, go in to your regular doctor for a checkup, but more often if you have heart issues or other risk factors. Have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked, and be sure to talk to your doctor about an additional stress that might be bothering you. Your doctor can also help you set-up a diet and fitness plan that will be centered around your specific needs. They can also prescribe any medications that might help.

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