Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the Untied States. The American Heart Association estimates that every 25 seconds, someone in the United States will suffer a heart attack. Every minute someone dies from it. In 2009, heart disease will cost the United States $304.6 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

There are different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This is called coronary artery disease and it is a major reason for heart attacks. When the coronary arteries are blocked, oxygen cannot get to the affected area of the heart and if the blockage lasts for more than a few minutes, permanent damage can occur. Reduced coronary blood flow from a partial blockage can cause angina (chest pain), shortness of breath and other symptoms. When a complete blockage occurs, it can cause a heart attack.

What blocks the arteries? Fat, cholesterol and other deposits form “plaques” which build up in the artery’s walls. The process can take years and can be prevented or treated.

Here is the general advice on preventing heart disease and stroke:
• Healthy diet (fish, green/red/orange vegetables, fresh fruit)
• Regular exercise (especially walking, 10,000 steps/day, take the stairs)
• Stress reduction (meditation, spiritual practice)
• Aspirin 81 mg/day for men over 50

Other kinds of heart problems may affect the valves in the heart, or the heart muscle may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease and this is called congenital heart disease (e.g., a “hole” in the heart or septal defect).

Despite remarkable progress in research and treatment, nearly 80 million Americans continue to suffer from heart and vascular diseases. Among people under 40 years of age, one in two men and one in three women will develop the diseases in their lifetimes. Every 34 seconds, someone will suffer a heart attack. Every minute, someone will die from one. That’s the bad news. The good news is that both men and women can do a lot to prevent heart disease. Diet, exercise and quitting smoking are important ways to prevent heart disease. Physicians also recommend that patients lower high blood pressure, reduce high blood cholesterol and manage their diabetes. All the evidence tells us that individuals can improve their quality of life by taking charge of their own heart health.