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 Heart Disease: Heart Disease 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©

Heart Disease

Heart disease is a common term for coronary artery disease (CAD). It is the number one cause of death in the U.S. in both men and women. With heart disease, arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed. Heart disease can lead to these problems:

  • Angina. With this, the heart muscle does not get as much blood and oxygen as it needs for a given level of work. A heart attack damages the heart muscle. Angina does not. It is a warning sign that a heart attack could occur, though.
  • Heart attack.
  • Heart failure (HF). With this, the heart "fails" to supply the body with enough blood and oxygen for its needs. This develops slowly. It becomes chronic.

  • Metabolic Syndrome is a group of all of the factors listed below in one person. This makes the risk for heart disease and death very high. It increases the risk for diabetes and stroke, too.

  • Abdominal obesity. This is a waist measurement: > 40 inches for men. > 35 inches for women.
  • Insulin resistance.
  • High blood sugar and triglycerides.
  • High blood cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure.

  • Signs & Symptoms

  • Symptoms of angina are pain, discomfort, or a squeezing pressure in the chest. Aching in a tooth, jaw, or neck can also occur. Symptoms usually go away with rest and/or nitroglycerin. Angina attacks may occur with anger, excitement, or exertion, such as walking up a hill.
  • Symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Symptoms of heart failure are: Shortness of breath; feeling very tired or weak; swelling in the lower legs, ankles, and feet; dry cough or one with pink, frothy mucus; rapid weight gain; and a fast heart beat.

  • Causes

    Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis. This is the buildup of plaque in the inner walls of the arteries. The plaque is made up of blood platelets, cholesterol, fibrous tissue, and sometimes calcium. The plaque narrows the arteries. This slows or blocks the flow of blood to the heart. Some factors increase the risk of heart disease. The more risk factors; the higher the risk.

    Risk Factors That Can't Be Changed

  • A past heart attack or stroke.
  • Family history of heart disease:
  • A father or brother had heart disease before age 55.
  • A mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.
  • Being a male 45 years or older.
  • Being a female 55 years or older.

  • Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled

  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood cholesterol.
  • Smoking.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Having diabetes and high blood cholesterol.
  • Using cocaine or amphetamines.
  • Metabolic syndrome.

  • Other Factors that May Play a Role in Heart Disease

  • Waist measurement > 40 inches for men; > 35 inches for women.
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. Levels of CRP rise when there is inflammation in the body.
  • Elevated blood homocysteine levels.
  • Infections, such as chlamydia pneumoniae.
  • Elevated blood lipoprotein (a).
  • Elevated blood triglycerides.
  • Treatment

    The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms, control or reduce risk factors, stop or slow further damage to the arteries, and prevent and treat cardiac events. Treatment includes:

  • Self-Care / Prevention measures below.
  • Medications.
  • Procedures to open blocked or narrowed arteries or bypass them.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab).
  • Take medicines as prescribed.

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