How to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease treatment is an important topic in the health world right now. This is due in no small part to the fact that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attribute one in every four American deaths to heart disease.

Each year, approximately 735,000 Americans suffer heart attacks and over 600,000 Americans die of causes related to this disease. Some ethnicities, such as American Indians, Alaska Natives and Asians or Pacific Islanders, are particularly susceptible to heart disease and its grave consequences. Other Americans at risk include those with:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Smoking habits.
  • Diabetes.
  • Obesity.
  • Nutrient-poor diets.
  • Low levels of physical activity.
  • High levels of alcohol consumption.

Alarmingly, nearly half of Americans have one or more of these major risk categories. Many categories are also frequently linked, such as diabetes and obesity, putting many Americans at significantly elevated risk.

When it comes to heart failure causes there is no single culprit. Heart disease is, in fact, an umbrella term that may refer to coronary artery disease or several other conditions in which heart valves are compromised or the heart is unable to pump effectively. Some forms of heart disease are acquired over time due to lifestyle and environmental influences, while others are congenital.

Unfortunately, many people do not get diagnosed with heart conditions or damage until after they have experienced a heart attack or severe chest discomfort. Familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms of a heart attack can save lives. Common symptoms include:

  • Severe or lingering chest pain.
  • Jaw, arm, shoulder, neck or back pain.
  • Weakness.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Nausea.
  • Cold sweats.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms, it is vital that you seek medical attention promptly.

Types of Heart Problems

Many different types of heart problems fall with the heart disease category. Each type will present with a unique combination of symptoms.

  • Atherosclerotic disease, or disease of the blood vessels in and around your heart, is most likely to be diagnosed after a heart attack. Symptoms include:
    • Pain in the chest, Jaw, arm, shoulder, neck or back.
    • Weakness.
    • Light-headedness or nausea.
  • Heart arrhythmias, or heart disease based on irregular heartbeats. Symptoms include:
    • A heartbeat that is too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia).
    • Fainting, dizziness or lightheadedness.
    • Shortness of breath.
  • Congenital heart disease, or conditions caused by natural heart defects. Congenital heart disease symptoms in infants include:
    • Grey or bluish tinges to the skin.
    • Swelling.
    • Poor weight gain.
    • Difficulty breathing while feeding.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or conditions wherein a person has a weak heart muscle. Initially, this condition may not carry any outwardly noticeable symptoms. Over time, patients may present with:
    • Swelling in their legs or feet.
    • Fatigue and breathlessness, with or without exertion.  
    • Irregular heartbeats.
  • Heart infections, such as Endocarditis. Symptoms include:
    • Fever.
    • Coughing.
    • Skin rashes.
    • Weakness, fatigue or shortness of breath.
    • Swelling of the legs or abdomen.
  • Valvular heart disease, whose symptoms may include:
    • Pain in the chest.
    • Fainting.
    • Fatigue.
    • Changes to the heartbeat.

Common tests to diagnose various forms of heart disease include:

  • Cholesterol testing.
  • EKGs.
  • Stress tests.
  • Hs-CRP testing.
  • Lipoprotein blood tests.

Common Causes of Cardiovascular Disease

The causes of cardiovascular disease vary by type. While some people are born with heart disease, others will develop it over time due to influences and inputs in their lifestyles and environments. Negative influences can damage your heart or blood vessels, causing plaque to build up or the muscles and tissues to weaken.

Primary causes and influences include:

Fortunately, most of these factors are controllable. By making intentional diet and lifestyle changes under the guidance of your doctor or other health care providers, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.  

Learn About Heart Disease Prevention

Heart disease prevention is based almost entire on a few simple diet and lifestyle changes. The CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend taking the following steps to lower your risk of heart disease:

  • Keep your blood pressure within safe and healthy levels.
  • Keep your cholesterol levels within the approved range.
  • Do not smoke and, if you are already a smoker, quit as soon as possible.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Adopt positive and healthy stress management techniques.
  • Maintain good bodily hygiene.
  • Avoid sedentary activities and get an average of 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Basic heart-healthy dietary guidelines include eating large portions of fresh fruit and vegetables and getting plenty of healthy fiber. You should also minimize your consumption of:

  • Processed foods.
  • Foods that are high in salt or saturated fats.
  • Sugary foods.
  • Alcohol.

The CDC recommends that men consume no more than two alcoholic beverages per day and that women consume no more than one to help manage their health risks.

If you need assistance implementing these coronary artery disease prevention lifestyle changes, see your doctor or other approved health care providers for help and direction. It is crucial that you consult your doctor before making health and lifestyle changes if you have any form of chronic condition or if you take prescription medications.

Fortunately, while many Americans are confused or uncertain about how to prevent cardiovascular disease, the steps involved are not difficult or complicated. Numerous resources are available from the NIH, CDC, Mayo Clinic and other respected providers and agencies on where to begin, how to prioritize diet and lifestyle changes and how to determine the best personal course of action.

If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease of some kind, there are many treatments and therapies available to you. While their effectiveness may vary depending on your specific condition and needs, the following options may help you prevent your heart disease from worsening, or even reverse it.

  • Blood thinner.
  • Chelation.
  • Surgery.
  • Pacemakers or implanted defibrillators.  
  • Supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Ventricular Assist Devices.