Cardiovascular disease: The No. 1 killer

Wellness RN

Jenn CorbettMarch 7, 2012 

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and statistics show that the number one reason for this is the lack of commitment to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Most deaths by cardiovascular disease, particularly heart attack, are preventable for two reasons: 1) Because most of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease are avoidable and 2) If symptoms are addressed early, treatment can often save your life. This column is going address both. I am going to discuss the abc's of prevention and I am also going to give you the tools to recognize an impending heart attack early so you can seek immediate medical attention.

ABCs of prevention:

Taking steps to prevent cardiovascular disease is the number one thing we can do to prevent not only heart attack but death related to a heart attack. The American Heart Association has created the ABC's of prevention. Doing these three things has shown to dramatically decrease your risk for heart attack.

A -- Avoid tobacco: Nicotine causes decreased oxygen to the heart, increased blood pressure and heart rate, increase in blood clotting and damage to cells that line coronary arteries and other blood vessels.

B -- Become more active: Research has shown that getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days of the week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level.

C -- Choose good nutrition: A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease. The food you eat can affect other controllable risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and weight.

Seek medical attention early for a heat attack

The second component to preventing death related to a heart attack is to seek medical attention early. While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected are not sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. The most common complaints associated with a heart attack are chest discomfort, a gnawing pain or discomfort in areas above the waist and shortness of breath.

Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Discomfort in upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Another symptom can be shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs: Additional signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

For more information on prevention, warning signs and what to do if you or your family has had or is recovering from a heart attack visit www.heart.org.

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