February is American Heart Awareness Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There are more than 600,000 deaths due to heart disease each year. The term heart disease refers to many types of heart conditions. The most common type is coronary artery disease, and this can cause heart attacks. Other types of heart disease may involve the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure.

Anyone, even children, can develop heart disease. When a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries, this can cause narrowing and reduction in blood flow. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and not getting enough exercise all increase your risk for having heart disease. Other risk factors are having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Symptoms of heart disease can vary depending on the type of heart disease. Chest discomfort or heart attacks are often the first signs that people may notice.

There are several symptoms associated with a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort that does not go away after a few minutes.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Weakness, light-headedness, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), or a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Heart disease can be diagnosed by your doctor through several tests. Some of the tests include a chest X-ray, coronary angiograms, electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG), and exercise stress test. Talk with your doctor about what tests might be right for you.

Help decrease your risk of heart disease:

  • Don’t smoke. Pokagon Health Services Behavioral Health Program has programs and support to help you quit smoking. Contact them today at (269) 782-4141.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Access PHS’s Wellness Center and dietician for help with weight management.
  • Eat a healthy diet. PHS’s dietician can meet with you to discuss what a healthy diet looks like for you.
  • Exercise regularly. Visit the PHS Wellness Center to help you meet your exercise goals.
  • Prevent or treat your health conditions, especially high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Getting the right amount of sleep. Most healthy adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Children and teens need even more. Getting too much or not enough sleep puts you at increased risk for heart disease. Sleep quality should also be measured. Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (snoring or gasping for air).
  • Keeping your stress under control. Stress is a normal part of life, but if left unmanaged, stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heartbeats. Talk with your health care provider about ways to help manage stress.

Treatment of heart disease can be lifestyle changes, such as those listed above. Your doctor may also prescribe you medication to treat the disease. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to reduce your heart disease risk.