A Quick Guide to Heart Disease

Every 36 seconds, one American dies from heart disease. That equates to 655,000 deaths a year—or 1 in 4 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the leading cause of death for multiple demographics, including men, women, and the majority of racial and ethnic groups, it’s important that every health care professional understands the causes, symptoms, and proper treatment of heart disease. Our brief guide on heart disease can help you identify the signs of this condition and encourage patients to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, can refer to one of several different types of heart conditions, the most common in the United States being coronary artery disease (CAD). While the risk of heart disease can be reduced with a healthy diet and lifestyle, there are a few key risk factors that can’t be avoided:

●        Age: The risk of heart disease increases for men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55.

●        Gender: Heart disease can impact people differently based on their gender. While the higher amount of estrogen in women can protect against heart disease, women with diabetes have a greater risk of heart disease than the average man.

●        Race or ethnicity: Some racial or ethnic groups have higher risk for heart disease than others. For example, the African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to have heart disease, while Hispanic Americans are less likely to have it.

●        Family history: If heart disease runs in your family, you are at a greater risk for it.

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

Is it possible to prevent and reverse heart disease? Preventive measures can help you and your patients lower the risk of heart disease and related complications.

1. Monitor Your Blood Pressure.

Having high blood pressure directly correlates with your risk for heart disease. Get your blood pressure checked regularly, at least once a year. If you have high blood pressure, you can make some lifestyle changes, such as exercise or a change in diet, to lower it.

2. Control Your Cholesterol and Triglycerides With a Healthy Diet.

Avoid clogging your arteries and raising your risk of heart disease by keeping your cholesterol and triglyceride levels down. High triglyceride level is especially a risk for women. Making lifestyle and diet changes and taking medicine can help lower both. Avoid eating saturated fats, foods high in sodium, and added sugars and try to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

3. Exercise Regularly.

Having a regular exercise routine for yourself strengthens your heart and improves your circulation while helping you maintain a healthy weight.

4. Limit Alcohol and Don’t Smoke.

Excessive drinking can raise your blood pressure, cause weight gain, and lower your immune system. Cigarette smoking also raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you smoke or drink too much, start looking for ways to lower your consumption or quit altogether.

5. Manage Your Stress.

Stress is directly linked to heart disease and can be a trigger for heart attacks. Identify the stresses in your life and try to manage them or how you feel about them. Take deep breaths, meditate daily, and take time to do something you enjoy. If you’re concerned about stress levels and management, you may wish to seek assistance from a licensed mental health professional.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Heart disease symptoms can vary depending on the type of heart disease a person has. It is also important to note that men and women can experience different types of symptoms. Men tend to feel more chest pain, while women are more likely to have nausea and extreme fatigue.

If you or your patients are experiencing any of these heart disease symptoms listed by the Mayo Clinic, further medical attention may be needed.

Symptoms of Atherosclerotic Disease (Heart Disease in Blood Vessels)

●        Pain, pressure or other discomfort in your chest

●        Shortness of breath

●        Pain, numbness, or coldness in your legs or arms

●        Neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen, or back pain 

Symptoms of Heart Arrhythmias (Abnormal Heartbeats)

●        Racing or slow heartbeat

●        Pain, discomfort or fluttering in the chest

●        Shortness of breath

●        Dizziness/lightheadedness

●        Fainting

Symptoms of Heart Defects

●        Pale gray or blue skin coloration

●        Swelling in your legs, abdomen, or around your eyes

●        Easily getting shortness of breath and tired from exercise or activity

●        Shortness of breath during feedings (for infants)

Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Weak Heart Muscles)

●        Breathlessness

●        Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet

●        Fatigue

●        Irregular heartbeat

●        Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting

Symptoms of Heart Infections

●        Fever

●        Shortness of breath

●        Weakness/fatigue

●        Swelling in your legs or abdomen

●        Changes in your heart rhythm

●        Dry cough

●        Skin rashes

Symptoms of Valvular Heart Disease

●        Fatigue

●        Shortness of breath

●        Irregular heartbeat

●        Swelling in the feet/ankles

●        Chest pain

●        Fainting

Managing and Treating Heart Disease

Health care professionals should ensure their patients are maintaining or working toward a healthy lifestyle and know their own risk factors for heart disease. While a patient’s physician or cardiologist can recommend medication to control heart conditions, here are some simple ways to help manage, treat, and reduce the risk of heart disease in your patients.

1. Start Them on a Heart-Healthy Diet

Encourage your patients to develop a heart-healthy diet that appeals to their personal palette. Omega-3 fatty acids are good fat substitutes for foods with saturated fats, and every diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables. A proper diet can help raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels, lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, and reduce a patient’s blood pressure.

2. Control Diabetes If They Have It

 When your body is unable to produce insulin, it results in elevated blood sugar levels, often leading to diabetes. Patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease. If you believe your patients are at risk for diabetes, run tests and follow up with them. Then, work together to develop a plan to lower their sugar levels.

3. Suggest Simple Exercises and Lifestyle Changes

Moderate aerobic exercise for about 30 minutes per day is one of the best ways to improve heart functionality and reduce risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, and excess body weight. Simple changes to their daily routine can put your patient on a better path to a happier, healthier life.

As a health care professional, you can help patients identify, prevent, and treat heart disease. If you’re looking to serve a broader population of patients, sign up for Clipboard Health to find and book per diem shifts at health care facilities in your area.