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American Heart Month Series: Heart Disease & Risk Factors

By Jessica Deng

February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to learn about heart disease. Join us throughout the month for articles and insights to help you take steps to lower your risk.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is one of the most widespread and complicated health challenges in the United States. As the leading cause of death for nearly all demographics, heart disease can impact anyone and almost half of all Americans are at risk with numbers continuing to rise.

Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems, either acquired or hereditary. Here are the names and definitions of some common conditions that fall under the umbrella of heart disease:

  • Arrhythmia: heart rhythm abnormality
  • Atherosclerosis: hardening of the arteries
  • Cardiomyopathy: a condition causing the heart’s muscles to grow weak
  • Congenital heart defects: heart irregularities that are present at birth
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): ischemic heart disease caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries
  • Heart infections: infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites

Both genetic and lifestyle factors can play a role in your risk for developing heart conditions. Common factors include:

  • High Blood Pressure
    Many Americans have high blood pressure, including people in their 40s and 50s. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows and damaging the heart by making it work harder.
  • High Cholesterol
    High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and/or obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking
    Nicotine tightens your blood vessels and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
    Staying physically active helps keep the blood vessels healthy. Lack of physical activity is associated with many forms of heart disease.
  • Diabetes
    An unhealthy build-up of glucose in the bloodstream can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle.
  • Family History
    A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age.

Talk to your doctor about your heart health. If diagnosed, heart disease requires careful monitoring and treatment. While many of the symptoms of heart disease can be managed with medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes, it‘s important to do so under the supervision of medical professionals.

If you or a loved one are already making changes to improve their heart health, an in-home caregiver can provide dedicated support. Our caregivers can assist with managing medications, monitoring symptoms, and tracking vital signs, as well as encouraging healthy eating and exercise. Most importantly, they can offer the emotional support needed to make lasting and impactful changes. Contact us to find out how we can help.

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