Heart Health

Heart disease is the number 1 killer of American men and women, but there are many steps you can take to prevent and manage heart disease and live a long, healthy life. Heart disease, or coronary artery disease, is atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries. Atherosclerosis is when the arteries become clogged and narrowed with fat deposits, restricting blood flow to the heart. Without adequate blood, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and vital nutrients it needs to work properly. The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or painful feeling felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the left shoulder, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back. Other symptoms that can occur with coronary artery disease include shortness of breath, palpitations (irregular heart beats, a faster heartbeat, weakness or dizziness, nausea, and sweating. Your doctor can diagnose if you have coronary artery disease by talking to you about your symptoms, medical history, and risk factors, performing a physical exam, and performing diagnostic tests, including an electrocardiogram (EKG), exercise stress tests, cardiac catheterization and others. These tests help your doctor evaluate the extent of your coronary heart disease, its effect on the function of your heart, and the best form of treatment for you. Treatment for coronary artery disease involves reducing your risk factors, taking medications, and possibly undergoing invasive and/or surgical procedures.

There are several risk factors for heart disease, some controllable and some not. Uncontrollable risk factors include male sex, older age, family history of heart disease, and race (blacks and Mexican Americans are more likely to have heart disease than whites). Controllable risk factors include smoking, high LDL, or "bad" cholesterol and low HDL, or "good" cholesterol, uncontrolled hypertension, physical inactivity, obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, and uncontrolled stress and anger.