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Heart Health

By February 5, 2024No Comments
What is heart disease?

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack. Coronary heart disease, or CHD, is the result of coronary artery disease.

With coronary artery disease, plaque first grows within the walls of your coronary arteries until the blood flow to the heart’s muscle is limited. It may occur over time limiting the blood supply, or it can result from a sudden rupture and form a blood clot. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.

Here are the risk factors for coronary artery disease:

  • High LDL cholesterol, (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol, (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol
  • Family history
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being post-menopausal for women
  • Being older than 45 for men
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity

High Blood Pressure & LDL

High blood pressure causes damage to the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain. About 116 million US adults (nearly 1 in 2) have high blood pressure.

Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. High LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol can double a person’s risk of heart disease. This is caused by an excess of cholesterol that can build up in the walls of arteries and limit blood flow to a your organs. You can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels by eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medicines as recommended.

Obesity, Unhealthy Diet, and Physical Inactivity

People with overweight or obesity are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke and their risk factors, including high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes. In the United States, nearly 74% of adults have overweight or obesity.


Smoking is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Smoking can damage the body several ways by:

  • Raising triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) and lowering high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also called “good” cholesterol.
  • Making blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain.
  • Damaging cells that line the blood vessels.
  • Increasing the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.
  • Causing thickening and narrowing of blood vessels.


Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people who don’t have diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart and block blood vessels leading to the brain, causing a stroke.

Heart Disease Prevention

Heart disease can be preventable. Follow these steps to decrease your chances for heart disease:

  • Talk with your health care professional to learn your risk for heart disease.
  • Quit smoking. Just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50%.
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. It’s also good to include moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week.
  • Modify your diet if necessary.
What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply going to your brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In order for your brain to work properly, it needs oxygen. Your arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your brain. If something prevents the flow of blood, brain cells start to die within minutes from lack of oxygen which can cause a stroke.

Risk Factors For a Stroke

High blood pressure also called hypertension, is a main risk factor for stroke. This increases with age.

Risk factors for stroke include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not enough physical activity

Women also have unique risk factors for stroke, including:

  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Certain types of birth control medicines
  • Higher rates of depression
Types of strokes

An Ischemic Stroke occurs when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages by building up in the blood vessels.

A Hemorrhagic Stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures. The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them. High blood pressure and aneurysms are examples of conditions that can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet can help protect the heart, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.

A heart-healthy eating plan includes:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Beans or other legumes
  • Lean meats and fish
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil

Limit intake of the following:

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Processed carbohydrates
  • Alcohol
  • Saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy products) and trans fat (found in fried fast food, chips, baked goods

Heart Attack Symptoms

Major symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. This can be in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Cold sweat
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Nausea or lightheadedness

Women may be more likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain

Call 9-1-1 if you notice symptoms of a heart attack.

If you notice the symptoms of a heart attack in yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately. The sooner you get to an emergency room, the sooner you can get treatment to reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscle. At the hospital, health care professionals can run tests to find out if a heart attack is happening and decide the best treatment.

Heart Attack Recovery

If you’ve had a heart attack, your heart may be damaged. This could affect your heart’s rhythm and its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. You may also be at risk for another heart attack or conditions such as stroke, kidney disorders, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

You can lower your chances of having future health problems by following these steps:

  • Talk with your health care team about any physical activity you do each day. Your doctor may want you to limit work, travel, or sexual activity for some time after a heart attack.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating better, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stress—in addition to taking prescribed medicines—can help improve your heart health and quality of life. Ask your health care team about attending a program called cardiac rehabilitation to help you make these lifestyle changes.
  • Attend programs such as cardiac rehabilitation. This is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problems that require surgery or medical care. Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that include physical activity, learning about healthy living, and counseling to find ways to relieve stress and improve mental health.