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Heart Disease

Understanding Heart Disease

Why Should You Care?

If you’re like many people, you may think of heart disease as a problem that happens to other folks. “I feel fine,” you may think, “so I have nothing to worry about.” If you’re a woman, you may also believe that being female protects you from heart disease.

If you’re a man, you may think you’re not old enough to have a serious heart condition. Wrong on all counts. In the United States, heart disease is the #1 killer of both women and men. It affects many people at midlife, as well as in old age. It also can happen to those who “feel fine.”

Consider these facts:

■ Each year, 500,000 Americans die of heart disease, and approximately half of them are women.

■ As early as age 45, a man’s risk of heart disease begins to rise significantly. For a woman, risk starts to increase at age 55.

■ Fifty percent of men and 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms of the disease.

These facts may seem frightening, but they need not be. The good news is that you have a lot of power to protect and improve your heart health. This guidebook will help you find out your own risk of heart disease and take steps to prevent it.

“But,” you may still be thinking, “I take pretty good care of myself.

I’m unlikely to get heart disease.” Yet a recent national survey shows that only 3 percent of U.S. adults practice all of the “Big Four” habits that help to prevent heart disease: eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking. Many young people are also vulnerable. A recent study showed that about two-thirds of teenagers already have at least one risk factor for heart disease.

Every risk factor counts. Research shows that each individual risk factor greatly increases the chances of developing heart disease.

Moreover, the worse a particular risk factor is, the more likely you are to develop heart disease. For example, if you have high blood pressure, the higher it is, the greater your chances of developing heart disease, including its many serious consequences. A damaged heart can damage your life by interfering with enjoyable activities, preventing you from holding a job, and even keeping you from doing simple things, such as taking a walk or climbing steps.

What can you do to reduce your personal risk of heart disease?

First, you can learn about your own risk factors. Second, you can begin to make healthful changes in your diet, physical activity, and other daily habits. Whatever your age or current state of health, it’s never too late to take steps to protect your heart. It’s also never too early. The sooner you act, the better. So use this guidebook to find out more about the state of your heart, and to learn about heart healthy living. Talk with your doctor to get more information.

Start taking action to improve your heart health today.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors
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