Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 600,000 Americans every year. That’s one out of every four deaths in the country.
But what is heart disease? It’s a term that refers to several conditions, most commonly coronary artery disease – which can cause heart attacks. Other kinds of heart disease may involve the valves in the heart, can cause heart failure and prevent the heart from pumping well.
Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease. Some people are actually born with it. It occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries, causing them to narrow over time and reduce blood flow to the heart. There are a number of factors that can increase your odds of developing heart disease. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise are all culprits. Your risk is also increased by high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The symptoms of heart disease vary depending on the type, but for most people the first sign is chest discomfort or a heart attack. Other signs include:
- Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away after a few minutes
- Pain or discomfort in the back, neck or back
- Weakness, light-headedness, nausea or a cold sweat
- Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
To learn more about heart disease, visit www.somc.org/heart