Heart disease is being found in younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. February is American Heart Health Month, the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take now to promote heart health.

Risks for Heart Disease

Many of the conditions and behaviors that place people at risk for heart disease include: 

  • High blood pressure: Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke. 
  • High cholesterol: Having diabetes and/or obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. 
  • Smoking: More than 35 million U.S. adults are current smokers. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease. 
  • Obesity: Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. 
  • Diabetes: This condition causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscles.
  • Physical inactivity: Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week is a great way to serve your heart. 
  • Unhealthy eating patterns: Sodium is found in a lot of our favorite foods and unfortunately can increase blood pressure. A diet high in trans fat, saturated fat, and added sugar is also a risk factor for heart disease. 

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Different types of heart disease may result in a variety of different symptoms, however, the most common symptoms include: 

  • Fluttering heart or a racing heartbeat
  • Fainting spells and/or dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness and/or weakness in limbs
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Fatigue and low energy 
  • Irregular heart rhythm 

Tips for Heart Health

Some risk factors for heart disease can’t be controlled, however, it is still important to lower your chance of developing heart disease by decreasing the risk factors you can control. 

  • Stop smoking: This is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. Quitting can make a huge difference to not just your heart, but your overall health too. 
  • Stretch: Participating in yoga and frequent stretching can help you improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. It can help you relax and relieve stress. 
  • Skip the salt: Excess sodium is one of the leading drivers of healthcare issues in the United States. Think twice before filling up on your favorite fast food. 
  • Get moving: No matter how much you weigh, sitting for long periods could shorten your lifespan. If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around. Go for a stroll on your lunch break, or enjoy regular exercise in your free time. 
  • Know your numbers: Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol in check is important for good heart health. Learn the optimal levels for your sex and age group. Meet with your doctor frequently and take the necessary steps to reach and maintain those levels. 
  • Stay away from saturated fats: Lowering your saturated fat intake to no more than 7% of your daily calories can cut your risk of disease. If you don’t normally read nutrition labels, consider starting today. 
  • Walk it off: The next time you feel overwhelmed or angry, take a stroll. Even a five- minute walk can help clear your head and lower your stress levels, which is good for your health. 

Heart disease can’t be cured or reversed. Once diagnosed, it requires a lifetime of treatment and careful monitoring. It is important to take charge of your overall health now, before a diagnosis may be made. Taking care of your body and heart can pay off for many years to come. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our providers at Santiam Cardiology Clinic at 503-769-9118.