I think it’s safe to say that none of us want to have a heart event and we want our heart to be as healthy as possible. I mean, it’s kind of important! I asked Timothy Henry, MD
, about some of the things we can do to make our heart as healthy as possible.
First off, what are the major risk factors of a heart attack? Dr. Henry says there are five major risk factors:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
- Family history of coronary artery disease (blockages in the arteries)
So, now that we know the risk factors, what are the most common symptoms of a heart attack?
According to Dr. Henry, the classic symptom is chest pain in the middle of your chest which radiates to your left arm that may be associated with sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath. But many patients have atypical symptoms and up to 20-25 percent of patients have no symptoms at all. Atypical symptoms are more common in women and as we get older.
Something that everyone might not realize is that symptoms are different between men and women. Being involved with The American Heart Association here in Cincinnati, I’ve heard a lot of stories of how women didn’t even realize they were experiencing a heart attack when one was taking place. I asked Dr. Henry what the difference in symptoms can be, he said, “Symptoms tend to be more classic in men, especially younger men. Women are relatively well protected from coronary artery disease and heart attacks while they are premenopausal but catch up after menopause. They typically present approximately ten years later than the average man. But women also may have heart attacks for different reasons and therefore younger women also present with heart attacks.”
And what’s scary is Dr. Henry says that one of the most common heart attack myths is that many women don’t realize the leading cause of death in the United States for women is heart disease. For example, women are much more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.
There are things you can do to help prevent a heart event, like exercise. Dr. Henry recommends exercise five times per week for 30 minutes. Any type of exercise is healthy. It does not have to be high-intensity to be good for you! Find an activity and a friend and be active! Proper exercise and diet help patients lose weight which improves their blood pressure, cholesterol, and decreases the chance for diabetes.