Heart health: prevention, risks, and care

Doctor's advice, Staying heart healthy / Sanitas Medical Center

Discover how to protect your heart health: from prevention tips to treatment options. Learn about heart disease symptoms, diagnosis, and living well.

Heart health: prevention, risks, and care

In today's fast-paced world, taking care of our hearts is more crucial than ever. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death globally, affecting millions of lives each year. But what exactly is heart disease, and how can we protect ourselves? In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about heart health, from its causes and symptoms to prevention tips and treatment options.


What is heart disease?

Heart disease refers to a range of conditions that affect the heart, including coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), heart defects at birth (congenital heart defects), and more. These conditions can lead to various complications, such as heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke.


Understanding the scope

The statistics surrounding heart disease are staggering. Each year, millions of people are diagnosed with heart disease worldwide. In the United States alone, heart disease accounts for around 1 in every 4 deaths. Someone in the US experiences a heart attack every 40 seconds. 1 out of every 5 heart attacks occur silently, without symptoms.
These numbers underscore the urgent need for awareness and action to protect heart health from a young age.


Causes of heart disease

Heart disease is a slowly developing condition influenced by various factors, some preventable and others not.

  • Non-preventable factors include age, race, and family history. A family history of heart disease can also predispose individuals to develop similar conditions. Some genetic conditions, like familial hypercholesterolemia, also increase risk. 
  • Preventable factors include a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking (including vaping), illegal substance use (marijuana, cocaine, etc.), excessive alcohol consumption, and high stress. 

Other medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity can also strain the heart and increase the likelihood of heart disease.


Tips for prevention

Fortunately, many risk factors for heart disease are modifiable through lifestyle changes. Here are some tips for preventing heart disease:

  1. Eat a heart healthy diet: Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while minimizing processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars.
  2. Stay active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Activities like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming are excellent choices.
  3. Quit smoking: Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease. Seek support and resources to quit smoking if you're a smoker.
  4. Manage stress: Chronic stress can take a toll on the heart. Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.
  5. Limit alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure and contribute to heart disease. Drink in moderation, if at all.
  6. Annual wellness visits: Seeing your doctor when you are not sick allows them to detect changes early and intervene before they become a serious problem.

By understanding the factors contributing to heart disease, you can take proactive steps to minimize your risks and optimize your heart health. Knowledge and action are the keys to a longer, healthier life.


Symptoms and treatments

Recognizing the symptoms of heart disease is crucial for early intervention. Symptoms of heart disease can vary depending on the specific condition but may include: 

  • Chest pain or discomfort: This is a classic symptom, often described as pressure, tightness, squeezing, or burning in the chest. It may radiate to the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: Feeling breathless, especially during physical activity or while lying down, can be a sign of heart disease.
  • Fatigue: Persistent tiredness or weakness, even with adequate rest, can indicate an underlying heart problem.
  • Palpitations: Sensations of rapid, irregular, or skipped heartbeats may be felt in the chest, throat, or neck.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: Feeling faint or dizzy, particularly upon exertion or when standing up, can be a symptom of heart issues.
  • Swelling: Fluid retention in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen may occur due to heart failure or other heart-related conditions.
  • Nausea or indigestion: Some people experience stomach discomfort, nausea, or vomiting as a symptom of heart disease, particularly in women.

It's important to note that symptoms can vary widely between individuals, and some people may experience no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages of heart disease. If you experience any concerning symptoms, especially chest pain or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention promptly. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve outcomes for heart disease.

Treatment for heart disease varies depending on the specific condition and its severity. It may include lifestyle changes, medications, medical procedures, or surgery. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.



Diagnosing heart disease often involves a combination of a medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. These tests may include blood tests, coronary calcium scans, electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs), echocardiograms, stress tests, and cardiac catheterization. 
An essential preventive step is never skipping an annual wellness visit with your primary healthcare provider. These preventive visits can help detect your heart disease risk and early changes. Early detection guides timely intervention, reducing the risk of heart disease complications.


Living with heart disease

Receiving a diagnosis of heart disease can be daunting, but it's essential to remember that many people lead fulfilling lives with proper management. By actively participating in your care, you can better manage your heart disease, improve your quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications. Here are some tips for living well with heart disease:

  1. Follow your treatment plan: Take medications as prescribed, attend follow-up appointments, and follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for lifestyle changes.
  2. Stay informed: Educate yourself about your condition and how to manage it effectively. Knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions about your health.
  3. Seek support: Joining support groups or connecting with others who have similar experiences can provide valuable emotional support and practical advice.
  4. Listen to your body: Pay attention to how you feel and any changes in your symptoms. Don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
  5. Maintain a positive outlook: Focus on the aspects of life you can control and find joy in everyday moments. A positive attitude can go a long way in managing heart disease.
  6. Actively participate in your care: Collaborate with your care team. Be open and honest. Keep track of your symptoms, ask lots of questions, and be willing to explore new treatment options. Understanding your heart disease and its management empowers you to make informed decisions about your health.

Remember that you are not alone—your healthcare team is there to support you every step of the way. And don't hesitate to seek support from family, friends, or support groups if you're struggling with your heart disease diagnosis or treatment. Emotional support can play a significant role in coping with the challenges of managing a chronic condition. 


Get treatment

Heart health is a journey that requires diligence, but the rewards of a healthy heart are immeasurable. By understanding the risk factors, making positive lifestyle changes, and seeking timely medical care, you can protect your heart and enjoy a vibrant, fulfilling life. Take charge of your heart health today—it's the most important investment you'll ever make.


Don't postpone your heart health—call 1-844-665-4827 to schedule a visit at a Sanitas Medical Center near you today.

Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm 
By Dr Sameilia Hernaiz Gomez, MD; Family Medicine