Understanding Heart Disease and its Long-Term Effect

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Every February we honor heart month, and it is a good yearly reminder to assess the health of our hearts and understand our risk for heart disease. With February seemingly long behind us, it’s all too easy to put our healthy heart choices on the back burner and resume our normal, busy lives. As we move into the bustling spring season, we encourage you to pause and take a pulse on your heart’s health and the health of those you care for.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every four deaths is attributed to heart disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In this article, White-Wilson cardiologist, Dr. Rodney Powell, shares how healthy lifestyle choices can make a huge impact on your overall heart health and help reduce your risk for a heart complication.

The term heart disease or cardiovascular disease refers to a wide range of conditions that affect a person’s heart. The term is frequently used to convey damage to the heart or blood vessels caused by plaque build up in the arteries. A heart attack or heart failure is essentially obstructed blood flow and a diminished oxygen supply to the heart muscle, resulting in the heart muscle tissue dying. Heart disease conditions include coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, congenital defects and many other conditions and diseases affecting heart health.

“Many people report symptoms prior to a heart complication but heart disease can also sneak up on us completely unexpected,” said White-Wilson cardiologist, Dr. Rodney Powell. “It is so important to work with your physician to assess your risk factors and know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These are red flags that can indicate risk of major issues like a heart attack. This becomes increasingly important as we age and our risk for heart disease increases.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately half of Americans with heart disease have one of the three primary risk factors below:

  1. Smoking
  2. High Blood Pressure
  3. High LDL Cholesterol levels

Additional risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Excessive alcohol use

Age, gender, stress, family history and poor hygiene leading to infection are additional risk factors for heart disease.

“It is important to understand the risk factors for heart disease and to make positive lifestyle choices to improve your risk of a heart complication,” said Dr. Powell. “Healthy lifestyle choices can include a low fat, low sodium diet rich in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking.”

While we cannot undo damage to our hearts from heart disease, we can reduce the risk of future complications by managing blood pressure and cholesterol. Dr. Powell recommends adapting these four lifestyle changes to mitigate the long-term effects of heart disease.

4 Steps to a Healthier Heart:

  1. Quit smoking – it’s never too late
  2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 4 times a week
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Eat a low fat, low sodium diet rich in fruits and vegetables

“When there has been damage to one area of the heart, the other areas of the heart have to work harder,” said Dr. Powell. “Heart issues, when left untreated, can lead to life threatening issues like a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, aneurysm, cardiac arrest or peripheral artery disease (PAD).”

If lifestyle changes are not enough to manage your heart disease, your physician may recommend medications or even a medical procedure or surgery.

“Keeping your risk factors in check and making positive lifestyle changes are the first steps and most effective ways to prevent future complications and to live with your optimal heart health,” said Dr. Powell.

Dr. Rodney Powell is a board-certified cardiologist at the White-Wilson Medical Center Cardiology Clinic in Fort Walton Beach, FL. Dr. Powell is accepting new patients. Click here to learn more about Dr. Powell’s approach to patient care, and watch his video bio.