Nearly 6,000 Americans died from heart disease every year. In this edition of Wellness, Jill Urban takes a closer look at the number one killer in the United States.
"Heart disease is more than just heart attacks. When we think of heart disease, it includes heart attacks, blood vessel disease, irregular heart rhythms and also structural problems like valve disease," explained Dr. Lawrence Phillips, a cardiologist.
A healthy lifestyle with exercise and diet can reduce the risk, but many people don’t know the signs of a problem. Chest pain is one of the first signs or symptoms, and it may not always be as obvious as you might think.
"When people think of heart disease, they classically think of chest pain. Chest pain can not only be a pressure in the chest, but it can also feel like a burning sensation. It can be radiating to your arm, your neck and to your jaw. But any chest pain should be evaluated, and should be thought of as possibly more serious," said Phillips.
Another key symptom is shortness of breath. This can be described as a feeling of being winded, or difficulty taking a deep breath in.
"I always tell my patients to look for a change in functional status. So if you were able to run up three flights of stairs and never had symptoms, and now walking up one flight you are huffing and puffing, that is not normal for you," noted Phillips.
Also, if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, don’t dismiss it.
Phillips said, "One area of heart disease that people forget is irregular heart rhythms and that can cause symptoms of dizziness or palpitations. People can feel like the room is spinning and they can feel like their heart is fluttering, or going fast, or pounding out of their chest. All of those symptoms should be evaluated further."
With technology today, heart disease is more treatable and manageable than ever. However, it's all about listening to your body. If you have any of these symptoms, you need to act fast or you could put yourself at greater risk.
The biggest myth with heart disease is that it can’t happen to you, and people often refuse to see the signs or believe there could be a problem. National Heart Month is a perfect time to remind people to pay attention, understand your risks, and take care of your cardiac health.