The heart plays a critical role in keeping us healthy, but only few know about relevant heart health facts that will keep the doctor away. While many of us worry about heart health, there are an incredible number of facts we don’t know.
In this article, we explore some of the most interesting and important heart health facts that you need to know to keep your ticker in tip-top shape. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Heart Health Facts
Heart Disease Does Not Only Happen to Older People
This is very much an old wives tale that only older people tend to have heart disease! Although the risk for some heart problems increase with aging, heart conditions can affect anyone, no matter how old they are.
Some heart problems are already present at birth, and may be diagnosed shortly after a baby is born or when they cause symptoms.
Heart conditions can happen at any age and many of them may be caused by poor lifestyle choices made when younger.
A key fact about heart health is that by the time most people reach age 80, there’s a 60 % likelihood that they will have high blood pressure which is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.
This is why it is important for older adults to go for regular check ups with their doctor.
Fatigue and Shortness of Breath Are NOT Normal Signs of Aging – Heart Health Facts
Many attribute fatigue and shortness of breath to normal aging. Unfortunately, this is a myth!
Your body changes as you age, so certain symptoms you may experience should be quickly discussed with your doctor as they could be early signs of heart and vascular problems. These are much easier to treat if caught early.
These include some of those “normal signs of aging” you may experience aside from chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fluttering in the chest
- Regular fatigue and frequent bouts of dizziness
- Rapid gain in weight
- Leg pain when walking
- Swelling in your feet or ankles, and of course,
- Chest pain
Men Do NOT Have A Higher Risk For Heart Disease
Too many believe that men have a higher likelihood of heart disease, while the greatest health risk for women is breast cancer. It is a fact that heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
Heart Disease Does Not Always Present Symptoms
It is a general misconception that heart disease always cause symptoms such as frequent sharp pain in the chest. This is untrue.
Two major risk factors for heart disease – High blood pressure and high cholesterol present no symptoms. In many cases, you only learn about these conditions AFTER having a heart attack or stroke.
Heart Disease Symptoms Are NOT Similar For Men and Women
Heart attack symptoms are different in men and women. It is therefore necessary to know what to look out for, understand your personal risk factors and, make heart-healthy choices not only in diet, but in lifestyle.
Diabetes is A Major Risk Factor for Heart Disease
It is a misconception to believe that as long as you are faithfully taking your diabetic medication, you are safe from developing heart disease.
Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, so it’s important to control it with medicines and healthy lifestyle choices. in fact, people with diabetes and those who develop heart disease share common risk factors, like high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, and smoking.
There is No Need to Be Resigned to Fate Because Heart Disease Runs in The Family
Another heart disease myth is that if it runs in the family, there’ is nothing you can do to prevent it. Untrue!
You can take control by learning about your risk factors, making healthy choices, and getting regular checkups to catch problems early.
Being Physically Fit Does Not Make it Impossible to Have Heart Disease
Knowing your family history and keeping regular appointments with your doctor is an important part of overall health. Your doctor can recommend heart screenings that will help you keep an eye on these types of risk factors.
While getting regular physical activity can help lower your risk of heart disease, it’s still possible for you to develop a heart problem. Some conditions, like high cholesterol and heart muscle disease, can be passed down in families, so no matter how fit you are, you may be at risk.
Coronary Artery Disease
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which leads to heart attacks.
CAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries which bring blood to the heart muscle), causing them to harden and narrow. In 2020 it caused the death of 382,820 people in the United States alone.
Additional US statistics also demonstrate that
- About 20.1 million adults age 20 and older have CAD (about 7.2%).
- In 2020, about 2 in 10 deaths from CAD happen in adults less than 65 years old.
Risk factors for heart disease
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Let us discuss these factors in some detail.
Knowing your family history regarding cardiovascular issues can be incredibly beneficial in understanding what risk factors affect you personally. Awareness is half the battle!
Discussing your family history with your doctor helps them develop a management plan suited for you to prevent potential risks associated with certain diseases or conditions.
Physical Inactivity and Unhealthy Eating Habits
A lack of physical activity or exercise is apparently just as bad for you as smoking! Even if you don’t smoke, your risk of developing heart disease increases if you are not exercising your body, including your heart and lungs.
If you now throw unhealthy eating habits into the mix, then it is easy to become overweight or even become obese.
Many make excuses for their poor eating habits – lack of time, convenience, expense, and even about “not knowing better”.
Of course it is expedient to pick up food from the drive through, or even buy those tantalizing processed “ready to eat” foods as you wander through the shopping aisle.
Keep in mind that processed foods are not good for you because of the high salt or sugar content.
It is better to having a healthy eating plan to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Eating nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats will help keep your body strong and arteries clear.
Clogging in the Arteries
Unhealthy eating habits will make you a candidate for clogged arteries. The human arteries are actually quite small! The average artery measures only 4 millimeters wide, and despite being so tiny, help deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout our bodies.
They are essential for keeping us alive and healthy, so it is important to take care of them by exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods.
Sitting For Long Periods of Time
Not surprisingly, scientists have observed that the length of time you spend sitting during the day is an independent factor that increases the risk of heart disease.
That means whether you exercise regularly or eat healthy, sitting too much can itself be a hazard to your health. Our bodies were made to get up and move around so standing and stretching throughout the day will give your heart a much-needed break!
Take regular breaks to stand and stretch every 20 – 30 minutes, from sitting at your desk, or the couch from watching television, to get some physical activity throughout the day. This can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Any amount of smoking potentially harms the heart, even if it is only one cigarette on those rare occasions. This is because smoking narrows the arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow throughout your body.
The result is an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Quit smoking and begin to see an improvement in your overall health.
Get Rid of Belly Fat
Belly fat is dangerous for your heart.
Where we carry our weight affects our overall health when it comes to our hearts. Belly fat is particularly dangerous because it indicates a body metabolic index (BMI) linked to all types of cardiovascular problems, including stroke and high blood pressure.
Keeping a healthy BMI through diet and exercise is key!
Stress Can Be An Unwanted Trigger
It is well-documented that stress can have negative implications on overall health but it can be especially dangerous to the heart.
Stress can cause blood pressure to rise, leading to other serious cardiovascular conditions such as high blood sugar levels and stiffening of arteries.
Taking steps to manage stress with activities such as yoga or meditation will significantly prevent long-term damage.
Because stress is a silent killer as it does not typically present unique symptoms, it is a good idea to regularly monitor your blood pressure. There are simple home monitors available that you can use for this
These are just some of the most important and interesting facts related to heart health that everyone should know! Keeping an eye on your cardiovascular health by following these helpful tips is a great way to ensure a fit and healthy life.
UPMC Health Beat (2017) Heart and Vascular Health: Myths and Facts About Heart Disease https://share.upmc.com/2017/01/heart-disease-myths-facts/
Women and Heart Diseases: Know the Symptoms | UPMC HealthBeat share.upmc.com/2015/02/women-heart-disease-know-signs/