Because the heart cannot be easily repaired or replaced, heart failure is a serious issue. It’s also common. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 6 million Americans live with heart failure.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of regular doctor visits to assess your heart disease risk factors. Identifying a heart condition early gives doctors time to tailor a treatment plan and recommend lifestyle modifications,” says George Adesina, M.D., M.S.P.H., F.A.C.C., a board-certified physician specializing in Cardiology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.
Your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, should be discussed with your doctor, as well as:
- Your family history of heart disease.
- Heart disease symptoms you may have had, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or increasing fatigue.
- How much stress you have and any symptoms of depression.
Signs aren’t clear cut
You may be surprised to hear that not all heart attacks are obvious. Sometimes, symptoms are subtle, especially in women. Signs and symptoms to be aware of are:
- Shortness of breath during physical activity or when you lie down.
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet.
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat.
- Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink-tinged phlegm.
- Increased need to urinate at night.
- Rapid weight gain from water retention.
- Lack of appetite and nausea.
- Decreased alertness.
- Sudden and severe shortness of breath accompanied by coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
Reduce your risk
“Do your part to help reduce your risk factors for heart disease. Don’t smoke. Get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least five times per week. Physical activity can help you control your weight and reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart. Even something as simple as walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or dancing can make a difference,” reminds Dr. Adesina.
Watch your diet. Eat foods that are low in salt, sugar, animal fats, and saturated fats. Aim for five to 10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day. Doing so not only can help prevent heart disease, but also may help improve your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Two or more servings a week of certain fish, such as salmon and tuna, may also decrease your risk of heart disease.
Know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to make some changes.