New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows heart problems that were preventable killed about 415,000 Americans in 2016.
Not only that, heart disease causes one in every four deaths. So, how can you keep from becoming a statistic?
“There are probably many risk factors that we don’t yet fully appreciate,” interventional cardiologist Dr. Pradesh Balan said.
One known risk factor is not moving. A 2018 study published in circulation found that physical activity may partly override your genes when it comes to your heart. For people with an elevated genetic risk, high fitness levels were linked to a 49 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Another heart protector: being social. Social connection and even being married may ward off heart problems, while loneliness might boost your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Another little-known heart protector: spending time in a sauna. A study published in the journal Neurology has shown sauna bathing can reduce the risk of heart disease, heart failure and stroke because it may lower blood pressure by stimulating blood flow to the skin.
And another recommendation is to load up on vitamin D. Research shows people with low vitamin D levels are 32 percent more likely to have heart disease.
But Balan may have the best advice.
“Pay attention to your symptoms," Balan said. "If you’re having symptoms, get them checked out.”
Chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating and nausea are just some signs that you should get checked out immediately.
According to the University of Arizona, diet also matters when it comes to your heart. Eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish and reduced-fat dairy can lead to an 18 percent reduction in heart attack risk.
KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY
BACKGROUND: The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack. As plaque builds up in the arteries of a person with heart disease, the inside of the arteries begin to narrow, which lessens or blocks the flow of blood. Plaques can also rupture and when they do a blood clot can form on the plaque, blocking the flow of blood. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
SIGNS AND SYMPOMS: A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it. Almost half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital. Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, having had a previous heart attack or stroke, or having diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Shortness of breath often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort. Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness. It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 911. A person’s chance of surviving a heart attack increases if emergency treatment is administered as soon as possible.
CONTINUED HOPE FOR HEART DISEASE: What once seemed like a science-fiction pipe dream, such as a total artificial heart, is inching closer to reality, as dramatic leaps in technology are leading scientists to turn to innovative medical devices to treat and prolong the life of patients with heart failure. “There have been major advances in electronics and battery technology and material science that have enabled researchers to produce devices for heart failure that are more effective, cheaper and more customizable than ever before,” said Kenneth Ellenbogen, chair of cardiology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Within the past year, breakthroughs in sensor and nanotechnology have made CRT and ICDs safer and more reliable. The newest pacemakers and defibrillators also contain sensors that can monitor other things, like oxygen levels in the blood, physical activity, body temperature, adrenaline and hormone levels, syncing that information to regulate heart rate more akin to what the heart does naturally. Some of the most exciting and futuristic developments in heart failure devices come from the field of soft robotics. Last year scientists at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital announced that they had developed a customizable soft robotic sleeve that fits around the heart and twists and compresses in sync with its natural beating, helping it to pump blood.