Guest Author - Dr. Denise Howard
Heart disease kills more people annually than any other disorder. It develops slowly over time and can present with mild symptoms or cause sudden death. Some people are more likely than others to develop it and knowing if you are at risk, could save your life.
In 2004 heart disease was responsible for 23% of all deaths. Approximately 17.6 million people had CHD in 2010 with 8.5 million experiencing a heart attack and 10.2 presenting with angina. This is likely an underestimation since many have undiagnosed coronary heart disease. In addition many experience “silent ischemia” in which they have heart muscle damage without symptoms.
Even though it is the most common cause of death in men and women, when matched by age, men tend to be at a greater risk. At 40 years of age, the lifetime risk of developing CHD is 49% in men and 32% in women. The annual incidence is 12/1000 men and 5/1000 women. The risk of heart disease increases with age and for women there is an abrupt increase after menopause. Women lag behind men by 10-20 years when it comes to developing a major sequela of heart disease such as a heart attack or sudden death.
Even though the mortality rates have decreased by 24-50% since 1975 in developed countries, some minority groups are still at greater risk of death. The death rates have decreased by 60% in the U.S., 30% in Europe and Japan but are increasing in developing countries due to the increased life expectancy, adoption of western diets, smoking and less physical activity.
Risk factors for coronary heart disease can be categorized as primary or secondary. Primary factors include a personal history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), elevated lipids, age greater than 55, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and a family history of premature CHD. Secondary risk factors include obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
Anyone with one or more of the above factors should be aware of their increased risk of heart disease and have a low threshold to seek help if they develop any symptoms. In addition many of the factors can be altered. The damage caused by smoking can be reversed. Controlling blood pressure and diabetes can decrease the chance of unwanted consequences such as a heart attack. Regular exercise and proper nutrition provides countless benefits in the fight again CHD.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!