If you don’t take steps to improve your heart health or keep it healthy, you may be at a higher risk of developing the following heart conditions:
- Coronary artery disease: This disease is when plaque accumulates in blood vessels supplying the heart. This can lead to a heart attack. Treatments can involve having a stent placed in an artery to keep it open or having bypass surgery to make a new way for the heart to get the blood it needs.
- Atrial fibrillation: This disorder is characterized by having an irregular heartbeat, and it can lead to heart failure, strokes, blood clots and other cardiac complications. Some risk factors for atrial fibrillation include high blood pressure, excessive alcohol intake, obesity and obstructive sleep apnea.
- Heart failure: This disorder can be caused by many conditions, such as cardiac sarcoidosis, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, cardiac amyloidosis and more. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot keep up its supply with the demands of the body.
It is important to note that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of maternal mortality in the U.S. Also, anyone at any age can develop cardiovascular disease.
African Americans are up to 30% more likely to die from heart disease. This is because they are prone to have conditions like:
- High blood pressure
Several barriers exist for African Americans to get the care they need, including transportation. UofL Health is working to address African Americans’ health inequities.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Heart conditions can cause a heart attack. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Chest discomfort, heaviness or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Jaw or tooth pain
- Arm pain
- Reflux (when stomach acid goes up into your esophagus)
- Cold sweats
- Feeling lightheaded
Some people who experience a heart attack may not have all the symptoms listed. For example, if you have diabetes or if you are female, you may not experience classic heart attack symptoms. Also, if you are a woman, you may be at a higher risk of having a heart attack if you:
- Have a family history of heart disease
- Are a woman who has ever had breast cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation to the chest
- Have ever had gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, eclampsia or high blood pressure during a pregnancy
- Have high blood pressure
- Have ever had a pregnancy resulting in pre-term delivery
- Are a woman who has an autoimmune condition, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
It is also important to note that symptoms can start up to one month before the actual heart attack occurs.
If you ever experience symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible, because prompt intervention can be lifesaving. Call 911 or go to the emergency room (ER).
Also, if you have baby aspirin (81 milligrams) with you, take four crushed baby aspirin pills immediately, because this can help thin the blood so it won’t clog up where the obstruction is in the heart while you are preparing to arrive at the ER. However, do not let this delay you getting to the ER. Time is heart muscle and the quicker you get the blockage opened, the better the outcomes.
UofL Health Can Help
Early detection and prevention of heart and other health issues is crucial. One important action you can take is to visit your primary care provider annually. This is one way you can find out about your four B’s (blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI).
Visit UofL Physicians – Primary Care or call 502-588-4343 to find a primary care provider near you. Our Primary Care offices accept many types of health insurance and have self-pay options. If you think you’re at increased risk of heart disease, ask for a referral to see a cardiologist.
UofL Health – Heart Hospital is the only area hospital dedicated to comprehensive heart care. Also, UofL Health – Heart Hospital – Women’s Heart Program provides comprehensive cardiovascular medical care to women of all ages and all walks of life. To learn more, call 502-587-4000.