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Know the Warning Signs to Prevent Heart Attacks

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. With so much at stake, now is the time to be aware of the warning signs of heart disease and improve your health.

People with heart disease are at risk of both heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest. Heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked. During sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating abruptly and blood ceases to flow to the brain and other organs.

Sudden cardiac arrest may occur after a heart attack, and most people who are struck by sudden cardiac arrest die within a few minutes without resuscitation from CPR or a defibrillator. The majority of sudden cardiac deaths occur in men.

Could It Happen to Me?

The cold fact is that some causes of heart disease, such as family history, are unchangeable. But there are many risk factors that can be modified—at any age.

About half of Americans have one of the three main – and preventable – risk factors of heart disease:

Other risk factors include:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Diabetes

What's more, a poor diet and lack of exercise can cause plaque to form in arteries as early as adolescence. This paves the way for a possible heart attack in a few decades. And while most people who die from heart disease are 65 or older, nearly 20% are younger.

The statistics are startling for both genders. In this country, of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have a heart attack, about half of them die. The risk for heart attack in men increases after age 45. Women's risk for heart attack rises after age 55, and for women under age 50, heart attacks are twice as likely to be fatal than for men.

How Can I Help Myself?

To get your heart in shape, try these recommendations from the American Heart Association:

  • Quit smoking
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Reduce blood cholesterol
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Move every day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage diabetes
  • Reduce stress
  • Limit alcohol

Talk to your doctor if you have any of the risk factors for heart disease about setting goals and managing your condition.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Krames Staywell

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