Most people have heard that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. But, how can you determine your risk? And, when is the right time to see a cardiologist?
Though heart disease is traditionally known as a man’s disease, it is important to note that cardiovascular disease occurs in just as many women as men. In fact, one in three women die each year from cardiovascular disease or stroke—more than from all cancers combined. Heart disease is also becoming more prevalent in those under the age of 50, making it a major risk that everyone should take seriously, regardless of age or gender.
Being a silent killer, heart disease often occurs with no symptoms until a major health event such as a heart attack or a stroke. This is why it is important to determine your risk factors now, recognizing the signs early and seeking preventative treatment while time still allows. The presence of any of the following nine factors is good reason to seek the medical expertise of a cardiologist:
1. When You are Experiencing Chest Discomfort
While chest pain has many potential causes such as heartburn, any occurrence of discomfort in the chest should be investigated by a physician to completely rule out heart-related problems.
2. When You are a Smoker
Whether you are currently a smoker or were in the past, you have an increased risk of heart disease. Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, contributing to the build-up of plaque and potentially dangerous blockages.
3. When You have High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure indicates the force of blood against artery walls as it passes through. When this pressure is too high for an extended period of time, the arteries can become damaged or narrowed.
4. When You have Diabetes
Elevated blood glucose levels in diabetics can not only damage blood vessels, but also the nerves that control the heart. Additionally, those with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer from additional risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
5. When You have High Cholesterol
The body produces both good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. While bad cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries, good cholesterol has the job of carrying it away to be broken down and eliminated from the body. When LDL levels become too highor HDL too low, the imbalance can negatively impact arterial and heart health.
6. When You have a Family History of Heart Disease
Research has shown that genetics play an important role in the potential development of heart disease. Having a first-degree relative who experienced the disease increases the odds that you will as well. Additionally, conditions that often lead to heart disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure may be genetic as well.
7. When You have Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a condition in which an expectant mother develops high blood pressure. The condition has been linked to a fourfold increase in the risk of heart failure, making pregnancy the most dangerous time for a woman’s heart outside of the post-menopausal years.
8. When You have Gum Disease
Gum disease is hallmarked by inflammation, a major threat to the heart. In the case of periodontitis, harmful bacteria is also produced. When this bacteria makes its way into the blood stream, the resulting inflammation can occur in other parts of the body.
9. When You have Leg Pains or Foot Swelling
Leg pains, especially ones that are associated with activity, could be a sign of blockages in the legs caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is highly associated with not only amputations and disabilities, but also with stroke and heart attack. Swelling of the ankles and/or feet can lead to circulation problems in the veins which cause varicose veins and venous insufficiency. Over time, this could lead to painful leg ulcers or blood clots.
Heart disease is far too common, but the conditions that may lead to it are many and diverse. If any of the factors listed above apply to you, monitoring your heart health should be a top priority. Even if there are currently no signs of a problem, or you believe yourself to be in excellent physical condition, the nature of heart disease makes it a stealthy opponent, sneaking up on those who least expect it.
Ensure the protection of your health and the strength of your cardiovascular system by requesting an appointment with a cardiologist. At Cardiovascular Institute of the South, we have several locations and many highly-qualified physicians who are each capable of helping you determine not only the current state of your heart health, but also the steps you must take in order to maintain it.