Heart disease is responsible for most deaths worldwide. Many of these deaths occur in people below 70 years of age.
Since heart diseases develop over time, early signs and symptoms may appear long before serious heart problems occur. Identifying these warning signs and making informed choices in your diet and lifestyle can help prevent heart diseases.
Identify Warning Signs of Heart Disease
Heart diseases affect the ability of the heart to pump blood well. This causes blood flow to slow down and back up in the veins. Poor blood flow may cause some signs and symptoms such as:
- Chest pain (angina): Chest pain is the most common symptom of heart disease. It may occur as severe crushing pain or mild discomfort. It often occurs after physical activity such as an exercise or an emotion and goes away with rest.
- Pressure, or squeezing sensation in the chest.
- Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath may occur due to fluid buildup in the lungs. You may feel shortness of breath during physical activity or even at rest.
- Exercise intolerance: Inability to exercise due to impaired activity of the heart to pump blood.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fluttering feelings in the chest: Fast or uneven heartbeat may feel like a racing or throbbing heart or fluttering feeling in the chest. It may be a sign of arrhythmia.
- Swelling (edema) in the ankles, feet, or legs: Swelling in legs, feet or ankles may occur due to fluid buildup in the lower legs. It may also lead to pain and numbness causing discomfort while walking.
- Coughing or wheezing: Constant coughing or wheezing due to the buildup of fluid in the lungs may be a sign of heart disease.
- Fatigue: Feeling more tired than usual and not being able to do normal daily activities could be a symptom of heart disease.
Not everyone may have a warning sign or symptom of heart disease. These symptoms may also vary from person to person. Sometimes heart disease may occur with no recognized symptoms (silent heart attack) and not be diagnosed until a person experiences a heart attack.
Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease
Making proactive changes in your lifestyle is the key to a healthy heart. One is never too old or young to adopt heart-healthy lifestyle strategies. These measures are particularly important if you are at risk for heart diseases due to your age, gender, family history, or medical history.
Follow these tips to prevent heart disease/attack at all ages:
- Tune up your diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Avoid trans-fat (found in fried foods, baked goods, shortening, frozen pizza), saturated fat (dairy and animal products), and sodium. Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.
- Be physically active: Regular physical exercise can prevent heart diseases. Engage in at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises such as brisk walking. You can also engage in 75 minutes (1.25 hours) of vigorous activity every week or do a combination of both. Go for muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
- Quit smoking: Smokers have more than twice the risk of heart disease than nonsmokers.
Occasional smoking, chewing tobacco, exposure to second-hand smoke, and even vaping can
increase the risk of heart disease. Quit smoking and choose to live tobacco-free to reduce your
risk of heart disease.
Early adulthood- If you are between 20 – 40 years of age
Juggling between family and career may leave little time to take care of your heart health. But, making
smart choices early will pay off for the rest of your life.
- Be aware of your family tree: Having a family member with heart disease increases your risk.
The risk is greater if your parents or siblings have had a heart attack or stroke before 60 years
of age. Go for basic screening such as cholesterol level, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
- Manage stress: Extreme stress and anger can be a “trigger” for a heart attack. Manage stress
by listening to music, setting realistic goals, and meditating.
- Limit your drink: Too much alcohol consumption can cause high blood pressure,
cardiomyopathy, or arrhythmia. Drink in moderation, one to two drinks per day for men, and
one drink per day for women. People younger than 21 years and pregnant women should
refrain from drinking.
- Build healthy habits a family affair: Inculcate healthy lifestyle habits in your kids and you will
reap the benefits too. Plan for family walks together. Engage in fun activities with your kids.
Middle adulthood- If you are between 40- 65 years of age
The aging process becomes more apparent during this phase of life. To take care of your heart:
- Maintain your weight in a healthy range: Metabolism starts slowing down in your 40s. Plan
your diet and exercise regularly to maintain your weight within a healthy range (BMI18.5 to 24.9
- Make sure to get enough sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for good heart health. You need six
to eight hours of sleep each day. If you snore during sleep, don’t brush it off as normal. It could
be sleep apnea. Sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Discuss with your health care provider.
- Get regular check-ups: Keep your blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol levels under check.
Late adulthood- If you are 65 years of age and above
The risk of heart disease increases with age. Watch your numbers closely and continue seeing your
provider regularly. Stay aware of any warning signs.
- Don’t forget your medicines: Remember to take your medicines as directed by your provider.
- Watch your calorie intake: The body demands fewer calories with age. Eat smaller portions
of nutrient-rich foods for a healthy weight.
- Get yourself screened regularly for blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol level.
Keep a check on these numbers. Also, get an ankle-brachial index test to know your risk for
peripheral artery disease.
Being aware of the warning signs of heart problems and taking preventive steps such as regular
exercise and weight control can go a long way in preventing heart disease. See your healthcare provider
immediately if you feel anything unusual, like shortness of breath, pressure in the chest, or extreme
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December 17, 2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. How much physical activity do adults
need? www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm. Updated October 7, 2020.
Accessed December 17, 2021.
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www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm. Updated September 27, 2021. Accessed December 17,
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Coronary artery disease (CAD).
www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm. Updated July 19, 2021. Accessed December 17,
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