More about Heart Disease

What is heart disease?

Heart disease includes coronary artery disease (CAD), congestive heart failure and heart attack. CAD is the most common type of heart disease among adults. CAD happens when cholesterol builds up in your blood. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is made in the liver and your body needs. But when there is too much in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries. The build-up of cholesterol in the arteries is called plaque. This build-up can block the flow of blood to your heart, so your heart has to work harder. Sometimes, this block is bad enough to cause a heart attack or stroke. A heart attack happens when blood can’t flow to a part of the heart.

Heart disease can cause chest pain or shortness of breath because not enough blood is getting to your heart. Overtime, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition when the heart can’t pump blood the way that it should. An irregular heartbeat, called an arrhythmia, can also develop.

Who is at risk for heart disease?

Both men and women are at risk for heart disease. It is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea - this condition causes people to stop sleeping normally one or more times during the night and sometimes even stop breathing
  • Not exercising
  • Stress
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Family history of heart disease

What is the impact of heart disease
in our community?

Approximately 17 million people in the U.S. have CAD, and more than 1 million people in Pennsylvania have had a heart attack, stroke or chest pain. One in four deaths was caused by heart disease in 2009. According to a 2008 community health assessment, 6 out of every 100 people in York and Adams counties have heart disease.

It is estimated that heart disease will cost the U.S. $316.4 billion in 2010. Heart attack and stroke cost more than $4 million in Pennsylvania every year. It is the number one most costly medical condition in the country.

What can you do?

Fortunately, there are several things that people can do to help avoid heart disease:

  • Having a good relationship with your doctor can help you to better understand your heart disease.
  • Stopping or not starting smoking
  • Getting regular exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Making sure you are getting regular check-ups including blood pressure check and cholesterol blood test

While you can’t change your family history or your age, following these tips can help to keep your heart healthy.

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