Just the Facts

Depending on where you look and who you ask, the exact numbers may fluctuate.  But one thing that all the experts and web sites agree on, is that heart disease is the number one killer in America.  According to the 2017 updated report of The American Heart Association, they estimate that 800,000 people die each year from heart disease.  Over 28.4 million Americans are currently living with heart disease.  That is 11.7% of all adults.  This year some 790,000 people will have a heart attack and nearly half of those who do, will be just like me and won’t have any recognizable symptoms. 

Risk Factors

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop heart disease.  They also increase the chances that an existing disease can get worse.  They point out that there are risk factors you can do something about and there are risk factors you don’t have any control over, such as genetics.  The risk factors are as follows:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a family history or early heart disease
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Age (55 or older for women)

There are risk factors you can’t do anything about such as age and family history.  Women have an increased risk of developing heart disease after 55.  Women who have transitioned though menopause early or as a result of a hysterectomy are twice as likely to develop heart disease as women the same age who have not gone through menopause.  According to the Mayo Clinic, men are generally at a greater risk of developing heart disease.

Warning Signs

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center or your chest.  It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.  But women are somewhat more likely to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Heart attack signs and symptoms may vary between men and women. For more information, please visit Heart.org.


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