Artwork for podcast What The Health: News & Information To Live Well & Feel Good
Heart Disease: Understanding The Risk Factors, Symptoms, And Health Hacks For Prevention
Episode 315th March 2023 • What The Health: News & Information To Live Well & Feel Good • John Salak
00:00:00 00:22:22

Share Episode


Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, accounting for 24% of annual deaths and costing $230 billion each year? Yikes! And here's another shocker: a study from the University of Texas found that the US also has one of the highest mortality rates among high-income countries regarding heart attacks.

But wait, it's not just a problem for men. In fact, 50% of expectant women between the ages of 20 and 44 have poor heart health before becoming pregnant, according to a study from Northwestern University. Unfortunately, women between 18 and 55 who visit an emergency room with chest pains receive less urgent care, have to wait longer, and are less likely to be admitted for observation to diagnose a heart attack.

Heart disease can refer to several conditions that affect people of any age, gender, or family history. Risk factors include smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, stress, and even poor dental health.

The good news is that we can take steps to reduce the risk of heart disease, like maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and excessive drinking. Let's all work together to protect our heart health and seek proper care and attention when needed.

[0:00:30]: Heading: Heart Disease: The Leading Cause of Death in the US

[0:02:43]: "Women and Heart Disease: Examining the Gender Disparity in Diagnosis and Treatment"

[0:05:04]: Overview of Heart Disease: Causes, Risk Factors, and Complications

[0:08:11]: Risk Factors for Heart Disease: A Discussion

[0:09:53]: Symptoms of a Heart Attack: What to Look Out For

[0:11:41]: Heading: Understanding the Symptoms of Heart Disease and How to Lower Risk

[0:13:24]: "Health Hacks to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease"

[0:17:07]: Health Hacks for Heart Health: 30 Tips for a Healthier Heart

[0:18:50]: "Tips for Lowering Your Risk of Heart Disease"

[0:20:07]: "Taking Control of Your Heart Health: Tips for Reducing Risk Factors and Improving Well-Being"

Don't miss an episode of What the Health! Subscribe now on your favorite podcast app to get the latest news and insights on health and wellness issues delivered right to your device.

Let’s Connect:


Join WellWell-Being:

All Things WellWell USA:


We're gonna talk about heart disease today. And it's not a feel good topic, it's anything but heart disease is more than just heartbreaking.

It's the leading cause of death in the US. Now, let's put this into some deeper perspective. Heart disease accounts for about 24% of the deaths annually in the states. Cancer, almost 22%. Unintentional injuries about 7%. Chronic lower respiratory disease, about 5%, Strokes, about 4%. Diabetes, a little over 3%.

Alzheimer's disease, about 2.6%. Suicides the same at 2.6%. Influenza and pneumonia coming at about 2%, and chronic liver disease, just a hair under 2%. Ultimately, however, this means that every 30 seconds, someone in the US is dying from cardiovascular, and that amounts to about 700,000 people annually. Now, if you want to put a financial price tag on this plague, this, ticking time clock that comes in at about $230 billion annually from healthcare services, medicines and lost productivity due to death.

Now I gotta admit, this is all pretty pretty depressing and frightening. But there's also some other troubling news that we wanted to point out and again, put us in perspective as to why this is such a problem and why is such a problem in the US. Admittedly, hospitals in the US are loaded with the latest technology for treating heart attack victims.

They also have some of the lowest readmission rates in the world, meaning people who check back in after they had heart attack, but for all of these benefits, a new study out of the University of Texas, which we reported on in WellWell, you can go there and get the full report i f you're interested and you should be, but unfortunately it found that US also has one of the highest mortality rates among high income countries when it comes to heart attacks, and that's both fascinating and troubling and bewildering.

Another aspect that, needs to be addressed or people be made aware of is that heart attacks and heart disease is not just a male problem, it's not a male focused problem. Yes. When it comes to heart attacks, men are much, much more likely to suffer than women, and men tend to develop cardiovascular issues earlier in life than women.

But this is the disease that cuts across all genders, although can surface in different ways. And here's something again, another report that we covered from Northwestern University, a great Big 10 school. It noted that 50% of expectant women between the ages of 20 and 44 suffer from poor heart health before becoming pregnant.

Now, this isn't only a danger to them. It puts their child, their unborn child at incredible risks and university Northwestern rather. It says that this accounts for about 25% of all pregnancy related deaths. And again, that is just a troubling statistic to think that those young women, relatively young women, are suffering from such a troubling statistic in terms of heart disease.

Now another study, and again, this is a perception of how we view heart disease as a male-oriented problem. NYU did a study, again, we reported on this, and it noted that women between 18 and 55 generally get to short end of the stick if they visited an emergency room complaining of chest pains, compared to men.

Now the report says that women receive less urgent care. They had to wait longer in general to be seen by medical personnel and they were less likely to go under basic testing, be hospitalized or admitted for observation to diagnose a heart attack. Now admittedly the symptoms of chest pains in women can indicate other problems.

But is still a threatening issue. And part of the reason they may not be looked at so carefully or as expediently is because it's not perceived as big a threat to them as it is to men. So we know there's this major problem out there. We know that we're behind in a lot of ways, and it's threatening millions of people.

But how do we define heart disease now? Heart disease is. Not a problem with the heart, the cardiovascular system. And depending on who's counting or who's dividing up to specific diseases, there could be 4, 6, 7. Again, depending on who's counting, what's important is that they're all serious and potentially dangerous and deadly.

And we're gonna just identify a few so you have a better handle on this. Coronary artery disease, also known as CAD. This is the most common form of heart disease. It's also the deadliest. It involves a hardening or narrowing of the arteries and it can lead the heart to, various deadly conditions, including heart attacks, obviously.

There is also myocardial infraction, and this again, is it leads to heart attacks and it can concur when the arteries are blocked which disrupts the blood flow. Other conditions are heart failure, heart valve disease, heart muscle disease ,abnormal heart rhythms. Those are the main heart disease conditions you can probably identify a couple others if you look into that, but they're gonna be an umbrella for covering all of this.

Now the question is, what do any or all of these conditions lead to? Well, they can lead to heart failure, which is one of the most common complications of heart disease, and this occurs when the heart just can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. There's also the all too well-known heart attack, which occurs if a blood clot is stuck in the blood vessel that goes to the heart. Obviously these diseases can lead to strokes, which are deadly aneurysms which are also deadly. Peripheral artery disease, and this is a condition that usually is going to affect your legs or maybe your arms, but usually your legs because you're not getting enough blood.

And it can also lead to pain in your legs when walking or in your arms. And it's obviously something that needs to be dealt with. It's also an indication you're having a problem somewhere else, so that's something to check out. Obviously, we also have sudden cardiac arrest and this occurs with a suddenness of heart function, breathing, and consciousness.

It's usually due to a problem with the heart's electrical system and it's a medical emergency, not treated immediately, it can result in death. Okay. So, if we look at those issues of how big the problem is and what form it takes, it's also important to get a handle at who's at risk. And we touched a little bit on the difference in sexes, but let's look at some of the other factors.

Age. Age , is a big factor. . As you grow older, you are more at risk for heart disease, mainly because you could have damage, you could have a thickening of the heart walls, heart muscle, rather, you could have a narrowing of the arteries. And all of that can lead to heart disease in various forms.

And also the, the outcome of heart disease. Sex, as we mentioned, men are generally at greater risk of heart disease, but the risk for women increases with menopause. So that something to be aware of. Family history is also a big factor. It increases the risk of coronary heart disease, especially if a parent developed at an early age, say before 55 for a male relative.

And that could be, your brother or your father, that sort of thing. If a female relative developed before 60, That also increases your risk of heart disease. And I just wanna stay on a personal note. My dad died at 39 from heart attacks, so, I'm well aware of the risk now.

He had some other factors working for him. He was a heavy smoker. At one point he was drinking way too much and this, he was quite young when I died, but he was drinking way too much. And he had also been shot up pretty badly in the second World War and when he was suffering from his heart attacks in the early sixties medicine probably was not as advanced, but he certainly fell right into a lot of these categories.

As mentioned, another at-risk group of those who smoke, because tobacco can damage the arteries and it's much more common. Heart attacks are much more common in smokers than non-smokers. Something you've probably already heard of unhealthy diets. Diets high, high and fat. Salt, sugar and cholesterol have all been linked to heart disease.

So have those people suffering from high blood pressure. This causes the arteries to become. Hard and thick, and we know this disrupts the flow of blood to the heart and the body. As mentioned, high cholesterol, that's part of an unhealthy diet that's linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, excess weight. Typically worsens heart disease and increases the risk factor. A lack of exercise being inactive. Sedentary is associated with many forms of heart disease and some risk factors too. Obviously, stress especially if it's unrelieved damages the artery is and worsens a risk for heart disease, and that's probably not surprising to many people.

What may be surprising is that poor dental health can lead to heart disease. , it can lead to a lot of diseases as well, but we're just talking about heart disease and the reason is that unhealthy teeth and gums makes it easier for germs to enter into the bloodstream and travel to the heart. So that's just a no good really bad idea.

So, What are the symptoms now, especially if you get a heart attack, we know what various heart diseases are. We know of course who's at risk or who's at greater risk for heart disease. And obviously the most common symptom is a heart attack. And again, just so you know, every 40 seconds someone in the US has a heart attack.

Now, knowing the potential symptoms is a way to probably save your life. It doesn't mean if you have these symptoms, you're having a heart attack, but it's a really good thing to know that you may be in trouble and you're certainly having something wrong with you if you're gonna have these following symptoms.

Certainly chest pains or discomfort. Particularly on the left center side of your chest, and if they last for a few minutes and they go away and come back. Feeling weak, lightheaded, or faint. You may also wind up breaking out a cold sweat. Could be a signal you're in for a heart attack. Painter, discomfort in the jaw, neck or back.

And we probably don't immediately associate that with risk of heart attacks, but that is a common factor. Painter to discomfort in one or both arms or your shoulders. Again, it's not something you might think of right away, but it could be a signal that you're in for a heart attack. Swollen ankles, ditto.

Shortness of breath. As we mentioned. That also comes with, and we kind of mentioned that a little earlier, but that also comes with chest discomfort. And again, that could be a signal. Something is in your offering that you really don't wanna deal with or you do want to deal with it, rather. Other symptoms of a heart attack.

Could include unusual or unexplained, not just tiredness, but nausea, vomiting, and women are much more likely to have these symptoms than men. Now again, these symptoms may not mean your right in the path of a heart attack. , but it could mean that you're in the part of a heart attack, especially if you're an at risk group.

And what we always say, and we always want people to do, is make sure your first visit, your first reaching out point should be your doctor, your healthcare professional. Obviously if it's an emergency, go to an emergency room. But , knowledge is a way to keep these problems at least manageable.

So, again you have these symptoms, you're at risk. You have these symptoms, you need to have them checked out sooner than later, and if need be in an emergency room right away.

There's no foolproof way to block heart disease in its consequences, but you can definitely improve your odds. And lower the risk of heart disease by embracing a healthier lifestyle. If you're overweight, you're stressed out, you're not sleeping enough, you're smoking a couple packs of cigarettes a day, you're snorting of boxes of Twinkies and maybe a plate of cheese fries, you're not just looking for trouble, chances are you've already got it.

So you've gotta stop and at least moderate these destructive habits. It may not be easy, so you can start small and build momentum. Okay, on smoking, if you can't stop smoking, start to cut down. This is obvious. We all know the dangers of smoking. You've also got to consume less salt and saturated fats on by saturated fats, we need butter. Ge soit lard. I don't know how many people are eating sewer and LAR anymore, but butter is certainly up there. Coconut oil, palm oil, fatty cakes, fatty cuts of meat, which include sausages, bacon, cured meats like salam, chorizo, Panetta, some of the. . It doesn't mean you have to knock all of it out, but cut it down.

You've also gotta start moving around. Get some exercise. Now, you wanna shed some pounds, lower your stress and get more sleep. Those are the basics. Now, all of this sounds easy, especially when someone else is spouting off and telling you what to do. But don't be all overwhelmed. It's not impossible. It doesn't even have to be painful.

Examples on food, check out the Mediterranean and Nordic diets. You can find information on these everywhere, including on WellWell These diets are big on berries, fruits, fish, whole grains, lead meats, and vegetables. They taste great. Now, you don't have to embrace the whole diet, just focus on some of the parts you'd like best to start.

It's gonna be a way to create a sounder nutritional foundation and shy away from Western and southern diets. And it's funny, we regionalize our lot of diet names now, but you can probably imagine what the western and southern diets include, which are foods that are heavy on added fats. They're fried foods, they're heavy on eggs.

Eggs are not bad for you, but they can be in certain circumstances. Organ meats are heavy on organ meats such as liver and gilet processed meats such as deli meat, bacon and hotdogs. God knows I love hotdogs, but you gotta keep 'em in moderation. Sugar sweetened beverages, these are all a gateway to increasing your risk of sudden cardiac death.

But there's some good news you can include some white, red wine in your diet and moderation. It's not gonna hurt you in moderation. It's thought that red wine may help block the buildup of bad cholesterol. And that's why certain Mediterranean countries seem to have lower rates of heart disease and heart attacks.

So, that's certainly good. It's also critical that you get some rest. Now, what does rest mean? For most of us let's say mature adults above 45 or 50, you're talking about seven to nine hours a day. So it's important. You've got to eat better and stress less and exercise. Now, if you want more information on maybe how to sleep better and also the hidden dangers of not getting enough sleep.

You should check out our other podcasts on the Hidden Dangers of Poor Sleep and insomnia. Curious if that's the name of it. It'll give you sites and tips on that. We also have a lot of information on that on WellWell on resting, and also different forms of x-rays, how you go about, ways to, to get engaged.

Okay? Now we're gonna give you some health hacks, as we always do at the end of our podcast. Actionable items you can take to lower risk heart disease by effectively improving your physical condition and your mental condition as well. But first, we just wanted to flag you to a special offer that we present, and this is from our, WellWell B eing community; Beyond Body, which could be great for helping people address nutritional issues, exercise issues, lifestyle issues.

They're offering our members a 30% discount on their plans. Their plans are developed and customized for each person individually. You go through a questionnaire and a consultation, and then they develop these plans for you to meet your lifestyle, what you're doing and what you can and what you can't do.

And again, you get 30% off just by being a member of the WellWell Being community. This is easy is signing up as easy and it's free. All you need to do is visit us and sign up under the pull down menu on our dashboard under Milton's discounts. Again, that's 30% off the Beyond Body programs for members of our WellWell Being community.

And again, it's free and easy to sign up. So we'd recommend you do that. Cause not only are our discounts on Beyond Body, there are hundreds of other discounts on fitness and nutrition products and exercise products and all sorts of things that hopefully will make you live a healthier and a happier life.

Okay, so let's get on to some health hacks for heart health for a healthier heart. But this is only a start. But it's a way to sort of ize or these, these issues or the things you want to do. Give me 30, spend 30 minutes five times a week. Exercising, aerobic activity is the best because it gets the heart pumping.

You don't have to train to be an Olympic athlete. We're talking about something as simple as walking, a stationary, a bike a biking around town light jogging. It could be other things as well. You certainly can do more extreme exercises, but extreme exercise is inquired, but doing it regularly and doing it for about 30 minutes a day is what is required.

This is a fascinating item. Be kind to yourself. And we reported on this on in WellWell and it came out of the University of Pittsburgh, which reported that middle-aged women who practice self-compassion lowered their stress level and also lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease. And this kind of means don't be as hard on yourself.

Cut yourself a break so you lessen your internal tension. Now you can get much more detail on this by visiting us at rowell, but simply start by being kind on yourself. That'll, that'll lower your risk of heart disease, hopefully will lower and make you feel better.

Floss out. We mentioned this earlier. Dental care is so important on so many different factors. Yes, it gives you a better smile, but it can also Block cognitive impairment or lessen the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease can also lower the risk of strokes and it can lower the risk of heart disease.

Yes, you should brush your teeth every day or a couple times a day. You should also floss regularly because you don't want those germs in your mouth, getting into your bloodstream and doing a number on your heart.

We mentioned rest is essential. Okay. Everybody knows sleep is essential and most of you are not getting enough sleep.

So what's a key to getting enough sleep? Turn off your damn cell phones, your iPads your laptops 30 minutes before you go to bed. And don't keep opening them. Don't leave 'em on your bed stand so you can sort of look at them in the middle of the night. The blue light, these devices emit are just bouncing around the inside of your noggin and it's not doing you any good.

It's not allowing you to sleep. It's disrupting your sleep rhythms and not enough sleep has all sorts of consequences. But right now we're focusing on its ability to increase your risk of heart disease. So kill the blue lights 30 minutes before you go to bed. Don't worry about what's on your cell phone in the middle of the night, and chances are you will start sleeping better and that will lower your risk of heart disease and improve a lot of other things too.

Dinnertime, don't eat late. Such as like an hour or two before you go to bed. There's a lot of problems with this. The practice is going to lead to obesity or can increase your risk of obesity. I'm not saying everybody who eats late is obese, but it can increase that risk of obesity and it's gonna hinder your ability to fall asleep now if you can't fall asleep or if you have problems falling asleep and you're not getting enough rest and your overweight.

Those are two factors that automatically increase your risk of heart disease. And then they also do a number of other problems. But what you want to do is, get your eating patterns and eat well, but also eat earlier so that you don't increase your risk of gaining weight and sleeping poorly, which are both really bad ideas for a whole number of reasons, but including for heart disease.

So hopefully this sort of outline makes you feel a little bit better about heart health. Yes, there's a lot of dangers out there. There's a lot of risks. There's a lot of things you can do to get better control of your heart health, and that's the idea. But this is only a start, hopefully a way to inform and engage you so you can learn more, and then take control of your health, but also dig deeper.

There are a lot of great sources of information available on the internet, on health, heart health or through books. But if you want to start browsing sites, the Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association. There are others. They just have tons of information on heart health what the risks are, where the risks are, some new research.

So stuff obviously always visit WellWell We do a number of stories on recent research and practices for heart health and risks and heart disease. And of course, which is always the most important. Check in with your personal physician and your local healthcare center. Whether you are at risk, you feel you may be at risk, you feel you're having problems or you just want a general checkup.

This is always the best place to start. Medical professionals have access to treatments and medicines that simply lifestyle changes may not address, but they're a great place to start. So hopefully this is not heartbreaking news, but heart building news. Thanks for listening.