Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About one in every four Americans dies of heart disease each year. More than half of the deaths are in men. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease.
It is the leading cause of death for people of most racial groups in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites. For Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaska Natives, heart disease is second only to cancer. Death rates due to heart disease are highest in the South and lowest in the West.
Heart disease warning symptoms may include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Symptoms of stomach upset
- Cold sweats
Unfortunately, fifty percent of coronary deaths had no previous symptoms and another fifty percent of heart attacks were considered low-risk patients.
Male heart attack symptoms differ from female heart attack symptoms. The signs of a heart attack are less obvious in women. They are more likely to experience nausea, indigestion, and shoulder aches rather than hallmark chest pain. Their symptoms are likely to lead to the misdiagnosis of either indigestion or muscular-skeletal strain.
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Heart Disease Risk Factors
A family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, aging, chronic infections, smoking, high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated homocysteine, high C-Reactive protein and lipoprotein(a) levels, low vitamin D levels and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Medical conditions and lifestyle habits can increase your risk of heart disease. They include chronic stress, diabetes, obesity, endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, high carb and saturated fat diet, low fiber intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and excessive alcohol use.
Early Detection of Heart Disease
It is important to identify those who are at risk for heart disease by regular cardiac screening. The identification of patients at risk for heart attack and stroke is vital if we are to prevent cardiac disease. Cardiovascular imaging and screening tests can aide our ability to detect the presence of atherosclerotic vascular disease. These tests include Carotid Intima-Media Thickness Test (CIMT), EndoPat and Digital Pulse Analysis.
CIMT is a new noninvasive ultrasound test that is recommended by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology to screen for heart disease in healthy individuals greater than age forty-five and those at risk for heart disease. CIMT uses sound waves to detect calcific (hard) plaques and soft plaques in the carotid arteries and the increased thickness of carotid artery walls. It measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid arteries (the intima and media). The presence of carotid plaque correlates well with coronary artery plaque. Early detection of increased thickness may indicate the need for a more aggressive approach to managing the risk factors causally associated with heart disease and stroke. CIMT is a predictor of future cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks, cardiac death, and stroke.
EndoPAT is a safe, painless, non-invasive diagnostic device to access large and small arteries. It measures the endothelium (blood vessel lining) associated changes in vascular tone, pressure, and blood volume caused by a five-minute occlusion of the brachial artery using a blood pressure cuff and a finger probe. It is the only FDA cleared non-invasive test to evaluate endothelial function.
Endothelial dysfunction is the earliest detectable stage of cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. It is characterized by reduced nitric oxide (NO) availability. Nitric oxide plays a great role in maintaining vascular health and endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Patients with arginine deficiencies are more likely to suffer from low nitric oxide levels and endothelial dysfunction.
Endothelial dysfunction can lead to an inflammatory process that promotes the formation of atherosclerosis. It is involved in medical conditions such as erectile dysfunction, stroke, claudication, metabolic syndrome, pre-eclampsia toxemia, renal failure, sleep apnea, and other conditions associated with decreased vascular flow.
The Digital Pulse Analyzer (DPA)
The DPA is an FDA approved, quick, non-invasive, painless test which accurately measures the elasticity of small and large arteries in about five minutes. It uses an infrared finger probe to measure the light-absorbing characteristics of hemoglobin (arterial blood) to identify abnormalities in the pulsatile wave characteristics of blood, which can occur due to aging and in those at risk for vascular disease. The DPA evaluates changes in arterial (artery) pressure, velocity and blood flow.
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