HOUSTON (February 19, 2016)

February is Heart Month and a good time to raise awareness of heart disease – the number-one killer of men and women in the United States.

“It is estimated that coronary heart disease – the most common type of heart disease – kills more than 300,000 people annually,” said Elizabeth Volz, M.D., an interventional cardiologist with UTPhysicians and affiliated with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. “Unfortunately, too many patients wait until coronary heart disease has started before they evaluate their lifestyle.”

Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis, is caused by fatty deposits, or plaque, that build-up in the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The accumulation of plaque over time along the inner wall of the artery narrows the artery, decreasing or blocking the flow of blood to the heart.

“Reduced blood flow to the heart caused by an incomplete blockage can cause symptoms such as chest, arm or jaw pain, or shortness of breath,” added Dr. Volz. “In the most extreme cases, a complete blockage causes a heart attack.”

Since the process can take years, the earlier a person starts to control their risk factors, the better the chance they have to slow or stop blockages from forming.

Dr. Brown also recommends a general physical with a trusted physician at least once a year.