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Don’t be a statistic

Memorial Hermann is here to help guide you and your family in making beneficial choices about your heart health.

Whatever your age, it’s never too late—or early—to take care of your heart. In a few simple steps, you can identify—and lower—your risk of heart disease, and recognize warning signs that could save your life or the life of someone you love. American Heart Association guidelines recommend physicians begin screening for heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels, in patients as young as 9 years of age—even younger if there’s a family history of heart disease.

We’re here to support you every step of the way.

First, Face Facts.

  • Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States. Heart disease and stroke claim more lives in the United States than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined.
  • Approximately every 40 seconds, someone in the United States will have a heart attack.
  • The risk for heart disease increases with age, especially for people of color and individuals over 65. The average age for a first heart attack is 65.6 years for men and 72.0 years for women, based on data from 2005-2014. However, in last 10 to 15 years, there has been a noticeable increase in incidence of heart disease in people less than 50 years of age.
  • More than 80% of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for coronary heart disease.
  • While it’s easy to be lulled into the misconception that heart disease only happens to someone else, heart disease can affect anyone, even those who exercise and eat all the right foods.

See Where You Stand.

Once you’ve committed to heart-healthy living, see your doctor for a heart health evaluation. During the exam, your doctor may perform a variety of tests to determine your overall heart health and your risk for developing heart disease.

These tests may measure:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Body weight
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood glucose
  • Diet and physical activity levels

If necessary, your doctor might order additional diagnostic tests. Don’t stop there. The American Heart Association recommends regular evaluation tests to accurately monitor your cardiovascular health. So, continue to get regular checkups.

Understand and Manage Your Risk Factors.

Even if you don’t have symptoms of heart disease, it’s important to understand and manage your risk factors for developing heart disease.

Some risk factors may be out of your control:

Your Age

About 82% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. At older ages, women who have heart attacks are more likely than men to die from them within a few weeks.

Your Gender

Men have a greater risk of having a heart attack than women do, and they have heart attacks earlier in life. Women’s death rate from heart disease increases after menopause, but it is still not as great as men’s. However, after their first heart attack, women are more likely to die at one and five years later compared to men. Women are also more likely to have recurrent heart attacks, develop heart failure or have a stroke after their first event. 

Your Family Tree

Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves, especially if a father or brother was diagnosed before age 55, and a mother or sister was diagnosed before age 65. Most individuals with a strong family history of heart disease have one or more other risk factors.

Risk factors that you may be able to do something about include:

Cigarette Smoking

Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Many studies report that cigarette smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, making the heart muscle thicken and become stiffer.

Your Activity Levels

According to research by the American Heart Association, physically active middle-aged adults have a low risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The results confirm that there are significant benefits to middle-agers who exercise.

If you haven’t been exercising at all, it’s never too late to start. Even short walks offer advantages to your heart. Before starting any new exercise regimen, talk to your doctor about which activities are preferable.

If you are in your 50s, try for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. If you are in your 60s or beyond, try for 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Plain, simple walking is very effective. Current evidence demonstrates reaching 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day has a protective effect on heart health.

Your Weight

Being overweight—especially if much of it is at the waist—increases the heart’s work and raises blood pressure, raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Losing 10% of your total body weight significantly improves your cardiovascular health.

Your Diet

Choose foods low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. Include foods like colorful veggies and fruits, fiber-rich, whole-grains, lean meats, skinless chicken and fish (rich in mega-3s), and fat-free, 1% fat and low-fat dairy. Your heart will get the nutrients it needs, and you will better manage your cholesterol and blood pressure. DASH (Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean dietary lifestyle change have significant positive impact on heart health.

Your Stress Levels and Mental Health

Stress impacts heart health. It promotes habits, such as smoking, poor diet, and inactivity, which put you at greater risk for heart disease. Positive mental health is associated with good heart health. Manage your stress levels and mental health with regular exercise, time with friends and family, a positive attitude, getting good sleep, pursuing hobbies and practicing relaxation techniques.

Don’t consider yourself “relatively safe” if you have only one risk factor. The greater the level of each risk factor, the greater the risk. How you respond to a risk factor is also determined by your genetics.

Know the Symptoms of a Heart Attack.

One of the reasons heart disease is so deadly is that many people do not seek help fast enough when symptoms appear. Some wait to see if the symptoms go away. Doctors warn against ignoring these signs at any age, especially over age 40.

Warning signs include:

  • Chest pain. Most heart attacks start slowly and involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or disappears and then returns. It may feel like uncomfortable pressure or a squeezing sensation.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, having nausea or feeling light-headed

The most common heart attack symptom for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are more likely to experience a heart attack without chest pressure/pain. They are more likely to experience some of the other atypical symptoms, particularly shortness of breath/fainting, nausea/vomiting, back and jaw pain, fatigue, “just not feeling right”, more daytime naps, tingling fingers or cold sweats. Women may never experience the classic crushing chest pain during a heart attack. Long standing diabetics or diabetics with neuropathy may not even experience chest pain.

Immediately call 911 if you are having any of these symptoms or if you see someone else experiencing one or more of these symptoms.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack Illustration
A stethoscope artistically wrapped around a toy heart

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You!

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If you have questions regarding Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular, our cardiologists or treatment facilities, please call (713) 222-2273.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.