Healthy Living

  • Heart Disease
  • Vascular Disease

Heart Disease

Prevention.   Heart disease is the leading cause of the death in the U.S.  Over one quarter of all deaths can be attributed to heart disease.  It is also a major cause of disability. The risk of heart disease increases as you age. You have a greater risk of heart disease if you are a man over age 45 or a woman over age 55. You also are at greater risk if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do reduce your chances of getting heart disease. You should:

  • Know your blood pressure and keep it under control
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Get tested for diabetes and if you have it, keep it under control
  • Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Women and Heart Disease.  Although many people think of heart disease as a man's problem, women can and do get heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. It is also a leading cause of disability among women.

The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It's the major reason people have heart attacks. Prevention is important: two-thirds of women who have a heart attack fail to make a full recovery.

The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to get heart disease. But women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease. All women can take steps to prevent it by practicing healthy lifestyle habits.

Living with Heart Disease.  Always follow the advice of your cardiologist and/or primary care provider.  Here are some basic steps you can take to make living with heart disease easier:

  • Recognize the symptoms.  Call your doctor if symptoms become more frequent or severe. Call for emergency assistance if rest and/or medications do not relieve symptoms after 15 minutes.  DO NOT WAIT TO GET HELP!
  • Reduce your risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk for future heart problems.

  • Take your medications. Your medications are used to control your symptoms and help your heart work more efficiently. Follow your doctor's instructions when you take your drugs.
  • See your doctor for regular check-ups.   Schedule regular appointments with your primary doctor and/or your heart doctor (even if you have no symptoms). Your appointments may be spaced once a year or more often if your doctor feels you need to be followed more closely.

Download these helpful guides:

Your Guide to a Healthy Heart
Your Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease

Vascular Disease

 Prevention.  The best way to prevent peripheral vascular disease is to reduce your risk factors. You cannot do anything about some of the risk factors, such as age and family history.  Other risk factors are under your control.  Here are some preventative tips:

  • Do not smoke.  Smoking is a very strong risk factor for developing peripheral vascular disease and can significantly worsen the disease, especially in diabetics. If you are a smoker, quit now.
  • Eat nutritious, low-fat foods; avoid foods high in cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Engage in moderately strenuous physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. At least walk briskly for 20-30 minutes daily.
  • Control high blood pressure. 
  • Lower high cholesterol (especially LDL cholesterol or the “bad cholesterol”) and high triglyceride levels, and raise HDL or “the good cholesterol.” If exercise fails to lower your cholesterol, certain medications (statin drugs) can be taken to decrease the bad cholesterol.
  • If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar level and take scrupulous care of your feet.

Living with Vascular Disease.  If you have vascular disease, you're more likely to also have coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack  ("mini-stroke").  However, you can take steps to treat and control P.A.D. and lower your risk for these other conditions:

  • If you have Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.), you may feel pain in your calf or thigh muscles after walking. Try to take a break and allow the pain to ease before walking again. Over time, this may increase the distance that you can walk without pain.
  • Talk with your doctor about taking part in a supervised exercise program. This type of program has been shown to reduce P.A.D. symptoms.
  • Check your feet and toes regularly for sores or possible infections.  Wear comfortable shoes that fit well.  Maintain good foot hygiene and have professional medical treatment for corns, bunions, or calluses.
  • See your doctor for check-ups as he or she advises.  If you have P.A.D. without symptoms, you should still see your doctor regularly. Take all medicines as your doctor prescribes. 
  • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, controlling risk factors, being physically active, and following a healthy diet are essential in managing vascular disease. 

Download this helpful guide:

Facts About Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.)

Source:  National Institutes of Health