Many health conditions can result in what is termed heart disease, such as arrhythmias, heart infections, coronary artery disease, diseases that affect blood vessels and congenital heart defects. The most common meaning of heart disease is any blockage in the blood vessels, arteries or the heart’s valves, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.

There are many things that put a person at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Some factors are out of a person’s control. For example, the older you are the more likely it is you will develop heart disease. Men are at an increased risk, but women’s risk goes up after menopause. Also, having a family history of heart disease makes it much more likely that you will experience the condition.

Not everything that increases a person’s risk for heart disease is out of that person’s control. Eating a poor diet that consists of high amounts of fat, salt and cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Smoking is another huge contributor to heart problems. Not managing high blood pressure or diabetes through medication and lifestyle changes also increases a person’s risk. Leading a sedentary lifestyle and not effectively managing stress are all things within a person’s scope of control that also increase his risk for heart disease.

How can someone tell they might have heart disease? There are several warning signs to watch for. Chest pain and shortness of breath are obvious symptoms, but many people write them off as indigestion or fatigue. If your legs or arms experience sudden pain, turn numb without reason or are constantly cold, this is a definite warning sign that something is wrong with your cardiovascular system. Other possible signs include experiencing lightheadedness on a regular basis, fainting and feeling a fluttering sensation in your chest.

Medical attention is needed to accurately diagnose and manage the situation. The doctor might prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure, thin out your blood or lower your cholesterol. If medications alone are not enough to manage your heart condition, the doctor might recommend undergoing various medical procedures such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery.

Medications and medical procedures are not the only ways to manage heart disease. Making certain lifestyle changes can at least help with your condition. Quitting smoking will make a big difference. Take any prescribed diabetes or blood pressure medicines faithfully and monitor your cholesterol levels. Include more foods with low saturated fats, whole grains and vegetables into your diet and exercise regularly.

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