Heart disease is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the health of the heart and other vascular elements like arteries and blood vessels. The term is often used interchangeably with cardiovascular disease or illness, although they are not exactly the same thing. A cardiovascular disease usually involves blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels, whereas heart disease is more generic. As a heart disease specialist, Dr. Race has the training to recognize the different areas of concern and address them individually.
The exact symptoms will depend on a number of factors, but there are some general ones to consider. Most people with a heart-related illness complain of chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness in the extremities, and radiating pain in the arms, throat, jaw or back. Less common symptoms include abnormal heartbeat, called an arrhythmia, skin discoloration and edema in the ankles, legs, or stomach.
Lifestyle factors often put a person at risk for heart disease, so once a patient makes corrections, there will be an improvement. What isn’t reversible is damage done to the heart muscle. Eating better, losing weight, and exercising improve cardiovascular health and may reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
A heart attack, medically called myocardial infarction, is a true medical emergency. During an attack, blood flow to the heart is disrupted, usually by a blocked artery. As a person grows older, plaque tends to build up in the arteries leading to the heart. The narrowing or blockage of those arteries cuts off the flow and the heart muscle begins to die.
Lifestyle choices are the biggest culprit in the fight against heart disease and eventual heart attack, but there are other risk factors. Age, for example, makes a person more vulnerable, as does gender – heart attacks are more common in men. High blood pressure can damage arteries increasing the risk, as well.
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