Symptoms and Risk Factors

Risk Factors of Heart Disease

  • Age: over 50 or post menopausal
  • Ethnic Background: African-American or Hispanic American
  • Family History: Parent or sibling had a heart attack or stroke
  • Personal Medical History: diabetes, heart disease or stroke
  • Blood Pressure: 140/90 mmHg or higher, or don't know your pressure
  • Smoking: smoke or live/work with someone who does
  • Overweight: 20 pounds or more overweight
  • Physical Activity: less than 30 minutes of activity per day
  • Total Cholesterol: 200 mg/dL or higher or don't know your level
  • HDL ("good") cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL or don't know your HDL level

Change Your Lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. Stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and lack of physical activity can all affect your heart health.

Quit now.

Avoid foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fatty acids. Stay away from high-calorie foods with low nutritional value – especially those with lots of sugar, additives and preservatives.

Active people are much less likely to suffer heart disease. Commit to 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Take up a sport or fun exercise to lose weight or stay in shape.

High Blood Pressure:
Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Watching your salt intake and exercising can help lower high blood pressure.

If you have diabetes, talk with your health care provider and check your blood sugar level frequently. Eat right and exercise. Losing just 10 to 15 percent of excess weight will lessen your chances for diabetes or help keep it under control.

Understand the Numbers
Prevention is your best defense. Ask your doctor for your total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglyceride and glucose levels. With just a few simple tests as a regular part of your heart maintenance program, you can address minor problems before they become major health issues.

  • Overall Cholesterol: <200mg/dL
  • LDL Cholesterol: <100 mg/dL
  • HDL Cholesterol: >50 mg/dL
  • Blood Glucose: <100mg/dL
  • Blood Pressure: 120/80 mm/Hg
  • Body Mass Index: 18.5 to 25
  • Waistline
    For Women: 35 inches or less
    For Men: 40 inches or less

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Pressure, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest
  • Pain that spreads to the neck, shoulders, or arms
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath
  • Unusual stomach or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Special Symptoms for Women

  • Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Sense of impending doom

Recognize the Signs
Did you know that heart attacks don't always cause chest pain? Women sometimes experience "silent" heart attacks, and can show atypical symptoms like indigestion, nausea, extreme fatigue, and neck, shoulder and jaw pain. Learn to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and immediately call 911 for help if you experience them.