"The Silent Killer"- Preventing heart disease - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

"The Silent Killer"- Preventing heart disease


Heart disease remains the number one killer in the United States, according to the American Red Cross.

It's called the "silent killer" because it reveals no obvious symptoms as it develops.

One in three Americans give their lives to this preventable disease. There are risk factors to keep in mind and signs that there may be a problem.

Family history is a strong risk factor. If heart disease runs in the family, it doesn't mean it will happen to you.

Having high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for heart disease as well. Heart disease also increases with age.

Because heart disease doesn't show symptoms as it develops, there are some warning signs.

Chest pain or discomfort could be your body alerting you of a problem. Talk to your doctor or schedule for a check-up. The pain may not always be severe.

Women are more likely to experience unusual fatigue, dizziness, sweating and shortness of breath.

About a third of all heart attacks are fatal and strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability.

"If you have hardening of the arteries in one artery particularly in the heart, you're going to have hardening of the arteries elsewhere. Hypertension also contributes to that, to stroke that is. And hypertension also affects the walls of the heart. [It] Makes the left side thicker. And also contributes to hardening of the arteries in the heart," Dr. Mary Mancini with University Health Hospital and LSU School of Medicine said.

Dr. Mancini is an LSU Health professor and Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at University Health Hospital.

Mancini said risks for stroke increases with age and symptoms can include a combination of problems like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Mancini said the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease is through diet and exercise.

Fried foods or foods that contain a lot of fats are bad for the heart. Mancini said when it comes to exercise, it's important to get the heart rate up, but it doesn't mean one should take up an extreme sport or start running long distance.

"Walking for about 20 minutes three times a week can help keep your heart in shape," Mancini said.

But heart disease affects women differently than men.

There's a medical term used by heart doctors called "Broken-heart syndrome." It's caused by extreme emotional stress which leads to severe but often short-term heart muscle failure. This is common among women.

Another branch of heart disease that's more common with women than men is Coronary Microvascular Disease. That's a problem that affects the heart's tiny arteries.

Mancini said women tend to ignore the problems they experience, like chest pains, that could lead to heart disease.

"We tend to put off going to the doctor because we're taking care of other people all the time. We tend to ignore the warning signs which in women are atypical, but women also need to be a little more proactive with their health because the standard testing for heart disease in men that they apply to women, does not always apply," Mancini said.

Mancini said she sees many patients who show up to the emergency room after much heart damage has already occurred.

She said congestive heart failure is sometimes seen in pregnant women as more blood and fluids are flowing. This tends to put a strain on the heart, Mancini said.

Dr. Mancini advises people talk to their doctor or physician and schedule for a check-up.

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