Tag: heart disease

Understanding Your Risk for Heart Disease

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Here’s a sad truth we must confront this American Heart Month: heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Because of this, it’s important to assess your susceptibility. Treating heart disease can be expensive and emotionally draining. But it’s not impossible to live with if you take the right approach. 

Heart disease describes any condition affecting your heart and blood vessels. These conditions reduce blood flow to your heart and increase your chances of stroke and heart attack. Many factors can contribute to the development of heart disease from existing cardiovascular risks to certain lifestyle choices. Luckily, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk. But before discussing preventive measures, let’s explain how, why, and to whom heart disease occurs.

How Does Heart Disease Develop?

To understand heart disease, it’s important to know how the heart works. This all-important organ is made up of the atria and ventricles, both of which there are two. The atria reside at the top of the heart organ, transporting oxygenated blood from right to left. The blood then travels to your left ventricle to pump the blood out of your body. The right ventricle transports blood back to your lungs, giving it the oxygen it needs to survive.

Within the structure of your heart, there is a system of arteries transporting blood. When plaque fills up the arteries, your blood flow is impaired. Plaque consists of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin. They all pile up within the walls of your arteries. This narrowing of passageways for blood to travel through is called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis can cause major problems within your heart. A piece of plaque can snap off and flow into your bloodstream. If it gets stuck in another part of the artery, it can cause a blood clot. Blood clots can lead to heart attacks, deep vein thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism. 

Atherosclerosis is a symptom of all major heart conditions. Let’s get into the different forms of heart disease and their effect on your body.

What Conditions Does Heart Disease Cause?

Several conditions lie under the umbrella of heart disease: 

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Arrhythmia
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Hypertension

Coronary Artery Disease 

Coronary artery disease happens when plaque creates narrowed or blocked arteries, which then reduces blood flow to your heart. Coronary artery disease is a direct result of atherosclerosis developing in your arteries. Chest pain, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and enlarged heart muscles also stem from coronary artery disease.

Heart Attack

Heart attacks are a very serious and deadly form of heart disease that occurs when clots block the blood flow to your heart. When an artery’s blood supply is completely cut off, the heart muscle that it’s connected to begins to die. 

The severity of damage caused depends on the size of the affected heart muscle. The bigger the heart muscle, the greater the injury. And the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more damage occurs. 

Heart attacks can be fatal if the muscle is blocked for too long. When the heart muscle dies, it’s impossible for your heart to pump enough blood to the rest of your body. This then causes organ failure, cardiac arrest, and ultimately death.


Arrhythmia occurs when you have an irregular heartbeat. The electrical signals that regulate your beat don’t work properly. This causes the heart to beat too fast or too slow, thus disturbing blood flow. Arrhythmia decreases your oxygen supply and can lead to cardiac arrest or stroke. 

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is caused by abnormalities that are present at birth when the structure of your heart is misshapen. This prevents normal blood flow to your heart. Abnormalities in the heart walls, valves, and blood vessels often lead to this disease.


Hypertension is any heart condition caused by high blood pressure. When the pressure inside the arteries is high, the heart has to work extra hard to pump blood. This makes the muscle inside your heart too thick to get enough oxygen. This can lead to chest pain and even heart failure. 

Hypertension can narrow your arteries, cause damage to your inner lining, and thicken your blood vessel walls. These interactions with the cholesterol in your blood vessels can cause a heart attack or stroke to occur. 

What Risks Contribute to Heart Disease?

There are many factors that contribute to the development of heart disease. Common vices like smoking, poor diet, and low levels of exercise often play a role. But many people with optimal health habits are also prone to contracting heart disease. Here’s a breakdown of heart disease risks and what you can do to combat them. 


It’s no shock that smoking is bad for you. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen capacity of your blood. Nicotine raises blood pressure, which leads to hypertension. Considering other health problems that cigarettes can cause, quitting smoking can be a positive step in preventing all kinds of ailments including heart disease. 


Foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can cause plaque buildup. High-sodium snacks can also raise blood pressure. Switching to a health plan of nutrients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils, and lean proteins are a great way to decrease your risk of heart disease. 


Getting regular exercise, especially cardiovascular, is like recharging the battery of your heart. It lets more blood pump through your body, allowing it to work at its most efficient level. It also helps your arteries and blood vessels stay in optimal shape. This maintains proper blood flow and stable blood pressure. 

Family History of Heart Disease

Your family’s health history can contribute to your risk of heart disease. Arrhythmia is one of the most common inherited disorders. It encompasses the following heart conditions:

  • Long QT syndrome
  • Brugada syndrome
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome 

Common signs of arrhythmia include heart palpitations, fainting, and blackouts. Some people may never experience these symptoms, which is why taking measures towards heart disease prevention is essential.

Avoiding smoking and improving your diet and exercise can be helpful to those with inherited heart conditions. Getting your cholesterol checked is also important, especially if you have a family history of high blood cholesterol.Your cholesterol test results will help you assess your risk of heart disease. For some people, medication and surgical procedures may be necessary. 

Fighting off the Risks of Heart Disease

Lifestyle choices and preexisting conditions can put you at an increased risk for heart disease. Improving your daily habits, getting better nutrition, and seeking medical help when needed can reduce these risks. Following the heart health tips above is a powerful step you can take to improve your cardiovascular health.

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Understanding Hyperlipidemia: What Is It and What Causes It?

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Most people have heard of high cholesterol, but have you heard of the medical term hyperlipidemia? This is an umbrella term for any health condition caused by an overabundance of lipids in your blood. It’s important to control your cholesterol levels, whether you have hyperlipidemia or not. Here’s how to identify the causes of hyperlipidemia and treat the symptoms.

How Does Cholesterol Influence Hyperlipidemia?

Cholesterol is a type of lipid that your body needs to survive. It helps you with digestion and hormone production. Your liver generates cholesterol on its own, thus your body isn’t completely dependent on the cholesterol you receive from food. But for better or worse, the food you eat affect your cholesterol levels.

Hyperlipidemia occurs when you have too much cholesterol. High cholesterol levels stimulate blockage in the arteries. Plaque piles up inside, making it hard for blood to reach your organs. Because blood transports nutrients and oxygen, organ damage can occur when they don’t get a proper blood supply.

Hyperlipidemia-related organ damage can lead to life-threatening health problems such as:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Diabetes

Understanding the Different Types of Cholesterol

As we’ve established, cholesterol can be good or bad for you. This depends on how much extra you have in your body. It also depends on which of the two types of cholesterol it is: LDL or HDL. 

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is what creates plaque in your arteries. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a healthier form of cholesterol. It removes plaque and helps transport LDL to your liver where it’s then removed from your body. The more LDL you have in your blood, the lower your risk for stroke or heart disease. 

When you eat foods with cholesterol, what you’re really doing is supplying your body with fat. Fat is an essential nutrient that provides you with energy, but not all fats are good for you. Saturated fats are loaded with LDL. Unsaturated fats can reduce your LDL levels and help lower your cholesterol. 

What Do Cholesterol Blood Tests Do?

Many people with high cholesterol are not aware of it. Most won’t know they have it until they experience a hyperlipidemia-related health problem. The only other way to know is with a blood test.

Getting a cholesterol blood test is a vital part of hyperlipidemia prevention. It checks the levels of different types of lipids you have in your blood. This includes triglycerides, LDL, and HDL cholesterol. Getting your blood evaluated can determine your risk of a heart attack, heart disease, and blood vessel disease. 

What Types of Hyperlipidemia Are There?

Not every case of hyperlipidemia is caused by eating too much cholesterol. Some people with well-balanced lifestyles suffer from familial hyperlipidemia. This form is caused by a genetic mutation that’s passed down.

People with familial hyperlipidemia may show cardiovascular-related symptoms at a young age. Chest pain, cramping in the calves, and unhealed sores are not uncommon. They can even experience a stroke or heart attack in their teens and twenties.

The other form of this condition is called acquired hyperlipidemia. It’s common among people with weight-related issues like diabetes and hypothyroidism. It can also be caused by kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome, or certain medications. In fact, birth control, diuretics, and corticosteroids can contribute to acquired hyperlipidemia.

How to Cope With and Treat Hyperlipidemia

Living with hyperlipidemia is completely manageable. But only if you are taking active steps towards lowering your cholesterol levels. This can reduce your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease—one of the leading causes of death in America. 

Curate a Cholesterol-Optimized Diet

One of the best ways to reduce cholesterol is to change your diet. This means consuming more fiber through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It is also recommended to  eat more lean proteins and plant-based foods like beans, lentils, and tofu. Try cutting out saturated fats from meat, butter, and cheese. Replace them with healthier unsaturated fats from avocados, seeds, and nuts. You can also up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating foods such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, soybeans, walnuts, seafood, eggs, and yogurt.

Up Your Workout Routine

Both a healthy diet and exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Working out also lowers your triglycerides, a type of fat that can up your risk for heart disease. Above all, regular exercise helps you maintain your weight. This is an important factor as obesity is heavily linked to high cholesterol. 

Aim for at least 2 and a half hours of moderate exercise or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. Along with focusing on cardiovascular exercise, add in a bi-weekly muscle-strengthening activity for good measure. 

Kick Your Smoking and Drinking Habits

Smoking and heavy drinking are bad habits that can lead to high cholesterol. Smoke damages your blood vessel walls and leads to plaque buildup. Drinking can also damage your liver, which is an important regulator of cholesterol metabolism. Those who want to treat hyperlipidemia should drink no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. 

Choose the Right Hyperlipidemia Medication

More serious cases of hyperlipidemia may require medication. These medications are referred to as lipid-lowering therapy. Each type of medication has a different method for lowering cholesterol. Here’s how they work:

  • Niacin: This is a B vitamin that raises HDL and lowers LDL. Though niacin is a vitamin found in many foods, it can also be consumed as a dietary supplement.
  • Fibrates: A medication that focuses on decreasing triglycerides. Though it increases your HDL levels, it does not lower LDL. Tricor and Lopid are two of the most common fibrate medications. 
  • Bile acid sequestrants: A lipid-lowering therapy that binds onto bile acids in the intestine. This prevents LDL from being absorbed into your bloodstream. LDL is then excreted from your body in the form of feces. Bile acid sequestrants come in tablet and powder form.
  • Statins: A medication that blocks the cholesterol-producing enzymes in your liver. Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor are statin medications commonly used to treat hyperlipidemia-related conditions.
  • PCSK9 Inhibitors: PCSK9 is a type of protein that breaks down LDL receptors. This allows more cholesterol to stay in your bloodstream. Inhibitors reduce your LDL levels by blocking this protein. Repatha and Paluent are two types of PCSK9 Inhibitors that can be injected into your body with a syringe. 

Note that lipid-lowering therapy works best when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Consult with your doctor to select the best hyperlipidemia medication for you. 

Take Back Control From Hyperlipidemia 

A multitude of health issues stems from hyperlipidemia. Stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and diabetes are just some of the many. That’s why it’s critical to know if you are at risk of developing it and what you can do to control the symptoms. Making healthy lifestyle choices can lessen hyperlipidemia symptoms and improve your overall health.

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