Heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death in the United States. Both conditions are caused by problems with the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart and brain.
Heart disease is a general term for a number of conditions that affect the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when plaque, a fatty substance, builds up on the walls of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle.
Over time, plaque buildup can narrow and harden the coronary arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow to the heart muscle. This can lead to a number of heart problems, including angina (chest pain), heart attack, and heart failure.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.
There are two main types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke: This is the most common type of stroke, accounting for about 85% of all strokes. It occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel leading to the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into the brain tissue.
Many of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are the same. These risk factors include:
Risk factors for heart disease and stroke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Family history of heart disease or stroke
- Age (men over 45 and women over 55 are at higher risk)
Symptoms of heart disease and stroke
The symptoms of heart disease and stroke can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. However, some common symptoms of heart disease and stroke include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
Treatment for heart disease and stroke
The treatment for heart disease and stroke depends on the type and severity of the condition. However, some common treatments for heart disease and stroke include:
- Medications: Medications can be used to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Medications can also be used to dissolve blood clots and prevent new blood clots from forming.
- Surgery: Surgery may be necessary to remove plaque from the coronary arteries, widen narrowed arteries, or repair a ruptured blood vessel in the brain.
- Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking, can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Recovery from heart disease and stroke
The recovery from heart disease and stroke varies from person to person. Some people make a full recovery, while others may have permanent disabilities. Recovery depends on the type and severity of the condition, as well as the person’s overall health.
Preventing heart disease and stroke
The best way to prevent heart disease and stroke is to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet: A healthy diet for heart disease and stroke is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium. It is also high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Exercising regularly: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Managing chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
If you have any risk factors for heart disease and stroke, talk to your doctor about how to reduce your risk.
Heart disease and stroke are serious conditions, but they can be prevented and treated. If you have any concerns about your risk for heart disease or stroke, talk to your doctor.