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Heart Disease Prevention and Detection Saves Lives

Aug 17, 2007
It's considered one of the biggest killers in the United States. In fact, an estimated 13.2 million Americans suffer from coronary heart disease. With a number sufferers that rivals the population of some small countries, this disease is serious business. But, what is it and how can it be detected and prevented? When it comes to coronary heart disease, CHD for short, knowledge and action are key. Prevention isn't always possible, but steps can be taken.

Coronary heart disease is a condition that results from the creation of plaques along the walls of the coronary arteries. This essentially impacts blood flow to the heart. The process is call atherosclerosis. If the condition continues, the heart can become deprived of oxygen, which weakens it and may even lead to the "death" of certain parts of the heart. This, of course, means a heart attack, which can be fatal.

Here are some facts about the disease and its impacts:

* The condition is the biggest cause of death for men and women in the United States. It's estimated nearly 500,000 people die each year from this most ravaging of conditions.

* The United States alone records about 1.2 million heart attacks a year. Doing the math shows just under half the cases die, which is unacceptable in any book.

* The sad but true fact about coronary heart disease is that in many cases the condition was preventable. Risk factors, for the most part, involve lifestyle choices - with a few exceptions.

The risk factors of coronary heart disease are many, but keep in mind, most are personal choices. They include:

* High blood pressure, which can be medically or stress caused.

* High cholesterol

* Smoking

* Obesity

* Physical inactivity. When the heart doesn't get a
work out, the whole body can pay eventually.

* Diabetes

* Stress

The key to preventing CHD is to recognize its risk factors and take steps to eliminate them or at least lessen them in a person's life. While not all things that cause CHD can be removed, doing things such as quitting smoking, eating right and adding exercise to a routine can very much lessen the chances of problems down the road.

Detecting CHD in a person involves an invasive test called an angiography. While the condition's presence can be guessed at otherwise, and in most cases a guess is accurate, the angiography is required for a definitive diagnosis. An invasive procedure, this test involves the insertion of a tube into the artery that releases a dye. A picture is then taken with the dye helping to highlight blocked areas. The test can be done during an inpatient hospital stay or even at an outpatient facility.

While the best treatment for CHD is total prevention, that won't do the trick every time. Surgery is available and many times those on the path for having a heart attack can change course in time to avoid disaster. Eating right, exercising and not smoking are key to avoiding the disease as is following doctor's orders.

CHD is the biggest killer in the United States. Its prevention is possible, but people have to be willing to stay the course. There are ways to avoid the tragedy that is a heart attack, but it's up to the individual to ensure success.
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