There are numerous diseases that affect the heart. Among the most common are coronary heart disease, heart failure, congenital heart disease, hypertension, heart valve problems, heart arrhythmias and heart infections. These all fall under the term "heart disease."
Heart disease occurs for a variety of reasons, including genetics, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, diabetes, clogged arteries and hypertension. Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle behaviors you can adopt to help you avoid the pitfalls of heart disease. The two most important elements are eating a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
The cornerstone to a heart-healthy diet is replacing foods high in saturated fats with healthier alternatives such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and dairy products, poultry and fish. Eating healthier alternatives can help to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol level and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol level. Both are significant in being heart-healthy.
Regular physical activity also helps to keep your good cholesterol higher and your bad cholesterol lower. Even a small amount of daily exercise can make a big difference to your heart.
Smoking is very damaging to the heart, and maintaining a healthy weight and a reasonable level of alcohol consumption are very important as well.
Heart disease may offer no symptoms during the early stages. Often the first symptom is a pain or discomfort in the chest (called angina pectoris), which can be brought on by physical exertion and relieved by rest. Any sort of chest pain calls for medical attention right away.
If you are diagnosed with heart disease, lowering your cholesterol level and adding adequate levels of exercise to your daily routine, combined with medication your doctor will prescribe, can help you live a long and healthy life. The key to success is understanding that your daily activities control the progress of the disease, and therefore making heart-healthy choices is vital.
So, what steps can you take to make it easier to identify and manage heart disease? Keep a journal of any symptom that you may encounter. For instance, when you measure your cholesterol levels, make a note in a journal. Or when you eat certain foods or participate in certain activities, make a note of the results -- how do you feel? Then on a regular basis keep track of any changes in these symptoms.
Once a heart-healthy diet, daily exercise regimen, and course of treatment has been prescribed for you, keep another journal in which you describe the results. Have the symptoms improved? Are they worse?
If you are taking medication for your heart, keep a record of what you take and when. Is it helping the symptoms? Are there any side effects? Keep track of when side effects occur and how severe they are. Having this information handy will help your doctor prescribe the treatment that best addresses your overall health.
Setting up journals like the ones described here is easy to do. You can use a paper worksheet, a computer word processing program, or even a spreadsheet program like Excel.
You owe it to yourself to take an active role in managing your own health. Heart disease can be deadly. However with proper management, it can be controlled and in many cases even reversed. You need to use every tool at your disposal to make sure you get the best health care possible.