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State of the heart

Written by James Combs

Here are facts and tips about cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of Americans.

Compiled by: James Combs

February is American Heart Month, an ideal time to educate people about cardiovascular disease. While the medical community continues to find innovative ways of treating heart disease, it remains the leading cause of death for both American men and women.

Therefore, efforts should be focused on preventing the disease. While we cannot control some risk factors, such as family history and age, we can modify our lifestyles to reduce other factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

This guide sheds light on the prevalence of heart disease and steps that can be taken to save our hearts.


Types of cardiovascular diseases

  1. Coronary artery disease: Narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries due to a buildup of plaque.
  2. Heart attack: When the heart becomes injured due to lack of appropriate blood flow through coronary arteries.
  3. Peripheral vascular disease: Narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply other parts of the body beyond the heart. 
  4. Heart failure: A condition where the heart does not pump blood effectively. 
  5. Arrhythmia irregular heartbeat: A variation of the normal beat of the heart.

Source: “Heels vs. Ties,” by Dr. Nitza Alvarez, cardiologist with Tri County Heart Institute in The Villages


10 heart-healthy foods

  • Salmon
  • Oatmeal
  • Blueberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Legumes
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Chili pepper
  • Apples

Source: health.com


Tip: Go green

Studies have shown that plant-based diets can help reduce risk factors of heart disease. Eat healthy fats and limit saturated fats, which raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. 

Fats to choose:

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds 
  • Legumes

Fats to avoid: 

  • Red meat
  • Chicken skin
  • Ham
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cheese
  • Dairy products

Source: “Heels vs. Ties,” by Dr. Nitza Alvarez, cardiologist with Tri County Heart Institute in The Villages


Typical heart attack symptoms for women

  • Shortness of breath at rest or during everyday activities.
  • Abdominal pressure or discomfort.
  • Lower chest discomfort.
  • Fatigue.
  • Pain between the shoulder blades.
  • Nausea. 

Typical heart attack symptoms for men

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cold sweat.
  • Lightheadedness. 
  • Throat or jaw pain.
  • Heartburn.
  • Irregular heartbeat. 

Source: Mayo Clinic, “Heels vs. Ties,” by Dr. Nitza Alvarez, cardiologist with Tri County Heart Institute in The Villages


Surprising fact

Twenty percent of people who have a heart attack are ages 40 or younger, and they have the same likelihood of dying as people who are 10 or 20 years older than them.

Source: Research by Dr. Ron Blankstein, cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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