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How to decrease your risk for a heart attack; the experts weigh in

Heart disease kills more than 600,000 Americans each year – making it the most deadly killer in the United States.

But the good news is that there are many things you can do to decrease your risk of succumbing to this all too common killer. Written by Matthew Budoff, the book Enhancing Heart Health: Preventing a Heart Attack breaks down important need-to-know statistics regarding heart disease, while providing relatively easy ways to improve their heart health. Budoff writes:

CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) has claimed the lives of more females than males. And the gap between male and female deaths has increased dramatically ... In addition, black females are more at risk than white females. According to the statistics, a woman dies of heart disease every minute, more than half a million each year. Annually, heart disease kills 10 times more women than breast cancer.

Men and women experience and react to heart disease differently. According to the Center for the Advancement of Health, women take significantly longer to seek care for their heart symptoms than men do.

Studies indicate that women usually wait more than six hours before seeking medical attention, while men wait five hours on average.
A marked difference is also apparent in the symptoms of women and men. Women typically describe their chest pain as sharp, rather than the "classic" male complaints of pressure, heaviness or tightness in the center or left side of the chest.

In addition, women are more likely to describe other symptoms that are not necessarily related to the chest pain. These symptoms include back pain, nausea, and indigestion. Thus, doctors are less likely to recognize a heart attack in women.

Improving Your Odds
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and elevated homocysteine can increase your chances of developing heart disease or dying of a heart attack. But other controllable factors can also increase your risk of these three conditions.

• Overweight or obesity
• Lack of physical activity
• Cigarette smoking
• Diabetes
• Increased and uncontrolled stress and anxiety
• Poor diet

Fortunately, because these factors are controllable, you can increase your odds of avoiding heart disease by making better lifestyle choices. Even more promising, if you've been diagnosed with heart disease or have had heart problems in the past, you can reverse that negative process by making positive changes. A comprehensive plan of attack is the most effective strategy.

Cigarette and tobacco smoke
•Smokers' risk of heart attack is more than twice that of nonsmokers.
•Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death: smokers have two to four times the risk of nonsmokers.
•Smokers who have a heart attack are more likely to die and die suddenly (within an hour) than are nonsmokers.
High blood cholesterol levels
•The risk of coronary heart disease rises as blood cholesterol levels increase.
•High blood pressure
•High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart to enlarge and weaken over time.
Physical inactivity
•Regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise plays a significant role in preventing heart and blood vessel disease.
•Exercise can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity as well as help to lower blood pressure in some people.
•Exercise is one of the best ways of raising HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
Obesity and overweight
•People who have excess body fat are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors.
•Being overweight is directly linked to coronary heart disease because it influences blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increases the risk of diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus
•Diabetes seriously increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
•More than 80 percent of diabetics die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

To learn more about protecting your heart, pick up a copy of Budoff's book today!