It’s an unfortunate truth that heart diseases affects thousands of people in Oklahoma every year. As a matter of fact, the disease is listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the number one cause of death in the state.1 Fortunately, it is possible to prevent some common types of heart disease. Unfortunately, far too many cases of heart disease go undiagnosed until it is too late. That’s why this so-called “silent killer” takes the lives of thousands upon thousands of people in Oklahoma and throughout the country.
Statistics on Heart Disease According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health
- Heart disease accounted for 9,173 Oklahoma deaths in 2012 — 4,370 women and 4,803 men
- One third of women’s deaths attributed to heart disease in 2008-2012 were potentially preventable
- In 2011, Oklahoma’s heart disease death rate among women was the third highest in the nation
- Half of men’s deaths attributed to heart disease in 2008-2012 were potentially preventable
- In 2011, Oklahoma’s heart disease death rate among men was the second highest in the nation
- Minorities — including African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics — are at higher risk of death related to heart disease
- Heart disease related deaths are most common in people over 45, with rates increasing with every decade of life
- Heart disease death rates have been going down in recent years, but at a slower rate than the rest of the nation
Heart Disease Risk Factors
In addition to race, there are certain health factors and behavioral factors that can put you at higher risk of developing heart disease. Some of the potential risk factors include: High Blood Pressure, High Blood Cholesterol, Diabetes, Smoking, Obesity, and Family History.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Keep in mind, however, that it’s not enough to know your risk factors. It’s vitally important to know what the signs of heart disease and have regular medical screenings to ensure that any potential heart problems are detected as early as possible. That’s because early detection is key in reducing the risk of heart attacks or other life-threatening medical problems.
While some heart disease symptoms like chest pain and a racing heart beat are easily recognizable, many symptoms of the “silent killer” are much harder to recognize for what they are. If you’re at greater risk of heart disease due to specific risk factors, you’ll want to be on the lookout for some of the less obvious symptoms of heart disease. Let’s take a brief look at some of the other common signs of heart disease.
- Coughing – A constant cough, especially one not associated with a specific illness, can indicate heart failure caused by a buildup of fluid in your lungs.
- Lightheadedness – A feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness can be a symptom of several serious heart conditions including heart attack or irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmias.
- Shortness of Breath – If you have trouble catching your breath, especially when you haven’t been physically active, it is a symptom of serious heart disease that you should not take lightly. If you experience this or any other signs of heart attack — like chest pain or sudden sweating — you should call your doctor or emergency medical personnel immediately.
- Weakness and Fatigue – If you feel unusually tired or week, or if you feel a constant feeling of fatigue, it can be a sign of heart failure or heart attack.
- Chest Tightness or Pressure – Discomfort in your chest that feels like pressure or tightness can be an indication of heart problems. These feelings can range from mild to severe and should not be taken lightly, especially if they are located in or near the middle of your chest.
Preventing Heart Disease
Those who are at risk of heart disease can typically make changes in lifestyle that lower their risk. Of course, you can’t do anything about a heart defect, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or developing other forms of heart disease. Some lifestyle changes that can help you include:
- Healthy eating, including limiting saturated fat and sodium intake
- Losing excess weight and maintaining your weight loss
- Managing stress effectively
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Managing any medical conditions that put you at higher risk for heart disease
And always remember that early detection is critical to successfully reducing your risk of heart disease. Your doctor can help you ascertain if you are at risk of heart disease and order special testing and medical imaging to help you determine if more needs to be done.