Important Message from The Joint Chiropractic regarding COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) - Read More

What Is Heart Disease and How Can I Beat It

By Martha Michael

What Is Heart Disease and How Can I Beat It?

It’s easy to be broadsided by serious health scares such as heart disease because they’re not on our radar until we see obvious outward signs or it threatens our lifestyle. It’s easy to forget that heart disease is the number one killer in America, so there are many examples of people having an emotional reaction to a surprising brush with death.

One of the most famous and public examples occurred in 2000 when talk show host David Letterman famously gave a tearful thanks when he introduced his medical team to the audience of his late night show following quintuple bypass surgery. By sharing his story, he helped raise awareness, which is a key strategy to prevent heart disease and reduce the number of people undergoing open heart surgeries.

Everyone is susceptible, including the fittest among us. Jim Fixx, who helped start America’s fitness revolution with his 1977 book The Complete Book of Running, died on his daily run in 1984 at age 52. A less tragic event took place more recently. Trainer Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser survived a heart attack in 2017 in his early 50s.

Seriously, nobody’s immune from it.

Heart Disease Explained

There are different types of heart disease, each with its own set of symptoms, according to an article by the Mayo Clinic. The health of your cardiovascular system can be threatened by various factors with outcomes that depend on the underlying cause of your heart problems.

Blood Vessel Disease

The blood vessels supplying your heart muscle are essential to the status of your cardiac health. Coronary artery disease is typically caused by plaque buildup in the arteries, referred to as atherosclerosis. Plaque restricts blood flow and can lead to chest pain, heart attack, or stroke.

Symptoms of coronary artery disease include:

  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the back, stomach, throat, jaw, or neck
  • Numbness, pain, or cold sensations in the legs or arms
  • Chest tightness, pain, pressure, or other discomfort


Some cardiac care patients develop problems due to irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias. The pace can be too slow, too fast, or merely irregular in nature, and can cause damage to the heart or other organs and lead to cardiac arrest.

If you have an arrhythmia you may experience:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fluttery feeling in the chest
  • Fainting
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Speeding heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bradycardia, or slow heartbeat

Congenital Heart Defects

Monitoring the heart health of children can be challenging. Babies born with a heart defect may not get a diagnosis until childhood or adulthood, particularly if it is less acute.

Symptoms of life-threatening congenital heart defects include:

  • Difficulty feeding due to shortness of breath
  • Swollen belly, legs, or eye region
  • Pale skin and lips with blue or gray tint

Symptoms of heart disease due to less serious congenital defects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath during activities
  • Swollen hands, feet, or ankles


Symptoms of a diseased heart muscle, or cardiomyopathy, are more evident as the condition worsens. Patients with cardiomyopathy may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath while resting
  • Waking in the middle of the night due to shortness of breath
  • Arrhythmia, including fluttering or fast, pounding beats
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Swollen legs, feet, or ankles

Valvular Heart Disease

Damage to the heart valve blocks the blood from moving smoothly through your organs and raises the chance of heart disease and stroke. The four valves that open and close to allow blood to flow at the proper rate are:

  • Aortic
  • Mitral
  • Pulmonary
  • Tricuspid

Heart valve disease has various forms, including narrowed, leaky, and prolapsed, meaning the valve doesn’t close properly.

Symptoms of valvular heart disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Arrhythmia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen feet or ankles

Illness can affect the valves and cause damage to the heart. Endocarditis is inflammation of the heart chambers or valves caused by an infection. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Changes to the heartbeat
  • Swollen legs or stomach
  • Dry cough
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue

Does Heart Disease Affect Men and Women Differently?

Much of the research about cardiac health has centered around classic signs of heart attacks in men. Many symptoms are experienced by both men and women, but studies of heart disease in women show some differences, according to an article by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Symptoms of a heart attack for women tend to be harder to detect because they’re subtler and may be dissimilar to the classic signs we’ve come to know.

"Women are much more likely to have atypical heart attack symptoms," says Dr. Lili Barouch, director of the Johns Hopkins Columbia Heart Failure Clinic. "So while the classical symptoms, such as chest pains, apply to both men and women, women are much more likely to get less common symptoms such as indigestion, shortness of breath, and back pain, sometimes even in the absence of obvious chest discomfort."

The most common risk factors for heart disease in both males and females include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

There are other conditions leading to heart problems, including metabolic syndrome, which involves comorbid factors: obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of blood sugar and triglycerides. Another risk factor is the presence of high levels of C-reactive protein. It’s a sign of an inflammatory disease commonly associated with cardiovascular disease.

Women are disproportionately affected by risk factors including:

  • Hypertension during menopause
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • High testosterone levels occurring before menopause
  • Mental health conditions, including stress and depression
  • Low awareness of risk factors

How Can Heart Disease Be Prevented

An article on the American Heart Association website has a list of actions you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart problems.


There’s a lot of truth to the adage “you are what you eat.” Consider your daily diet and make changes to reduce your intake of processed meat, refined sugars, carbohydrates and sweetened beverages. Make your meals healthier by including fruits, vegetables, nuts, plant-based proteins, legumes, whole grains, lean animal proteins, and fish.


Your physical condition has a bearing on your longevity, as well as the quality of life you lead. The American Heart Association recommends that adults participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. The bottom line for disease prevention is keep moving and reduce the hours you spend sitting.


Whether you vape, smoke, or use tobacco products in another form, it’s not healthy. If you’re addicted and need help, reach out to a smoking cessation program, or you can ask your chiropractor for assistance. You can also call 800-QUIT-NOW to reach a representative by phone.


If you’re following the guidelines and eating healthier -- plus raising your activity level -- it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight. If you don’t see any results, you can start counting calories and use an app to keep track of your diet and exercise totals. Your chiropractor can also offer additional strategies and help you meet your weight loss goals.

Health Management

Watching for changes in your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar will give you a heads up if you need to address a health problem. By getting a baseline of your health, your provider can detect these changes and help you alter course and manage symptoms.

Because of the insidious nature of cardiac diseases, some people are shocked when they become victims of heart failure or suffer a stroke. Thankfully, many celebrities who have had heart disease -- from Kelsey Grammer and Barbara Walters to Toni Braxton and Susan Lucci -- share their experience to benefit the public. Anything that raises awareness can save lives. And that’s worth talking about all day long.

Download your offer today and save!

$29 New Patient Special, Consultation | Exam | Adjustment

Offer valued at $45. Valid for new patients only. See clinic for chiropractor(s)' name and license info. Clinics managed and/or owned by franchisee or Prof. Corps. Restrictions may apply to Medicare eligible patients. Individual results may vary.