Know The Facts
This silent killer can be sneakier and swifter than you realize. Arm yourself with the heart disease facts below.
1. Most heart attacks begin with only mild symptoms.
While the classic "movie heart attack," marked by chest-crushing pain and collapse, does happen, it's not typical.
2. Women experience heart attacks differently.
Don't count on chest pain to signal a heart attack. While both men and women often feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, women are far more likely to notice shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain than men.
3. Time is of the essence.
If you think you may be having a heart attack, don't wait more than five minutes. Calling 911 is the fastest way to get the treatment that might save your life because it brings the equipment and expertise of emergency medical staff right to your door. You're likely to get priority treatment at the hospital when you arrive in an ambulance, too.If you don't have access to a phone, have someone drive you to the hospital. Don't drive yourself unless you have no other options!
4. The odds are stacked against smokers.
According to the American Heart Association, smokers have two to four times the risk of developing coronary heart disease than non-smokers.
5. All fat is not bad fat.
Dr James Carlson, author of Genocide: How Your Doctor's Dietary Ignorance Will Kill You, says conventional dietary wisdom has it all wrong. He asserts that eating fat will not make you fat, and that eating cholesterol-containing foods has never been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. What will harm you are trans fats and "interestified fatty acids" -- the products of a new manufacturing process that turns polyunsaturated fats into saturated oils that he says may be even more dangerous than trans fats.
6. The enemy's not fat: It's sugar.
Dr Carlson maintains that the real culprit behind heart disease arises from the conversion of sugar molecules to cholesterol -- the kind of artery-clogging stuff that's made by the body. He's not alone in his opinion. Many researchers also have documented that the liver converts excess sugar to triglycerides -- which spell danger for your heart. This may explain the strange paradox experienced by low-carb dieters who, despite eating increased fats, often show reduced LDL and triglyceride levels.
7. Women sometimes have right-sided chest pain during a heart attack.
According to Dr. Carlson, this leads many doctors to the wrong diagnosis -- with a dreadful outcome. One of the best ways to protect yourself is with knowledge: While of course you aren't privy to your doctor's vast arsenal of experience and education, mentioning something you've heard or read can't hurt and might help spark an idea or insight.
8. Gum disease is dangerous to your heart.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to have coronary heart disease than those who don't -- even when the data were adjusted for smoking. Many other studies corroborate these findings. Robert H. Gregg, DDS, founder of Millennium Dental Technologies, says treatment for periodontal disease is very important; he points to a study published in Circulation that found patients with high levels of gum disease bacteria were at high risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which often leads to heart disease. What to do: Get regular dental checkups and cleanings, brush frequently and floss as frequently as your dentist advises. Nervous about dental work? Dr. Gregg suggests laser periodontal therapy, which is less invasive, less painful and very effective.
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