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How prevalent is heart disease?
Over one-quarter of all deaths are from heart disease. It can also be a major cause of disability.
The risk of the disease increases as you age. A man over 45 and a woman over 55 have the greatest risk. You are also at a greater risk if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.
What does heart disease mean?
“Heart disease” (or cardiac disease) is a very general term and few people know what it means. It is, first and foremost, any disorder that affects the heart. However, it is often confused with cardiovascular disease (which is any disease of the heart or blood vessels).
Here are some of the many types of heart disease:
- Angina: chest pain that is a result of inadequate oxygen supply to the heart muscle;
- Arrhythmia: an irregular heart beat;
- Congenital heart disease: a condition present at birth;
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): narrowing or blockage of the arteries and vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the heart; caused by an accumulation of fatty materials on the inner linings of arteries;
- Dilated cardiomyopathy: thickening of the heart muscle;
- Myocardial infarction: heart attack;
- Heart failure: the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal;
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: a disease of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart) in which a portion of the myocardium is thickened;
- Mitral regurgitation: leakage of blood through the valve opening;
- Mitral valve prolapse: a heart valve abnormality; and
- Pulmonary stenosis: a heart valve disorder in which outflow of blood from the right ventricle of the heart is obstructed.
How can I reduce my chances of getting heart disease?
There are several things a person can do to reduce their chances of getting heart disease:
- Keep your blood pressure under control;
- Exercise regularly (more about that later);
- Don’t smoke;
- Get tested for diabetes and, if you have it, keep it under control;
- Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control;
- Eat a healthy diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables; and,
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Will exercise help prevent heart disease or lessen its impact?
The benefits of exercise are well known for many reasons, but is there any evidence that it will specifically help to fight the problems of heart disease?
The answer is a very clear: yes.
The following points come from an article on LiveStrong.com 2:
- People with sedentary lifestyles are 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease than people who exercise regularly;
- Exercise is one of the top medication-free strategies to prevent heart disease;
- Physical activity helps you control your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, even stress and smoking;
- People who start exercising after having a heart attack have better rates of survival and a better quality of life.
And from that same article, some research results:
- In 2001, researchers calculated results from over 8,000 patients who had suffered cardiac arrests or bypasses and found that exercise programs reduced the risk of death by 27 percent. Risk of death from heart attack was reduced by 31 percent, simply through exercise-based rehabilitation.
- In 2007, Harvard Medical School researchers concluded that exercise was "the hands-down winner" when it came to reducing the risk of heart disease. Their research showed that exercise reduced heart disease risk by 35 to 55 percent.
- The New York Times Health Guide cites one study in which people as old as 91 who had experienced heart failure were able to improve their health through supervised exercise.
This article is part of a series about various health conditions and the benefits of exercise. The other articles are:
- Exercise and Allergies
- Exercise and Arthritis
- Exercise and Asthma
- Exercise and Balance
- Exercise and Cancer
- Exercise and Chronic Pain
- Exercise and Circulation
- Exercise and COPD
- Exercise and Dementia
- Exercise and Diabetes
- Exercise and Hypertension
- Exercise and Lifestyle and Older Adults: Recent Research
- Exercise and Mood
- Exercise and Osteoporosis
- Exercise and Our Brain
- Exercise and Pain vs. Burn: Will it ever stop hurting?
- Exercise and Parkinson's
- Exercise and Sleep
- Exercise and Stroke
- Exercise and Viruses: Exercise Immunology
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.