What is The Health Problem? Heart disease is a large health problem affecting the United States today. It is the leading cause of death of American's today. It is the number one killer of both men and women in the US. Each year more than 500,000 people die of heart attacks caused by chronic heart failure.

Half of all patients diagnosed with heart failure will die within 5 years. It is estimated that 4.9 million American's have and will suffer heart failure. It was once believed that heart disease only affected older men between the ages of 50 - 70 but, the number of sudden deaths affecting people between the ages of 15 - 34 has increased. It is no longer a disease that men suffer because a large growing number of women are suffering through heart disease. (Basile, MD 2003) What is Heart Disease? Heart disease happens when your arteries become narrowed through the process, called Arteriosclerosis.

When this happens the blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle is restricted. The lack of blood and oxygen is caused by fatty plaques, which is a porridge-like sludge made up of fatty deposits of cholesterol, cell waste and other substances that accumulates along the walls of the coronary arteries. These form raised patches narrow the arteries, reducing the space through which blood can flow, and at the same time the blood becomes more prone to clotting. Over time, the heart muscles are starved of oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood and it begins to weaken and parts of it may even die.

This process begins in most people during childhood, and progresses as we get older. Heart failure is when the heart loses the ability to pump enough blood through the body. The seriousness of the condition depends on how much of the pumping capacity has been lost. Mild heart failure may have little effect on one's life, while severe heart failure interferes with simple activities and can often prove fatal. It is estimated that 4.9 million Americans have heart failure. It is a major chronic condition in the United States.

What is a Heart attack? A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself, the myocardium, is severely reduced or stopped. The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. The reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle is blocked. This is usually caused by the build up of plaque (deposits of fat-like substances), due to arteriosclerosis. The plaque can eventually burst; tear or rupture, creating a "snag" where a blood clots forms and blocks the artery.

This leads to a heart attack. A heart attack is also called a coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusion. If blood supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die. This can kill or disable someone, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged Sometimes a coronary artery temporarily contracts or goes into spasm, when this happens the artery narrows and blood flow to parts of the heart muscle decreases or stops.

We " re not sure what causes a spasm, but a severe spasm can cause a heart attack. The growing plaques may block the delivery of nutrients to the artery walls causing them to lose their elasticity. This in turn may lead to high blood pressure, which also increases the risk of coronary heart disease. (NHLBI, 1993) How is it transmitted?

Heart disease is not a disease that can be transmitted, rather it is caused by our own lack of knowledge and lifestyles. Heart disease is linked to hereditary, poor nutrition, foods that are high in saturated fats, smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity and stress. What are its signs and symptoms? Unfortunately, for many people the first indication that something is wrong is a heart attack of myocardial infarction. The pain of a heart attack may be severe or maybe mistaken for indigestion. A heart attack has many signs and symptoms.

Heart attacks are sudden and intense and they usually start out slowly with either a mild pain or discomfort. These are the signs to look for: Chest discomfort. Heart attack victims often feel a dull discomfort at the center of their chest that last more than a few minutes and sometimes it goes away but eventually the pain will return and be persistant, uncomfortable pressure, fullness or severe pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. The sensations felt maybe pain in one or both arms, the back, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath.

The victim usually feels that they cannot catch their breath because the feel a squeezing discomfort associated with their chest pain. Other signs. The victim can complain feeling nausea, cold sweat or lightheadedness. (AHA, 2003) What are the Risk Factors?

There are many risk factors that cause heart disease; some are preventable while others are not. The preventable risk factors are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes. The other risk factors that cannot be controlled are age, gender, race, hereditary, and previous heart attacks or stroke. Other factors that may contribute to heart disease is unhealthy response to stress, excessive alcohol consumption and illegal drugs. Though it is true that some risk factors such as age, race, gender, family medical history and previous heart attack cannot be prevented but following and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing controllable risk factors can aid you in reducing heart disease. These preventative measures may not guarantee that you will not develop heart disease but it can lower your risk.

(Franklin & Wong, Nov 2002) How is it normally treated? Heart disease is treated thru prevention and educating the public. We can prevent heart disease by lowering some if not all risk factors. Prevention and information is the key to reducing heart disease. o If you have high blood cholesterol you should have your cholesterol level checked once every year, learn what the numbers mean.

Your total cholesterol level should be 200 mg / dl. High cholesterol has no symptoms and many Americans have it without knowing it, follow a low saturated fat and low cholesterol-eating plan, become physically active, and maintain a healthy weight. If you have high blood pressure have you pressure checked regularly, eat foods that are low in sodium, become physically active, and limit alcohol intake. If you smoke you should stop smoking or cut back gradually, if you can quit the first time, keep trying and if you don't smoke, don't start. If you are overweight try to maintain a healthy weight and try not to gain extra weight and try to lose weight gradually at least a pound a week. If you are physically inactive become physically active, do 30 minutes of moderate-level activity such as brisk walking 3 to 4 times a week with your doctors approval.

Have yourself checked for diabetes.