WellSpan Health: Heart disease still #1 killer

In a COVID-19 world, heart disease is still America’s #1 killer.

COVID-19 grabs the headlines in today’s pandemic-era world, but WellSpan doctors and care teams warn that heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans; even during a global pandemic.

Roughly 2,300 Americans die every day from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. The good news, however, is that heart disease is preventable in most cases.

READ: WellSpan SpiriTrust partnership in works

Heart disease #1 killer
Dr. Aditya Sharma

“Exercise is not just beneficial for the heart, but for your overall well-being as well,” said Aditya Sharma, MD, interventional cardiologist at WellSpan Cardiology in Carlisle. “Exercising makes the heart and body more efficient, while reducing the risk factors for coronary artery disease. It reduces blood sugar; it helps control lipids, and over the course of time reduces blood pressure.”

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. That is as little as 30 minutes of moderate and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise per day.

Moderate activity can include a brisk walk, riding a bike, treading water, gardening, or even pushing a lawnmower. Vigorous activities include running or jogging, swimming laps, biking up a hill or playing tennis or basketball.

Research has found that this amount of physical activity reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke.

“It’s important for people to remember to not get discouraged if they can’t hit this goal right away and need to build up to it,” Sharma said. “Even a little bit of exercise is better than none at all. There are studies that show that even just ten minutes of exercise a day has a huge benefit.”

Any amount of movement is better than none.

Benefits of regular exercise

Some of the benefits of regular exercise include:

  • A lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer and some complications of pregnancy
  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Improved memory, attention and processing speed
  • Less weight gain, obesity and related chronic health conditions
  • Better bone health and balance
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety

Along with exercise, one of the keys to preventing heart disease is having a regular relationship with your doctor, Sharma said.

“A lot of people only go to their doctor when they have a problem,” Sharma said. “Yes, the doctor and the care team will always be there for you when you have a problem; but our goal is to prevent the problem. If you are working with your doctor to control the risk factors that lead to heart disease, you can prevent it from happening in the first place. That is why those annual visits to your primary care physician are so very important.”

Recognizing a heart attack when it happens is key to survival, but the CDC reports that approximately three in four people don’t know the warning signs. These signs and symptoms could signal a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Cold sweats
  • Sudden worsening of symptoms

Heart failure is treatable. To learn about the basics that can help you keep the disease under control, as well as available medications and new treatment options, from cardiologist Sukrut Nanavaty, MD, click here.