You've probably heard this scenario more than once — the person was perfectly healthy and just up and had a heart attack or stroke that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the US, there are often no warning signs or symptoms that heart disease is present, making the condition a potential silent killer.
The team here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists doesn’t want to scare you unnecessarily, but we do want to underscore the importance of staying on top of potential heart disease.
To that end, we’re going to take a closer look at some common conditions that may not have any symptoms and how you can protect yourself.
Heart disease — a group of issues
The term heart disease doesn’t refer to one specific condition, but a group of conditions that include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- Peripheral artery disease
- Valvular disease
- Heart muscle disorders
- Congenital heart issues
- Heart failure
The most common disease on this list is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects more than 18 million people in the US. With CAD, the arteries that deliver blood to your heart muscle are compromised (blocked) because of plaque buildup.
Second in prevalence are arrhythmias, which are issues with your heart’s rhythm. The most common arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which causes the upper chambers of your heart to beat irregularly, which can lead to inefficient blood flow through your heart. Up to 9% of Americans have this arrhythmia.
The potential silent killers
With many of the conditions we outlined above, there are some telltale signs, but not always. For example, you can have a stable and progressive form of CAD, which means the plaque builds up over time, slowly squeezing off the blood supply to your heart. In the early stages of CAD, you may not notice the issue, and symptoms may only arise over time when the blockages are significant and potentially dangerous.
Another example is peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is the same as CAD except it affects the arteries that deliver blood to your body. Many people with PAD experience pain in their legs, but four out of 10 people with the condition do not have this telltale sign.
Another potentially silent problem is any of the valvular diseases, which can develop over time on one of the four valves in your heart.
Of course, issues like heart attack and stroke are extreme events and typically come with symptoms that are hard to miss. As well, arrhythmias tend to be more obvious as you can feel heart palpitations when the arrhythmia is acting up.
Our point here is that if you have a progressive problem with your cardiovascular health, you may not notice any signs, at first, which can place you at risk down the road.
Identifying heart disease
The best way to stay one step ahead of heart disease is to work with our team of cardiovascular experts who understand what to monitor. Though there’s no such thing as a crystal ball when it comes to heart disease, there are some indicators and risk factors, such as:
- Family history of heart disease
- Being overweight or having obesity
- Having high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Having diabetes
- History of smoking
If any of these risks apply to you, we urge you to come see us so that we can perform some baseline testing, such as an echocardiogram. This preemptive testing allows us to identify any lurking problems so that we can take swift action.
To avoid being caught off guard by heart disease, please contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up a consultation.