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Heart disease

Do you know the warning signs of a heart attack?

Heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulder, jaw, neck, back, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling light-headed, queasy, or breaking out in a cold sweat
If you think you're having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Even if you're not sure, get checked anyway. Waiting can cause serious damage — or even death.

In the United States, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. Often, though, people don't know they are at risk for heart problems.

Heart disease includes a number of conditions affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This happens slowly over time and is a major reason people have heart attacks.

A man's risk of heart disease begins to rise greatly starting at age 45. You can lower your risk of heart disease by taking certain steps, including:

  • Don't smoke or use other tobacco products. If you smoke, get help quitting.
  • Get your blood pressure checked at least every two years. If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice on how to lower it and keep it under control.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to have your cholesterol and triglyceride levels tested.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Learn about your body mass index, or BMI.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and foods that are high in fiber. Limit foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, and sodium.
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.
  • Make physical activity a habit. Learn more about the amounts and types of activity that can help.
  • Control diabetes, if you have it. Make sure to follow your doctor's instructions for medications and lifestyle changes.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men ages 45 to 79 take aspirin to lower their risk of heart attack when the benefit outweighs the possible harm of gastrointestinal bleeding. Discuss your personal risk of both heart disease and gastrointestinal bleeding with your doctor.

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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.

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