What Is Heart Disease? (video)

Christina Adams, MD, a cardiologist at Scripps Clinic and the Scripps Women's Heart Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, discusses the risk factors for heart attacks, preventive measures you can take, and what you should do if you think you are experiencing a heart attack.

Video transcript

What are some risk factors of developing heart disease?

The classic risk factors are diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking history, high cholesterol, and a premature family history of heart disease. So we typically see people who have had heart attacks in their parents in their 40s or 50s.

More novel risk factors for heart disease are going to be sedentary behavior, obesity, a large waist circumference. And we're now seeing evolving risk factors, such as inflammation. [This includes] patients who have rheumatoid arthritis- [or] lupus-kind of chronic inflammatory states.

We also now know that some women who have received certain treatments for breast cancer, radiation to the left side of the breast, as well as certain chemotherapeutic agents can increase the risk of heart disease.

Finally, [the risk factors] that people really ignore [are] what happens during pregnancy. So preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy, even if they resolve after delivery, [can] increase your cardiac risk.

What can you do to prevent heart disease?

The biggest thing you can do to prevent heart disease is moderate to vigorous exercise regularly. So the recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, which kind of figures out to 20 or 30 minutes.

Moderate to vigorous means, you're working out so hard, you can't carry on a conversation with your neighbor. So we want you pushing it a little bit, but make sure that before you start an exercise regimen, you've been cleared that it's safe for you to do so by your doctor.

What should you do if you think you're having a heart attack?

If you think you're having a heart attack, it's very important that you go to an emergency room immediately. Call 911 or have someone drive you. Do not delay care. There are some certain tests that can be done immediately in the emergency room to rule out a serious cardiac condition.

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