It is the time of progress. The time of supercomputers, space shuttles, and many other wonders of technology. We have walked on the moon. We do our shopping at home via Internet navigation. We can not only talk with, but we can see the person we are talking to thousands of miles away. It is mankind's greatest hour. Yet sadly, it is also our time of dying. Strange that no matter how advanced our society has become, our nation's health hasn't caught up. After all, heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is our nation's number one killer (Preventive Magazine Health Books p. 153).
The most common, and most preventable, heart disease of all is coronary artery disease. This is caused when blockages develop in the blood vessels that provide oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. A more general term for any impairment of blood flow through the blood vessels is arteriosclerosis (Hale p.371). One of the most common symptoms is chest pain. When your heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen, it sends out a painful warning signal called angina pectoris(Hale p.372). Because your heart needs oxygen the most when it is working the hardest, angina is most likely to occur during exercise. And if the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen for long enough, it will die, resulting in a heart attack, or myocardial (heart muscle) infarction (tissue death) (Weisse p. 54). As you can see, preventing this disease should be a number one priority.
The prevention of heart disease should begin in childhood and continue throughout life. But it is never too late to start; people of all ages can benefit greatly from diet, exercise, smoking cessation, and stress control to prevent heart disease. We should try to control our risk factors, such as cholesterol, high blood-pressure, stress control, smoking habits, lack of exercise, and dietary problems, or more specifically, obesity. There is no one way, or miracle cure, to control these factors, but common sense, as well as modern medicine, tells us how. Simply stop smoking, eat foods lower in cholesterol, lower your blood pressure with a healthy diet and a lower salt intake (this will also control obesity), and use daily exercise routines to help prevent disease.
However, as easy as it is to prevent disease using these simple techniques, it is also recommended to visit a doctor regularly to detect disease early in its preclinical, or silent stages. Routine blood pressure screening can detect hypertension long before it had caused any damage, but in coronary artery disease, screening is much more complex and less effective. The electrocardiogram (EKG) is a simple test that measures the heart's electrical activity (Donahue p. 35). The most widely used screening test is the exercise EKG, or stress test. The theory is simple: get the heart working hard so it needs more blood, and you will be able to detect partial blockages in the coronary arteries. Unfortunately, exercise tests are not accurate for healthy people with a low mobility of coronary disease.
As for myself, I try to use an exercise program to reduce my personal risk for heart disease. I walk thirty minutes a night with my son, and buy foods that are low in fat. I have a low sodium intake, in fact i never really use salt at all in my cooking. I do not smoke, and try to avoid second hand smoke. As for my stress, I use task-oriented coping strategies to keep my stress levels at a minimum (Lefton p.464). I also try to make regular visits to a clinic, and get physicals for both myself, and my son Tre'. Hopefully by using these preventative strategies I can keep heart disease's deadly touch at bay.
Like all areas of medicine, prevention methods change as new data accumulates and old ideas fall by the wayside. The enhancement of health and prevention of disease comes from looking beyond the numbers and statistics to evaluate the whole picture. Clinical experience, judgement, and even personal experience is as important to achieving a healthy lifestyle as are hard facts. Still, until we have all the scientific answers, judgements must sometimes suffice, and each of us must use methods of disease prevention before the