Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It causes one in four deaths, this means about 610,000 people die a year from it. Heart disease is a big issue for women. Nearly 90% have at least one risk factor for it. Approximately 50% of Americans have high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol and/or smoke. These are all key risk factors for heart disease. Many Americans have congenital heart disease, meaning they are born with a problem with their heart. This is the most common birth defect.
How do you live with congenital heart disease?
There are at least one million Americans living with congenital heart disease today. Advances in medical technology and knowledge have made it easier for people who were born with congenital heart disease. In the past, most people did not live to reach adulthood but more and more people are.
Adults with congenital heart disease need to have regular check ups with a primary care doctor and cardiologist (heart specialist). There are some things they need to pay attention to.
Many children have cardiac surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. Adults need to learn as much as they can about the operation they had. People sometimes assume that the surgery is the last of it, that the problem has been fixed. Moving forward, people need to be able to let their doctors know what they had done so their heart can be monitored properly. This also includes knowing as much about the medications they take as they can.
As children, people may have been required to take antibiotics before certain procedures or at the dentist. This is to prevent an infection that can spread to the heart. This may be something people need to continue to do as adults. Infective endocarditis is a serious and potentially deadly infection and this needs to be teated seriously.
Special Issues for Women
Women with a congenital heart defect need to be careful about what birth control method they choose. Birth control pills often increase the risk of heart problems so this is probably not the best option for these women. Women should work with their physicians to select the best birth control for their heart situation. Many women with congenital heart disease have completely normal pregnancies but all should work closely with their doctors to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery. Women with congenital heart disease may run a greater risk of passing it on to their children.
Other heath problems people with congenital heart disease should look out for
This is an irregular heart beat. It can be fast, slow or just irregularly. The interruptions in blood flow can cause blood clots in other parts of the body.
This is high blood pressure in the arteries that lead from the heart to the lungs. Left untreated it can lead to heart failure.
Treatments for congenital heart disease can also make the body more prone to liver disease. People with congenital heart disease should have regular check ups with a primary care physician to stay as healthy as the can.
Preventing heart disease
All Americans can benefit from living a healthy lifestyle. One great way to protect the heart is to get and stay active. Most Americans do not get the recommended amount of exercise. It takes only 30 minutes a day to protect the heart. The activity should be of a moderate exertion level.