Heart disease and stroke prevention: It starts with knowing the risks

World Heart Day and World Stroke Day help build awareness about the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices and how you can reduce your risk of disease.


Did you know that each year 630,000 people in the U.S. die from heart disease, and almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke? These conditions don’t discriminate: Women and men of all ages are susceptible.

While heredity can play a role in risk for heart disease or stroke, so do unhealthy habits such as tobacco use, lack of physical activity or abusing alcohol.

The good news is the risk of heart disease and stroke can be reduced by changing habits and adopting a more healthy lifestyle.

This year both World Heart Day and World Stroke Day are set to help raise awareness and also spread the news about prevention.

The facts on heart disease

Heart disease is devastating. One in every four deaths is the result of heart disease, according to the CDC. And heart attack is one of the most common results of heart disease due to artery plaque buildup.

Heart attack symptoms. A heart attack can strike without warning, or at least appear that way. Common symptoms are:

  • Chest discomfort – this can feel like pressure or fullness.
  • An uncomfortable feeling in other areas of the upper body – such as in the arms, the back, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath – with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs – may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

The facts on stroke

A stroke happens when a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. This blockage prevents the brain cells from getting the needed oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood. Quickly, the brain cells begin to die, which can result in lasting brain damage. That’s why an immediate response is critical during stroke.

Stroke is the number five cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. A growing body of research shows strokes among millennials — ages 18 to 34 — are on the rise.

Stroke symptoms. Follow F.A.S.T. – a nationally recognized acronym to follow if you suspect someone is having a stroke.

  • Face drooping – Is one side of the face lower than the other?
  • Arm weakness – Is one arm weak or numb?
  • Speech difficulty – Are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand?
  • Time – If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 immediately.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Reducing your risk of both heart attack and stroke

Although there are some risk factors you can’t control like family history, there are ways you can reduce your risk.

Use nutrition as your ally:

  • Choose plant-based, whole foods
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Opt for meal prep over fast food
  • Choose healthy desserts, such as fresh fruit
  • Place your food on a small plate for portion control
  • Monitor your salt and sugar intake – satisfy cravings by choosing fruits and nuts

Address other health conditions:  

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity/excessive weight
  • Inactivity

Manage risk factors:

Start Small:

Small but gradual changes can make a big impact and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Know your health numbers: cholesterol levels, body mass index, blood pressure and fasting glucose. Start adding healthier foods to your diet, test out a new exercise class at your gym, and make sure you see your primary care doctor for annual check-ups. If you’re a smoker, today’s a good day to stop.

Join the Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk

Step up and join the fun while doing something healthy. We’re taking a stand against heart disease and stroke in October. Join our efforts by registering today. Together we can help keep hearts beating.

Find a doctor

Find a doctor that can help you determine your risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Search for a doctor in our provider directory.

Learn more about #heartdisease and #strokeprevention. Share how you strengthened your heart and reduced your risk of stroke @swedish


2019 Puget Sound Heart & Stroke Walk

World Stroke Day

World Heart Day

Health classes at Swedish

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Swedish Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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