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Take heart: June is men's health month

Our expert offers signs, symptoms and ways you can cut the risk of heart disease.

Heart disease, its signs and symptoms are especially important to note during June, men's health month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men in the United States.

Dr. Christie Ballantyne, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center, addresses risks and symptoms of heart disease and offers a few prevention tips.

Risks

If a man has any of the following conditions and/or lifestyle behaviors, he is at an increased risk for heart disease:

  • High levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • High blood pressure
  • Age over 45
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco use
  • Family history of heart disease

Every man should know his numbers and, if he is at increased risk, develop a plan with his health care provider to reduce them, Ballantyne said.

Symptoms

The buildup of plaque may be asymptomatic and occur over decades, but it is critical to know the signs and symptoms. Even if someone if having a heart attack, with immediate treatment and modern therapies, damage to the heart can be limited, Ballantyne said.

Warning signs may include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort, including pressure, squeezing, tightness, fullness or pain
  • Chest discomfort that radiates to the neck, jaw or arm
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, diaphoresis (excessive sweating) and pallor

Prevention

Heart disease prevention can be very successful. A few things to consider:

  • Reducing saturated fats, especially fried and processed foods.
  • Avoiding simple carbohydrates and reducing calories if overweight.
  • Exercising at least 30 to 60 minutes 5 to 6 days a week.