Heart disease is a broad term used to describe conditions that affect the heart, from irregular heartbeat to congenital heart failure and cardiomyopathy. Luckily, most of these conditions are preventable.

Bayhealth cardiologist Dr. Pedro Perez of Bayhealth Cardiology Consultants says a patient can’t help if a certain heart condition is hereditary, but environmental risks can be prevented. Risk factors that can be modified include:

Managing a heart healthy diet Maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels Making physical activity a habit Quitting smoking

“Making a habit of living a healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of heart disease,” Perez said. “People don’t always realize the vast benefits of a healthy lifestyle. For years, physicians recommended that taking aspirin would help reduce heart disease. Too often we’re convinced that we should take a pill to achieve a goal, but you can reach the same goal by making exercise and eating right a habit.”

Moreover, you’re not in this alone. Perez recommends asking the people around you – family, friends and physicians – for help and support. This will make the process easier and more enjoyable.

Do things together. Eat together. Exercise together. Soon you’ll achieve change together.

“The first step is creating a routine and sticking with it,” Perez says. “If you put your mind to it, you will build the first stage of making a healthy life a routine. Eventually it will become easier and you’ll start to feel different. You will get through this. Don’t give up, it will pay off.”

Heart disease symptoms include chest pain, rapid breathing, dizziness, nausea, and sweating. For women especially, the symptoms can be different. For example, the pain may be in their neck and/or back rather than chest. The reality is that any new symptom or significant clinical change for men or women should alert to the possibility of underlying heart disease as the culprit, and seeking medical attention is recommended, Perez said.

Visit Bayhealth.org/Cardiovascular for more information on the Cardiovascular Services available at Bayhealth. Find your Bayhealth physician at Bayhealth.org/physicians or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (3627).