Heart disease

Let’s talk about caring for your heart

Caring for your heart can be a big step forward for your health. Knowing what heart disease is and how it works may help you on your way. Because it may be possible to prevent heart disease. And it may be in reach for you.

What’s at the heart of heart disease?

Let’s explore what heart disease actually is. Also known as cardiovascular disease, it can be a very serious condition. The simplest way to say it is that heart disease prevents the heart from pumping blood the way it should. That means blood may have trouble getting to your heart, lungs and other organs.

Here's the good news — there are ways to take charge. With small changes, you may stabilize or perhaps improve some of the causes of heart disease.

What are symptoms of heart disease?

Heart disease symptoms aren’t always clear. There could be many symptoms — or none at all.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort (angina)

  • Pressure or a squeezing feeling in the shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, arms or back

  • Shortness of breath

  • Irregular or fast heartbeat

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Fatigue or weakness

  • Cold sweat

  • Nausea or vomiting

Check in with your doctor

Help may be in reach if you’re having symptoms of heart disease. Talk to your doctor or health care provider. The sooner you get help for heart disease and learn ways to make positive changes, the better you may feel.

Questions to ask your doctor about heart disease

Here are a few sample questions you might want to ask your doctor about heart disease.

  • What should my blood pressure be? How often should it be checked?
  • What should my cholesterol and triglyceride levels be? How often should they be checked?
  • What should my blood sugar level be? How often should it be checked?
  • What other screening tests for heart disease do I need?
  • What’s a healthy weight and waist measurement for me?
  • What lifestyle changes would you suggest for me?
  • Can you suggest any resources that could help me lose weight or stop smoking?
  • How often should I see you for a wellness checkup?

Did you know there are many types or heart disease?

Each type of heart disease has its own risks and concerns. Knowing each type may help you watch out for signs.

Type of heart disease  Risk and concerns
Coronary artery disease (CAD)

This is the most common type of heart disease. Here’s what may happen:

  • Plaque (a waxy substance) builds up in the arteries, making them hard and narrow
  • Less blood can flow through the arteries
  • The heart muscle may not get the blood or oxygen it needs

At its most severe, coronary heart disease (CHD), can cause chest pain, a heart attack or stroke.

Heart Failure What does heart failure really mean? It may sound like your heart has given up. But it really means your heart may not squeeze blood with enough force to meet your body’s needs. Heart failure can happen over many years. So, you can learn ways to try to avoid it or take care of yourself if it happens. 

A steady regular heart beat is important to your health. An arrthymia is when that steady beat is off.

  • If your heartbeat is irregular, it may hurt your lungs, brain and other organs
  • Luckily, an irregular heart beat may often be controlled or sometimes even corrected with the help of your doctors

Correcting arrhythmia is important to help protect your organs from possible damage.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

This kind of heart disease happens most commonly in the legs. It may be caused by build-up of plaque inside the artery and blocks the blood vessel.

  • Plaque builds up in arteries to your arms and legs, as well as other parts of your body.
  • That makes it harder for blood and oxygen to flow to your muscles and other tissue.

Know the risk factors for heart disease

With heart disease, there may be some risk factors you can control — and some you can’t.

What you may not be able to control

  • Age (for women the risk goes up after age 55)

  • Having a family history of early heart disease

  • Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy

  • Also, some ethnic groups are more likely to get heart disease. This includes African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.

What you may be able to control

  • High blood pressure

  • High blood cholesterol

  • Diabetes and prediabetes

  • Smoking

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Being physically inactive

  • An unhealthy diet

3 facts to know about heart disease

  1. Heart diseases are the leading cause of death for both women and men.1
  2. Heart disease claims an estimated 17.9 million lives worldwide each year.2
  3. It may lead to potentially deadly health problems like a heart attack or stroke.

Here's a to-do list for a healthier heart

Let’s go over a few ways you may be able to lower your possible risk for heart disease. 

Eat smart

Certain foods may give your heart a boost. Bring more veggies and fruits to the table. Then, pair them with lean meats and whole grains. These foods give you healthy fats, antioxidants and minerals — all to help your heart stay strong. Your heart will thank you if you put red meat and trans fats aside too. Check into the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet – both tasty ways to start your heart-happy eating.

Set weight goals

Let’s be honest – for many of us, losing weight can be hard. But your heart may be better off if you do. Bonus: you may lower your risk for diabetes too. Ask your doctor to help you set a goal weight. And then get a kick-start with Real Appeal® — it’s an online weight loss program that may be included with your health plan. Check your health plan benefits to see if Real Appeal is available to you.

Get active

What’s your favorite way to get moving? It could be a brisk walk or sit-ups before bedtime. Start slowly and find what you like to do. With 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week, you may see positive changes.3 Add a few strength exercises on two or more days a week, and you’ll be on a roll. If you’re new to exercise, check with your doctor first.

Stop smoking

Smoking is hard on your heart.4 It may make your heart beat faster or irregularly. It may raise your blood pressure. It may make your arteries tighter and less flexible and damage the inside of the arteries. All of this increases your possible risk of heart attack or stroke. Quitting may be your smartest move yet.

If you’ve tried to quit smoking but slipped back, you can always try again. Doctors and healthcare providers may be able to help. Check out the UnitedHealthcare Quit for Life program. It could be the answer you need.

Learn about heart disease management programs from UnitedHealthcare

For eligible members, UnitedHealthcare provides several heart disease management programs, including Coronary Artery Disease, Heart Failure Disease and Congenital Heart Disease. If you think you might be eligible, call the number on your health plan ID card and talk with a representative.