18Cardiovascular disease claims more lives across the globe every year than any other disease or condition, and many of those fatalities are credited to heart disease.

Though the terms “cardiovascular disease” and “heart disease” are often used interchangeably, the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute notes that, while all heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, not all cardiovascular diseases are heart diseases.

This is an important distinction, especially as adults discuss heart and cardiovascular health with their physicians. The NHLBI reports that more than one in 10 American adults have been diagnosed with heart disease, which underscores the serious threat posed by the various conditions that fall under the umbrella of the condition.

Though NHLBI data indicates around 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases each year, many of those deaths are preventable. Education is one of the ways in which deaths due to heart disease can be prevented.

That’s especially true when individuals learn to recognize warning signs of the disease and take prompt action once such indicators appear.

Chest pain: Discomfort between the neck and upper abdomen is characterized as chest pain, which does not necessarily indicate the presence of heart disease. However, the experts at Mount Sinai indicate that chest pain is the most common symptom of poor blood flow to the heart or a heart attack. Chest pain may occur because the heart isn’t getting enough oxygen or blood.

It’s important that individuals recognize that the intensity of pain in the chest does not indicate the severity of the problem. That means that even mild discomfort in the chest should be brought to the attention of a physician immediately.

Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath can occur because the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should, thus causing blood to back up in the veins that go from the lungs to the heart. Mount Sinai notes that this results in fluid leaking into the lungs, thus producing shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can occur at any time, including when individuals are active or at rest.

Coughing or wheezing: Another indicator of fluid buildup in the lungs related to the heart is persistent coughing or wheezing. When coughing, individuals may spit up a pink or bloody mucus.

Swelling in the lower legs: Mount Sinai notes that swelling in the legs, ankles or feet is another indicator of heart troubles. One of the by-products of a poorly functioning heart is slower blood flow, and that reduction in flow can cause a backup in the veins of the legs. That backup can cause fluid to build up in the tissues, which leads to swelling.

Heart disease is a significant threat to public health. Learning to recognize signs of the disease can save an untold number of lives.

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