Heart disease is America’s number one killer, but, unlike many diseases, there is no particular age to begin screening for heart or vascular disease. Your primary care doctor or cardiologist might refer you to a heart or vascular specialist if you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease or symptoms that indicate that it may already be present.

While our Ohio State doctors are your partners in heart health, you are your own best advocate. Learn the risk factors and how to recognize the symptoms of heart and vascular problems. If something doesn’t seem right to you, talk to your doctor and don’t hesitate to make an appointment with one of Ohio State’s heart and vascular physicians today.

Heart attack

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort – pressure, squeezing or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the upper body – arms, shoulder, neck and back
  • Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness and sweating

Women can experience additional and different heart attack symptoms, including:

  • Discomfort in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Fainting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms

If you think you could be experiencing a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Vascular disease - the silent threat

Vascular disease affects the circulatory system outside of your heart. Vascular disease is often referred to as a silent threat, as the symptoms of vascular disease may be sudden or may not present themselves at all. If you have any of the risk factors below, talk with your physician to see if you are a candidate for a vascular screening test.

  • Are you more than 70 years of age?

  • Are you more than 50 years of age with a history of diabetes or smoking?

  • Are you under the age of 50 with a history of diabetes and other risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease?

Your family’s past can help predict your heart’s future

Inherited or genetic risk factors you are born with can’t be changed. However, knowing your family history can help you assess your potential risk of heart or vascular disease. You can manage the risks through medical intervention and healthy lifestyle changes.

These factors increase your risk of developing heart disease:

  • Inherited hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Inherited low levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins), high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides
  • A family history of heart disease (especially with onset before age 55)
  • Age (risk increases as you grow older)
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Menopause (generally, men are at risk at an earlier age than women, but after the onset of menopause, women are equally at risk)

Collecting your family’s heart history can help you determine a course of action that keeps you in good health. 

You can also check out our free online assessment tool – Family Healthlink – which allows you to enter your family medical history and determine your risk for cancer and coronary heart disease.

Heart and vascular specialists 

There are many specialists involved in the care of your heart. Your primary care doctor may refer you to one of the following:

  • Cardiac Surgeons: Cardiac surgeons specialize in treating heart-related disorders, including performing bypass surgery, valve repair and placement, and heart transplants
  • Cardiologists: Cardiologists focus on diagnosing and treating heart disease, including genetic or congenital (present at birth) disorders
  • Electrophysiologists: Electrophysiologists diagnose and treat heart rhythm problems like atrial fibrillation (AFib) and ventricular tachycardia
  • Interventional Cardiologists: Interventional cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart disease using procedures performed in cardiac catheterization labs like angiography or placing stents
  • Vascular Medicine Cardiologists: Vascular medicine cardiologists specialize in treating the veins and arteries outside of the heart, which may cause circulation problems in the arms and legs, commonly called peripheral vascular disease
  • Vascular Surgeons: Vascular surgeons treat conditions in the veins and arteries outside of the heart and problems associated with poor circulation
  • Cardiac Anesthesiologists Intensivists: Cardiac anesthesiologists intensivists manage the anesthesia aspects of care related to cardio-thoracic surgical cases, such as open heart surgery and lung surgery

What is Heart Disease?

Tom Ryan, MD, Director of Ohio State’s Heart and Vascular Center, explains what heart disease is, what the common signs and symptoms are of heart disease and when to seek care with a physician.

Cardiologist Thomas Ryan, M.D., discusses the symptoms and causes of heart disease.

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