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Men's Health: Heart disease

A blue 3D drawing of a human heart with large red blood cells flowing out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 321,000 men died from heart disease in 2013, or one in every four male deaths. (NIH courtesy image) A blue 3D drawing of a human heart with large red blood cells flowing out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 321,000 men died from heart disease in 2013, or one in every four male deaths. (NIH courtesy image)

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NORFOLK , Va. — The number one threat to men's health in the United States is cardiovascular disease, or heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 321,000 men died from heart disease in 2013, or one in every four male deaths. Making just a few lifestyle changes can significantly lower the risk of heart disease.

Common risk factors of heart disease are smoking, drugs, alcohol, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity and being overweight, an unhealthy diet and stress.

"There are modifiable factors you can change and unmodifiable factors you can't change," said Navy Lt. Ruth Cortes, physician assistant. "Modifiable factors are things you can change like your smoking or dietary habits. Unmodifiable factors are things like age, your gender, your race and family history."

To lower their risk of getting a cardiovascular disease, people can maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, not use tobacco products, limit alcohol consumption and have yearly physical examinations to identify any changes in their health.

“Common risk factors [I see] include tobacco use which includes cigarettes, dip, vaping and cigars; high blood pressure or high cholesterol," said Navy Lt. Stephanie Horigan, critical care nurse. "Over half of the patients in hospitals for cardiovascular disease generally have high blood pressure or cholesterol or they use tobacco or a combination of the three."

While both the civilian and military sectors have their share of risk factors, there are many factors the military has that the civilian sector does not.

"We are exposed to an environment of higher stress," said Cortes. "We have easier accessibility to fast food and poor food either on base or off base because they are always close by, peer pressure to start drinking and smoking which can affect cardiovascular risk, and the environmental factors that can't be changed such as deployments and workload."

Only half of all patients who suffer from heart attacks show symptoms prior to the attack. Symptoms of sudden cardiac events, or heart attacks, include feeling dizzy, racing heartbeat and jaw or arm pain.

"There is no definitive way to know if you have cardiovascular disease unless you see a medical professional but you can know if you have a higher risk," said Horigan. "If you're overweight, you're a smoker and your mother and father have heart disease, there is a good chance your risk of heart disease is much higher."

According to the 2014 Defense Manpower Data Center's Active Duty Military Personnel Master File, 83.5 percent of all service members are male.

"Men rarely ever go see a doctor because men are supposed to be tough," said Cortes. "There are many studies on it. They're humiliated or called out if they want to go see a doctor even if it's a legitimate issue. They put it off and put it off until they pass out on the field and someone has to bring them in for dehydration. I think it's harder for men in the military because of the way they think they're going to get treated."

Although it is typical of men to avoid seeing a doctor, it is best for them and their family if they didn't wait until a condition is severe or irreversible to treat. The earlier a cardiovascular disease is identified, the better the chances of survival.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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