According to WHO, in India, cardiovascular diseases are the reason for the death of about 45% of the population between the ages 40 and 69 years. This statistic may be surprising, but rest assured, knowing that this article will shed light on everything you need to know about heart disease to keep you and your family safe.
What is heart disease?
Heart diseases are a subset of cardiovascular diseases, which affect the entire circulatory system. Heart diseases are those diseases that affect only the heart. Many types of heart disease can be broadly categorised into the following categories.
It is a heart disorder that causes abnormal rates of heartbeats. This is due to a problem with the electrical impulses that control the heartbeat. It could mean that your heartbeat is too fast, too slow, or too erratic. Most times, arrhythmia is harmless and will not cause any complications.
Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen and other nutrients from your heart to other parts of your body. The buildup of plaque within the arteries causes the arteries to narrow, leading to a shortage of blood and oxygen in other parts of your body. This is a common problem with aging, but it can easily be prevented and successful treatments also exist.
The heart is a powerful organ. It is the size of your folded palm but is strong enough to pump blood to all parts of your body. When this strength is reduced due to weakened or hardened muscles, it is called cardiomyopathy. It could manifest as irregular heartbeat and lead to heart failure without care. Cardiomyopathy is a serious condition, and medical care is essential.
- Congenital heart defects
Congenital heart defects is a defect that is present since birth. It could be issued with the development of the heart valve, wall, or blood vessel. These issues can range from benign conditions where patients live mostly uninterrupted and active lives to serious complications. Continuous care to support the defect might be required if the implications of the defect are severe.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease appears as irregular blood flow into the heart due to a cholesterol buildup in arteries. If left untreated, it could lead to a heart attack. This is the most common type of heart disease.
- Heart infections
Infections caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites in the heart fall under this category. It can affect the pericardium – the thin lining covering the heart, myocardium – inflammation of heart muscles, or endocardium – inner lining of the heart.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
Symptoms for the different types of heart disease are various and must be individually discussed.
The defining symptom is of an irregular heartbeat – too fast or too slow. It may feel like you have a racing heart or a flutter. Other symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Fainting spells
The narrowing blood vessels due to fatty deposits manifest majorly as chest pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include:
- Body Pain
- Coldness in the limbs
- Numbness in the limbs
- Weakness in the extremities
These symptoms may be difficult to relate to heart disease as they seem to have nothing to do with the heart. However, it is imperative to be aware of them.
- Shortness of breath
- Pounding or fluttering pulse
- Swollen legs, especially ankles
Congenital heart disease
Since these develop when the fetus is formed, symptoms should be found early. However, it is possible that some defects can go undiagnosed.
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of extremities
- Blue-tinged skin
Coronary artery disease
Significant symptoms to look out for are chest pain and discomfort. Other symptoms include:
- Pressure in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of indigestion
The most telling symptom of this heart disease is persistent coughing. Other symptoms are as follows:
- Chest pain
- Chest congestion
- Skin rash
When to see a doctor?
You should see a doctor if the symptoms are consistent for long periods. However, if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting, please visit immediately. Your doctor may perform several tests and examinations for further diagnosis. Please do mention if any family member has a history of heart diseases.
What are the causes of heart disease?
As different as each type of heart disease is, so are its causes. We will address each of the classes separately.
- Heart defects
- Stress and anxiety
- Excessive alcohol and caffeine use
Atherosclerosis and Coronary heart disease
- Plaque buildup
- Drug use
- Previous damage to the heart
Congenital heart disease
- Genetic predisposition
- Infections passed on from the mother
What is the treatment for heart disease?
Treatment for heart diseases depends on what type of heart disease and how far it has progressed. It is broadly classified into three categories.
- Lifestyle changes
This is important to not only prevent heart diseases but not to worsen them. A good diet that is low in sodium and rich in fruits and vegetables is one of the significant improvement areas. Another improvement could be in your exercise regimen and cutting down on alcohol and tobacco consumption.
Doctors might prescribe medications to cure and control heart disease. Exactly what kind of medication depends on the condition itself.
- Surgery or invasive procedures
In cases where necessary, surgical procedures may be required to restore the normal functioning of the heart. For example, if your arteries are clogged up, techniques such as bypass surgery or a cardiac stent are performed to restore normal blood flow.
A combination of one or more of these methods will be used by the doctors as treatment. For example, while if it is a heart infection, only antibiotics may be prescribed, but if it is plaque buildup, medication, and lifestyle changes, it may be recommended.
How can you prevent heart disease?
Good diet and exercise are the most important steps you can take towards preventing heart disease, but so many others. Any kind of substance abuse, namely tobacco and alcohol, is not recommended. Other factors that influence heart diseases are stress. Find ways to relax and manage your stress.
There are three types of diagnostic methods that can be used to diagnose heart disease.
- Physical examination and blood tests
The first thing any doctor will do is examine the patient and make a note of the symptoms that they have been experiencing. Try to be as accurate as possible with the information you tell your doctor. This will help them decide the best diagnosis.
- Non-Invasive tests
Based on an examination and blood tests, they might want to observe your heart under stress in a stress test, or view the electrical activity through an electrocardiogram (ECG) or capture the structure of the heart through an echocardiogram.
- Invasive tests
If both the above methods prove to be inconclusive, the behavior of the heart may be observed through angiography or electrophysiology study.
Heart disease is common, and if it’s not genetic, it is preventable. A good diet and exercise can do wonders for your cardiovascular system. If you are concerned about developing heart disease, do consult with your doctor to take steps to reduce your risks. On the other hand, if you develop any symptoms, do not push your doctor’s appointment as it is always better to diagnose at the earliest.
Who is most at risk for heart diseases?
People with high blood pressure and cholesterol, a habit of smoking, and low levels of physical inactivity are more likely to develop heart diseases.
Do men and women have different symptoms?
Concerning CAD, women do not show classic symptoms like chest pain and tingling. They have reported experiencing unexplained fatigue, anxiety, and sleep disturbances at least a month before their heart attack.
What is healthy blood pressure?
Healthy blood pressure is considered less than 120/80 mmHg. Higher numbers indicate that the heart is working harder to pump.