Heart Diseases: Looking Up For Signs And Preventing Them
"A healthy heart beats about 2.5 million times over the average lifetime. It works round the clock, pushing gallons of blood to every part of the body, carrying oxygen, hormones, and a host of essential cells. It also eliminates the waste products of metabolism."
Given the never-ending workload of this essential organ, it’s surprising how it performs so well, for so long, for most of the people. But it can also fail and its functioning can be interrupted by a poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, defected genes, and more. Interruptions caused to the functioning of the heart is what we often refer to as heart disease.
The term ‘heart diseases’ refers to a variety of conditions that affect the heart, ranging from infections to genetic defects and even blood-vessel diseases. Although most heart diseases can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices, it still remains the leading cause of death around the globe and across most races.
Common Signs Of An Unhealthy Heart
- Chest Discomfort: The most common sign that your heart is in danger is chest discomfort. Feeling pressure, tightness, or pain in the heart can be an indication of a blocked artery or an approaching heart attack.
- Nausea, Indigestion, Heartburn, or Stomach Pain: Often people have these symptoms during, or just before, a heart attack. Women are more likely to have these symptoms than men.
- Unexplained Aches Or Pains: The blockage of the blood supply may cause the heart to work harder which can lead to pain. However, the pain is not always felt in the chest. Sometimes, it is felt in the shoulders, arms, back, jaw, or abdomen.
- Shortness Of Breath: Unexplained shortness of breath that occurs with small amounts of exercise or daily activities could be an indication of an unhealthy heart that needs help.
- Swollen Feet or Ankles: Swollen limbs may signal heart diseases. When blood is not being pumped properly, it gets collected in the areas furthest away from the heart. If you find your hands or feet swollen for a long time, you must visit a doctor.
- Numbness/Coldness In The Limbs: If the blood flow is interrupted due to clogged arteries or other heart-related issues you may experience numbness or coldness in your limbs.
- Excessive Sweating: Sweating more than usual without exercising is another warning sign of heart problems. Sweating aggressively and suddenly could be an indication of an approaching heart attack.
- Dark Specks Under The Nails: Unexplained specks under your nails and blue or purple discoloration (cyanosis) can be signs of congenital heart disease.
- Fainting: Though fainting could be a result of weakness, dehydration, and several other things, it can also be a result of hidden heart problems. Therefore, if you are uncertain about the reason for your fainting, you must consult your doctor.
- Back Ache: Heart-related diseases don’t just trigger pain in the chest, they can activate nerves that can cause pain elsewhere, including the back. So if you’ve been dealing with back pain and discomfort that doesn't seem to be triggered by anything, you must visit your doctor.
How To Prevent Heart Failure And Other Heart Diseases?
There are several risk factors associated with heart diseases that one cannot change, such as age, gender, family history, etc. However, there are other contributing factors that can be controlled which may help prevent heart diseases. The following are some minor lifestyle changes you can adapt to prevent and reduce the risks of heart diseases.
- Managing cholesterol
- Managing weight
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking or limiting tobacco intake
- Managing stress
- Ensuring that you get enough sleep
Prevalence Of Coronary Artery Disease In India V/S Western Countries
Over the past two decades, the prevalence of coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular diseases in India has increased tremendously. The reasons include population growth, aging, and stable age-adjusted cardiovascular disease mortality rate. During this same time period, the United States has seen an overall decline in age-adjusted cardiovascular disease mortality rate. This is because of favorable population-level risk factor trends, specifically related to tobacco use, cholesterol, and blood pressure. In addition to this, improvements in secondary prevention and acute care have also contributed to this decline. For similar trends to follow, India needs to implement population-level policies while strengthening and integrating its local, regional, and national health systems.
Dr Rajeev Garg
MBBS, MD(Med), DNB (Cardio)
Dip. Card(NIMS), MNAMS, FSCAI, FESC
Sr. Consultant – Interventional Cardiologist
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.