Caring for your heart includes making small changes in lifestyle and avoiding risk factors to improve heart health. The heart is a muscular organ, situated behind and slightly left to the breast bone. The heart pumps blood through the network of arteries and veins, which are collectively called the cardiovascular system. The group of disorders in the cardiovascular system like hypertension ( high blood pressure), coronary heart disease ( heart attack), cerebrovascular disease( stroke) are called cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Cardiovascular diseases are one of the prominent killers causing one in three deaths worldwide.
Heart disease in women:- People generally think heart disease- as a problem for men. But in women also, it is the leading cause of death. In the year 2017 in the U.S. alone, for one in every five deaths among women- heart disease was the cause. Whereas the cause of death due to breast cancer was one in thirty-eight. It is considered a silent killer. Two third of women who died due to coronary heart disease had no symptoms of heart disease. Therefore it is important to get your regular checkups from your healthcare provider.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It affects the heart and blood vessels. Heart disease has several forms- the most common is coronary artery disease (CAD). or coronary heart disease ( CHD). It affects blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients to heart muscles and is mostly associated with heart attacks. Another type is a cerebrovascular disease (CVD). In cerebrovascular disease blood vessels supplying blood to the brain get impacted. It leads to stroke.
What causes coronary Heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is caused by the deposition of hard patches (plaque) in the blood vessels carrying blood to the heart. The plaque is made up of cholesterol– a fat-like substance found in the blood. The deposition of plaque causes arteries ( blood vessels carrying blood to the heart) to become narrow and less flexible. This condition is called atherosclerosis. Generally, it does not have any symptoms.
Heart attack is caused when plaque gets detached from the walls of blood vessels and forms a clot in the artery-blocking the supply of blood to the heart. As a result of the blockage, the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles of the heart gets hampered. It leads to decay or death of the muscles of the heart which are responsible for pumping blood to the various body parts. Coronary heart disease may lead to a heart attack or heart failure.
A heart attack usually happens suddenly. The arteries carrying the blood flow to the heart get blocked. Thus the heart muscles can not get nourishment and oxygen. It results in the death of the heart muscles.
Heart failure is a chronic condition. It happens, due to the weakening of the heart muscles. As a result, the heart can not pump enough blood, carrying nourishment and oxygen to the body parts. It happens slowly with time. However, two-thirds of cases of heart failure are due to heart attacks.
What are symptoms of heart attack?
For some people, the first sign of heart disease may be a heart attack. Following are a few symptoms of heart attack:-
- Pain or feeling of pressure in the central chest area, may feel like heaviness or aching.
- Pain and discomfort in body upper parts as the neck, jaws, arms, back, and stomach above the belly button.
- Trouble in breathing
- Nausea, vomiting, the feeling of tiredness, and cold sweating.
- Indigestion or heart burn.
- Heart palpitations (irregular beats).
- Increased heart rate (‘racing’ heart).
Generally, the most common symptom of heart attack is chest pain or a feeling of discomfort. One study reported that four out of ten women experienced no chest pain during a heart attack. Many women who suffered a heart attack- simply felt that they had indigestion. Seeking immediate medical advice is suggested on experiencing heart attack symptoms.
What are symptoms of heart failure?
Following are the few symptoms of heart failure:-
- Breathlessness especially when lying down.
- Wheezing or coughing.
- Fast or irregular heartbeats.
- Swelling around ankles, legs, or stomach areas.
- Weight gain due to fluid retention.
- Excessive fatigue.
Caring for your heart- Risk factors for heart disease.
Most risk factors for heart disease depend upon age and gender. Generally, men are at greater risk than women at an early age. In men, the risk grows at about the age of 45 years and continues to grow with the age. But in women mostly the risk rises after menopause ( menopause is the time that marks the end of menstrual cycles). When the protective effect of estrogen (female hormone) diminishes. Around 65 years of age, the risk factors for heart disease rise substantially in women.
Two out of every three women die due to coronary heart disease without any previous symptoms. One of the common risk factors is the family history of heart disease. If someone in your family has heart disease- caring for your heart health is always advisable. Following are the few risk factors:-
- High cholesterol level and or high triglycerides (hyperlipidimia).
- Family history of the disease.
- Lack of exercise (Sedentary lifestyle).
- Unhealthy eating pattern.
- Lack of sleep.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Alcohol consumption
HIV and heart disease
HIV ( human immunodeficiency virus) infection is caused by coming in contact with an HIV-infected person’s blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. Most people get HIV infection by indulging in unprotected sex. Another possible reason is sharing needles with someone already infected with HIV. If remaining untreated it may lead to AIDS ( acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), People with HIV are at higher risk of heart disease than other people. HIV may cause inflammation to blood vessels and the heart- which raises the risk of heart disease. Some HIV-treating drugs may also increase the risk for heart disease.
People with HIV should consult their healthcare provider to find out their risk factors for heart disease and take suggested steps to reduce- the risk factors for heart disease.
Caring for your heart- risk factors
Ignorance is a major risk factor. Caring for your heart by, timely consultation, modern medicines, and making suggested and disciplined lifestyle changes like:-
- Morning walks.
- Dietary restrictions.
- Leading a stress-free life.
- Restricting the use of tobacco and alcohol.
- Maintaining healthy B.M.I.
- Regularly checking and controlling blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and Hypertension.
Caring for your heart- Naturally
Heart disease is a growing concern. Your healthcare provider can measure your risk of getting heart disease by checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and your family history. If you have symptoms- with a few tests he can diagnose, that you have heart disease and accordingly suggest you treatment, precautions, and lifestyle changes.
Following are the few effective ways that may help you- caring for your heart health – naturally:-
Consume healthy diet
Caring for your heart requires consuming a diet containing vitamins and minerals necessary for the normal functioning of your heart. The following diet can help to support your heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation.
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Oats and barley
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Low fat dairy products
- Olive oil
Avoid processed foods as it contains an excessive amount of sodium – a silent but harmful ingredient for your heart. The average American gets 80% of their daily sodium requirement from processed foods alone. By avoiding or limiting the use of processed foods you can be able to limit your sodium intake. Thus taking care of your heart.
Optimum sleeping hours
Getting optimum sleeping hours (seven to nine hours) every night with good quality of sleep- plays an important role in caring for your heart health. Reduced sleeping hours increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease regardless of age, weight, smoking, and exercise habits. Too little sleep impacts the normal body functioning and affects blood pressure- A precursor to heart disease. Whereas too much sleep can also impact heart health in a negative way. Thus fixing your sleeping schedule and getting good quality and quantity of sleep plays important role in caring for your heart. For more reading- How heart health is linked to quality sleep? <<= Click here
Remaining physically active and adopting a habit of exercising daily- plays a vital role in caring for your heart health. It is very effective to strengthen your heart muscles, reduce obesity, prevent arterial damage from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high sugar levels- major risk factors for heart disease. Adopting a 30-minute exercise schedule per day may help you -caring for your heart health in an effective way. Consult your healthcare provider for the type of exercises needed for you.
The body’s normal functioning gets adversely affected- when the toxic mix of more than 7000 chemicals of cigarette smoking is inhaled in. During normal functioning of breathing- oxygen from the air is absorbed by your lungs and passed through the blood to the heart for pumping to different body parts for the production of energy for various body activities.
When cigarette smoking- is inhaled- the blood gets contaminated with harmful chemicals. These chemicals can damage your heart and blood vessels. Which may lead to cardiovascular disease- the leading cause of all deaths in the United States. Thus quitting smoking plays a major role in taking care of your heart health.
Cutting down your stress levels
In nowadays busy life stress is inevitable. Short-term occasional stress can be useful. But long term persistent stress is not good for your heart health. Stress may lead to high blood pressure- which can pose a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Stress may further contribute to other risk factors for cardiovascular disease like- smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity. As per a study in 2017 in The Lancet, Schiffrin said – “Chronic stress has been shown to be associated with increased cardiovascular events.”
Adopting habits of practicing yoga and meditation can play a great role in caring for your heart. For more details on how to cut down stress levels?
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By caring for your heart- your whole body gets benefitted. A healthy heart leads to a healthy physical body with better quality of life and allows you to give your best performance. Caring for your heart needs adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, which includes- quitting smoking, drinking in moderation, concentrating on eating healthy meals, regular medical checkups, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, and cutting down your stress levels.
Please take proper care of your heart. For treatment consult your healthcare provider.
For awareness purposes only.
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