Heart disease (also known as cardiovascular disease, or CVD) is a common term collecting several types of medical conditions related to the work of main arteries and heart. Frequently, two main health problems are implied when talking about heart disease: coronary artery diseases (also known as CAD) and heart attack.
The medical conditions related to heart disease are caused by the dysfunctions of the blood flow. The lining of larger coronary arteries can build up so called plaque — a waxy substance, that partially or fully blocks the blood flow.
These dysfunctions can be caused by a number of reasons, usually relating to some bad lifestyle habits, which we will analyze in this article.
Heart Disease Statistics
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. It means, that there is no other disease in the world, which brings more deaths then cardiovascular disease and heart attacks related to it. Here are some numbers on this disease from the report of the World Health Organization and fact sheet from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention:
- 17.9 million people died from medical conditions related to heart disease alone in the year 2016 (31% of all deaths in this year globally)
- The leading cause of death (85%) is either a heart attack or a stroke
- Every 37 second a person dies from cardiovascular diseases alone in the United States of America
- More than 18 million people over the age of 20 in the USA suffer from the cardiovascular disease
- More than $200 million is spent yearly in the USA for the heart disease treatment
- Most cases of cardiovascular disease could have been easily prevented by the healthy lifestyle
Symptoms of Heart Disease
It is very complicated to detect heart disease on the early stages because it usually runs silently until the severe symptoms become obvious. These symptoms are:
- Chest pain or strong discomfort, also called angina
- Pain or strong discomfort in shoulder or arms
- Pain or strong discomfort in the back, jaw, or neck
- The feeling of spontaneous weakness, nausea or light-headedness
- Breath shortness
- Fluttering feelings in the chest, also called arrhythmia
If you experience the listed above symptoms or see other person experiencing them, immediately call the emergency medical care service. It is crucial to receive the professional medical care in the case of heart attack as soon as possible
Heart Disease Risk Factors
The risk of getting heart disease can be obtained both from controlled and uncontrolled factors. The aging and your family health history belong to the uncontrolled factors. However, there are much more factors, relating to our personal lifestyle, which lead to the increased heart disease risks.
Health Conditions Increasing the Heart Disease Risk
- High blood pressure. The uncontrolled high blood pressure in the arteries and other blood vessels can affect all organs of your body, firstly including heart, brain and kidneys. The high blood pressure has practically no symptoms, that is why it should be measured and controlled permanently.
- Unhealthy cholesterol level in blood. Cholesterol is actually a substance our liver produces for the body needs, but we can easily get too much of this substance from food. The extra cholesterol we take builds up walls in the arteries and decreases the blood flow to the heart and other organs. High level of cholesterol has no visible symptoms and can only be seen after the medical check.
- Diabetes. This disease leads to the disturbance of sugar digestion by our body. The extra sugar can build up in the blood and worsen the medical conditions of the heart related diseases. The risk of death from heart disease is significantly increased with diabetes.
- Obesity. The excess body fat is directly connected with the high cholesterol level, as well as high blood pressure and diabetes. As we have already acknowledged, all these factors worsen the heart disease flow and increase the death risk from it.
Lifestyle Habits Increasing the Heart Disease Risk
- Unhealthy nutrition. Eating too much food with saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, salt and sugar leads to all of the above listed heath conditions increasing heart disease risk and mortality rate.
- Insufficient physical activity. Regular physical activity lowers the chances to get obesity, high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as diabetes. It is also hardening your heart muscles and other organs.
- Alcohol consumption. Alcohol has a direct influence on the blood pressure, increasing chances of getting the chronic high blood pressure. Alcohol drinks also tend to have lots of sugar, which increases the risk of getting diabetes and obesity.
- Smoking. Smokers and secondhand smokers are taking lots of additional risks, including heart and blood vessel damage from nicotine, high blood pressure, and reduced oxygen perception.
- Low quality of sleep. Our heart, blood vessels and other organs need some relaxation, which they can get during the sleep. Having not enough good quality of sleep can severely damage our body and increase the heart disease risk.
- Stress. Our blood pressure is reacting to any stress as to a potentially dangerous situation. In this state, our blood pressure is maximized to provide all organs with extra energy. In reality, the modern types of stress do not require this mechanism and it is only damaging our body with a constant blood pressure changes.
Heart Disease Diagnosis and Prevention
The diagnostic and preventive measures related to heart disease are not randomly united under the one title. The best prevention method for the heart disease is to let your physician check your health state constantly. The following tests are crucial for the early diagnosis of heart disease and lowering your chances of this medical condition worsening:
- Cholesterol check. This test should be taken at least once a week. If you already have got the high cholesterol diagnosis, it should be checked even more often. Consult with your physician to make this blood test as simple as possible.
- Blood pressure check. This test can be performed not only at a physician`s office, but also in a pharmacy or even at home, if you have a corresponding device. People without high blood pressure diagnosis should be checked at least once every 2 years. As you get older, the check should be performed more and more often.
- Sugar level check. This point is especially important for patients with diabetes. Even if you do not have diabetes, the blood test showing your sugar level should be performed at least once every 2 years, and more often as you get older.
It is also very important to get rid of all the bad lifestyle habits listed above, if you want to stay away from heart disease medical conditions, especially when you grow older.
Heart Disease Treatment
There are 3 essential ways to treat heart disease medical condition, which are gradually increasing your physician`s intervention in the process as soon as it gets worse: healthy lifestyle changes, medicines and medical procedures.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
To prevent heart disease or to treat it on the early stages, one should:
- Keep the healthy weight — to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and other complications
- Stay physically active — to strengthen your heart muscles and blood vessels
- Eat healthy food — to minimize risks of obesity, high cholesterol and other risk factors
- Manage stress — to get rid of the unnecessary blood pressure changes
- Sleep well — to provide your body with a needed level of relaxation
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol — to cut off the most common risk factors of all known diseases
The following medicines are commonly used to deal with the symptoms of the heart disease:
- ACE inhibitors and beta blockers: lower the blood pressure and help to cope with the heart's workload
- Calcium channel blockers: lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels
- Empagliflozin, canagliflozin and similar medicines: control the level of sugar in blood
- Metformin: control plaque buildup inside the arteries
- Nitroglycerin and other nitrates: prevent chest pain from angina through dilating the coronary arteries
- Ranolazine: coronary microvascular disease treatment and chest pain decreasing
- Statins/non-statin therapies: control the level of cholesterol in blood
As always, surgery is being used only in severe and critical cases and may include:
- Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI): the procedure aims to open coronary arteries, which were narrowed or blocked by plaque.
- Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG): the surgery connects extra arteries from chest and extra veins from legs to the heart to build up a new path for blood to the heart, bypassing the obstructed arteries.
- Transmyocardial laser revascularization: the procedure treats severe chest pain cases related to heart disease conditions.
Heart disease is a serious medical condition, which is very often caused by our own poor lifestyle choices and decisions. Try to pay more attention to what you eat and drink, how you sleep and get over stress, and you will help yourself to prevent heart disease without any medications.
Keep yourself physically active and mentally strong to stay healthy for decades!