Ten matters of the heart

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 00:00 |
Heart. Photo/Courtesy

It is the most critical muscle, the one that keeps you alive. Ahead of World Heart Day this Sunday, Philips Foundation partnered with World Heart Federation to create awareness on cardiovascular diseases. Here are some facts they raised, writes GRACE WACHIRA

Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels.

They include: coronary heart disease -— disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle; cerebrovascular disease — disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain; peripheral arterial disease — disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs; rheumatic heart disease — damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria; congenital heart disease — malformations of heart structure existing at birth; deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.

Deaths by CVDs

About 20 to 30 per cent of deaths in Kenya are caused by cardiovascular diseases. It is the leading cause of premature deaths in the world.

Dr Mohamed Jeilan, section head of cardiology and the director of cardiac services at the Aga Khan University Hospital,says patients die from cardiac arrest because those close to them do not know which action to take in case of an emergency.

Currently, about nine in 10 people who have cardiac arrest outside the hospital die. But Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help improve those odds if performed in the first few minutes.

CPR uses chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps. These compressions help keep blood flowing throughout the body.

Main cause

Heart attacks are usually acute events and are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood flowing to the heart or brain.

The most common reason for this is a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart or brain.

Mild symptoms

Although a heart attack can be a scary first sign of trouble, sometimes the body offers subtler symptoms that something is wrong with your heart.

These include extreme fatigue, swollen feet, pain or cramping when climbing, walking, or moving, feeling dizzy or light-headed, shortness of breath, depression, migraines, loud heartbeat, combined anxiety, sweating and nausea attacks.

Risk factors

In a recent study by the European Heart Journal, overweight or obese individuals with healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol readings are about 28 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than individuals with similar readings and a healthy bodyweight.

Pre-packaged and sugary food and drinks, contribute to the major risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, raised blood sugar and raised blood fats. Your daily fat intake should not exceed 30 per cent. 

The disease does not discriminate

It’s a myth that CVDs mostly affect affluent, male and older populations –it does not discriminate and can affect all ages and population groups. Contrary to common belief, women are as affected as men, and children are vulnerable too.

Heart disease causes one in three female deaths each year, and one million babies are born each year with congenital heart defect.

At least 60 per cent of patients who go to hospital with heart attacks are between 20 and 30 years.

Preventive measures

 Simple behavioural changes and taking care of your health can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

A healthy heart and circulation system starts with a balanced diet, along with other healthy lifestyle choices, a heart-healthy diet may reduce the risk of someone developing heart disease or having a stroke by 80 per cent.

Including plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and with restricted salt, sugar and fat intake in your diet can substantially reduce the risk of developing CVD.

Sitting is the new smoking

 You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. Numerous studies show spending most of the day seated has been linked to chronic health conditions, including heart disease.

When you are more active, even with smaller movements like when you stand or shift from side to side, your muscles turn on genes that create chemicals and proteins that not only help process blood sugar and cholesterol more efficiently, but also create a healthier atmosphere in the walls of your blood vessels.

That then leads to a lower heart disease risk, which is why you should stand up and move around at least every hour for a few minutes.

Laughter: The good heart medicine

A good belly laugh can send 20 per cent more blood flowing through your entire body. One study found that when people watched a funny movie, their blood flow increased.

That’s why laughter might just be the perfect antidote to stress. When you laugh, the lining of your blood vessel walls relaxes and expands. So have a good giggle. Your heart will thank you.

Managing CVDs

When heart muscle is damaged by heart attack, it cannot regrow. Once a heart attack occurs and heart muscle dies, those cells cannot be regenerated.

When damage to the heart muscle causes the heart to fail, a mechanical assist device  can help the heart pump more strongly. Another option is a heart transplant.

These measures don’t cure the disease, but they do allow patients to recover and live long, functional lives.

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