Beware of heart disease

health conference: with Dr Johannes Marisa

Last Wednesday was World Heart Day where the global community paid attention to heart disease and the range of associated health issues.

The day is commemorated to promote different preventive steps and lifestyle changes to avoid cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure and any other related condition.

According to the World Health Organization, 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2019, or 32% of all deaths worldwide.

Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke. Heart disease takes many lives each year, alas, many people do not know much about heart disease, especially rural populations where disease diagnosis can be a challenge due to the limitations of the investigations required.

Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Heart disease includes the following:

  • Heart defects you were born with (congenital heart defects).
  • Heart valve disease.
  • Diseases of the heart muscle.
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
  • Heart infection.
  • Disease of the blood vessels such as coronary artery disease.

There are many symptoms associated with heart disease, but some of them vary depending on the type of heart disease present.

Below are some examples:

Symptoms of heart disease caused by congenital heart defects can present themselves in their own way.

Examples of such conditions include ductus arteriosus, ventricular communication, and tetralogy of Fallot.

These serious heart defects that are born with are usually noticed soon after birth.

These signs and symptoms include:

  • Pale gray or blue skin color (cyanosis).
  • Swelling in the legs, abdomen.
  • In an infant, shortness of breath during breastfeeding, leading to poor weight gain.

Symptoms of heart disease caused by problems with heart valves

The heart has four valves, the aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid that open and close to direct blood flow through your heart.

Many things can damage your heart valves, causing narrowing (stenosis), leakage (regurgitation), or improper closure (prolapse).

The signs and symptoms of heart valve disease are as follows:

  • Tired.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Irregular heart.
  • Swollen feet and ankles.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fainting.

Usually, heart disease presents with some symptoms and it is not long before you see your clinicians if you have some of the symptoms and signs.

Remember that the heart is the engine of the body, and stopping its function may signal your end.

Many people have suffered heart attacks while others have been in intensive care units for a long time because of heart disease. Therefore, pay attention to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Dry and persistent cough
  • Weakness or fatigue

Keep in mind that some of the symptoms listed above are also shared by conditions like liver disease, kidney disease, lung infections like tuberculosis, so pay attention to the necessary investigations.

What can make heart disease worse?

There are many habits and other pre-existing conditions that can make heart disease worse and it is imperative to be aware of them:

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • High salt intake: This can make blood pressure worse and put more strain on the heart
  • High cholesterol level: Cholesterol is one of the killers in the world and its blockage of heart vessels can put extra strain on the heart.

Cut down on foods that carry a lot of cholesterol. Cholesterol comes from animal products and products, but can be reduced by vegetables and fruits.

  • Arterial hypertension: This must be well controlled in order to avoid further damage to the heart. Religiously follow your medications.
  • Diabetes: Sugars must be well controlled to avoid complications from diabetes.
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Complications of heart disease include:

IHeart failure: It occurs when your heart fails to pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body and it can be caused by many conditions such as cardiomyopathy, heart infections, valvular heart disease.

  • Heart attack: A blood clot blocking blood flow in a blood vessel can cause a heart attack.
  • Stroke: The risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease can also lead to ischemic stroke, which occurs when your arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked.
  • Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of your artery and if it bursts, it’s a life-threatening scenario.

Surveys

There are blood or x-ray exams that can be done and the most common among them are:

Some blood: Complete blood count, lipid profile, heart enzymes, kidney function tests and liver function tests.

Radiological: Chest x-rays, ECG, echocardiography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.

Don’t take heart disease lightly. Any suspicion of such a stubborn illness should be investigated to avoid unnecessary deaths.


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