Few people are unaware of heart disease and its potentially devastating effects. But many may not known that the term “heart disease” is a blanket term used to describe several health problems related to the heart.
According to the World Health Organization, ischaemic heart disease, which is characterized by a reduced blood supply to the heart, is the leading cause of death across the globe. Though many conditions are characterized as ischaemic heart disease, many others are not, and the organization notes that other heart conditions, including stroke, are also among the top 10 most deadly diseases in the world. The following is a rundown of some of the more common heart conditions, many of which can be prevented if men and women make the right lifestyle choices.
Angina occurs when a person has chest pain or discomfort around their heart because the muscle is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina can be a byproduct of elevated levels of stress or overexertion and may even be caused by clogged arteries. All cases of angina are not the same. Stable angina is the most common form, and usually follows a pattern that is common among patients. Unstable angina is less predictable, while variant angina, the rarest form of the condition, occurs while a person is at rest. Rest and medicine are at the root of treating angina, which is more easily treated once its cause has been determined.
Atherosclerosis is characterized by the buildup of fatty materials in the arterial walls. This fatty material can harden over time, restricting blood flow and resulting in calcium deposits. Daily exercise and a healthy diet void of high-fat, high-cholesterol foods are two ways to prevent or treat atherosclerosis.
Cardiac arrest is a culmination of several heart conditions, including angina and atherosclerosis. Also known as a heart attack, cardiac arrest occurs when blood and oxygen are unable to reach the heart. Chest discomfort; discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck or jaw; shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort; and nausea or lightheadedness may all be indicators that a person is going into cardiac arrest.
Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension is a relatively common heart condition. Nearly every adult has likely received a blood pressure reading at one point in his life. That reading measures the systolic pressure, which is the pressure created when the heart beats, and the diastolic pressure, which is the pressure in the heart when it is at rest. A blood pressure above 120 over 80 is considered high, and that high figure might be caused by salt and water levels in the body and the condition of the body’s kidneys, nervous system and blood vessels, as well as the body’s hormone levels. Treating hypertension is relatively simple, as a doctor will typically recommend some dietary changes and may even prescribe medication for those patients with especially high blood pressure.
Stroke occurs when the blood supply to any part of the brain is interrupted. Potentially deadly, stroke can cause paralysis as well. Trouble speaking, loss of coordination and trouble moving limbs may be indicative of stroke, which is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate medical help. The longer a person goes between the onset of a stroke and seeking treatment often determines the severity of the consequences.
A CLOSER LOOK
According to the American Heart Association, these are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas
of the upper body
Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath
With or without chest discomfort.
Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Fast action can save lives – maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.
More information on heart disease is available at www.heart.org.