Heart stoppers

These three heart diseases are notorious for causing the most casualties

heart being pulled in three directions

Earlier, heart disease was considered a rich man’s disease. Today, it cares for no social barrier and doesn’t discriminate between its victims. Also, when speaking of heart disease, people equate it with heart attack. But the attack is only a symptom—your heart is telling you that something is wrong. And that something is the disease that it’s suffering from. Let’s look at the three deadliest heart diseases:

  1. Coronary heart disease
  2. Heart failure
  3. Hypertensive heart disease.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease is better known as coronary artery disease. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. However, they get blocked due to the accumulation of fatty substance [known as plaque] in the coronary arteries.

As a result, the flow of blood to the heart gets restricted, causing chest pain [angina] and heart attack [myocardial infarction].

Congestive heart failure [CHF]

Also called heart failure, this is a condition in which the heart becomes so weak that it is no longer able to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Shortness of breath on little exertion is a common symptom of CHF. Heart attack generally causes CHF.

Hypertensive heart disease

High blood pressure leads to hypertensive heart disease. Due to the constant high pressure in the blood vessels, the heart of hypertensive individuals has to work harder. Over time, because of this, the heart muscles tend to become thick and stiff, compromising their efficiency.

High blood pressure also causes thickening of the heart vessels. As a result, less blood flows through the vessels leading to a condition known as ischaemic heart disease.

Complications that may arise due to hypertensive heart disease include:

  • Angina
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia [irregular heart rhythms]
  • Stroke
  • Sudden death.

Thus, if you are at high risk of heart disease, follow a healthy lifestyle, and watch out for symptoms of any of these heart problems. Prevention equals protection.

Protect your heart

  • Eat healthy: Experts recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension [DASH] eating plan to protect the heart. The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods.
  • Reduce salt and sodium in your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Weight gained without exercise is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Stay physically active: Engaging in daily exercise reduces your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol to few drinks a week.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking or consuming tobacco in any form is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries [atherosclerosis]. Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky as is exposure to second-hand smoke.
  • Get regular screenings: High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. Through regular health screenings, you can keep a tab on your blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.
  • Get immunised against pneumococcal and flu infections, which put added stress on your heart.

This article was first published in the April 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Nilesh Gautam
Dr Nilesh Gautam, MBBS, MD [Medicine], DM [Cardiology], is an interventional cardiologist at the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai.


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