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Heart diseases are the number one cause of death globally. Certain ethnic groups like Indians are at higher risk of heart disease than Europeans. It is explained both by genetics and lifestyle choices. Indians may be predominantly vegetarians, but they tend to have a sedentary lifestyle.
Men are at higher risk of heart attack than women. 70% of all cardiac events occur in men. It is worrisome to see that incidences of heart attack are increasing among the young men. Many of them have no history of cardiac diseases.
Risk factors for heart disease
As the society in developing nations prospers, people are more probable to die of non-infectious diseases. There are many reasons for the high rate of heart diseases.
Obesity, lack of exercise, diabetes, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption are the major factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Other factors being gender, age, poor diet, mental stress, and smoking.
Most of the conditions mentioned above lead to stiffening of blood vessels or the development of arterial plaques (atherosclerosis). High blood pressure or blocked blood vessels further increase the workload of the heart.
High blood pressure or blocked arteries may either lead to a weakening of heart (heart failure), or ischemic attack due to blockage of blood vessels (heart attack).
Early signs of heart disease
Most of the metabolic disorders and resulting diseases, like heart disorders, can be prevented or managed. Lifestyle changes may even help reverse heart disease to an extent if symptoms are recognized early enough.
Heart disease does not occur in a day. Thus one must learn to identify its very early signs. One must learn to recognize the risk before any cardiac event occurs. To know your risk of heart attack in the near future, you can use this online tool created by American College of Cardiology.
Some of the early signs of heart disease are;
- Difficult to control high blood pressure
- Difficulty in breathing on physical exertion
- Mild discomfort in the area of heart on physical exertion
- Frequent headaches, and dizziness
There can be many indirect signs of heart disease like frequent lung infections, poor sleep quality, frequent awakening at night time. Some individuals may have recurrent bouts of palpitation; they may feel the heart pounding in the chest.
Quite often early signs of a heart attack may be confused with some respiratory infection or even heartburn. Therefore, if you have a doubt, better consult a physician at the earliest.
Common signs of heart attack and stroke
Although heart attack and stroke affect different organs, the cause of both the conditions is the same. Both stroke and heart attack are cardiovascular diseases. A heart attack is the result of blockage of cardiac blood vessels, while stroke occurs due to obstruction or breakage of blood vessels in the brain.
In a heart attack, there would be pain or tightness in the chest. Often pain would spread to the lower jaw, and left arm. Remember, there are chest pains which has no relation with your heart. A person may also have nausea, abdominal pain. Shortness of breath is common in heart disease. Other symptoms are cold sweat, fatigue, and dizziness.
Also it is essential to understand that a silent heart attack is common in those with diabetes. It is a condition when symptoms are minimal. Quite often, typical heartache may be absent. In elderly, even night time heart attack may occur.
Stroke is entirely different from a heart attack as there is an involvement of brain. Stroke may start with confusion, trouble speaking and understanding. Some may show the weakness of face, arms, legs. Quite often weakness would affect one side of the body. A person may have trouble walking, coordinating movements. Stroke may often lead to loss of consciousness.
Heart attack and stroke are frightening. Fortunately, they are preventable too. If a person goes to a physician, a doctor would be quick to give a pill or two to him or her. However, it is vital to understand that heart conditions are best prevented through lifestyle interventions and regular monitoring of vitals.
Once you know your vitals, start creating a lifestyle modification plan. Also it should have two elements in it – dietary considerations, and physical exercise plan.
Research shows that reducing about 5-10% of body weight, doing 30 minutes of exercise a day, may cut down the risk of heart disease to half.