Let’s start with the basics. Who can get heart disease? One of the most important things to remember is that heart disease does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re Caucasian, African-American, Asian, or Hispanic. You can get it if you’re not conscious of living a healthier life. In the United States alone, 1 out of every 4 deaths is caused by this disease, and over 610,000 people die from it every year. The numbers are on the rise.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF HEART DISEASE:
- This is an abnormality in the heart’s rhythm.
- This refers to the hardening of arteries.
- A condition which makes the heart muscles harden or weaken.
- Congenital heart defects. These are heart irregularities that are present at birth.
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS:
- The symptoms depend on the type a person might have; their heartbeats can either be too fast or too slow. Its symptoms include fluttering heart or racing heartbeat, dizziness, chest pain, fainting spells, and a slow pulse.
- Common symptoms include chest pain, numbness (particularly in the limbs), shortness of breath, weakness in arms and legs, and coldness in the limbs.
- Congenital heart defects. As these develop in a growing fetus, some defects tend to go undiagnosed. That said, some are found once they start showing symptoms: swelling of the extremities, low energy, blue-tinged skin, shortness of breath, and irregular heart rhythm.
- Coronary artery disease. Caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, this can cause: a feeling of pressure in the chest, chest pain, shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest area, feelings of gas or indigestion, and nausea.
- Common symptoms include: bloating, rapid or pounding pulse, fatigue, swollen legs (particularly the ankles and feet), and shortness of breath.
- Heart infections. This refers to myocarditis or endocarditis and comes with symptoms such as fever, chest pain, chills, chest congestion, and skin rash.
SYMPTOMS OF HEART DISEASE IN WOMEN:
When it comes to heart disease, women do tend to experience different symptoms than men—this is mainly so when it comes to CAD and other similar cardiovascular diseases. A 2003 study found that women didn’t experience “classic” heart attack symptoms, such as tingling or chest pain. Instead, they reported sleep disturbances, anxiety, and unexplained fatigue. These women reported experiencing these about a month before a heart attack happened.
Note that this is tricky because the symptoms can be easily confused for other conditions such as menopause, depression, and anxiety. That said, here’s what you need to be aware of:
- Jaw pain
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Cold sweats
CAUSES OF HEART DISEASE
- CAD and Atherosclerosis: plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Arrhythmia: excessive alcohol or caffeine intake, heart defects, medications, herbal remedies, CAD, heart defects, stress and anxiety.
- Cardiomyopathy: dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and restrictive cardiomyopathy.
- Heart infection: viruses, parasites, and bacteria are the most common causes. Uncontrolled infections in the body can also affect the heart if left untreated.
KNOWN RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE
There are many risk factors for heart disease; some are controllable, whilst others aren’t. Here’s what you need to be mindful of:
- High cholesterol and low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
People who have been diagnosed with diabetes are also at risk for:
- Heart attack
The risk factors you cannot control, that influences your level of risk includes:
- Family history
Note that your age also increases your risk—from age 20 to 59, men and women are at a similar risk. 60 and above, more men are affected while only 18.8% of women are at risk.
DIAGNOSING HEART DISEASE
- Physical exam and blood tests. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms, this is one way for doctor’s to assess your condition. Always share what you experience and any family history with the disease that you might have.
Non-invasive tests include:
- EKG or ECG (Electrocardiogram)
- Stress test
- Holter monitor
- Carotid ultrasound
- CT scan
- Tilt table test
- Heart MRI
If your bloodtests and non-invasive tests prove to be conclusive, your doctors will suggest more invasive methods to determine your condition. Invasive tests include:
- Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography
- Electrophysiology study
AVAILABLE TREATMENTS FOR HEART DISEASE
This depends on the type you have as well as the stage it is in. Treatment for heart disease can be categorized under 3 different methods:
- Lifestyle Changes
- Surgery and other similarly invasive procedures
PREVENTING HEART DISEASE
Sure, there are risk factors that are out of your control—but you should be mindful of the ones you do have some control over. This includes:
- Managing your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
- Dealing with stress better.
- Switching to a healthier and more active lifestyle.
There are no cures to this disease nor can it be reversed—once you have it, you will have to deal with a lifetime or treatment and monitoring. So, the best thing you can do is prevent it while you still can.