Heart Disease - Detailed Info

Heart disease is the #1 LIFE-STYLE DISEASE in civilized nations. 52 people in USA die due to heart attack every minute making it 1,259 per day, 8,843 per week and 459,840 per year. Over 12.5 million people each year have heart attacks worldwide and 40-75% of all victims die before reaching the hospital. Between 38% of women and 25% of men die within a year after having a heart attack. The risk of second heart attack within six years of the first heart attack is estimated to be 35% in women and 18% in men. And the costs associated with treating Heart Disease are expected to nearly triple by the year 2030.

What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a broad term used to describe a range of diseases that affect your heart. The various diseases that fall under the umbrella of heart disease include diseases of your blood vessels caused by atherosclerosis. Healthy arteries are flexible, strong and elastic but in atherosclerosis the walls in arteries thicken and get stiffer — sometimes restricting blood flow to your organs and tissues.
If you are 40 or older, have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, ask your doctor to test your heart now. Diagnosis of heart disease is often made by careful history taken by a health care practitioner. Some individuals may have atypical symptoms, and some including almost none at all. The testing strategy to confirm the diagnosis and plan appropriate treatment needs to be individualized for each patient diagnosed with heart disease.

Types of Heart Disease

1. Aneurysm - Bulge or weakness of a blood vessel (artery or vein) wall with a potential to rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding. The most common sites include the abdominal aorta and the arteries at the base of the brain.

2. Arrhythmias - Heart rhythm problems - When the electrical impulses in your heart that coordinate your heartbeats don't function properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. This electrical activity produces electrical waves that can be measured using a heart test called an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).

3. Cardiomyopathy - Diseases of the heart ‘muscle’.
a. Ischemic - Loss of heart muscle.
b. Dilated – Enlargement of heart chambers.
c. Hypertrophic – Thickening of heart muscles.

4. Coronary Artery Disease - Diseases of the ‘arteries’ with obstructed or reducing blood flow to the heart muscle. Causes chest pain (angina) and heart attack (myocardial infarction).

5. Congenital Heart Disease – ‘Birth defects’ that affect the formation of the heart muscle or its chambers or valve.
a. Coarctation - Narrowing of a section of the aorta.
b. Atrial or Ventricular Septal Defect - Holes in the heart.

6. Congestive Heart Failure - Condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body's organs and tissues.

7. Hypertension - Excessive force of blood pumping through your blood vessels leading to other types of cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and heart failure.

8. Pericardial Diseases - Diseases of the ‘sac that encases the heart.’
a. Pericarditis -Inflammation
b. Pericardial Effusion - Fluid accumulation
c. Constrictive Pericarditis - Stiffness

9. Peripheral Arterial Disease and Claudication – Blockage or weakening in arteries supplying blood to your limbs.

10. Stroke
a. Ischemic - Blood flow to the brain is interrupted
b. Hemorrhagic - Blood vessel in the brain ruptures

11. Valvular Heart Diseases - Disease of the heart valves. 4 valves within your heart direct blood in the right direction.
a. Stenosis - Narrowing
b. Regurgitation or Insufficiency - Leaking
c. Prolapse - Improper closing
d. Infectious Endocarditis - Rheumatic fever or Infections

Heart disease does not have to be the inevitable death sentence that many people assume it to be, in fact, you can effectively avoid developing heart disease by understanding what your heart is, what it does and how your habits and lifestyle can directly affect its functionality and therefore, effect you in every way.

1. High blood pressure and Cholesterol:
Hypertension is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. It is called the "silent killer" as it can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. It’s important to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Normal blood pressure is between 120/80 mm Hg and 129/84 mm Hg. If your blood pressure is between 130/85 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg, you have "high-normal" blood pressure, which is more likely to develop into high blood pressure.
High blood cholesterol - Cholesterol is one of the essential fats in your blood. Your body uses it to make cell membranes, vitamin D and hormones. However, it is important to keep it at healthy levels because high blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. There are two main types of cholesterol:
-          Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often called the bad cholesterol because high levels in the blood promotes the buildup of plaque in the artery walls making it more difficult for blood to flow through your heart and body, putting you at increased risk of circulatory problems, heart disease and stroke.
-          High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is called the good cholesterol because it helps carry LDL-cholesterol away from the artery walls.

2. Stress: Too much stress harms your health and increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Many life events such as moving, leaving school, changing jobs, and experiencing losses can cause stress. Daily hassles, such as being stuck in traffic, deadlines or conflicts can also be stress-provoking. It's important to identify your stressors so you can learn to deal with them effectively. If you are suffering from high stress levels, you may feel tense or anxious, have headaches, stomach complaints or even symptoms that mimic illnesses. Note: Hostile personalities are at higher risk of developing heart attack. Responding to stress with anger can also be harmful, since it sets off a series of physiological changes including increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure levels that can increase your chance of having a heart attack.

3. Diabetes and your Heart - Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), coronary artery disease and stroke, particularly if your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled. It can also result in circulation problems caused by damage to the blood vessels. Poor blood glucose control is a leading indicator of pending chronic illness, as excess sugars combine with proteins and fats to create advanced glycation end products (AGE's) that damage the lining of arteries throughout the body and block blood flow in the smallest capillaries of the eyes, kidneys.

4. Physical Inactivity & Being Overweight (Obese): If you are struggling with your weight, you are not alone. Over 60% of American adults are either overweight or obese.  This is a growing concern because being overweight or obese are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. People who are physically inactive are twice more likely to be at risk for heart disease or stroke than people who are physically active.

5. Smoking: Smoking contributes to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces the oxygen in your blood, increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work harder. Becoming smoke-free can be difficult, so don't be afraid to ask for help and support from family, friends and your healthcare provider.

Borderline Alcohol: You may have heard that alcohol – particularly red wine – is good for your heart. There is some evidence that moderate drinkers have a somewhat lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who do not drink or who drink excessively.  But drinking too much of any type of alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than 2 drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of 10 for women & 3 drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of 15 for men.

Heart disease is largely preventable by adopting Healthy Lifestyle Changes

1. Weight Management & Physical Activity: By achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.  A healthy weight can also help control other conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Physical activity is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. Lose weight slowly. Achieving a healthy weight is a long-term commitment. Being active means something different to everyone, whether it's gardening, walking or running. Always check with your healthcare provider first before starting a physical activity program. Just 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more is best recommended. It is beneficial to spread the activity over several days a week. Cycling twenty miles a week cuts heart disease in half. If you have already suffered a heart ailment, walking routine is the best form of exercise you would want to start with. Walking is probably the simplest heart-healthy activity.
2. Meditation Reduces Heart Disease: Meditating individuals experienced an overall reduction in blood pressure from hypertension as well as a significant reduction in psychological stress with long-term positive effects.
3. Eat a healthy and natural diet filled with vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits. Avoid fad diets based on popularity and not scientific information. Instead, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietician to learn about healthy eating.  Eat a diet that is lower in saturated and trans-fats and includes fresh vegetables and fruit, complex carbohydrates and foods higher in fibre such as whole grain cereals and bread. Use less fat in cooking. Manage portion size. Divide your plate into four sections. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fill the remaining quarters with whole grains, meat or meat alternatives such as beans.
-          Hawthorn berries can treat a long list of cardiac, respiratory, and circulatory conditions. They are especially helpful in combating heart disease, high blood pressure, palpitations, chest pains (angina) and elevated cholesterol levels. Hawthorn berries contain flavonoids such as quercitin, and oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs).
-          An apple a day prevents arterial hardening to reduce heart disease risk.
-          Grapes reduce risk for heart disease and diabetes
-          Strawberries vindicate in the fight against heart disease, diabetes and cognitive decline.
-          Watermelon plays a significant role in lowering heart disease risk and aiding weight management.
-          Eating fish once a week can reduce your chances of a heart attack by 52% as it contains essential omega-3 cholesterol.