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> Car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease can be pre­vented by mak­ing just a few sim­ple daily changes

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

The nar­row­ing and thick­en­ing of the ar­ter­ies is due to the de­po­si­tion of fatty ma­te­rial, choles­terol and other sub­stances in the walls of blood ves­sels. The de­posits are known as plaques. The rup­ture of a plaque can lead to stroke or a heart at­tack.

What is choles­terol? Choles­terol is a waxy, fat-like sub­stance used by the body to build cell walls and make sev­eral es­sen­tial hor­mones. Your liver pro­duces choles­terol and you ab­sorb it from the an­i­mal fats you eat. Choles­terol is car­ried through the blood by par­ti­cles called lipopro­teins.

There are two types: low-den­sity lipopro­teins (LDL) and high-den­sity lipopro­teins (HDL). The for­mer car­ries the choles­terol around the body in the blood and the lat­ter trans­ports choles­terol out of the blood into the liver.

When choles­terol is too high, or the lev­els of the two types are out of bal­ance (dys­lip­i­daemia), the choles­terol can clog the ar­ter­ies af­fect­ing the flow of the blood.

What are triglyc­erides? Triglyc­erides are fats found in the blood that are im­por­tant for mus­cle en­ergy. They travel through the blood in lipopro­teins. As triglyc­eride lev­els rise, HDL choles­terol lev­els fall. High lev­els of triglyc­eride in­crease the risk for heart dis­ease. In rare cases, very high lev­els can lead to pan­cre­ati­tis.

Con­di­tions that may cause high triglyc­erides in­clude obe­sity, poorly con­trolled di­a­betes, drink­ing too much al­co­hol, hy­pothry­roidism and kid­ney dis­ease.

How is coro­nary heart dis­ease di­ag­nosed? There are a num­ber of ways to di­ag­nose coro­nary heart dis­ease. Your physi­cian will prob­a­bly use a num­ber to make a de­fin­i­tive di­ag­no­sis. A coro­nary an­giogram uses a dye in­serted into your ar­ter­ies and an x-ray to see how the blood flows through your heart. The pic­ture taken, the an­giogram, will show any ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis.

An­other test is an elec­tro­car­dio­gram (ECG). This test records the elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity of your heart. An elec­tro­car­dio­gram mea­sures the rate and reg­u­lar­ity of heart­beats, the size and po­si­tion of the heart cham­bers, the pres­ence of any dam­age to the heart and the ef­fects of drugs or de­vices used to reg­u­late the heart. It is a non-in­va­sive pro­ce­dure.

How are smok­ing and heart dis­ease linked? Smok­ing dam­ages the lin­ing of blood ves­sels, in­creases fatty de­posits in the ar­ter­ies, in­creases blood clot­ting, ad­versely af­fects blood lipid lev­els and pro­motes coro­nary artery spasm. Nico­tine ac­cel­er­ates the heart rate and raises blood pres­sure.

Does diet play a part in the de­vel­op­ment of heart dis­ease? Diet plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in pro­tect­ing or pre­dis­pos­ing peo­ple to heart dis­ease. Di­ets high in an­i­mal fat, low in fresh veg­eta­bles and fruit and high in al­co­hol have been shown to in­crease the risk of heart dis­ease. Adopt­ing a diet low in fat and salt has a pro­tec­tive ef­fect over the long term. This means whole grains, fruits, and veg­eta­bles.

Aren’t women pro­tected from heart dis­ease be­cause of es­tro­gen? Es­tro­gen does help raise good HDL choles­terol which helps pro­tect women, but once through the menopause as many women as men are af­fected by heart dis­ease. If a woman suf­fers from di­a­betes or has raised lev­els of triglyc­erides, that can­cels out the pos­i­tive ef­fects of es­tro­gen. How do the symp­toms of a heart at­tack dif­fer be­tween men and women? The symp­toms of heart at­tack in a man are in­tense chest pain, pain in the left arm or jaw and dif­fi­culty breath­ing. A woman may have some of the same symp­toms, but her pain may be more dif­fuse, spread­ing to the shoul­ders, neck, arms, ab­domen and even her back. A woman may ex­pe­ri­ence pain more like in­di­ges­tion. The pain may not be con­sis­tent. There may not be pain but un­ex­plained anx­i­ety, nau­sea, dizzi­ness, pal­pi­ta­tions and cold sweat. A woman's heart at­tack may have been pre­ceded by un­ex­plained fa­tigue.

Women also tend to have more se­vere first heart at­tacks that more fre­quently lead to death, com­pared to men.

Is heart dis­ease hered­i­tary? Heart dis­ease can run in some fam­i­lies. But even if you in­herit the risks fac­tors that pre­dis­pose you to heart dis­ease, such as high blood choles­terol, high blood pres­sure, di­a­betes, or be­ing over­weight, there are mea­sures you can take that will help you avoid de­vel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Learn how you can help pro­tect your heart.

What counts as hy­per­ten­sion? Op­ti­mal blood pres­sure is de­fined as a sys­tolic blood pres­sure less than 120mmHg. The level of raised blood pres­sure for which in­ves­ti­ga­tion and treat­ment have been shown to do more good than harm is called “hy­per­ten­sion”. This is gen­er­ally de­fined as a sys­tolic blood pres­sure of 140mmHg and/or a di­as­tolic blood pres­sure at or above 90mmHg. Sys­tolic blood pres­sure is the max­i­mum pres­sure in the ar­ter­ies when the heart con­tracts. Di­as­tolic blood pres­sure is the min­i­mum pres­sure in the ar­ter­ies be­tween the heart’s con­trac­tions.

What is the con­nec­tion be­tween raised blood pres­sure and heart dis­ease? Blood mov­ing through your ar­ter­ies pushes against the ar­te­rial walls; this force is mea­sured as blood pres­sure. Raised blood pres­sure oc­curs when very small ar­ter­ies (ar­te­ri­oles) tighten. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through the smaller space and the pres­sure in­side the ves­sels grows. The con­stant ex­cess pres­sure on the artery walls weak­ens them mak­ing them more sus­cep­ti­ble to ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis.

Source: World Heart Day web­site

Heart dis­ease can af­fect both the young and the old.

The most com­mon heart at­tack symp­tom is chest pain and dis­com­fort.

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