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