Medical science is of the opinion that heart disease often has no symptoms. But, there are some signs and symptoms which can be cited as indicators leading to probabilities of heart disease. The symptoms of heart disease include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations or irregular heartbeats, light-headedness, fainting, and swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet. Although, these symptoms do not necessarily indicate heart disease, proper diagnosis and check-up should be done so as to thwart any untoward incident.
As heart disease also refers to the problems with the blood vessels, symptoms of peripheral blood vessel disorders should also be placed under scrutiny. This disorder varies depending on the location of the affected blood vessels. Symptoms in such cases may include pain, shortness of breath, muscle cramps, muscle fatigue, light-headedness, swelling, numbness, and changes in the color of the skin of the affected part of the body.
Chest Pain: Symptoms like chest pain arises when stiffness or grasping sensation in the chest (angina) is experienced due to inadequate supply of blood. This is caused when the muscles in the heart do not get enough blood (a condition referred to as ischemia), and enough oxygen, to be carried to tissues by the blood.
Fatigue: Feelings of weakness and fatigue can be considered as symptoms arising out of inadequate blood flow to the heart muscles mostly during any physical activity. This is caused when the heart pumps inefficiently as it does in heart failure.
Palpitation: The rate of heartbeats is very difficult to judge. Irregular heart beats or palpitations occur with other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, or fainting, are more likely to result from an abnormal heart rhythm or a severe disorder. It can be properly diagnosed by the doctor with the help of electrocardiography (ECG).
Shortness of Breath: Shortness of breath or dyspnea is regarded as a common symptom of heart failure. It occurs due to the condition called pulmonary congestion or pulmonary edema when fluid seeps into the air spaces of the lungs. Shortness of breath occurs mostly in people suffering from coronary artery disease and usually occurs during physical activity. However, in serious cases it may occur even during rest or minimal activity.
Limitation of Physical Activity: A very frequent and common symptoms of heart disease is a person’s limitation in physical activity or in performing any kind of chores. One of the measures taken to evaluate the severity of heart disease is to determine the scale of limitation in each case; which can be graded on that basis as mild, moderate and severe.
Swelling & Numbness: Swelling is caused due to the accumulation of fluid (edema) in tissues. It occurs when blood collect in the leg veins, increasing pressure in the leg veins and forcing fluids out of the veins into tissues. This collecting or pooling of blood may be an indication of heart failure or a venous disorder, such as deep vein thrombosis. Similarly numbness may be caused along with swelling if the blood supply to the affected area is inadequate.
Changes in Skin Color: In cases of inadequate supply of blood, due to anemia, or if the veins do not drain adequately, there might be changes in the color of the skin when the skin may appear pale, bluish or purplish.
Light Headedness and Fainting: Inadequate flow of blood, due to irregularities in the heart rate or rhythm, the heart cannot pump adequately resulting in light-headedness, faintness, or fainting (syncope).
Lifestyle changes are the first step towards prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. A few of the preventable measures to be adopted to protect ourselves against heart disease are discussed as follows:
- Smoking cessation
- Regular exercise or physical activity
- Healthy diet
- Maintaining healthy weight
Smoking cessation: Smoking tobacco is one of the major causes for heart disease. The smoke of tobacco contains more than 4,800 chemicals which can damage your heart and blood vessels, making them more vulnerable to atherosclerosis, commonly known as the narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis can be the preliminary stage in heart disease, ultimately leading to a heart attack.
In addition, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by constricting blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen.
Regular exercise and/or physical activity: Regular exercise and physical activity helps prevent heart disease by increasing the flow of blood to your heart and strengthening your heart’s contractions so that your heart pumps more blood with less effort. Moreover, exercise also can reduce your chances of developing other related conditions such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes that may put a strain on your heart. Exercise can also act as stress-busters, which may also be a factor in heart disease.
Healthy diet: Healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help protect your heart. Also, legumes, low-fat protein sources and certain kinds of fish can also reduce your risk of heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are considered highly effective in preventing cardiovascular disease.
You must refrain from intake of food rich in fat – saturated, polyunsaturated, mono-unsaturated and trans-fat. Saturated fat and trans- fat increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acid – a type of polyunsaturated fat, may protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure, thereby decreasing your risk of heart attack. Also limit alcohol intake as too much of alcohol may create health hazard.
Regular health check-up: Regular health check-up is a healthy way of keeping fit and protects you from heart disease. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your cardiovascular system, including your heart. Therefore it is necessary that you keep a regular track of your health and heart.
Cholesterol is a silent foe of your body. We can only function normally at standard levels of cholesterol, but a slight increase in cholesterol level in the blood is a silent killer, making us vulnerable to heart attack and stroke
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a category of lipids (fat), which is found in some plants and body cells. It is known for its risk of causing heart diseases and stroke. It’s important functions in the body is that it is a building block of the cell membrane and it is used to process hormones, helps in making digestive bile acids and vitamin D in our bodies.
Increased level in the blood, leads to the formation of plaque in the blood arteries, making them narrow and reducing the blow capacity. This can result to blood clotting in the vessels leading to heart attack and in case of blood clotting in the brain arteries it leads to stroke.
Cholesterol is in oil form hence it cannot mix with blood; it is carried around the body by lipoproteins.
What increases cholesterol in the body?
Hypercholesterolemia is caused by increased level of LDL in the blood vessels.
High cholesterol level in the body is also associated with the following,
- Liver and kidney complications
- Ineffective thyroid glands
Lowering cholesterol level
Cholesterol level can be addressed on how to manage your cholesterol through diet and exercise The two are,
Daily exercise is a key step in bringing your cholesterol level down, this will be whether you are overweight or not. Consider walking, riding a bike, swimming in the morning, engaging in sports activities and jogging. It is also advisable to take stairs to work instead of the lift or elevator.
Your daily diet should focus on intake of less fat in your system. These eating tips will help in your endeavor to lower cholesterol.
- a) Go for healthier fats
Red meat and dairy products has a lot of saturated fats, which will increase your cholesterol level in the body. Eat lean meat, low fat dairy products and the mono saturated fat found in olive, peanut and the canola oil.
- b) Eat a lot of whole grains
Whole grains have nutrients critical in the body, which are good for the heart. They include whole bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and maize
- c) Reduce intake of food with high cholesterol
Be keen on eating egg yolk, whole milk products and the organ meat. They will be increasing the level to risky levels
- d) Increase intake of fruits and vegetables and eat food rich in omega 3 fatty acids, mostly fish such as salmon