How can you live a longer, healthier life with a stronger and healthier heart? Dr. Mazen Shaheen, an interventional cardiologist with a special interest in preventive cardiology at Clemenceau Medical Center - Dubai, will explain the most common heart diseases and the lifestyle changes you should undergo to keep your heart healthy and happy!
What are the most common heart diseases?
Here are the top five most common heart diseases worldwide:Coronary artery disease, also called CAD, is a condition that affects your heart. CAD happens when coronary arteries struggle to supply the heart with enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients. Cholesterol deposits, or plaques, are almost always to blame.
Congestive heart failure (also called heart failure) is a serious condition in which the heart doesn't pump blood as efficiently as it should. Despite its name, heart failure doesn't mean that the heart has literally failed or is about to stop working.
Valvular heart disease is when any valve in the heart has damage or is diseased. There are several causes of valve disease. The normal heart has four chambers (right and left atria and right and left ventricles) and four valves.
Conduction disorder is a problem with the electrical system that makes your heartbeat and controls its rate and rhythm. This system is called the cardiac conduction system. Normally, the electrical signal that makes your heartbeat travels from the top of your heart to the bottom.
Congenital heart disease is a general term for a range of birth defects that affect the normal way the heart works. The term "congenital" means the condition is present from birth. Congenital heart disease is one of the most common types of birth defect, affecting almost 1 in 100 babies born in the UK.
What causes coronary artery disease?
CAD is caused by plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries) and other parts of the body.
Plaque is made up of deposits of cholesterol and other substances in the artery. Plaque buildup causes the inside of the arteries to narrow over time, which can partially or totally block the blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis.
For many people, the first clue that they have CAD is a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort (angina)
- Weakness, light-headedness, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), or a cold sweat
- Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart can’t pump blood the way it should.
If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, obesity, a strong family history of heart disease — talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want to test you for coronary artery disease, especially if you have signs or symptoms of narrowed arteries.
How to prevent heart diseases?
The goal of lifestyle changes is to prevent further build-up of plaque and decrease damage to your blood vessels. Some steps may even help reduce the amount of plaque in your blood vessels. These changes will also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Dietary Changes
If you are not on a special diet to manage other conditions, your doctor may recommend dietary changes.
Diets that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol increase your risk of CAD. Saturated fat and cholesterol are found in animal products, full-fat dairy products, lard, and palm and coconut oils, among other foods. These foods contribute to the build-up of plaque.
A dietitian can help you reduce saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet and teach you how to make healthier substitutions. Good dietary choices include fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats and fish—particularly fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon.
- Exercise Regularly
Regular aerobic training can help increase your physical abilities and quality of life. You should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. Begin slowly and work your way to this goal. Depending on the symptoms and severity of your condition, your doctor may have you do an exercise test before starting a program.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking damages your blood vessels and lung tissue, it reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and forces your heart to beat faster. Talk to your doctor about the best way to quit smoking. Remember that secondhand smoke is also harmful. Make sure you are not exposed to cigarette smoke if at all possible. Not smoking improves blood flow by relaxing constricted blood vessels.
- Reduce or Avoid Excess Weight
Excess weight strains the heart muscle. If you are overweight, talk with a dietitian who can help you with portion control and meal planning.
- Decrease or Discontinue Alcohol Consumption
Reduction or elimination of alcohol can help improve symptoms associated with angina.
The bottom line? Live well today for a healthier tomorrow.
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