Heart diseases are of several types, and what determines their getting out of hand is a very complex issue. Common types of heart diseases are coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, congenital heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease can range from palpitations, chest pain, exertion, breathlessness, dizziness, and cough. Patients can also suffer loss of consciousness. For a good number of patients with a history of heart disease it can present as sudden cardiac arrest.
Valvular heart diseases in our country occur in a low socioeconomic population due to rheumatic heart disease. With an ageing population degenerative heart disease is also increasing in the elderlies. With World Heart Day 2022 (September 28th) around the corner, OnlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to three doctors for inputs on the common types of heart diseases, their symptoms, causes, and treatment. The experts are Dr. Subrata Lehri, Director Cardiology and Sr Consultant, Parmanand Artemis Heart Center New Delhi, Dr. Vivek Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor & HOD, Cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, and Dr. Ankur Phatarpekar, Director Cathlab and Interventional Cardiologist, Symbiosis Hospital, Mumbai.
Symptoms of heart disease
Usually, there are no symptoms of the underlying disease of blood vessels. A heart attack or stroke may be the first sign of underlying issues. Symptoms of a heart attack include angina and/or pain in the arms or left shoulder. Stroke is followed by a sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg, most often on one side of the body. People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately. The common symptoms of heart disease are:
- Chest pain
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the neck
Causes of heart disease
Many times, it is things beyond our control, but for many, the most important hazard to heart health is modifiable risk factors. This means, the common problem of heart attacks and sudden deaths are due to modifiable risk factors. The biggest of these include smoking, tobacco chewing, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, a very strong family history of heart disease, being overweight, and having a poor diet.
In many of these cases, family history is something for which we can take positive affirmative action. With this our heart disease risk comes down substantially. Lifestyle-related causes of heart diseases can be hypertension, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Some of these factors are genetically determined.
Heart disease diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis of heart disease requires a proper screening by a cardiologist. Diagnostic tests such as ECG, chest X-ray, echocardiography, and stress test should give diagnosis in most of the patients. Patients should be treated with blood thinners, anti-cholesterol and antianginal medication.
A healthy lifestyle may go a long way in managing CVDs. Avoidance of tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, reduction of salt intake while including more fruits and vegetables in the diet and regular physical activity may reduce the risk of these diseases. Patients with CVDs (Cardiovascular disease) should have access to appropriate technology and medication including basic medicines, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, etc. An acute event such as a heart attack or stroke should be promptly managed and may involve surgical intervention.
Lifestyle changes such as regular physical exercise of more than 150 minutes in a week, quitting smoking, control of blood sugar and blood pressure, adopting balanced diet with high fiber diet, low saturated fat and fruits. Those who present acute heart attacks require immediate coronary intervention such as angioplasty to open blocked coronary arteries and save lives. Heart failure due to low heart function requires management of liquid restriction to prevent lung congestion. There are specific drugs to manage heart failure and should be prescribed by a cardiologist. Pacemaker devices are helpful in selected patients.
Dr. Chaturvedi says, “One should always remember that, with good habits and a healthy lifestyle the risk comes down substantially, if god forbid you may have a heart attack or events like angioplasty. Do remember that your chances of making it through and being relatively unscathed from this are higher if you have a healthy lifestyle to begin with. It is good to remember that, post-Covid suddenly people are into aggressive exercises and stretching of their body limits without proper acclimatisation.”
“Sudden unexpected increases in physical activity definitely can be harmful for people who have problems inside the heart. If one has multiple risk factors or a very strong family history of heart disease, do check with your local doctor before just starting aggressive exercises. Always gradually increase exercise routine, do not do unaccustomed exercise all of a sudden, just because you can. If you do, that is a sure recipe for disaster,” he further added.
Dr. Phatarpekar said, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, with a total of 17.9 million deaths from CVDs in 2019, representing 32% of all global deaths. They involve occlusion of blood vessels and disrupting the blood supply to a particular organ or tissue, leading to various complications including tissue necrosis.”