Take an example of high blood pressure, one of the causes of cardiac health issues. Studies show that 30% of Malaysians live with hypertension. However, barely one-third are controlling their hypertension.
Similarly, about 34% of Malaysians have high cholesterol, yet most do not know about it, and thus they fail to take measures to control it. As a result, high cholesterol slowly causes damage to blood vessels, ultimately leading to diseases such as ischemic heart disease or stroke.
Here it is vital to understand that even stroke is a kind of cardiovascular ailment. Thus, cardiac care would help prevent not only heart attack but also stroke. Moreover, cardiac care is not just about prolonging life. It is also about preventing significant disability caused by cardiovascular ailments.
Common cardiovascular diseases
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that describes all the conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. Adequate functioning of the cardiovascular system is essential for survival.
Fortunately, the system is quite robust, and most cardiovascular disorders develop slowly over the period of years. Unfortunately, many of these conditions remain undetected in their early stages, as they do not produce many symptoms.
Therefore, it is essential to understand the whole spectrum of cardiovascular issues that may affect an individual. Additionally, it is important to realise that regular screening for these conditions is the only way to prevent or reverse them in their early stages.
Some of the common cardiovascular issues affecting people are:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Arrhythmias or abnormal cardiac rhythm
- Coronary heart disease or blockage of various blood vessels supplying blood to the heart muscles
- Congenital heart defects – people are born with these defects, but sometimes they remain undetected till adulthood
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Rheumatic heart disease
Signs and symptoms of an unhealthy heart
The human heart is quite a robust organ. Early signs of an unhealthy heart are often mild. Symptoms like severe pain in the area of the heart are usually signs of more severe ailment or late-stage disease.
In the early stages, people may have issues like palpitation, headaches, unexplained fatigue, and even prolonged cough due to pulmonary congestion.
Below are some of the common signs of heart disease:
- Pain in the left side of the chest, or even pain in the upper left arm
- Swollen lower legs and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic fatigue
- Snoring and sleeping problems
- Unexplained and chronic cough
- Irregular heartbeats
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sore gums and jaw
Risk factors for cardiovascular ailments:
As already said that heart issues develop slowly over the period of years. There are some well-known risk factors, and understanding them may help prevent cardiovascular disorders. Some of the most common risk factors for cardiovascular issues are:
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- High cholesterol level
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Family history of heart diseases
- Ethnicity, like South Asians, are more likely to die from heart disease than other ethnicities
- Sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet
Ways to prevent cardiovascular diseases:
Some factors like genetics, ageing, and ethnicity are unmodifiable risk factors. However, most risk factors are indeed modifiable. Moreover, specific measures, when taken in a timely fashion, may even help prevent heart disease in those living with non-modifiable risk factors.
- Regular health check-ups like screening for high cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes may help prevent heart issues even in high-risk individuals. Some people are genetically prone to develop high cholesterol or hypertension. However, if diagnosed early, one can stay healthy with the help of certain medications and lifestyle measures.
- Dietary measures like reducing calorie intake, eating healthy fats (e.g., seafood instead of vegetable oils), and increasing dietary fibre intake. Additionally, preventing deficiencies of specific vitamins like vitamin D, E, and other micronutrients may also help.
- Limiting intake of salt and highly processed sugars.
- Stress management.
- Improving sleep quality.
- Quit smoking.
- Engage in regular exercise.