The human body is indeed unique in the sense that it has eleven organ systems functioning in unison to keep us alive and let us move. Failure of just one system will affect the performance of other systems.
Today we will discuss the cardiovascular system and the importance of keeping it in optimum condition to avoid dreaded coronary heart disease.
According to 2019 data obtained from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Ischaemic heart diseases better known as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) was the leading cause of deaths at 15.6%, followed by Pneumonia at 11.8% and Cerebrovascular disease (strokes, aneurysms, etc) at 7.8%.
CHD occurs when coronary arteries that circulate blood to and from the blood get damaged and constricted. This normally happens due to a build up of fat deposits called plaque, surrounds the walls of the coronary arteries. Imagine a garden hose left out in the sun, giving algae and moss to grow and multiply by lining the inside of the hose. Over time, the blockage will build up to a point when the water will not be able to flow out easily, unless you manually clean and flush out the algae or moss!
This build up of plaque does not happen overnight. It is a process built up over time normally caused by various factors, the main ones being a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and hereditary diseases that runs in the family) and cholesterol (National Heart Institute). It should be noted that men are prone to developing CHD earlier than women, which could probably be due to males having lower stress levels compared to women. On the other hand, it has been found that women become more prone to CHD upon reaching menopause, possibly due to hormonal imbalances or other bodily changes.
Going back to when the blood vessels are badly constricted, blood is unable to flow freely throughout the body. The heart muscle needs to work harder to ensure blood keeps circulating around the body for all the organs to work. A mild heart attack is when the blood flow is partially blocked. It usually affects a small portion of the heart and symptoms are sometimes unnoticeable. A major heart attack is when blood flow is severely constricted and when a piece of plaque breaks off elsewhere lodges itself or causes a total blockage in a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart. The heart muscle is partially or in many cases, permanently damaged and the attack is fatal in many cases.
Survivors of heart attacks have a long (and expensive) road to recovery depending on the severity of damaged caused.
Symptoms of the onset of CHD
It is important to be aware of the seriousness of CHD and to be on the look out for some early indications of it. Some symptoms appear even months or weeks ahead of a major heart attack, a common one being a feeling of tightness around the chest area, which is called angina. This typically happens when the heart receives less blood due to constriction caused by plaque build up in the coronary artery. Remember the garden hose example! However, many heart patients write this off as just a super hard day’s work at the office or a heavy workout at the gym, as a good rest usually alleviates symptoms of angina.
So, when do you consult a medical practitioner if you feel you may have CHD?
Apart from tightness in the chest, general CHD symptoms to look out for are pain or numbness in body parts where narrowing of the blood vessels is starting, breathlessness, giddiness or heart beat.
A general medical practitioner will do primary testing and according to the results, may recommend that you consult a heart specialist for further analysis. You will undergo further testing, eg, electrocardiogram (ECG), heart scan, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and if the tests show that you have CHD, specialist will discuss the next step of action according to the CHD stage you are in. Sometimes lifelong medication may be needed, and for severe cases statins (stents) may need to be inserted into a vein or artery. With all available options open to you, your medical practitioner and specialist will definitely recommend a change in your lifestyle, ie, stop smoking, cut down drinking alcoholic drinks, adequate sleep and most importantly, live an active lifestyle, ie, exercise daily.
If you are extremely lucky in the sense that test results show you are in the preliminary stage of CHD and do not require surgery, it will well do you good to make that change in your lifestyle. Medicine and surgery all incur huge sums of money; a change of lifestyle saves money!
17th April 2020 21:49
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