Well Being – Cardiovascular Diseases: Heart of the matter

by dr. Mukesh Goel

What is the age to start screening for heart disease?

Every adult over the age of 20 should be screened for cardiovascular disease. Individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes and long-term kidney disease have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and should be monitored more often on the advice of a doctor.

What are the basic tests for a healthy heart and how often should they be performed?

According to the American Heart Institute, the following tests may be done:

1) Blood Pressure: Any regular healthcare visit or at least once a year if blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg

2) Fasting lipid profile (cholesterol): every four to six years for adults at normal risk; more often, if applicable, you have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke

3) Body weight/body mass index (BMI): During your regular care visit

4) Waist circumference: as needed to help evaluate cardiovascular risk if your BMI is greater than or equal to 25 kg/m2

5) Blood glucose test: at least every three years

6) Keep talking about your physical activity, diet with your healthcare provider

What are the signs you should not miss?

1) Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning, tightness, or pain in the center of the chest should be reported to the physician

2) Snoring and sleep-related problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing is disrupted while you sleep, are directly linked to cardiovascular and other cardiovascular diseases

3) Unexplained shortness of breath during small amounts of exercise, at rest or while sleeping (which may wake you up) may indicate underlying heart disease

4) Waking up tired, restless and noticing higher blood pressure in the morning indicates an unhealthy heart

5) Sweating more than usual or without any physical activity, especially if one is not exercising or being active, can be an early warning sign of an impending heart-related condition

6) An irregular heartbeat or more formally known as “arrhythmias” is a condition in which the heart does not pump blood in its normal rhythm. Anyone who is relatively healthy and yet has an irregular heartbeat also points to chronic heart disease

7) Chest and upper arm pain is what most people typically associate with heart problems

8) A persistent cough is not always a sign of a heart problem as it is a common symptom of several other common illnesses such as colds, flu and bronchitis. But a never-ending cough can be a sign of fluid buildup in the lungs, indicating congestive heart failure.

Who are the people prone to heart disease?

Adults over the age of 60 are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease due to narrowing of blood vessels or heart problems. Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney-related disorders are another susceptible group to cardiovascular disease.

The typical lifestyle avoidance of overeating, smoking, alcohol and exercise, what else can be done to ensure a healthy heart?

1) Stay active: Metabolism slows 90% after sitting for 30 minutes. Slow down the enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can be burned. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. And after two hours, the good cholesterol drops by 20%

2) Focus on fiber and healthy fats: It keeps digestion going, removes excess cholesterol and sugar from the body and helps control weight

3) Cook simple and light: Cooking if not done at the right temperature and medium can be a cause of heart disease. High temperature, dry heat, barbecuing and roasting alter the healthy composition of food and form harmful advanced glycation end products; so stick to steaming, sautéing and cooking

4) Watch your waistline: Belly fat is a major risk for all non-communicable diseases

5) Quit smoking because it adds a lot of free radicals and damages the heart

6) Say No to ‘HFSS’: Fat, Salt and Refined Sugar (HFSS) Because They Are a Big Risk in the Current Scenario

7) Moderate alcohol indulgence: Excessive intake burdens the liver and heart

8) Sleep well according to the circadian rhythm to achieve hormonal balance.

(Dr Mukesh Goel is senior consultant cardiothoracic, heart and lung transplant surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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