World Health Day: Ischaemic Heart Disease Is A Giant Killer
The reduced oxygen supply to coronary artery starves the heart tissue and if it lasts for a long time, it can cause a heart attack.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ischaemic heart disease is the world’s biggest killer. It has taken the lives of more than 9.4 million people across the world. This is 16.6% of all the causes of deaths worldwide. This stat was published in Global Health Estimates 2016, by the WHO in 2018. The report can be found here.
Ischaemia (Cardiac) refers to a condition where blood flow, and hence oxygen are decreased to the heart. This happens when coronary arteries – supplying blood to the heart – are narrowed, ultimately leading to Ischaemic heart disease.
This reduced oxygen supply starves the heart tissue and if it lasts for a long time, it can cause a heart attack.
What causes narrowed coronary arteries?
Damage to the inner wall of an artery can cause deposition of cholesterol deposits (plaque). When plaque ruptures, platelets clump to form clots in an attempt to repair the artery. This clumping and clotting can cause blockage of the artery.
Many risk factors are responsible for the damage to the inner layer of the coronary artery. This includes high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes.
Before a heart attack, Ischaemia often results in chest pain, discomfort and tightness of chest which spreads to other parts of the body such as shoulders, neck, and jaw. This condition is referred to as angina. Broadly speaking, here are the symptoms of ischaemic heart disease.
● Shortness of breath
● Chest pain and discomfort – angina.
● Fatigue and dizziness
● Edema – swelling of feet and legs
But not everyone with Ischaemia feels pain. In many cases, people experience heart attacks without any prior symptoms such as pain or chest discomfort. Such conditions are referred to as silent ischaemia.
How to prevent ischaemic heart disease?
No matter how the saying goes, prevention is better than cure! If you notice most of the causes of this disease are because of one’s lifestyle. Better lifestyle choices such as good eating habits and more exercise can help you a lot.
The National Health Service, UK describes ways in which the chances of ischaemic disease can be lowered. They are:
● Healthy Diet: You need to pay attention to the amount of cholesterol you are consuming. High level of saturated fats (bad cholesterol) can spell doom for you if it is not controlled. Foods such as butter, ghee, cream, meat pies should be avoided as they contain a high level of saturated fats. Avoid sugar in /your food as it can increase your chances of diabetes – another leading cause of ischaemic heart disease.
● Smoking: It is a leading cause of heart disease. A cigarette has nicotine which increases blood pressure and can damage the interior of the coronary artery. Quitting smoking not only decreases the chances of a heart attack but also improves your blood flow and lowers the amount of blood cholesterol. It’s never too late to quit smoking.
● Exercise: There are unlimited benefits of exercise. The more you pay attention to your physical activity, the fitter you'll get. Exercise can improve your digestion, check your cholesterol levels and maintain your blood pressure at healthy levels. It’s high time you actually start paying attention to your new year’s resolution of working out.
● Alcohol: This shouldn’t surprise you. Heavy drinking increases your blood pressure which ultimately affects your delicate heart. It can also damage your heart muscles, decreasing its ability to pump blood and thus, increasing the chances of a heart attack.
Having listed these, always remember that routine health checkups can help you detect early signs of impending heart disease.