Did you know that you are much more likely to die of a heart disease than of cancer? Cardiovascular disease, which collectively refers to various heart and blood vessel problems, is the leading cause of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The number of heart disease-related deaths that occur each year is expected to rise to 23 million in the next two decades. Eighty per cent of these deaths are likely to occur in low-income countries like Pakistan. According to Dr Sadia Arshad, a cardiologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, around one-third of the deaths in Pakistan are caused by heart-related diseases.
The term cardiovascular disease is most often used to refer to the damage to the heart and blood vessels caused by a buildup of fatty plaque in arteries. This buildup thickens artery walls and restricts blood flow to organs and tissues. The following factors can increase the risk of a heart disease:
A family history of heart disease
A diet rich in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol
Lack of exercise
High blood pressure and high cholesterol
Poor hygiene and dental health
Symptoms of heart attacks in men:
Crushing chest pain
Shortness of breath
Pain in arms, teeth or jaw
Sweating and lightheadedness
Symptoms of heart attacks in women:
– Vague feeling of being unwell
– Stomach ache
– Nausea and vomiting
– Pain in arms, neck, back and jaw
– Unusual fatigue
– Sweating and lightheadedness
– Slight discomfort in the chest
Most people do not realise that they are suffering from a heart disease until they suffer from a heart attack, angina or stroke. Hence, it is important to be familiar with symptoms of heart attacks so that you can get immediate medical attention. Dr Arshad explains that symptoms of a heart attack can vary between men and women, which can affect patients’ perceptions and recognition of their condition.
You can prevent cardiovascular disease by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. These are some steps Dr Arshad recommends you can take to protect your heart:
– Don’t smoke or use tobacco in any other form. Even smoking a couple of cigarettes a day can increase your risk of heart disease by up to 5%.
– Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
– Eat a healthy diet consisting of lots of vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grain. Avoid foods rich in fats, which include red meat, dairy products and fried foods.
– Maintain a healthy weight that is in accordance with your Body Mass Index.
– Get regular health screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. Even healthy adults should get screened at least once a year.
Nudrat Kamal is a subeditor on The Express Tribune magazine desk. She tweets @Nudratkamal
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 12th, 2014.