Listen To Your Heart!
Rongrong QIAN, Section Chief of Cardiology, Senior Cardiologist
Did you know that most heart problems are preventable and manageable if we take the necessary measures such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and having yearly screenings to detect potential problems? Keep reading to find out more about this global epidemic.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is often referred to as cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease. The heart is a muscular organ that pumps oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. The coronary arteries bring the oxygenated blood to the heart so it can then pump it out to the rest of the body. Like any other muscle, the heart needs oxygen to perform its work. Gradual build up of fat and cholesterol (plaque) along the walls of the coronary arteries can cause the coronary arteries to narrow. When the narrowed artery gets blocked, this leads a heart attack and stroke.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. Based on statistics from the World Health Organization in 2000, around 17 million people die from heart disease globally each year. 80% of them are from developing countries such as Russia, China, and India. If appropriate action is not taken, the World Health Organization states that by 2015, an estimated 20 million people will die from cardiovascular or heart disease every year.
What Are The Risk Factors?
While heart disease sounds daunting, it is both preventable and manageable if you know the risk factors and take necessary measures against them. There are many risk factors that can lead to heart disease. The most common are poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, age, gender, family history, obesity, and stress. All of these factors play an important role in the health of your heart.
Taking all of these into consideration, the most common and independent risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure. In the United States, recent data indicates that there are about 72 million people aged 20 and older who have high blood pressure. In China, about 160 million people aged 18 and older have high blood pressure, a statistic that has increased 31% since 1991.
A recent meta-analysis study that included one million patients suggested that a 3-4 mm Hg systolic (the blood pressure when the heart is contracting) increase in blood pressure would translate into a 20% higher stroke death rate and a 12% higher death rate from ischemic heart disease (the term given to heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries which leads to a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle). In patients with additional risk factors, including obesity and diabetes, the impact of these small changes in blood pressure on cardiovascular disease is even greater.
What Can You Do To Prevent Heart Disease?
There are many things you can do to prevent heart disease. Most of the risk factors are well within your ability to control and relate directly to lifestyle. Having a healthy heart isn’t difficult, but it does require that you make some basic changes to your lifestyle. Two of the most important and two that we have the most control over are a balanced diet and regular exercise.
A balanced diet is one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy heart and is also the starting point to a healthy lifestyle. Increase eating foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, bread and wholegrain foods, legumes, and unsalted nuts. On the other hand, try to limit eating foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt (sodium) such as junk food and processed food.
Regular aerobic exercise (3-5 times a week) is also important when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart.In addition to substantially reducing the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, regular physical activity also helps to relieve stress, increase energy, control weight, and decreases the risk of stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes. Try a recreational activity like dancing, swimming, bicycling, or hiking—all of which promote cardiovascular fitness.
In addition to eating a balanced healthy diet and becoming physically active, it is also important to maintain a healthy weight, give up smoking, and for those who drink, to only do so in moderate amounts (no more than an average of one drink a day for women and two for men). You should also have regular check ups with your doctor to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dr. Daniel Jones, MD, president-elect of the American Heart Association, often uses a vehicle maintenance analogy to encourage his patients to monitor their blood pressure regularly. As he states “Do you change the oil in the car regularly? Of course you do. You don’t wait until it’s performing poorly to change it. So why would you want to treat your body any differently?”
We offer Heart Screening at all of our facilities. Take advantage and come and have one today. Make your heart health a top priority.