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October 2020 Newsletter
In our latest Newsletters we have been insisting upon the three key aspects that healthy people do almost every day: a healthy diet, exercise and a good night’s sleep. Healthy living is indeed the best way to delay or avoid many diseases, in particular cardiovascular diseases (CVD) which is our theme of the month.
The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term cardiovascular disease. Heart disease describes a range of conditions that can affect the heart, including blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), and heart defects a person may be born with (congenital heart defects), among others. It involves narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke. A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. It is a frightening experience, but it is good to know that tens of thousands of people survive heart attack and go on to leave productive and enjoyable lives. However, they will have to make big and lasting changes to their lifestyles in order to reverse some of the damages made to their heart.
Similarly a stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to part of the brain causing it to stop working and eventually damaging brain cells. If something happens to block the flow of blood, brain cells start to die within minutes because they cannot get oxygen The brain is divided into areas which control different things, and the impact of the stroke depends on the area of the brain it damages. It can affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, eat, see, read, socialize or do things they were able to do before the stroke. Although it is a leading cause of death in many countries, it can be treated well in the majority of cases, particularly when the diagnosis is made quickly.
Some risk factors for heart disease cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history. But you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control. It is the case of a poor diet. A diet that is high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease. Stress is also a well-known factor. Long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, which are common causes of heart diseases. Similarly being overweight is also a major risk factor for CVD, because it automatically increases cholesterol, cause blood pressure to rise and lead to diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are said to be two to four times more likely to be at risk for heart disease. Finally, smoking is widely known as a major cause of cardiovascular diseases and is responsible for approximately 25% deaths from CVDs.
You may not be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until you have a heart attack, angina, stroke or heart failure. It is therefore important to watch for the symptoms. The most common ones are chest pain. The chest can even feel like it is being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back. It is yet important to know that most heart attack start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. A key indicator to check regularly is blood pressure. A high blood pressure (or hypertension) usually takes place over time. It is also called the “secret killer” because it shows no symptom, and people can develop hypertension without even realizing it. However, left undetected (or uncontrolled) it can lead to heart diseases.
As often with health-related issues it is recommended to be as much as possible aware of your risk factors in terms of physical attributes and lifestyle. We can be less exposed to heart diseases by changing some of our habits. As we regularly point out awareness of the risks help identify positive changes that we can make in our daily life.
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