Cardiovascular diseases have high rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability. These are the leading causes of human death irrespective of age, race, and region.
According to the World Heart Federation, one third of adults over the age of 25 suffer from cardiovascular diseases globally. Every year over 17.5 million people die from cardiovascular diseases worldwide which contributes to almost 30 percent of the annual deaths.
The prognosis of cardiovascular diseases has been greatly improved in recent years with the development of new treatment modalities and medical technologies leading to a decrease in the morbidity and mortality.
However, the morbidity and mortality due to heart diseases in our country which is a developing country is increasing mainly due to environmental factors and unhealthy living habits. A great deal of attention is required to lead a healthy lifestyle and create an unpolluted environment to benefit the life and health of our hearts. To have a healthy heart you need to consider these things:
Smoking is closely associated with various cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease and hypertension. Compared with non- smokers, the risk of cardiovascular diseases for smokers increases 1.6 fold.
Multiple studies indicate that smokers are 27 percent more likely to develop ischaemic heart disease, 9 percent more likely for haemorrhagic stroke, 4.5 times more likely for hypertension, and 16 times more likely for hyperlipidaemia.
Studies suggest that the risk of myocardial infarction of non-smokers who live with smokers increases by 23 percent. Studies show that in a person who has no history of cardiovascular disease, smoking cessation reduced the mortality of cardiovascular disease by about 2-35 percent, which is similar to the effect antihypertensive intervention.
Cessation before the age of 40 years reduces the risk of death associated with continued smoking by about 90 percent. For those who have heart disease, smoking cessation can reduce the overall mortality by 12-35 percent. This effect is significantly better than antihypertensive and lipid-lowering treatments proven by few studies.
How does smoking change the heart and blood vessels?
Smoking causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure, causes an instant and long-term increase in heart rate,reduces blood flow from the hear, reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body's tissues, increases risk for blood clots, damages blood vessels, doubles the risk of stroke (reduced blood flow to the brain) and Smoking has also been linked with depression and stress.
What are the risks of secondhand smoke?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 34,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease each year from exposure to second hand tobacco smoke.
Secondhand smoke is smoke exhaled by smokers. It also includes smoke from the burning end of a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe. Exposure to smoke poses health hazards to pregnant women, infants, and young children. Children and infants exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to have ear infections and asthma. They are also at higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
These symptoms may be from exposure to secondhand smoke: Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing,excessive phlegm (mucus in the airways), chest discomfort from lung irritation, chest pain, and bronchitis.
The symptoms of secondhand smoke may look like other medical conditions and problems. Always see your doctor for a diagnosis.
Smoking, along with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes, tops the list as a primary risk factor for heart disease. In fact, smoking is one of the single most preventable cause of early death.
Why quit smoking?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), stopping smoking reduces the risk for heart disease, the risk for repeat heart attacks, and death by heart disease by half.
Research also shows that quitting smoking is key in the management of many contributors to heart attack. These include atherosclerosis, blood clots and abnormal heart rhythms.
To be successful, you should be mentally ready and relatively stress-free. Physically, you need to commit to exercising daily and getting plenty of sleep.
A person trying to quit must overcome 2 obstacles: a physical addiction to nicotine and a habit. The National Cancer Institute offers these tips to help users quit using tobacco products: Think about why you want to quit, pick a stress-free time to quit, ask for support and encouragement from family, friends, and co-workers, start doing some exercise or activity each day to relieve stress and improve your health, get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet,join a smoking cessation program, or other support group. Disconnect your activities of smoking and replace them with newer healthier activities.
In some cases, nicotine replacement products can help break a smoking habit. Nicotine replacement products continue to give smokers nicotine to meet their nicotine craving. However, nicotine replacement products do not contain the tars and toxic gases that cigarettes emit.
Diet is crucial in the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease and is one of the key factors that one can change for a healthy heart. Abnormal blood lipid levels have been shown to have a strong correlation with the risk of coronary heart disease, and the abnormal blood lipid levels are directly related to the diet.
A diet rich in saturated fats often causes high serum cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats, like those found in fish, nuts, seeds and vegetables, are beneficial for heart. These sources of unsaturated fats contain essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, which are beneficial to the heart and cannot be produced by the body.
The best diet for preventing heart disease is one that is full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oils.
The studies found that those who adhered most to healthy eating patterns had a 14 percent to 21 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared with those who adhered least. Studies also showed that these different healthy eating patterns were similarly effective at lowering risk across racial and ethnic groups and other subgroups and were statistically significantly associated with lower risk of both coronary heart disease and stroke.
The unhealthy diets including fast food increase the risk of hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, and diabetes, which ultimately damage the heart. To keep a healthy heart, it is necessary to have a diet low in saturated fats and salt, but with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Hypertensive heart disease refers to a constellation of changes in the heart, and its vessels (coronary arteries) as a result of chronic blood pressure elevation. Hypertension increases the workload on the heart inducing structural and functional changes in the myocardium. These changes include increase in heart size (hypertrophy of the left ventricle) which can progress to heart failure.
Patients with left ventricular hypertrophy have significantly increased morbidity and mortality. Hypertension is important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, which is partly attributed to a high sodium diet. The daily intake of salt should be less than 5g according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The heart needs exercise just like any other muscle. Muscles that are utilized regularly become stronger and healthier, whereas muscles that aren’t used weaken and atrophy. When it’s exercised, the heart can pump more blood through the body and continue working at optimal efficiency with little strain. This will likely help it to stay healthy longer.
Regular exercise also helps to keep arteries and other blood vessels flexible, ensuring good blood flow and normal blood pressure. Exercise can influence a variety of cardiovascular regulatory peptides. It can reduce body fat levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Sticking to a long-term exercise regimen is an effective method to prevent cardiovascular disease.
It is suggested that environmental pollution is a greater cause heart diseases and also play a vital role to develop congenital heart disease than genetic factors. The development of the foetus is also influenced by a polluted environment during pregnancy and can ultimately lead to congenital heart disease.
Although the epidemiological evidence is limited and inconsistencies remain, recent studies have suggested that maternal exposure to air pollution may also play a role in causing congenital anomalies, particularly congenital heart diseases. Epidemiological studies have proven that the elevated risk for cardiovascular events associated with the exposure to particle pollution which has been associated with the increased risks of myocardial infarction, stroke, arrhythmia, and heart failure exacerbation within hours to days of exposure in susceptible individuals.
Research has shown that sleep is an essential component of cardiovascular health. Sleeping for too short or too long at a stretch is associated with heart disease and can negatively affect other heart-related risk factors like dietary intake, exercise, weight, blood pressure, and inflammation.
There are various reasons causing poor sleep, including clinical sleep disorders, working overnight shifts, or poor sleep hygiene. Talk with your doctor if you have frequent restless nights or do not feel adequately rested during the day.
Improving sleep habits can make a difference. Examples include setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it, stopping use of electronic devices an hour before bedtime, and avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol several hours before bed.
Other factors to consider
Along with these practices, the American Heart Association recommends controlling cholesterol, managing blood sugar, and managing blood pressure as additional factors for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular diseases are a devastating set of diseases that are best combated by preventative measures including a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. The government agencies, NGOs and civil society should work together to create societies that promote the pursuit of a healthy heart and happy life.