Rising cases of heart ailments and how you can prevent them

Heart disease is one of the most common cause of mortality worldwide, affecting both the male and female population. In the last decade heart ailments have increased globally and the same has been observed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Previous research by the WHO has indicated that as many as 36 per cent of all deaths in the UAE are caused by cardiovascular disease.

Unlike the rest of the world, the average age group is 10 years younger in the UAE. There is a significant increase in the number of patients in their 30s and 40s with cardiovascular problems and in some instances, cases have been reported in even younger age groups.

Types of heart ailments:

CVD (Cardio vascular diseases) is an umbrella term used to describe a group of all heart-related diseases. One of the most common is coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disorders leading to heart attack, heart failure or sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Arrhythmia is another common heart ailment which represents as the change in heart rhythm which leads to angina (chest pain), heart attacks and ischemic strokes, many of which can be fatal.

What can you do to prevent  heart ailments?

Manage your blood pressure

With every heartbeat, your heart pumps blood into the arteries. This exerts pressure on the walls of the blood vessels, which is highest when the heart contracts (systolic BP) and lowest when the heart relaxes (diastolic BP). Get your BP checked as part of your regular check-up at your doctor or closest clinic. A healthy result: Systolic pressure of 120 mmHg; diastolic pressure of 80 mmHg. Warning sign: Systolic pressure of 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or higher.

Manage your weight and eat healthily

Being overweight or obese   can lead to fatty material building up in  the arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood to the organs). If the arteries that carry blood to the heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. In addition, carrying weight around the middle can make it harder for the body to use insulin, the hormone that controls  blood glucose [sugar] levels. This can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Having high levels of glucose in the bloodstream damages the arteries and increases the risk of heart and circulatory diseases.

 According to American Heart Association a healthy diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates (mostly found in whole plain foods such as beans and oatmeal) and lean protein (such as plain Greek yogurt, skinless white meat poultry and white skin fish) while avoiding salt, sugar and animal based fats. If you’re struggling to shed those extra kilograms, consult a dietician.

Monitor your cholesterol

High levels of cholesterol lead to clogging of the arteries, compromising the blood supply to the heart and brain. An optimal balance between high-density lipoprotein (HDL- commonly known as good cholesterol), low-density lipoprotein (LDL - also known as bad cholesterol) is important. The goal should be to lower your LDL and boost your HDL. Speak to your GP about this because if lifestyle changes don’t help, you might require medication. Doctors agree that protecting your heart might be one of the best health investments you can make.

Get moving

Regular exercise helps prevent or manage many health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and many types of cancer.  It also helps your heart muscle become more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout the body. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (a brisk walk, ballroom dancing) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity (swimming, boxing, running, and soccer) exercise every week, broken into 10-minute chunks.

Quit smoking

It isn’t just the lungs that are damaged by smoking. The tar and carbon monoxide in cigarettes lead to the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries, which is known as atherosclerosis. The build-up of plaque makes it difficult for blood to flow through the arteries and increases the risk of a blood clot, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

To ensure you keep your heart in optimum health, remember to regularly get your essential checkups done. If you haven’t checked your cholesterol and blood pressure lately be sure to schedule these health checks with your GP soon.