What does our heart do and why should we care?
Your heart is a fist sized muscular organ that continuously pumps blood around your body via the circulatory system.
The blood provides your body with the oxygen, nutrients and hormones it needs and removes waste products, like carbon dioxide.
Your heart muscle needs its own supply of blood because, like the rest of your body, it needs oxygen and other nutrients to stay healthy.
The heart is very, very important. If it stops functioning (such as during cardiac arrest), your body begins systematically shutting down.
We should seriously care about our heart health. Heart disease is New Zealand's single biggest killer, claiming more than 6000 lives every year - or one person every 90 minutes. Internationally cardiovascular disease (the term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease) is the leading global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.9 million deaths per year in 2015, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030.
Cardiovascular disease is the term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease. The term ‘heart disease’ is used as a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and function. All heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, but not all cardiovascular diseases are heart disease.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, and when people talk about “heart disease” this is what they are usually referring to. Coronary heart disease occurs when the coronary arteries that deliver oxygen to the heart become narrowed or blocked because of the build-up of fat (cholesterol) within the artery wall.
This is called atherosclerosis and it is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up. This build-up narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If the build-up is mild, symptoms may include pressure or tightness in the chest during activity or stress, or shortness of breath or fatigue during physical exertion.
When the blood supply to the heart is severely reduced, chest pain (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction) or heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmia) may occur.
Types of heart disease1. Coronary artery disease (CAD). causes impaired blood flow in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Also called coronary heart disease, CAD is the most common form of heart disease and a heart attack may result from uncontrolled CAD.
3. Congenital heart defects. Congenital heart disease, or a congenital heart defect, is a heart abnormality present at birth. The problem can affect the heart walls, the heart valves or the blood vessels. There are numerous types of congenital heart defects. They can range from simple conditions that don’t cause symptoms to complex problems that cause severe life-threatening symptoms.
4. Heart infections. Heart infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.1
Complications arising from heart disease
1. Heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot, possibly damaging or destroying a part of the heart muscle. Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it is fatal, resulting in sudden cardiac death.
2. Stroke. An ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke) occurs when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, brain cells begin to die. This can result in the loss of function controlled by that part of the brain, such as walking or talking.
3. A hemorrhagic stroke. occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts. This is most often caused by uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure). Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after being starved of oxygen. A stroke is a medical emergency — brain tissue begins to die within just a few minutes.
4. Heart failure sometimes called congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. Heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart stops beating. Instead, the heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met.
5. Arrhythmia refers to an abnormal heart rhythm. There are various types of arrhythmia's, where the heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly. An arrhythmia can affect how well your heart works. With an abnormal heartbeat, your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
6. Heart valve problems. When heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, a condition called stenosis results. When the heart valves don’t close properly and allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. If the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called prolapse.2
7. Aneurysm. An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of your artery. It is a serious complication that can occur anywhere in your body; if an aneurysm bursts, you may face life-threatening internal bleeding.
Who is at risk of heart disease?
Many risk factors for developing heart disease are controllable, while others are not. Factors include:
- Age. Aging increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle.
- Gender. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, women's risk increases after menopause.
- Family history and ethnicity. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).
- Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in non-smokers.
- Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer. Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Poor diet. A diet that's high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
- High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
- High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. Both conditions share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
- Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
- Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with many forms of heart disease and some of its other risk factors.
- Stress. Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors for heart disease.
- Poor hygiene. Not regularly washing your hands and not establishing other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put you at risk of heart infections, especially if you already have an underlying heart condition. Poor dental health also may contribute to heart disease.
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12 signs and symptoms of heart disease
According to WebMD6, not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. There is not always an alarming chest clutch followed by a fall to the floor as you see in movies. Some heart symptoms don’t even happen in your chest, and it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on.
This is especially true if you are 60 or older, are overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Men are more likely to experience chest pain; women are more likely to have other symptoms along with chest discomfort. The more risk factors you have, the more you should be concerned about anything that might be heart-related.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for:
1. Chest pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort (angina). This is the most common sign of heart disease. If you have a blocked artery or are having a heart attack, you may feel pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest. The feeling usually lasts longer than a few minutes. It may happen when you're at rest or when you're doing something physical.
2. Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain. Some people have these symptoms during a heart attack and may even vomit. Women are more likely to report this type of symptom than men.
3. Pain that starts in the chest and spreads. Another classic heart attack symptom is pain that radiates down the left side of the body.
4. Shortness of breath, dizziness or light-headedness. If you suddenly feel unsteady and have chest discomfort or shortness of breath, call a doctor right away. It could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isn't able to pump the way it should.
5. Coldness and numbness, especially in your limbs; unusual or unexplained pain, and weakness in your legs and arms could be symptoms of atherosclerosis, which reduces blood supply to your extremities.
6. Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, or upper abdomen. If you have pain or pressure in the centre of your chest that spreads up into your neck, throat, jaw or upper body, it could be a sign of a heart attack.
7. You get exhausted easily. If you suddenly feel fatigued or winded after doing something you had no problem doing in the past, make an appointment with your doctor right away. Extreme exhaustion or unexplained weakness can be a symptom of heart disease, especially for women.
8. Sweating. Breaking out in a cold sweat for no obvious reason could signal a heart attack.
9. Swollen legs, feet and ankles. This could be a sign that your heart isn’t pumping blood as effectively as it should. When the heart can't pump fast enough, blood backs up in the veins and causes bloating. Heart failure can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body, which can lead to bloating.
10. Irregular heartbeat. It's normal for your heart to race when you are nervous or excited or to skip or add a beat occasionally. But if you feel like your heart is beating out of time for more than just a few seconds, or if it happens often, ask your doctor to check it out.
11. An abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia). Symptoms can include fluttering in your chest, racing heartbeat (tachycardia), slow heartbeat (bradycardia), chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting.
12. Symptoms of heart infections (such as endocarditis or myocarditis) include chest pain, chest congestion or coughing, fever, chills, or a skin rash.
In all these cases, seek medical attention immediately. If it’s sudden onset call emergency and get to a hospital right away. Don’t try to drive yourself.
5 common causes of cardiovascular disease
While cardiovascular disease can refer to different heart or blood vessel problems, the term often refers to damage to the heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries. Plaque build-up thickens and stiffens artery walls, which can inhibit blood flow through your arteries to your organs and tissues.
Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease and it is often caused by avoidable problems, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking.
1. Abnormal heart arrhythmia's (heart rhythms)
In a healthy person with a normal, healthy heart, it's unlikely for a fatal arrhythmia to develop without some outside trigger, such as an electrical shock or the use of illegal drugs. That's because a healthy person's heart is free from any abnormal conditions that cause an arrhythmia.
However, in a heart that's diseased or deformed, the heart's electrical impulses may not properly start or travel through the heart, making arrhythmia's more likely to develop. Common causes of an abnormal heart rhythm include:
- Heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects)
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine
- Drug abuse
- Stress and anxiety
- Valvular heart disease5
2. Congenital heart defects
This heart disease occurs while a baby is still developing in the womb. Some medical conditions, medications and genes may play a role in causing heart defects. Some heart defects may be serious and diagnosed and treated early, while others may go undiagnosed for many years. Your heart’s structure can also change as you age, causing a heart defect that may lead to problems.
Cardiomyopathy is a thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle. There are several types, and each is the result of a separate condition.
4. Heart infection
Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are the most common causes of heart infections. Uncontrolled infections in the body can also harm the heart if they’re not properly treated.1
5. Valvular heart disease
There are many causes of diseases of your heart valves. You may be born with valvular disease, or the valves may be damaged by conditions such as rheumatic fever; infections (infectious endocarditis) or connective tissue disorders.
How do you diagnose heart or cardiovascular disease?
A thorough physical exam will be done if coronary heart disease is suspected. Your doctor will also take note of your family and personal medical history. Additional tests may also be done, including the following:
1. Blood tests
These check the levels of such things as electrolytes, blood cells, clotting factors and hormones in the blood. Specific enzymes and proteins that can indicate problems with the heart will also be tested for.
2. Non-invasive tests
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). A resting ECG monitors your heart’s electrical activity and help your doctor spot any irregularities. This may show changes that indicate the heart muscle is not receiving enough oxygen.
- Echocardiogram. This ultrasound test shows the movements of your heart as it beats. The images will allow your doctor to get a better picture of your heart’s structure and assess any damage.
- Stress test. This exam is done while you complete a strenuous activity, such as walking, running, or riding a stationary bike. During the test, your doctor can monitor your heart’s activity in response to changes in physical exertion.
- Carotid ultrasound. To get a detailed ultrasound of your carotid arteries, your doctor may order this ultrasound test.
- Holter monitor. Your doctor may ask you to wear this heart rate monitor for 24 to 48 hours. It allows them to get an extended view of your heart’s activity.
- Tilt table test. If you’ve experienced fainting or light-headedness when standing up or sitting down, your doctor may order this test. During it, you’re strapped to a table and slowly raised or lowered while they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.
- CT scan. This imaging test gives your doctor a highly-detailed X-ray image of your heart.
- Heart MRI. Like a CT scan, a heart MRI can provide a very detailed image of your heart and blood vessels.
3. Invasive tests
If a physical exam, blood tests, and non-invasive tests aren’t conclusive, your doctor may want to look inside your body to determine what’s causing any unusual symptoms. Invasive tests may include:
- Cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography. Your doctor may insert a catheter into your heart through the groin and arteries. The catheter will help them perform tests involving the heart and blood vessels. Once this catheter is in your heart, your doctor can perform a coronary angiography. During a coronary angiography, a dye is injected into the delicate arteries and capillaries surrounding the heart. The dye helps produce a highly detailed X-ray image.
- Electrophysiology study. During this test, your doctor may attach electrodes to your heart through a catheter. When the electrodes are in place, your doctor can send electric pulses through and record how the heart responds.1
Treatment of heart disease
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting.
Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, so talk to your doctor if you have concerns. If you're worried about developing heart disease, discuss this with your doctor and they will suggest steps you can take to reduce the risk. This is particularly important if you have a family history of heart disease.
Common treatments for heart disease
Treatment depends on the type of heart disease you have, as well as how advanced it is. For example, if you have a heart infection, your doctor is likely to prescribe an antibiotic. If you have a build-up of plaque, they may take a two-pronged approach: prescribe a medication that can help lower your risk for additional plaque build-up and help you adopt healthy lifestyle changes.
Treatment for heart disease falls into three main categories:
1. Lifestyle changes
Healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent heart disease. They can also help treat the condition and prevent it from getting worse. Your diet is one of the first areas you may seek to change.
A low-sodium, low-fat diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables may help you lower your risk for heart disease complications. Likewise, getting regular exercise and quitting smoking can help treat heart disease. Also, try to reduce your alcohol consumption.
A medication may be necessary to treat certain types of heart disease. Your doctor can prescribe a medication that can either cure or control your heart disease and slow or stop the risk of complications. The exact drug prescribed depends on the type of heart disease you have.
3. Surgery or invasive procedures
In some cases of heart disease, surgery or a medical procedure is needed to treat the condition and prevent worsening symptoms. For example, if you have arteries that are blocked by plaque build-up, your doctor may insert a stent in your artery to return regular blood flow. The procedure depends on the type of heart disease you have and the extent of damage to your heart.
8 ways to help prevent heart disease
Certain types of heart disease, such as congenital heart defects, can't be prevented. However, you can help avoid many other types of heart disease through lifestyle and diet changes.
1. Quit smoking or avoid second-hand smoke. Nicotine in cigarettes causes blood vessels to constrict, making it harder for oxygenated blood to circulate. This can cause atherosclerosis.
2. Limit your alcohol intake.
3. Control other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
4. Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week, for a total of two-and-a-half hours per week. Check with your doctor if you already have a heart condition.
5. Eat a healthy diet that's low in salt, saturated fat and trans-fat.
6. Maintain a healthy body weight.
7. Reduce and manage stress. Speak with your doctor if you’re frequently overwhelmed, anxious, or are coping with stressful life events, such as moving, changing jobs, or going through a divorce.
8. Consider a natural heart health supplement, like Heart Health Pack. Our heart is increasingly stressed by our modern environment and lifestyle and it’s important to make sure it has all the support it can get – preferably with supplements containing all-natural ingredients.
Is there a cure for heart disease?
Heart disease can’t be cured or reversed. It requires a lifetime of treatment and careful monitoring. Many of the symptoms of heart disease can be relieved with medications, procedures, and lifestyle changes. When these methods fail, coronary intervention or bypass surgery might be used.
It’s important to take charge of your overall health now, before a diagnosis may be made. This is especially true if you have a family history of heart disease or conditions that increase your risk of heart disease. Taking care of your body and your heart can pay off for many years to come.
How the Heart Health Pack may help
The Heart Health Pack is a combination of over-the-counter dietary supplements taken daily to improve your heart health and increase your sense of well-being.
The Heart Health Pack contains three products:
CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) is an important enzyme that our body produces naturally. CoQ10 helps the mitochondria – the powerhouse in our cells – convert compounds in food into energy, needed to power our heart and every other bodily function.
Magnesium. Low magnesium has been linked with cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, arterial plaque build-up, calcification of soft tissues, cholesterol and hardening of the arteries9. Magnesium helps widen and relax your blood vessels, which means your heart can pump blood more easily, thereby reducing blood pressure. It is also reported to support bone health, nerve conduction, muscle and brain function.
Herbal Ignite for Him helps boost testosterone levels, decrease stress, improve nerve function and genital blood flow, and increase interest in sex or libido. A 2018 study found that having low testosterone levels may be linked to heart problems7 and another found that testosterone supplementation may help some men avoid heart attacks8.
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Herbal Ignite has been used successfully by thousands of men and women in New Zealand and Australia to help beat stress and fatigue, boost libido and sexual satisfaction. It is 100% natural and free of unpleasant side effects. It is made in New Zealand to the highest standards with thorough testing.
Disclaimer. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice provided by your medical professional. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.
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