Articles

GOUT

By Michael Okubena

Gout is a joint disorder caused by an imbalance of uric acid in the body. It leads to salt deposits (urates) of the acid in the joints causing inflammation. Gout can affect all age groups and both men and women. But men aged over 60 are more susceptible to Gout.

Inflammation, swelling, reddening, tenderness as well as severe pain in the affected joints are common symptoms of Gout.  High volumes of salt deposits may worsen the condition causing total immobility of joints where hand s and feet could become set in a particular position.

Gout cannot be prevented but with proper medications, exercise and diet the symptoms can be controlled. Resting the affected joint and avoiding putting further weight or stress on the joint goes a long way in controlling the condition.  The most common medication used to provide relief from gout is Colchicines. Used since ancient times, Colchicines is known to relieve pain and inflammation providing relief to the affected joints.  Other drugs used in the treatment of gout include Nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and analgesic.

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KNEE JOINT PAIN

By Michael Okubena

Knees are one of the most important parts of a human body that facilitate smooth movement. Proper functioning of the knees is critical for mobility of legs and daily activates such as walking. The knee is a joint that has three compartments. The thigh bone (femur) meets the large shin bone (tibia) forming the main knee joint. The patella, or knee cap, is also part of the normal knee anatomy. The ends of the femur and tibia and underside of the patella are covered by articular cartilage, a slippery surface which allows friction-free, pain free movement. 

The knee flexes normally to a maximum of 135 degrees and extends to 0 degrees. The bursae, or fluid-filled sacs, serve as gliding surfaces for the tendons to reduce the force of friction as these tendons move. The knee is a weight-bearing joint. Each meniscus serves to evenly load the surface during weight-bearing and also aids in disbursing joint fluid for joint lubrication.

Causes of knee joint pain can include factors such as injury to ligaments, tendonitis, fractures etc. Injury can affect any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the knee joint and can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, meniscus and bones forming the joint.

The knee joint is the most commonly involved joint in rheumatic diseases, such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis Baker Cyst is also a common cause of pain at the back of the knee.  Chondromalacia is a softening of the cartilage under the kneecap (patella and is a common cause of deep knee pain and stiffness in younger women and can be associated with pain and stiffness after prolonged sitting and climbing stairs or hills. Bursitis of the knee is another knee joint pain that occurs on the inside of the knee and the front of the kneecap. Dislocation of knee cap is another serious knee joint pain and occurs when the triangular bone covering the knee (patella) moves or slides out of place. The displacement usually occurs toward the outside of the leg.

Anti-inflammatory medications, ice packs, adequate rest to the knee joints, cortisone medications, as well as exercise therapy to develop the musculature of the front of the thigh can all provide long term relief for knee joint pain. In extreme cases where the pain is chronic surgery can be an option that can include knee replacement surgery, suturing, grafting, and synthetic graft repair.

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PSORIATIC ARTHRITIS

By Michael Okubena

Psoriatic arthritis is a joint condition that occurs mainly due to the complications of psoriasis ( a chronic skin disorder with the appearance of raised, red, roughened patches covered by silvery shiny scales). Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also get psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory joint disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and restrictive mobility.

This type of joint condition usually affects people, both men and women, in the ages of 30-50. It has been noticed that white colored people are more likely to get Psoriatic arthritis than black colored people.  It usually affects joints in an asymmetric manner but may sometimes also affect joints in a symmetric fashion, similar to rheumatoid arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis can be divided into 5 types mainly Asymmetric arthritis (it is the most common form of psoriatic arthritis where the joint inflammation in joints does not follow a typical pattern), Spondylitis (also called spondyloarthropathy and  involves inflammation in the joints between the spinal vertebrae), Symmetric arthritis (also called symmetric polyarthritis and involves inflammation in the same joints on both sides of the body), Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP) arthritis (also called distal arthritis which occurs in the fingers and/or toes, usually affecting the joints closest to the fingernails and toenails) and Arthritis mutilans (a very rare type but devastating form of psoriatic arthritis that can destroy joints, especially of the hands, feet, back or neck ,resulting in deformity).

Common medications to treat psoriatic arthritis include Nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), Biologic response modifiers, Corticosteroids, as well as Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs(DMARDs) that slow the progress of the disease.  In severe cases surgery may be the only option for relief. Other remedies include exercises for joint mobility, proper diet intake, applying hot or cold patches to the joints as well as exposure to warmer climatic conditions.

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RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

By Michael Okubena

Rheumatoid arthritis is, after Osteoarthritis, the second most common form of joint diseases and usually affects the fingers, wrist, ankles and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect all age groups as well as both men and women but women, especially in the age groups of 30-50 are more susceptible to this type of joint pain.

This joint condition shows a typical pattern surrounding the inflamed joints. The first signs show a swelling of the joint and inflammation of the synovial membrane followed by erosion and loss of cartilage and bone.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a classic example of a symmetric arthritis; doctors can diagnose this condition by identifying the pattern of joint pain. So if your left wrist hurts there are chances that your right wrist would hurt, too.  But, if the joint involvement is asymmetric, your left wrist would hurt, but your right wrist would not.  Rheumatoid arthritis may be caused by a number of reasons such as hereditary tendencies, genetics, sedentary lifestyles etc but most affected people have a particular antibody- HLA-DR4 that could be the main cause.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be contained by resting the affected joints, a healthy nutritious diet and by medications such as aspirin, salicylates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory preparations and slow-acting agents including penicillamine, gold, sulphasalazine, hydroxychloroquine. A lot of people suffering from this joint condition with proper medications and care show improvements, enough to lead a fairly normal life, but in some severe cases it could lead to disability.

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OSTEOARTHRITIS

By Michael Okubena

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and generally affects older people in the age groups of 60 and above. This type of joint condition includes pain, swelling and stiffness in major joints such as knees, hips, back, neck and hands. The usual symptoms indicate a general stiffness and decreased motion as well as swelling and creaking of joints. The second problem is a wearing out of the cartilage surface, which is the soft cushion between bones, of the joint, a major factor for knee and hip replacement surgeries.

Age and obesity are two major risk factors. There are mainly 2 types of osteoarthritis – primary and secondary.  Both display common symptoms but the causes for both vary considerably. Primary osteoarthritis is generally detected amongst older people, age is a contributing factor, and is no t preventable. Where as secondary osteoarthritis is generally caused due to an injury, injuring the affected joint (baseball players, ballet dancers, and construction workers are all at risk), being over weight, hereditary factors, or genetics and is noticed more among people in the ages of 45-50.

Although a healthy life with proper diet, weight control and exercise is the best way to avoid joint problems, in advanced cases comfort without medication is not possible. The most common drugs recommended for Osteoarthritis include Acetaminophen (Tylenol/Anacin), Nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), COX-2 inhibitors, (Celebrex) or even Corticosteroid injections, or Hyaluronic acid injections. 

Alternative therapies for this type of joint pain include acupuncture therapy, massage of joints as well as Magnetic Pulse therapy.

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ARTHRITIS

By Michael Okubena

The term Arthritis has its origins in the Greek words arthron (joint) and itis (inflammation). This type of joint condition involves chronic pain, inflammation and swelling. Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage, which normally protects the joint, allowing for smooth movement. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, like when walking, dancing, exercising etc.  Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones rub together causing pain, swelling (inflammation)and stiffness.

Joint inflammation can be the result of various reasons such as broken bones, infection (usually caused by bacteria or viruses), an autoimmune disease (the body attacks itself because the immune system believes a body part is foreign), being overweight, repetitive use of affected joints putting stress on the joint t or even due to general "wear and tear" of joints.

Often, the inflammation goes away after the injury has healed, the disease is treated, or the infection has been cleared. However, with some injuries and diseases, the inflammation does not go away or destruction results in long-term pain and deformity. When this happens, you have chronic arthritis.

Arthritis can occur in men and women of all ages. About 37 million people in America have arthritis of some kind, which is almost 1 out of every 7 people.

Leading a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a proper nutritional diet go a long way toward restoring the general health of a person. It can also be beneficial for people suffering from joint conditions. But in cases where simple measures are insufficient medications remain the only cure. However, despite the variety of medicines available for arthritis, physical therapy (acupuncture, massage, Osteopathy etc) is widely accepted as a well known and trusted cure for arthritis.

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HEART FAILURE

By Michael Okubena

Heart failure or congestive heart failure (CHF) is known as the structural or functional disorder of the heart that impairs its ability to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Due to inefficient pumping ability, fluid starts to buildup in the legs, ankles and feet (edema). Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are the primary causes that lead to congestive heart failure. About 5 million people in the United States alone suffer from this condition and each year approximately 300000 people die due to heart failure.

Heart failure increases the pressure in the heart because blood moves through the heart and the body at a slower rate. Thus the heart loses its ability to pump oxygenated blood and nutrients to other parts of the body. During heart failure, the heart does not cease completely but loses the efficiency to pump blood all around the body. Heart failure leads to reduction in muscle contraction and the ability of the heart chambers to fill up with blood is limited, so there is less blood to pump out to tissues in the body. Also when the pumping power of the heart is reduced, it cannot pump out all the blood it receives and as a result the heart chamber fills with more blood.  Congestive heart failure can also be caused due to high blood pressure, diseases of the heart valve, Ischemic heart, congenital heart diseases and even severe anemia.

Heart failure typically affects the left, right or both the ventricles. If the left ventricle fails, then fluid will start to accumulate in the lungs due to clogging of the veins in the lungs and may lead to severe respiratory disorder. Right ventricular failure is a condition in which, right half of the heart fails completely. Due to the increase of pressure in the veins, the fluid slowly starts to buildup in the legs (edema), liver and abdominal organs. When both the sides of the heart i.e. (left ventricle and right ventricle) fail, then the condition gives rise to biventricular failure. When the heart function gets worse over a period of time, the strength of muscle contractions is reduced and the ability of the heart chambers to fill with blood becomes limited resulting in less blood to pump out to tissues in the body.

Congestive heart failure occurs most often in elderly people who are over 70 years and the majority of the patients who die from heart failure are women. According to several studies it has been noticed that men often die due to coronary heart diseases, before it develops in to heart failure. Long term hypertension, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking and high levels of bad cholesterol are often associated with congestive heart failure. Beta blockers can reduce the energy required for the heart to pump the blood all around the body because these blockers block the action of adrenaline hormones in the heart.

Congestive heart failure can also lead to kidney failure as the excess fluid starts to accumulate in the body and the kidneys cannot dispose these fluids due to extra sodium and water composition. Healthy and balanced diet, regular physical activity, normal blood pressure, avoiding smoking and abstaining from illicit drugs are some of the preventive measures which help to avoid complications that lead to heart failure. These defensive steps go a long way in keeping the heart healthy and help to avoid other cardiovascular diseases.

Heart Failure Causes

Coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary artery disease is caused due to accumulation of atheromatous plaque within the walls of arteries that supply fresh oxygenated blood to the heart and it is the root cause of heart failure. If the coronary arteries are blocked, the heart will strive for oxygenated blood and if this request is not met, it may lead to chest pain (Angina pectoris) or a heart attack. This affects the basic pumping ability of the heart and thus leads to congestive heart failure. Coronary heart disease is the most common underlying cause of cardiovascular disability and death. The common risk factors associated with this disease are hypertension, cigarette smoking, elevated blood lipids, a high fat diet, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes and stress.

High Blood Pressure

Person suffering from long standing high blood pressure is at a greater risk of suffering from heart failure as the heart struggles to pump blood harder. Blood pressure is used to measure the pressure of blood flow inside the arteries. If the blood pressure is higher than normal level then it is called as hypertension and it can lead to a massive heart attack which is also one of the underlying causes of heart failure. The symptoms of hypertension cannot be recognized by some people but consistent high blood pressure levels can prove to be more fatal. High salt intake, smoking, stress, obesity and physical inactivity are some of the reasons responsible for hypertension. People suffering from high blood pressure are always advised to reduce salt intake in their diet, to give up smoking and to engage in some kind of physical activity. Keeping blood pressure at a normal level is beneficial for heart health and prevents heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.

Arrhythmia

Prolonged and severe arrhythmia can lead to heart failure. The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rhythm of the heartbeat. Problems with the electrical system can cause abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias. It one of the major causes that leads to congestive heart failure. In arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm. Tachycardia is a condition in which the heartbeat is too fast and when the beat is too slow it is known as Bradycardia. Due to arrhythmia, heart loses the capability of pumping enough blood to the body and thus causes severe damage to the brain, heart and other organs.

Congenital Heart disease

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a birth defect which is caused due to abnormal heart structure and functions and it is the major cause of heart failure among children. According to recent survey, at least 8 out of every 1000 babies born each year have a congenital heart defect. This disease may be caused due to genetic disorder or it can pass through family having history of CHD. Women who smoke during pregnancy have an increased risk of having a baby with congenital heart disease. CHD does not cause pain in the chest but common symptoms associated with this disease are poor blood circulation, fatigue, cyanosis and rapid breathing. Due to abnormal structural and functional defects of the heart, the risk of heart failure arrest among children increases.

Heart Attack

People who have had heart attack in some point of their life may be at a greater risk of having a heart failure. Heart attack is a condition which is caused due to breaking of atherosclerosis plaque or when it is dislodged from the wall of a vessel supplying blood to the heart and is suddenly obstructed. A blood clot can also form on the site of plaque of atherosclerosis in a coronary artery, preventing blood reaching the heart. Due to this the heart muscles are no longer oxygenated and they start to die and are replaced by scar tissue. The heart cannot pump blood efficiently if large areas of heart muscle are replaced by scar tissue.

The primary cause for heart attack is atherosclerosis, which is the result of the accumulation of fatty deposits called as plaque inside the arteries which carry fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients to the heart and heart muscles. Atherosclerosis restricts the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart as these fatty deposits make the arteries narrow which obstruct the normal flow of the blood and therefore restrict the supply of oxygen to the heart muscles, making them incapable of pumping blood all around the body.

Heart Failure Risk Factors

 High cholesterol

High cholesterol levels in the blood increases the risk for coronary artery disease because it aids in the buildup of fatty deposits inside the coronary arteries.  When the arteries are blocked due to fatty deposits, supply of oxygenated blood to brain and rest of the body is reduced to a large extent. Cholesterol-rich food increases the level of bad cholesterol or low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is deposited on the artery walls, which leads to atherosclerosis and it is the primary cause of coronary artery disease. These LDL molecules contain more cholesterol and do not aid in the transportation of cholesterol out of the body, instead they deposit cholesterol onto the vessel walls. Low HDL levels can lead to severe cardiovascular disorder. High density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol plays a vital role in removing cholesterol out of the body by transporting it to the liver.

 Diabetes

Diabetes generally contributes to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels (unhealthy fats) that lead to coronary heart disease. People suffering from diabetes tend to have higher LDL levels than HDL levels. The higher percentage of LDL or bad cholesterol obstruct the normal flow of oxygenated blood to the heart, thus making heart inefficient for pumping blood all around the body. When the glucose level in the body increases, it affects the coronary arteries, making the walls rough and narrow due to the accumulation of fatty deposits that block the flow of the blood. If blood flow to the heart is interrupted, the cardiac muscles become starved for oxygen and die. People suffering from type 2 diabetes are at a much higher risk of a heart attack or a cardiac arrest. Generally in type 1 diabetes, pancreas does not make enough insulin but in the case of type 2 diabetes insulin produced by the pancreas is rejected by the body. If any of these conditions disturbs the blood glucose levels in the body it can lead to heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases.

Cardiomyopathy (Enlarged Heart) 

Cardiomyopathy is the deterioration of the function of myocardium. This cardiovascular disease affects the heart by arresting its normal functional activities. It can also severely affect blood vessel system of the body. It is mainly the disease of the heart muscle.

 Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of most of the heart diseases. Cigarettes contain harmful chemical compounds and toxic substances which cause irreparable damage not only to the heart but also to the overall health. It contains nicotine which is addictive and helps to increase bad cholesterol levels in the body. Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 70%. It also increases the risk of sudden death due to coronary heart disease. Carbon monoxide contained in the smoke can clump the platelets in the blood, which makes the blood sticky and thus block coronary arteries. The chances of having a heart failure are seen quite often among habitual smokers. The risk of congenital heart disease increases among pregnant women who are habitual smokers. Smoking causes more than 430,000 deaths in the US each year due to cardiac arrest. It causes immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Passive smoking also poses significant health hazards to women, infants and children.

Drug abuse

Addiction to certain drugs such as heroin, cocaine, hashish and other powerful prescription drugs can cause major cardiovascular complications. Habitual use of these drugs can cause severe stress on the heart which can lead to cardiac arrest, stroke and heart failure. Due to overdose of such drugs a person may even die due to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Drug abuse is also associated with complications such as high heart rate, high blood pressure, cardiac seizures, impotence, respiratory failure and coma.

Heart Failure Symptoms

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart does not fail completely but loses the ability to pump blood all around the body. The heart muscles do not have enough energy to contract easily which eventually leads to the failure of left, right or both the ventricles. The symptoms generally develop as the fluid starts to accumulate in the body. For some people the condition of heart failure maybe ongoing and in some cases it may occur suddenly. Common symptoms associated with heart failure are chest pain, fatigue, swelling in the legs, arms and ankles, heavy breathing and rapid heartbeat. Immediate medical help should be given to a person suffering from heart failure otherwise it can prove fatal. The symptoms for heart failure can also be classified according to left ventricle failure or right ventricle failure.  

Left ventricle heart failure symptoms

This condition occurs when the left ventricle of the heart fails to work efficiently. Some symptoms include:

  • Physical immobility
  • Shortness of breath (Dyspnea)
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Cardiac asthma

Right ventricle heart failure symptoms

This condition occurs when the right ventricle of the heart fails to work efficiently. Some symptoms include:

  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Irregular fast heartbeats
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Anemia
  • Edema
  • Frequent urination during night               
  • Enlarged liver

In severe cases the symptom may also include kidney failure and hyperthyroidism.

Heart Failure Cells

Heart failure cells are macrophage in the lung during left heart failure that carries large amounts of hemosiderinThe main causes are left heart failure and chronic pulmonary edema.

In left heart failure, the left ventricle can not keep pace with the incoming blood from the pulmonary veins causing increased pressure on the alveolar capillaries  resulting in the red blood cells leaking out. Alveolar macrophages ingest the red blood cells and become engorged with brownish hemosiderin.

In pulmonary edema alveolar septa get thick and fibrous increasing pressure on alveolar capillaries and resulting in leakage of red blood cells which undergo phagocytosis by alveolar macrophages.

Heart Failure Prevention

Physical activity

Physical activity not only helps to keep our heart healthy but also helps to improve mental wellbeing. Regular physical activity will help to fight against diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stress, high blood cholesterol which usually triggers many cardiovascular diseases. Meditation and relaxation techniques can calm the mind and soothe the senses. These techniques work well to overcome stress, which is one of the major factors that cause heart attack and can lead to heart failure.

Healthy diet

Taking a balanced and nutritious diet is a key requirement to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

  • Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals should be included in the daily dietary intake as they help to protect against heart diseases.
  • The people who are engaged in weight loss should include diet low in calories and fats. Soluble fibers such as cereals, beans, peas, lentils, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples helps to lower bad cholesterol or LDL levels. Insoluble fibers such as whole meal bread, cauliflower, beetroot and prune aids digestion and maintain heart health.
  • People suffering from high blood pressure should follow a low salt diet as increased salt intake pushes blood pressure higher and puts a greater strain on the heart. Magnesium rich food such as potatoes, spinach, and tofu help regulate heart activity.
  • Stay away from foods high in saturated fats such as red meats, cheese, fried foods and butter. Including 2-3 Garlic cloves in the green salad can help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • People suffering from heart disease should also minimize all food containing high amount of refined sugars because as they raise cholesterol and contribute to weight gain.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against free radicals and help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and are widely used in dietary supplements to maintain good health. Antioxidants are also beneficial in preventing diseases such as cancer and coronary heart diseases. Vitamin E, selenium, carotene and gingko biloba prevent oxidation and are useful deterrents against atherosclerosis. Low levels of potassium or magnesium can cause serious heart disorders. Including bananas in the regular diet can prevent these mineral deficiencies, helping maintain a healthy regular heart beat.

Heart Failure Guidelines

Heart Failure is a life threatening condition which is caused due to a weakened heart muscle’s reduced  pumping ability. Living with chronic heart failure can be challenging but following some vital guidelines can help prevent this fatal condition helping you lead a healthy long life.

  • Talk to your doctor - regular check ups and taking the prescribed medication can help you spot the dangers in time.
  • Watch your weight – Regular monitoring of your weight, limited salt intake and controlling the fluid intake are necessary.
  • Alter your lifestyle – No smoking, no caffeine, no alcohol, no aerated drinks and No junk food are a must.
  • Exercise regularly and correctly- Physical activity is a must to keep the heart pumping and pumping well.
  • Watch out for the danger signs – Extra weight gain, accelerated heart beat, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy, unnatural fatigue or tiredness, swollen legs ankles or abdomen, coughing at night are all some of the alarm signals that need to be acted upon immediately. 

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HEART ATTACK

By Michael Okubena

Heart attack is a condition which is caused due to breaking of atherosclerosis plaque or is dislodged from the wall of a vessel supplying blood to the heart and is suddenly obstructed. A blood clot can also form on the site of plaque of atherosclerosis in a coronary artery, preventing blood reaching the heart. Due to this the heart muscles are no longer oxygenated and they start to die and are replaced by scar tissue. The heart cannot pump blood efficiently if large areas of heart muscle are replaced by scar tissue.

When the coronary artery becomes blocked, heart is deprived of blood and oxygen it needs to survive. This lessens the hearts ability to pump blood efficiently all around the body which eventually leads to a heart attack. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is one of the major risk factor which leads to a heart attack as the coronary arteries feeding the heart with rich oxygenated blood get completely blocked. These coronary arteries are blocked due to the accumulation of fatty deposits known as plaque. Ventricular Fibrillation is also one of the cause which leads to death due to heart attack if it is not treated in time. It is caused due uncoordinated series of rapid and ineffective contraction of ventricles. Chaotic electrical impulses are the main reason behind the ineffective contraction of ventricles which is potentially fatal and causes unconsciousness in seconds.

Heart attack is the single largest cause of more than 140,000 deaths every year in the UK, around 400,000 in Europe, and an astounding 500,000 in the United States. Smoking, stress, unhealthy lifestyle, obesity, high cholesterol levels, poor diet and less physical activity are the major risk factors which are responsible for heart attack. High levels of fibrogen and lipoprotein A encourage the formation of blood clots and are responsible for heart attack and formation of atheroma plaque. Higher homocysteine levels increase the chances of heart attack by three times.

A healthy, well balanced, nutritious diet along with regular physical activity and giving up cigarette smoking is very essential for healthy heart. Stress of any kind whether mental or physical should be avoided at any cost to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Heart Attack Causes

Stress

Stress, whether physical or emotional, increases the heart’s workload, making it beat faster than normal, raising blood pressure. All this results in the heart needing more oxygen and if the coronary arteries are blocked, this request cannot be met, leading to Angina pectoris or a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease

One of the most common causes of heart attack is coronary heart disease.Coronary heart disease is caused due to accumulation of atheromatous plaque within the walls of arteries that supply fresh oxygenated blood to the heart. When the arteries are completely blocked, the supply of blood to the heart is completely cut off which eventually leads to a heart attack.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 70%. It also increases the risk of sudden death due to coronary heart disease. Carbon monoxide contained in the smoke can clump the platelets in the blood, which makes the blood sticky and thus block coronary arteries. The chances of having a severe heart attack due are seen quite often among habitual smokers.

Sedentary lifestyle and Obesity

People with sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia run a greater risk of having a heart attack. High cholesterol levels also cause the coronary arteries to narrow due to accumulation of plaque on the walls of the arteries. If arteries are completely blocked it can lead to a massive heart attack.

High blood cholesterol

High cholesterol levels are one of the major causes that make the coronary arteries narrow due to the buildup of fatty deposits known as plaque inside the walls of the arteries. Including the diet rich in cholesterol increases the risk of Low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the blood. The high percentage of this bad cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis. LDL does not support the transportation of cholesterol molecules outside the body as result of which these molecules deposit on the vessel walls. Due to this fatty buildup (plaque) inside the artery, it restricts the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart and makes the heart incapable of pumping blood efficiently all around the body. On the contrary High density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterols facilitates the transportation of cholesterol molecules out of the body. Adequate HDL levels are required to prevent the chances of plaque getting deposited inside the artery and thus help to keep heart healthy.

Atherosclerosis

The primary cause for heart attack is atherosclerosis, which is the result of the accumulation of fatty deposits called as plaque inside the arteries which carry fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients to the heart and heart muscles. Atherosclerosis restrict the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart as these fatty deposits make the arteries narrow which obstruct the normal flow of the blood and therefore restrict the supply of oxygen to the heart muscles, making them incapable of pumping blood all around the body. This condition also makes the artery less elastic, which is called as hardening of the arteries. The hardening of the arteries causes an increase in resistance to blood flow, and therefore an increase in blood pressure. Helicobacter pylorus is a kind of bacteria which causes inflammation in the coronary artery and increases the chances for atherosclerosis. 

Diabetes

Diabetes is also referred to as a silent killer as it does not show any symptoms related to heart attack. It is a disease, in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin which causes glucose level in the blood to increase, instead of being used for energy. Patients suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus are more prone to heart attacks. According to several studies it has been indicated that 43 percent people suffering from diabetes have higher risk of having a heart attack. People suffering from diabetes tend to have higher LDL levels than HDL levels. The higher percentage of LDL or bad cholesterol obstruct the normal flow of oxygenated blood to the heart, thus making heart inefficient for pumping blood all around the body.

Heart Attack Risk factors

Non controllable risk factors

Age

Age play a crucial role in the development of symptoms related to heart attack. It generally affects people above 55 yrs but recent studies have shown that the incidences of heart attack among young people have also increased considerably. Old people are at a higher risk of developing heart conditions as their arteries become hard and narrow due to the accumulation of plaque over the period of time.

Heredity

Generally, heart attack affects children born with parents having heart disease. They tend to show the symptoms of this disease later on in life.  Family background with brief history of heart related complication is one of the major risk factors affecting many people. This risk factor cannot be prevented but people should implement other defensive measures if they have strong heart related complications running down in their family.

Race

African Americans, native Hawaiians, Mexicans and Asians have higher rates of obesity and diabetes and thus are at a higher risk of developing coronary heart diseases.

Controllable risk factors

Diabetes

Diabetes is also referred to as a silent killer as it does not show any symptoms related to heart attack. It is a disease, in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin which causes glucose level in the blood to increase, instead of being used for energy. Patients suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus are more prone to heart attacks. According to several studies it has been indicated that 43 percent people suffering from diabetes have higher risk of having a heart attack. People suffering from diabetes tend to have higher LDL levels than HDL levels. The higher percentage of LDL or bad cholesterol obstruct the normal flow of oxygenated blood to the heart, thus making heart inefficient for pumping blood all around the body.

Obesity and sedentary lifestyle

Obesity is related to the increased risk of heart attacks as it is associated with high cholesterol levels, hypertension and diabetes. According to recent survey, approximately 65 percent of adults are overweight and this tendency is also seen to be growing among young childrens. Person who is overweight often find it difficult to do any kind of physical activity and are highly prone to cardiovascular diseases. Sedentary lifestyle also affects the hearts health to a large extent. Physical activity not only helps to lose weight but also facilitates efficient working of heart. A person with sedentary lifestyle has an increased risk of getting obese and is often affected with hypertension, high cholesterol levels and diabetes.

Fibrogen and lipoprotein

High level of fibrogen and lipoprotein A encourage the formation of blood clots and are responsible for heart attack and formation of atheroma plaque. To prevent the formation of this plaque, diet rich in fibrogen and lipoproteins should be avoided.

High Blood pressure

Blood pressure is used to measure the pressure of blood flow inside the arteries. If the blood pressure is higher than normal level then it is called as hypertension and it can lead to a massive heart attack. The symptoms of hypertension cannot be recognized by some people but consistent high blood pressure levels can prove to be more fatal. High salt intake, smoking, stress, obesity and physical inactivity are some of the reasons responsible for hypertension. People suffering from high blood pressure are always advised to reduce salt intake in their diet, to give up smoking and to engage in some kind of physical activity. Keeping blood pressure at a normal level will prove to be very beneficial for hearts health and prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 70 and it is the major cause of death worldwide. Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals and carbon monoxide which clump the platelets present in the blood. These clumped platelets make the blood sticky and eventually block coronary arteries. It also affects linings of artery walls and thus facilitates easy accumulation of plaque. Giving up smoking is the most excellent way to keep away from heart attacks and other heart related problems.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Blood supply in the coronary arteries is reduced or completely cut off due to blockage. As a result a blood clot may form in the arteries which can lead to a heart attack. People having a heart attack may experience fullness, pain in the chest or angina, uncomfortable pressure, pain in the shoulder, neck or arms. Reduction of oxygen to the muscle of the heart causes the pain of angina pectoris and it often comes with increased emotion, cold weather, or following a heavy meal.

Some of the common symptoms associated with heart attack are anxiety, sweaty skin, paleness, irregular heart rate. If a person tends to show any of the above mentioned symptoms, prompt medical treatment should be given. Women may show symptoms of unusual or unexplained fatigue and abdominal discomfort. Some people may experience mild pain in the chest while others may experience excruciating pain.  In severe cases heart attack may lead to brain injury, heart failure or even sudden death.

Heart attack symptoms in men

Following are the common symptoms which are generally seen in men having a heart attack. A prompt medical treatment should be taken for these symptoms otherwise it can prove fatal.

  • Angina
  • Discomfort
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Heaviness
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Cold sweat
  • Rapid or irregular heart beats
  • Pain in both arms, back, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath

Heart attack symptoms in women

Following are the common symptoms which are generally seen in women having a heart attack. A prompt medical treatment should be taken for these symptoms otherwise it can prove fatal.

  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Pain in arms, neck or jaw
  • Chest pain
  • Indigestion
  • Heaviness
  • Fatigue
  • Discomfort in the abdomen

Heart Attack Prevention

Smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia are the factor which leads to increase chances of having heart attack. High cholesterol level also causes the coronary arteries to narrow due to accumulation of plaque on the walls of the arteries. The arteries are also completely blocked due to high level of cholesterol. Preventive measures should be adopted in the beginning of early childhood to avoid any complications related to heart. Maintaining healthy weight, including a nutritious and healthy diet, physical activity and giving up tobacco are some of the preventive measures which reduce the risk of heart attack.

Physical exercise

Physical activity of any sort is beneficial, as it helps to keep normal blood pressure and release pent- up energy. Regular physical activity improves blood circulation and thus reduces the risk of heart attacks. For maintaining a healthy weight, cardio exercises prove to be very beneficial as it helps to maintain heart health by lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Healthy diet

Taking a balanced and nutritious diet is the excellent preventive measure that can be adopted against any cardiovascular diseases. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals should be included in the daily dietary intake as they help to protect against heart diseases and some cancers. The people who are engaged in weight loss should include diet low in calories and fats. Soluble fibers such as cereals, beans, peas, lentils, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples helps to lower bad cholesterol or LDL levels. Insoluble fibers such as whole meal bread, cauliflower, beetroot and prune aids digestion and maintain heart health. People suffering from high blood pressure should follow a low salt diet as increased salt intake pushes blood pressure higher and puts a greater strain on the heart. Magnesium rich food such as potatoes, spinach, and tofu help regulate heart activity. Stay away from foods high in saturated fats such as red meats, cheese, fried foods and butter. Including 2-3 Garlic cloves in the green salad can help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. People suffering from heart disease should also minimize all food containing high amount of refined sugars because they also raise cholesterol and contribute to weight gain.

Antioxidants

Antioxidant molecules generally reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and are widely used in dietary supplements to maintain good health. Anti-oxidants are also beneficial in preventing diseases such as cancer and coronary heart diseases. Vitamin E, selenium, carotene and gingko biloba prevent oxidation and are useful deterrents against atherosclerosis. Low levels of potassium or magnesium can cause serious heart disorders. Including bananas in the regular diet can prevent these mineral deficiencies, helping maintain a healthy regular heart beat.

Mental wellbeing

Apart from physical exercise and healthy diet, mental well being is also important for a healthy heart.  Meditation and relaxation techniques can calm the mind and soothe the senses. These techniques work well to overcome stress, which is one of the major factors that cause cardiac arrest.

Healthy lifestyle

Smoking, consumption of alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, obesity, and stress are the primary factors which lead to coronary heart diseases.  Maintaining healthy weight helps control cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and stress levels. Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle will alone help you to fight this deadly disease. Smoking cessation will benefit you on a long run and reduce the risk for having a heart attack.

Folate

By including vegetables rich in folate such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beet, spinach, sweet potatoes, asparagus, beans or chickpeas helps to fight atherosclerosis by reducing homocysteine levels. It aids blood circulation and prevent blood clot that are responsible for many heart attacks.

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