Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Awareness: Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Awareness Color: Red
Awareness Month: February

Cardiovascular disease aka heart disease is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels (arteries, capillaries and veins). Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system, principally cardiac disease, vascular diseases of the brain and kidney, and peripheral arterial disease. The causes of cardiovascular disease are diverse but atherosclerosis and/or hypertension are the most common. Besides, with aging come a number of physiological and morphological changes that alters cardiovascular function and lead to subsequently increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even in health asymptomatic individuals.

Cardiovascular diseases remain the biggest cause of deaths worldwide, though over the last two decades, cardiovascular mortality rates have declined in many high-income countries. At the same time cardiovascular deaths and disease have increased at an astonishingly fast rate in low- and middle-income countries. Although cardiovascular disease usually affects older adults, the antecedants of cardiovascular disease, notably atherosclerosis begin in early life, making primary prevention efforts necessary from childhood. There is therefore increased emphasis on preventing atherosclerosis by modifying risk factors, such as healthy eatingexercise, and avoidance of smoking.
Symptoms may be very noticeable, but sometimes you can have the disease and not have any symptoms. This is especially true in the early stages of heart disease.
Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. You feel this pain when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. How bad the pain is varies from person to person.
  • It may feel heavy or like someone is squeezing your heart. You may feel it under your breast bone (sternum), but also in your neck, arms, stomach, or upper back.
  • The pain usually occurs with activity or emotion, and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin.
  • Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue with activity (exertion).
Women, elderly people, and people with diabetes are more likely to have symptoms other than chest pain, such as:
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • General weakness
Treatment depends on your symptoms and how severe the disease is. Your doctor may give you one or more medicines to treat heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Follow your doctor's directions closely to help prevent coronary artery disease from getting worse.
Never stop taking your medicines without talking to your doctor first. Stopping heart medicines suddenly can make your angina worse or cause a heart attack.
Your doctor may refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program to help improve your heart's fitness.
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