The heart may be just a small, fist-sized muscular organ, but the fact is that it is the only organ that claims to be the life-defining organ for humans and also for all other vertebrates. Maintaining the blood circulation all over the human body, from brain to the toes, it is like a dynamo or pump to the body.
Because the heart is the maintainer of life, any threat, disorder or disease can be too dangerous and even life-threatening. That is why cardiovascular diseases have become one of the leading causes of death worldwide, killing thirteen millions of people in developing countries every year. It is a ‘heart-breaking’ fact that heart diseases were responsible for 30% of the total deaths worldwide in 2005.
Heart attack, clinically known as Myocardial Infarction (MI), is the most common form of cardiovascular diseases and also the most dangerous among them, killing most patients at its first attack itself.
When the heart arteries are blocked totally or partially due to a blood clot or blockage, it becomes hard for the heart to avail sufficient oxygen leading to the death of some parts of the Myocardium or heart muscles. Severe chest pain that may spread to the arms and the jaw is the main symptom of MI. The patient may also suffer from sweating, breathlessness and tiredness. Silent MI’s would have only a mild pain or no pain at all.
Any condition that prevents blood circulation and nutrition to the heart by building up plaques in the arteries can be referred to as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It is estimated that one-third of deaths worldwide are the result of this heart disease. High-fat diet, hypertension, physical inactivity and cigarette smoking are the main triggers for CAD. Atherosclerosis is the most found type of CAD.
Rheumatic fever causes Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) which damages the heart and its valves. Chest pain, breathlessness, tiredness and fainting attacks are the main symptoms. RHD was one of the severe cardiovascular diseases earlier and now has been eliminated by effective prevention against rheumatic fever and the appropriate use of antibiotics. However, it goes on taking lives of 300,000 people every year.
Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) or Congenital Cardiac Anomaly (CCA) is a birth-defect in the heart and vessels and death occurs usually within one year after birth. Pulmonery Stenosis, Valvular Stenosis and Aortic Stenosis are different types of CCA. Maternal infections and genetic causes can result in this disease.
Uncontrolled intake of dietary fat, consumption of alcohol and tobacco and hypertension are the leading causes of heart diseases. Cutting down the dietary fat to 30% or less of the total calorie intake, including sufficient fibre in the diet, regular exercises, sufficient nutrition and reduction of stress can prevent heart diseases to a large extent.