Football fans worldwide were stunned when Denmark’s midfielder, Christian Eriksen, collapsed on the field during a European Championship match. One of America’s toughest CrossFit trainers, Bob Harper (ref. link), a regular on the fan favourite TV show, the Biggest Loser, suffered a major cardiac arrest. Algerian soccer player Sofiane Lokar passed away at the age of 30 years, after collapsing on the field because of a heart attack.
We know that heart disease has been rising over the last few decades. According to the CDC in the United States (ref. link), 1 in every four deaths is due to cardiac disease, with over 610,000 people dying each year. Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in Europe (ref. link). with nearly 6 million new cases diagnosed every year.
So why did reports of these deaths in the news take us by surprise? What made these cases stand out? This group of people who suffered from cardiac disease were young and physically fit. These rising numbers are understandably worrying. It questions the things we tend to believe about heart disease- that it’s a disease of the elderly, that you should be safe if you exercise and that your annual health check-up will surely pick up signs of heart damage early enough.
Heart disease may be more complex than we thought it was. Here are 5 Things you need to know about its evolution so that you can do your part to care for your heart!
Both men and women share risk factors for heart disease like genetics, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, smoking, stress, and excessive alcohol intake. However, women also suffer from certain diseases like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), and high blood pressure during pregnancy. This, in turn, increases their chances of heart disease.
Heart disease encompasses a wide variety of cardiovascular conditions.
A condition called TOFI – Thin Outside, Fat Inside, has gained prominence in recent years. Although people with obesity or fat under their skin do have higher chances of heart disease, people with larger quantities of visceral fat surrounding their internal organs are also equally at risk.
These people may look thin from the outside, but studies have shown that they tend to suffer from cardiac disease. Research from Mt. Sinai Hospital (ref. link) revealed that women with pericardial fat (or fat around their hearts) were even more likely to suffer from heart conditions.
The most common presentation of heart disease is a heart attack or ischemic attack, where people first complain of chest pain or discomfort, followed by building pressure in the chest, breathlessness, or nausea. On the other hand, women commonly complain of jaw pain, back pain, dizziness, anxiety, disturbed sleep, and indigestion. The most frequently missed sign of heart disease is stomach pain in the upper part of the abdomen that could be mistaken for acidity or gas.
People with arrhythmias may complain of a fluttering or racing heartbeat, a slow pulse, or fainting spells. At the same time, those with cardiomyopathy may have fatigue, bloating and swelling as their primary symptoms.
The most common tests we hear about when it comes to heart disease are :
Many of these tests are part of the annual health checks that we sign up for. However, abnormalities in your heart using these tests can only be picked up if you are already experiencing symptoms of heart disease. By that time, it may already be too late. This is why continuous real-time monitoring of heart activity is a great way to keep track of your heart health.
Studies have shown that lifestyle changes can help you prevent heart disease. Research from Harvard University estimated that those who do not smoke and engage in regular physical activity with a healthy diet lowered their risk of heart disease by nearly 50%.
Heart disease might be silent and remain undetected until you experience signs of a heart attack. You might experience arrhythmia or heart failure as well, with symptoms including chest pain or discomfort and heartburn.
It has been observed that high levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking might be the key risk factors for heart disease. Apart from that a number of lifestyle choices including obesity, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet might put you at a higher risk of heart disease.
Chest pain (between the neck and your abdomen) is one of the most common signs of heart disease. While some people might feel excruciating pain, others might experience mild discomfort. Fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations and uneven heartbeats are other signs.
You can determine your heart health by going in for regular tests including echocardiogram that is used to determine the cause of heart murmur. An Electrocardiogram monitors the changes in heart rhythm and an MRI can assess the heart structure and function of the heart valves.
It is recommended that you follow a heart healthy lifestyle to protect your heart. Get moving and aim for activity ranging from 30-60 minutes to stay fit; eat a heart-healthy diet and manage your stress levels to prevent heart disease.
*The information contained in this blog is provided on an as-is basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy or usefulness. The content in this blog is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is meant for informational purposes only. This blog contains copyright material, the use of which has not been specifically authorised by the copyright owner.
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
Heart Health | Cardiac Arrhythmia | Heart Palpitations | Running Heart Rate Zones | Low Heart Rate | Heart Rate Monitor | Mental Stress | Heart Attack Symptoms | Heart Palpitations Causes | Increased Heart rate