3 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

Heart: Size of a fist, strongest muscle in the body, a marvellous system that starts beating about three weeks after conception but vulnerable! Vulnerable to damage from things that we do or may be born with a heart condition.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the largest killer in both men and women globally. Globally, 17.1 million lives are claimed every year accounting for 29% of all deaths caused by CVD, making it world's number one killer. In Australia, it accounted for 34% of all deaths in 2008. Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian nearly every 11 minutes as per national heart foundation. It remains one of the largest burdens on our economy.

Sadly a disease that can be mostly prevented is number one killer of loved ones globally.

In developed countries, the main undering problem is atherosclerosis. This is a condition that forms abnormal build-ups of fat, cholesterol and other substances in the inner lining of the arteries (plaque). It is most serious when it affects the blood supply to the heart (causing angina or heart attack) or to brain (which can lead to stroke). The process leading to atherosclerosis is slow and complex, often starting in childhood , and it progress with age.

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease is disease and conditions of heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular disease) including heart attack and stroke. It is a broad term used for heart, stroke and blood vessel diseases and any system that has heart at its center. There are many groups of cardiovascular disease, some of them are:

Rheumatic heart disease – It is a type of heart disease caused by one or more attacks of rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever usually occurs in childhood. It may follow a streptococcal infection that may affect the heart, particularly the heart valves, weakening the heart muscle, or damaging the sac enclosing the heart.

Congenital heart disease – It is a heart defect present at birth. It can be caused by adverse exposures during pregnancy or genetic factors but mostly the cause is unknown.

Hypertensive heart disease – High blood pressure can overburden heart and blood vessels, thereby causing hypertensive heart disease. It may be of unknown origin, known as primary hypertension or secondary to a specific diseases or infections.

Ischemic heart disease – Ischemic heart disease is sometimes commonly referred to as coronary heart disease. It is caused by narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscles. Therefore, blood supply to the heart is decreed and may cause conditions like angina, heart attack, sudden death.

Cerebrovascular disease (stroke) – Commonly known as cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke is the brain equivalent to a heart attack. It is the result of an imputed blood supply to some part of the brain.

Inflammatory heart disease – Inflammatory heart disease may be caused following an infection or by a toxin or may be of an unknown origin. It may affect the heart muscle (myocarditis), the membrane sac (pericarditis), the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis) or the myocardium (heart muscle).

Is cardiovascular disease preventable?

Cardiovascular disease is mostly preventable. Some people are born with condition that predisposes them to heart disease and stroke but most people who develop cardiovascular disease is due to combination of one or more risk factors.

There are many risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and stroke. The major risk factors include smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, obesity and overweight, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, high glucose levels (diabetes), physical inactivity to name a few. The more risk factors you expose yourself to, the higher the chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

The role of diet is critical in the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Diet is a key modifiable risk factor for CVD.

Most heart disease is preventable, and risks can be reduced by lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, choosing healthy eating habits (food options), saying no to smoking, to name just three.

Economic Impact

Cardiovascular disease is expensive and cost billions of dollars around the world. The economic implications could be vast. It is felt as cost to the country's health as well as loss of income and production of those affected either directly by the disease and as caregivers to those with cardiovascular disease, who cease to work.

Cardiovascular disease is also one of the leading causes of disability, with around millions of people estimated to have disability associated with cardiovascular conditions.

It affects one in five Australians, and affects two out of three families.

Can we help to reduce the burden?

Simple answer is YES we can help! Cardiovascular disease is mostly preventable. Simple steps like:

  • heatlhy eating habits
  • increasing physical activity
  • stop smoking

… to name three can be anyone's starting point.

There is no dollar figure that could be associated to the loss of loved ones. So, do not let your loved ones get affected by it.

Nations around the world feel the burden of cardiovascular disease.

So, why not take the responsibility and make a commitment to change the way we live and help ourselves, family, friends and future generations towards a healthy heart …

There is a heart that keeps us alive … so let's help to keep it alive!