Protect your heart against diseases - 17 June 2024

Department of Health 2024/06/19 - 22:00

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular or heart diseases are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. 

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders that effect the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and rheumatic heart disease amongst others. It is estimated that four out of five cardiovascular disease deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.

People can simply protect themselves against cardiovascular diseases by avoiding risk or contributing factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, tobacco use and harmful us of alcohol. These factors may present to people as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight and obesity.

It is important that individuals visit their local clinics or community health centres for free health checks and assessments of the effects of contributing risk factors. In most cases, people may not show any symptoms of underlying heart diseases until it is too late or have it checked. 

Symptoms of heart attacks pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest, pain or discomfort in the arms, the left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back, shortness of breath, nausea, faintness, a cold sweat and turning pale. Women are more likely than men to have shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Even though stroke is not a heart disease, blocked blood vessels can lead to stroke. The most common symptom of stroke is sudden weakness on the face, arm or leg and it is mostly on one side of the body. 

Symptoms of stroke include sudden onset of numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing with one or both eyes, difficulty walking, dizziness and/or loss of balance or coordination, severe headache with no known cause, fainting or unconsciousness.

Rheumatic heart disease is caused by damage to the heart valves and heart muscle from the inflammation and scarring caused by the rheumatic fever, which usually begins as a sore throat or tonsillitis in children. Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease include shortness of breath, fatigue, irregular heartbeats, chest pain and fainting.

In addition, it is important that people adopt healthy habits to reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. These healthy habits include cessation or stopping of tobacco use, reduction of salt in the diet, eating more fruit and vegetables, regular exercise and avoiding harmful use of alcohol. 

It is also important for people with chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure or diabetes and high cholesterol to take treatment regularly to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and prevent heart attacks and strokes.


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