World Heart Day 2022: Underlying and under-noticed risk factors of heart disease

World Heart Day 2022: Lifestyle significantly impacts health and coronary heart disease

Dr Ganesh Kasinadhuni September 29, 2022 20:43:58 IST
World Heart Day 2022: Underlying and under-noticed risk factors of heart disease

Keeping the heart safe. Image courtesy Georgia Tech

The increase in cases of heart attack and heart ailments across the world is becoming a major concern for healthcare providers. While we can’t ignore the significance of preventive measures for heart diseases, one must also make lifestyle changes to prevent a heart attack.

Atherosclerosis, which is the deposition of lipid plaques in the arterial walls, is responsible for the majority of cases of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). It begins to occur, as early as adolescence and tends to progress with increasing age.

Multiple risk factors act together and can increase the risk of atherosclerosis in coronary arteries and other arterial beds. Increasing age and male sex are important risk factors. In females, the risk of heart disease increases after menopause. People should be aware of having a family history of coronary heart disease, is a very important risk factor for future heart disease.

Increased blood pressure (hypertension) is an important risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. A reasonable goal is to keep blood pressure less than 140/90 mm of Hg. Dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol levels) constitutes an important risk factor for heart disease. It is even more important in individuals with premature coronary heart disease (males < 55 years, females < 65 years).

Uncontrolled sugar levels (Diabetes Mellitus) are also associated with atherosclerotic coronary heart disease. People with diabetes also have a higher incidence of risk factors like dyslipidemia, hypertension and obesity. People with pre-existing chronic kidney disease have an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

Lifestyle significantly impacts health and coronary heart disease. Smoking is a very important risk factor for heart disease. Increased consumption of red meat, saturated fats and low fibre-containing foods, increases the risks of cardiac disease. A sedentary lifestyle and overweight/ obesity increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases.

A heart attack can occur at any age. One can start living a healthy life at a young age. If an individual is having multiple risks factors or they are over 40, they should consult their doctor and address the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Heart attack prevention is critical. One can start with an assessment of their risk factors and then develop a plan which can be  followed to maintain a low risk for heart attack.

Drug abuse is becoming an important health hazard. Using recreational drugs — cannabis or marijuana, cocaine or ecstasy (MDMA) — increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. The risk of having a stroke is six times higher in drug users than non-drug users. And, in many cases when a stroke occurs, it happens within hours of drug use.

To summarize, to have good health and heart, emphasize simple things, such as no smoking, being physically active, healthy diet, reducing weight or maintaining a normal weight, normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol, normal sugar levels, etc.

The author is a Senior Interventional Cardiologist, MD, DM Cardiology (PGIMER, Chandigarh) and assistant professor, GITAM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research. Views are personal.

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