World Heart Day 2012: Caring for your heart

Salome Phelamei

It is not true that heart disease and stroke affect only older people and the male gender. In fact, cardiovascular disease (CVD) also harms the fairer sex as much as it does to men. Children are vulnerable too to the dreaded problem.

The theme for this year’s ‘World Heart Day’ is the same as last year’s i.e., ‘One World, One Home, One Heart’, stressing on women and children in the prevention of CVDs. According to the World Heart Federation, heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 female deaths (i.e. about one death per minute). World Heart Day, created in 2000, takes place on September 29 each year.

CVDs on the rise in India

In view of rapid rise of heart diseases among the Indians, especially in women and youth, it is high time that we take stock of the alarming situation and change our lifestyle and eating habits. As per a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) would be the largest cause of death and disability in India by 2020.

Even doctors have raised concerns with many young Indian professionals falling victims to CVDs due to odd working hours, office work stress, less physical exercise and eating junk food. Also, smoking and drinking further aggravates the situation since such sedentary lifestyle gives rise to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, etc., causing heart ailments later.

Signs and symptoms of heart attacks

Though, not everyone has the same warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack, it is essential to listen to your heart. That way, you can act fast and get treatment, because the sooner you get help, the less damage will be done to your heart.

For some people, it can begin with a sudden, crushing chest pain that is often shown in the films, while for some, it happens slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Some people don’t have a warning sign at all. However, for those who have had a heart attack in the past, the symptoms may not be the same for the next time.

Chest pain or discomfort:

The most common heart attack sign in both men and women is chest pain or discomfort in the centre or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The pain can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or ache. It can be mild or severe. Sometimes, heart attack pain feels like indigestion or heartburn. If you have a chest pain or discomfort, you should get it checked by a doctor.

Other common signs and symptoms of heart attacks:

-Upper body pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
-Shortness of breath, which may occur with or without chest discomfort
-Nausea, vomiting, light-headedness or sudden dizziness, or breaking out in a cold sweat
-Sleep problems, fatigue, or lack of energy

Preventing CVDs

Diet can have a big impact on your heart’s health. Here are some principles of healthy eating for the heart:

-eat regular meals
-cut down on high-sugar food and drinks
-reduce saturated fat
-eat enough fruit and vegetables every day
-cut down on salt intake
-keep alcohol to moderate levels

Apart from having a heart-healthy diet, adopting healthy lifestyles such as - quitting smoking, staying active, maintaining a good weight, etc., can help prevent heart disease.

Heart disease and stroke, which are world’s leading cause of death claim 17.3 million lives each year, and the numbers are going up. It is expected that by 2030, 23 million people will die from CVDs annually.