Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects), among others. The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.” Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.
Cardiovascular disease symptoms may be different for men and women. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain; women are more likely to have other symptoms along with chest discomforts, such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue. Symptoms can include:
- Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
Heart disease treatments vary by condition. For instance, if you have a heart infection, you’ll likely be given antibiotics. In general, treatment for heart disease usually includes:
Lifestyle change: These include eating a low-fat and low-sodium diet, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.
Medications: If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your heart disease. The type of medication will depend on the type of heart disease.
Medical procedures or surgery: If medications aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend specific procedures or surgery. The type of procedure will depend on the type of heart disease and the extent of the damage to your heart.
Different types of tests
The tests you’ll need to diagnose your heart disease depend on what condition your doctor thinks you might have. No matter what type of heart disease you have, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask about your personal and family medical history before doing any tests. Besides blood tests and a chest X-ray, tests to diagnose heart disease can include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG records these electrical signals and can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart’s rhythm and structure. You may have an ECG while you’re at rest or while exercising (stress electrocardiogram).
Holter Monitoring: A Holter monitor is a portable device you wear to record a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours. Holter monitoring is used to detect heart rhythm irregularities that aren’t found during a regular ECG exam.
Echocardiogram: This noninvasive exam, which includes an ultrasound of your chest, shows detailed images of your heart’s structure and function.
Stress test: This type of test involves raising your heart rate with exercise or medicine while performing heart tests and imaging to check how your heart responds.
Cardiac catheterisation: In this test, a short tube (sheath) is inserted into a vein or artery in your leg (groin) or arm. A hollow, flexible and longer tube (guide catheter) is then inserted into the sheath. Aided by X-ray images on a monitor, your doctor threads the guide catheter through that artery until it reaches your heart.
Cardiac computerised tomography (CT) scan: This test is often used to check for heart problems. In a cardiac CT scan, you lie on a table inside a doughnut-shaped machine. An X-ray tube inside the machine rotates around your body and collects images of your heart and chest.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): For this test, you lie on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produces a magnetic field. The magnetic field produces pictures to help your doctor evaluate your heart.
Heart disease is any condition that affects your heart, such as coronary artery disease and arrhythmia. To diagnose heart disease, your doctor will perform a series of tests and evaluations. They may also use some of these tests to screen you for heart disease before you develop noticeable symptoms.
Heart disease can be improved or even prevented by making certain lifestyle changes. The following changes can help anyone who wants to improve heart health:
Stop smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, especially atherosclerosis. Quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease and its complications.
Check your cholesterol: Ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test when you’re in your 20s and then at least every five years. You may need to start testing earlier if high cholesterol is in your family.
Eat healthy foods: A heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugar can help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. A BMI of less than 25 and a waist circumference of 35 inches (88.9 centimetres) or less is the goal for preventing and treating heart disease.
Manage stress: Reduce stress as much as possible.
Deal with depression: Being depressed can increase your risk of heart disease significantly. Talk to your Cardiologist if you feel hopeless or uninterested in your life.
Practice good hygiene: Stay away from people with infectious diseases such as colds, get vaccinated against the flu, regularly wash your hands.
If you think you have heart disease or are worried about your heart disease risk because of your family history, you can contact Medisys Hospital. They will guide if you have any symptoms. The Cardiology Department of Medisys Heart Hospital collaborates with excellent patient care, offers exceptional diagnostics, and treatment procedures at reasonable costs.