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Did you know that the human heart beats approximately 100,000 times daily? Just like a machine, the heart pumps roughly five litres of blood around our body through a network of blood vessels called the circulatory system.Essentially, the heart is a muscular organ roughly the size of a closed fist. It has four main chambers: the right atrium, left atrium, right ventricle, and left ventricle. The right atrium and the right ventricle makes up the right side, and the same for the left side.
Working together, the heart and the circulatory system will carry the blood that contains oxygen and nutrients to all parts of our body. The blood will also carry away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products. Yes, that is how hard the heart works every single day, which in return ensures that all the other organs are able to serve their true functions.
Therefore, let us pay homage to one of the most diligent organs and delve into the many ways to keep heart-related diseases at bay. But first, let us discuss some of the most prevalent health complications involving the heart to gain better understanding of their severity:
Coronary heart disease
According to a 2017 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Cambodia, reaching 12,510 or nearly 15 per cent of total deaths that year.
This condition occurs when the blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to the heart became narrow or blocked. There are many reasons as to why this could happen but largely, the vessels will be blocked when cholesterol and fat accumulates on the artery walls, slowly obstructing blood flow to the heart. Since the heart is not receiving adequate amount of blood, your body will start experiencing other health issues.
Better known as chest pain, angina is that tight, heavy pressure in your chest. Depending on its severity, angina may involve an aching, burning or numbing sensation. Most of the people who have experienced angina have also reported pain radiating to their back, jaw, neck, shoulders and arms.
Due to its initial symptoms, mild angina could easily be mistaken as indigestion or breathlessness. Reports said that women and older adults are more likely to experience such angina, compared to men or younger adults. If you feel like your body is acting oddly and you are perspiring more than usual, it is best to seek prompt medical help to rule out a more severe instance.
It is a serious medical emergency that should never be taken lightly, as it could be life-threatening. A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is blocked out of a sudden, generally caused by a blood clot. The risks increase for men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55.
Most of the times, people can easily confuse the onset of a heart attack with angina as the symptoms are relatively similar: chest pain, nausea, breathlessness and restlessness. Even if you are unsure, the second you suspect that you are having a heart attack, seek prompt medical assistance especially if the pain grows stronger over time and lasts more than 15 minutes.
Despite what the name suggests, this does not mean your heart completely stops working. It just means that your heart can no longer keep up with its workload. When this happens, the heart will first stretch itself to contract more strongly to pump the necessary amount of blood required by the body.
It is still possible to live well with a non-performing heart. You will need to consult your medical team regularly and also take some medications to relax your blood vessels and reduce the load on your heart such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, digoxin and diuretics.
Strategies to prevent heart disease
As is any other diseases, the key to maintain overall well-being is by making healthy lifestyle choices which include dietary habits and exercise routines. According to several researches, it is advisable to:
Say no to tobacco
The chemicals in tobacco can significantly damage your heart and blood vessels. As the heart strives to transport oxygen-laden blood to all over your body, this will be cancelled out by the carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke. Eventually, your heart will be forced to work much harder to provide enough oxygen.The best part is the second you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease will drop too. After 15 years of quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease will almost drop to that of a non-smoker.
Watch what you eat
The number one key is to avoid food items that are rich with saturated fat and trans fat. These include fast food, deep-fried food, full-fat dairy products, baked goods, crackers and margarines. However, you don’t have to completely stay away from all fats. Opt for fats from plant-based sources such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil. Aside from that, try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your meals. To make this easy, always say yes to beans and legumes, low-fat dairy products, lean meat and fish.
Getting physical can help you obtain a healthy weight, which in return, will keep other health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes at arm’s length. This, coupled with smart dietary habits, is the basic equation you need to live a high-quality life. Start exercising – regardless of your activities of choice – for as little as 30 minutes each time, three times a week. Every form of workout counts towards having a healthy heart. From brisk walking, to moderate aerobic routines, dancing, gardening, dog-walking and even taking the stairs.
Find out further on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones by contacting AIA Cambodia at 086 999 242. Its life insurance solution covers 26 conditions of critical illnesses and medical operations in Cambodia and overseas.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organisation, WebMD, and Innerbody.