We are into the 20th year of the millenium, and while the world has seen unprecedented and exponential growth and advancements in almost every sector, there’s another area that we've all seen grow rapidly – stress levels.
With bustling lives becoming busier and more and more competitive, the stress levels have risen gradually over the years and have reached a crescendo, as a result of which, we are witness to stress-related illnesses affecting more and more individuals. Stress affects every cell in our bodies, from our skin to our brains to our hearts, and everything in between.
Along with many such illnesses, heart diseases have become a lot more common. What’s alarming is the rapid increase in the ratio at which heart diseases have grown among people across the 25 to 45 age group. While there isn’t much you can do about congenital heart conditions, you can certainly avoid lifestyle and stress-induced heart diseases by simple changes in lifestyle. We understand how important it is to educate people about heart diseases and ways to prevent them.
Let’s first discuss heart conditions that occur by birth. Such diseases or conditions are known as Congenital Heart Diseases. Congenital conditions are conditions present by birth, and there’s not a lot you can do about them other than understanding symptoms, if any, and diagnosing the problem in either children or adults. Congenital heart conditions like Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), Ventrical Septal Defect or Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) occur by birth and need to be diagnosed and treated at the soonest possible time.
The most common heart disease caused by lifestyle is Coronary Artery Disease and it is one of the leading causes of death across the world. It’s also referred to as Ischemic Heart Disease. It causes impaired blood flow in the arteries that bring blood to the heart. Arteries bring pure, oxygen-rich blood to the heart and ensure sound functioning of that beating organ. However, with Coronary Artery Disease, any one of the four arteries of the heart - right main coronary artery, left main coronary artery, left circumflex artery or left anterior descending artery - is affected and gets blocked, thereby leading to impaired or hurdled blood flow. For your heart to function well it needs unobstructed supply of pure blood, and CAD reduces the blood flow, which can lead to heart attack, which, in turn, can be fatal.
Symptoms of CAD: Since your heart doesn’t get enough blood, you may experience a variety of symptoms that may include chest pain, heaviness or tightness in the chest or a burning and squeezing feeling. You may also experience pain in the left arm, shoulders or jaw, or shortness of breath, sweating and dizziness.
Causes of CAD: CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened, either because of cholesterol or plaque. High cholesterol is usually caused by poor lifestyle, but can also be genetic. Smoking, regular consumption of alcohol, poor eating habits, eating foods with saturated fats, leading a sedentary life can all increase cholesterol levels. Furthermore, habits like this coupled with no exercise may lead to obesity and conditions like diabetes, all which increase the risk of CAD. Stress is another important factor. Continued stress can lead to conditions like hypertension, where the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries increases abnormally. This can gradually lead to CAD as the arteries harden gradually.
Therefore, it is important to strive for a stress-free life. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, with the advent of technology, internationalization and globalization, the amount of stress has grown exponentially. It’s paramount for an individual to first and foremost manage stress levels. Managing stress automatically improves lifestyle.
Secondly, not every individual has the liberty to exercise on a daily basis, but every individual has a choice of food. As educated individuals, we all can identify healthy and unhealthy foods, and it’s important to make healthy choices, as that helps in the long run.
It’s extremely important to watch out for early symptoms. These symptoms can easily be passed off as those of stomach burn or indigestion. In fact, in most cases these symptoms lead to indigestion, stomach burn or acidity. However, it’s always good to be careful, especially if you think your lifestyle can lead you to hypertension or CAD. It’s paramount to undergo blood tests and lab tests occasionally, especially after the age of forty. It’s better to keep a tab on your sugar levels, as high blood sugar can also lead to CAD. It’s always good to be careful about your lifestyle and overall work ethic. Exercising definitely helps in keeping CAD away. If nothing, 45 minutes of brisk walking or a 20 kilometer intense bicycle ride can help a long way.