What You Need to Know About Heart Diseases and Stroke

Introduction.

Heart disease is a name given to a variety of conditions that affect the performance of the heart. There are certain disturbances in the action of the heart without any disease in the organ. Most common of these is palpitation. This may be due to emotional states, such as fear, anger, joy, grief, or anxiety; or to certain drugs or poisons such as may be found in tea, coffee, tobacco, or alcoholic drinks.

As heart failure approaches, the real symptoms of the heart disease appear. Shortness of breath on slight exertion is one of the first symptoms. Distress and fullness after eating are very common. Other early symptoms are weakness and lack of endurance, in the legs particularly; palpitation of the heart with fullness in the chest and a dry cough; dull pain and soreness in the region of the liver and also over the heart. Swelling of the ankles may be one of the first symptoms noticed. It is usually worse in the evening and disappears during sleep. Weakness increases until the patient finds himself utterly exhausted on the slightest exertion. He is restless and sleepless.

Every person with acute heart disease of any variety should be under the daily care of a physician and everyone with chronic heart disease should be seen frequently by a physician. A common misconception about the heart is that once it is affected, there is the permanent difficulty, with chronic invalidism and early death. Nothing is further from the truth. The rugged heart often makes an excellent recovery in the course of time. Rest, both physical and mental, is a valuable remedy. The patient must choose food that will not cause gas and indigestion, and guard against emotional outbursts, especially anger.

1. Types of Heart Diseases.

Important examples of heart disease include:

i. Angina, in which there is poor blood circulation to the heart.

ii. Heart Attack, in which there is the death of part of the heart muscle.

iii. Arrhythmia, in which the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat is abnormal.

iv. Atherosclerosis, in which the arteries harden. It is a build-up of cholesterol and other fat substances within the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease and can develop in any artery in the body. It is a common disorder of the arteries.

v. Rheumatic, this was formerly one of the most serious forms of heart disease of childhood and adolescence. This disease involves damage to the entire heart and its membranes. It is a complication of rheumatic fever and usually occurs after attacks of rheumatic fever. The incidence of this condition has been greatly reduced by widespread use of antibiotics effective against the streptococcal bacterium that causes rheumatic fever.

vi. Myocarditis, it’s the inflammation or degeneration of the heart muscle. This can be due to a complication during or after various viral, bacterial or parasitic infectious diseases, such as polio, influenza, rubella, or rheumatic fever. This can be caused by several diseases such as syphilis, goitre, endocarditis, or hypertension. It may be associated with dilation (enlargement due to the weakness of the heart muscle) or with hypertrophy (overgrowth of the muscle tissue).

2. Know the signs of a heart attack.

During a heart attack, men often have these symptoms:

i. Pain or discomfort in the Centre of the chest.

ii. Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

iii. Other symptoms, such as shortness of breath breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

3. The basics of stroke.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death for men. The stroke occurs when part of the brain does not get the blood it needs. Then, brain cells die.

There are two types of stroke.

i. An ischemic (iss-kee-mik) stroke. This happens when blood is blocked from getting to the brain.

ii. A hemorrhagic (heh-muh-ra-jik) stroke. This happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood bleeds into the brain.

A person might also have a “mini-stroke.” This happens when, for a short time, less blood than normal gets to the brain. You may have some signs of a full stroke, or you may not notice any signs at all. But it only lasts a few minutes up to 24 hours. Then you’re back to normal. Many people don’t even know they’ve had it. However, a “mini-stroke” is a sign of a full stroke to come, so it’s important to know the signs of a stroke.

4. Know the signs of Stroke.

The signs of a stroke happen suddenly and are different from the signs of a heart attack. Look for these signs:

i. Weakness or numbness on one side of your body.

ii. Dizziness

iii. loss of balance

iv. Confusion

v. Trouble talking or understanding speech

vi. A headache

vii. Nausea

viii. Trouble walking or seeing.

Remember: Even if you have a “mini-stroke” you may have some of these signs.

5. 12 Steps to a healthy heart;

i. Do not smoke: It is no surprise that smoking hurts your heart. So if you smoke, try to quit.

ii. Get your cholesterol tested: If it is high (above 200), talk to your doctor or nurse about losing weight (if you are overweight) and getting more active. Ask if there is the medicine that may help.

iii. Know your blood pressure: Your heart moves blood through your body. If it is hard for your heart to do this, your heart works harder and your blood pressure will rise. Have it checked to make sure you’re on track! It is high (systolic above 139 and diastolic above 89), talk to your doctor or nurse about how to lower it.

iv. Get tested for diabetes: Diabetes can raise your chances of getting heart disease. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels in check! This is the best way for you to take care of yourself and your heart.

v. Eat heart-healthy foods: Whole grain foods, vegetables, and fruits. Choose lean meats and low-fat cheese and dairy products. Limit foods that have lots of saturated fat, like butter, whole milk, baked goods, ice cream, fatty meats and cheese.

vi. Keep a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese raises your risk for heart disease.

vii. Eat less salt: Choose foods salt. Use spices, herbs, lemon, and lime instead of salt. This is really important if you have high blood pressure.

viii. Do not drink too much of alcohol: Too much alcohol raises blood pressure and can raise your risk of stroke and other problems.

ix. Get moving: Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, if not all days of the week.

x. Take your medicine: If your doctor has prescribed medicine to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, take it exactly as you have been told to take it.

xi. Take steps to treat your sleep problems: If you snore loudly, have been told you stop breathing at times when you sleep and are very sleepy during the day, you may have sleep apnea. If you don’t treat it, it raises your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Talk with your doctor or nurse about treating this problem.

xii. Find healthy ways to cope with stress: Sometimes, people cope with stress by eating, drinking too much alcohol, or smoking-these are all ways that could hurt your heart. Lower your stress: talk to friends, be physically active, or meditate.

The Truth About Red Wine and Heart Disease

Red Wine, Heart Disease, Hungry Sharks and Knights in Shining Armor

What is so special about wine? What is it that makes it potentially more protective against coronary heart disease, and perhaps other diseases, that other forms of alcohol?

In recent years, scientists have concluded without doubt that many human diseases such as heart disease, cancer and the aging process is caused or stimulated by a ravenous group of chemicals called free radicals, that act like hungry sharks. These highly charged little villains prowl the body and attack healthy cell membranes through a process that is called oxidation. In this scenario, there is however a knight in shining armor that jumps to the rescue and purges these ever hungry little killers. The name of our crusader is antioxidants.

Without getting too technical, the oxidation process in our bodies is crucial for health, without it, for instance, we would not be able to extract energy from our food. But if there are too many free radicals in our bodies this can be harmful.

Our body has its own defenses against free radicals, in the form of enzymes that are able to turn the hungry little sharks into harmless water. However, sometimes our body’s natural defense mechanisms can’t cope. Other times, external events can cause huge increases of free radicals within our bodies, such as x-rays, cigarette smoke and exposure to toxic substances. At times, this surge of free radicals can swamp our defenses and illnesses such as radiation sickness may take place.

So what does oxidation and free radicals have to do with heart disease?

Low density lipoproteins, commonly know as “bad” LDL, can penetrate and gather against the inner walls of our arteries, under certain conditions, forming fatty streaks and plaque. Taken alone, LDL particles aren’t so dangerous it seems, however, when attacked by free radicals they turn into dangerous and somewhat aggressive cells, capable of actually penetrating and harming the smooth inner walls of our arteries. This process is called oxidation. Oxidized LDL is known to be the culprit in stimulating atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.

Antioxidants, as the name suggests (anti-oxidants) can help stop the oxidation process, which are the results of free radicals doing their stuff. Most antioxidant research has been carried out on vitamins (A, E, beta carotene) but quite a lot of work has also been done on the healthy benefits of red wine. While most research on red wine has been done in relation to coronary heart disease, it seems that the benefits of wine don’t stop there.

Red wine and Coronary Heart Disease

Red wine contains a wide range of flavanoids; these are the chemicals that give the wine its particular taste and character, making one different from another. Many of these flavanoids act like antioxidants. Perhaps the forerunner of wine research was carried out by a certain Serge Renaud, who discovered the French Paradox, which suggested that wine was the decisive factor in protecting the people in southern France from their very high fat diets and ultimately coronary heart disease. Even if these people do eat large quantities of high fat cheese, pâté, and salami they have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

Another study, statistical rather than practical, by a Professor Grey of the University of Bern in Switzerland focused on the low, medium and high coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality figures of the World Health Organization.

What did he find? Well from among the high mortality areas were Finland and Scotland, the middle areas included Ireland, and the low CHD areas included Spain, Italy and France. He then compared heart attack rates with antioxidant levels in blood samples taken from men living in those areas.

Vitamin E and Heart Disease

What he found was very interesting, the results showed that high antioxidant levels, in particular vitamin E, coincided with low death rates of heart disease. Moreover, his results showed that vitamin E levels were 94% more accurate in predicting CHD rates than were cholesterol levels or blood pressure figures! Apart from diet, the high CHD regions drink very little, if any wine, whereas the low regions traditionally accompany their meals most days with wine.

It certainly seems strange that two much studied cities; Glasgow in Scotland and Toulouse in France show many similarities and yet many differences. The inhabitants of both cities eat tremendous amounts of high fat foods, traditionally take little exercise and drink alcohol. The surprising difference is that while the people of Glasgow have one of the highest rates of CHD in the world, the fortunate people of Toulouse have one of the lowest. Traditionally beer and spirits are the preferred drinks in Glasgow, while the folks in Toulouse drink red wine.

It has also been suggested that drinking in moderation together with meals is beneficial, while binge drinking at bars in the evening is harmful. It seems the southern Europeans don’t drink for the alcohol buzz, but just as a pleasant accompaniment to their meals.

At first the large heart institutions such as the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association ignored both antioxidants and frowned upon wine. While it is clear that it could be potentially dangerous for a physician to recommend his patients start drinking alcohol, it is also strange that they pretended for so many years to ignore the evidence. Well, now even if they don’t promote the taking of vitamin pills; antioxidants and free radicals are now recognized. However, according to the AHA “There is no scientific proof that drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage can replace conventional measures. No direct comparison trials have been done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Just ask yourself who would pay for such studies. Clinical Trials have the purpose of showing one thing to be better than another, or whether a certain substance is beneficial to health. The costs of clinical trials is so high that only the pharmaceutical industry have the financial clout to invest in them – invest is the correct word. What a surprise.