Most people think heart-healthy living involves sacrifice, like giving up your favourite foods, breaking a sweat or losing weight.
But some of the best things you can do for your heart do not involve deprivation or medication.
Simple, and even pleasurable, changes in the foods you eat can rival medication in terms of the benefit to your heart.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular, or heart, diseases are currently the leading cause of death worldwide.
According to WHO data from 2017, coronary heart disease deaths in Malaysia reached 30,600, or 22% of total deaths.
The age-adjusted death rate is 137 per 100,000 population, ranking Malaysia as number 63 in the world for coronary heart disease deaths.
In 2017, diseases of the circulatory system caused 21.86% of deaths in Malaysian government hospitals.
Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. There is not always an alarming chest clutch, followed by a fall to the floor, like you see in movies.
Some heart symptoms don’t even happen in your chest and it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on.
That’s especially true if you are 60 or older, overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
And the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have heart-related problems.
Watch out for the below symptoms, which might indicate you have a heart problem.
This the most common sign of heart danger.
If you have a blocked artery or are having a heart attack, you may feel pain, tightness or pressure in your chest.
Some people say it’s like an elephant is sitting on them; other people say it’s like a pinching or burning feeling.
The feeling usually lasts longer than a few minutes.
It may happen when you’re at rest or when you’re doing something physical.
If it’s just a very brief pain or if it’s a spot that hurts more when you touch or push on it, it’s probably not your heart.
You should still get it checked out by a doctor if the symptoms are more severe and don’t go away after a few minutes.
Also, keep in mind you can have heart problems, even a heart attack, without chest pain. This is particularly common among women.
Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or stomach pain
Some people have these symptoms during a heart attack and may even vomit.
Women are more likely to experience these symptoms than men.
Of course, you can have an upset stomach for many reasons that have nothing to do with your heart. It could just be something you ate, after all.
But you need to be aware that it can also happen during a heart attack.
So if you feel this way and you’re at risk for heart problems, let a doctor find out what’s going on, especially if you also have any of the other symptoms on this list.
Pain that spreads to the arm
Another classic heart attack symptom is pain that radiates down the left side of the body.
It almost always starts from the chest and moves outward, but some patients have mainly arm pain that turned out to be heart attacks.
Dizziness or lightheadedness
A lot of things can make you lose your balance or feel faint for a moment.
Maybe you didn’t have enough to eat or drink, or you stood up too fast.
But if you suddenly feel unsteady and you also have chest discomfort or shortness of breath, call a doctor right away.
It could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isn’t able to pump the way it should.
Throat or jaw pain
By itself, throat or jaw pain probably isn’t heart-related. It’s more likely caused by a muscular issue, a cold or a sinus problem.
But if you have pain or pressure in the center of your chest that spreads up into your throat or jaw, it could be a sign of a heart attack.
Seek medical attention immediately to make sure everything is all right.
If you suddenly feel fatigued or winded after doing something you had no problem doing in the past, like climbing the stairs, make an appointment with your doctor right away.
Extreme exhaustion or unexplained weakness, sometimes for days at a time, can be a symptom of heart disease, especially for women.
It’s normal to snore a little while you snooze, but unusually loud snoring that sounds like a gasping or choking can be a sign of sleep apnoea.
That’s when you stop breathing for brief periods of time several times at night while you are still sleeping. This puts extra stress on your heart.
Your doctor can check whether you need a sleep study to see if you have this condition.
If you do, you may need a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to smooth out your breathing while you sleep.
Breaking out in a cold sweat for no obvious reason could signal a heart attack.
If this happens along with any of these other symptoms, get to a hospital right away. Don’t try to drive yourself though.
A continuous cough
In most cases, this isn’t a sign of heart trouble. But if you have heart disease or know you’re at risk, pay special attention to the possibility.
If you have a long-lasting cough that produces a white or pink mucus, it could be a sign of heart failure.
This happens when the heart can’t keep up with the body’s demands, causing blood to leak back into the lungs.
Ask your doctor to check on what’s causing your cough.
Swollen feet, ankles and/or legs could be a sign that your heart doesn’t pump blood as effectively as it should.
When the heart can’t pump fast enough, blood backs up in the veins and causes bloating.
Heart failure can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body, which can lead to bloating.
Irregular heart beat
It’s normal for your heart to race when you are nervous or excited, or to skip or add a beat once in a while.
But if you feel like your heart is beating out of time for more than just a few seconds, or if it happens often, tell your doctor.
It could signal a condition called atrial fibrillation that needs treatment. So ask your doctor to check it out.
It should be noted that cardiovascular disease can be prevented.
The best way to look after your heart is with a healthy lifestyle.
The increasing risk of cardiovascular disease in younger age groups is a major concern.
Therefore, it is important that all adults regularly visit their doctors to check their hearts and risk factors for cardiovascular diease, in order to prevent more future deaths due to this condition.
Dr Jasvindar Kaur R Pritam Singh is a senior lecturer of community medicine and family medicine at the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine. This article is courtesy of Perdana University. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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