Most heart conditions are said to be silent. This means that a person will experience little to no symptoms at the outset. It can be years or even decades before symptoms develop, and even when it does many people ignore it initially. Often there is no sure way of knowing if you have a heart problem without routine screening and diagnostic investigations which can be expensive. But there may be certain indicators of whether you have an unhealthy heart. Minor signs and symptoms that may be the first signals that all is not well with your ticker. Or factors that could mean that you are at high risk of having certain heart problems or may already have it despite there being no symptoms.
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The heart is a vital organ that needs to be working every minute of every day to sustain life. You can only survive a few minutes at most if your heart stops functioning. And whether you are awake or sleeping, your heart never stops beating. But like any organ in the body, the heart is prone to different types of diseases. All of these heart problems can eventually lead to death if the heart stops functioning. However, modern medicine has now allowed for people to live long and productive lives even with heart problems. Understanding how these heart diseases differ and the symptoms of each can mean early diagnosis and proper treatment.
Hemorrhoids, or piles as it is commonly referred to, is a problem with the veins in the lowest portion of the gut. Overall it is a common problem and some cases are so mild that a person gives it little thought. However, hemorrhoids can also be an excruciatingly painful condition that causes a great deal distress and even affects a person’s quality of life. It is not life threatening but it can lead to very serious complications that requires emergency medical attention. Most people suffer with hemorrhoids for years or even decades before seeking medical attention. Eventually simpler measures that could have helped may no longer be useful and surgery is then the only option.
A heart attack is the point that is too late. You may survive it. You may return to your normal activities within a few weeks. You may go on to live till a ripe old age. But you would want to avoid a heart attack at any cost. Many heart attack patients will tell you that life changes after the event, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. No matter which way you look at it, prevention is better than cure and it is no different for a heart attack.
But it is not always entirely within your hands. A heart attack can occur without any previous symptoms. It can occur even if you have normal blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It can occur even if you are young and have no family history of cardiovascular diseases. But this is rare. In the vast majority of heart attack patients, there was some indication somewhere or other of an impending heart attack or that a person should be considered at high risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the most common cardiovascular condition across the globe. It is believed to affect as much as 20% of the world’s adult population and the prevalence may be much higher since hypertension often remains undiagnosed for long periods of time. High blood pressure is often termed the silent killer – you may not know that you have it for years due to the lack of symptoms at the outset but eventually it damages various organs that can kill you without warning. Fortunately modern medicine is able to effectively control your blood pressure on a long term basis. But this does not remove the need for conservative measures – changing your diet and lifestyle in order to improve your blood pressure beyond the effect of the drugs.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack and have to head down to the emergency room, then you know that you will be subjected to several tests to confirm the diagnosis. As scary as a heart attack is, many patients are even more scared of the diagnostic tests and surgery that may follow. But without early medical intervention, death may be knocking on your door – within minutes, hours or even days. It is only once a heart attack or other serious cardiac event is confirmed that your doctor and surgeon will look at taking you into the operating theater. First you have to undergo tests, which could even reveal that your symptoms were not related to a cardiac event that requires surgical intervention.
Changes in the blood pressure occur throughout the day. In fact your blood pressure can change several times within a minute and sudden fluctuations largely depends on what you are doing and your state of mind. However, for most people the blood pressure will not rise above nor drop below the normal range. It is important to understand that there is no specific number that can be considered normal for blood pressure. Not even the widely accepted 120/80 mmHg.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common cardiovascular problem globally. You may have it for years or even decades before it kills you. That is the truth high blood pressure – it is deadly. In rare instances it can even kill you within weeks or months. But how does high blood pressure kill ? And how can you spot the deadly symptoms? The fact is that high blood pressure is often silent, meaning that a person does not show any signs or symptoms in most people. For this reason hypertension is labeled the ‘silent killer’.
On the other hand, the deadly complications of high blood pressure are usually not as silent . If you are observant, you may be able to detect the first symptoms of these killer diseases and seek treatment as soon as possible. But never wait for these deadly symptoms to become evident. Always screen for high blood pressure, irrespective of your age, body weight, lifestyle factors and family history. These days hypertension is being seeing in younger age groups and it is not unheard of for a person in their twenties to have hypertension.
Most of us think that we will be able to spot a heart attack when we see one. The typical image of a person clutching their chest, gasping for air and falling to the ground is the way we have seen heart attacks portrayed time and again in the media. Pretty easy to spot even if you have absolutely no medical training. But you may be totally off the mark. A recent study in Iceland has shown that typical heart attacks are far less common than atypical heart attacks (silent heart attack).
In fact, some of the symptoms that we think is due to a heart attack may actually have nothing to do with the heart. Everyday emergency rooms around the world are faced with patients who think that they are having a heart attack but are actually experiencing severe episodes of indigestion and heartburn, among other non-cardiac causes of chest pain. Nevertheless, there is no harm in being cautious especially if you are in a high risk category for having a heart attack.
Heart Attack but No Symptoms
We all think of a heart attack presenting in a typical manner – the crushing chest pain, severe shortness of breath, dizziness and excessive sweating. These symptoms arise suddenly and are unmistakably due to a heart attack. The first warning signs can help us seek emergency medical attention much earlier thereby improving the chance of survival. However, the situation is not always as straightforward. Imagine having a heart attack and not even knowing it. No typical acute episode where you are grasping your chest and fall to the floor with people scrambling around to get you to the ER. It is possible. In fact in the elderly, it is more common and twice as likely to lead to death than a heart attack with symptom . It is a silent heart attack!
What is holiday heart syndrome?
Holiday heart syndrome is a term coined by a cardiologist, Philip Ettinger, M.D. to describe a cardiac condition associated mainly with excessive alcohol consumption coupled with overeating and possibly a lack of sleep. Despite the term, it does not not only occur on holidays although it is more common during the festive season, mainly Christmas and New Year’s. It is typically during these holidays that alcohol consumption increases excessively and often for prolonged periods as people indulge on consecutive days.
In holiday heart syndrome, there is dysfunction of the conduction system of the heart and irregular heart beat due to alcohol consumption in a person who does not have any history of heart disease. It is an acute condition that usually resolves spontaneously with abstaining from alcohol. However, most patients who develop holiday heart syndrome tend to have a history of heavy alcohol consumption on a regular basis. This does not mean that holiday heart syndrome cannot occur in people who usually consume alcohol in moderation but is less likely to be seen in these individuals.
Superior vena cava syndrome is a condition where blood flow through one of the major veins to the right side of the heart is blocked. This vein is known as the superior vena cava (SVC). It carries low oxygen blood from the upper part of the body to the right atrium of the heart. The other major vein is the inferior vena cava (IVC) that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower part of the body. There are several reasons why the superior vena cava may become obstructed, either partially or completely. The blockage may arise within the vein itself or external compression on the vein can also cause a blockage. If not treated immediately, superior vena cava syndrome can be lead to serious complications such a cerebral edema (brain swelling). Therefore SVC syndrome is considered to be a medical emergency.
Myocardial Ischemia Definition
Myocardial ischemia is injury to the heart muscle as a result of diminished or interrupted blood supply to the heart wall. The condition needs to be differentiated from myocardial infarction (heart attack). In myocardial ischemia the heart muscle undergoes injury due to an insufficient oxygen supply but the tissue does not die. This tissue injury is largely reversible in most cases but over a long period of time it can permanently damage heart function. In a myocardial infarction there is sudden death of a portion of the heart muscle tissue which can lead to a heart failure in severe cases and death. Myocardial ischemia causes a typical cardiac chest pain known as angina pectoris.
What is Raynaud Phenomenon?
Raynaud phenomenon is a condition where the small blood vessels at the peripheral parts of the body (finger, toes, ears and/or nose) drastically narrows with cold or stress. Although this response is normal, in Raynaud’s phenomenon it is severely exaggerated and there is drastic reduction in blood flow to the affected part. Sometimes the condition occurs on its own for reasons that are not clear and it is referred to as primary Raynaud phenomenon or Raynaud’s disease. At other times the sudden narrowing of the blood vessels is related to some underlying disease and is then referred to as secondary Raynaud phenomenon.
Cocaine and the Heart
Cocaine is a potent illicit stimulant produced from the leaves of the coca plant. It is widely used in the powder form which is inhaled or in the chunky form which is smoked (crack cocaine). Cocaine is often mixed with other substances to ‘cut’ the pure drug, thereby diluting it. Sometimes these fillers or bulking agents are inert substances while at other time it can be toxic compounds.
Cocaine may also be mixed with other drugs like amphetamines, heroin and morphine for a more potent narcotic effect. Cocaine induces a sense of euphoria due to stimulating a massive release of brain hormones (neurotransmitters) like dopamine which acts on the pleasure and reward center in the brain. It also has a host of other effects on almost every organ and system in the body.
The heart is in constant action throughout life. Sometimes it pumps harder during physical activity and at other times slower when a person is at rest or asleep. The wall of the heart is made up of three layers and the thickest section is smooth muscle known as the myocardium. It has an extensive blood supply through the coronary arteries to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients.
The heart has a natural pacemaker that initiates its own electrical impulses. These impulses propagate through the heart wall to ensure that the upper chambers receiving blood (atria) contract separately from the lower chambers (ventricles) that push blood out of the heart. Nerve impulses from the brain and different hormones can also speed up or slow down the heart rate in response to different conditions.
What is a cardiac tamponade?
Cardiac tamponade is a condition where the accumulation of fluid around the heart hampers its filling and circulation of blood. The fluid that collects around the heart can either be blood, serous tissue fluid, pus or lymph with fat droplets. Sometimes a solid mass or even gas can restrict the heart movement but these instances are uncommon. The restriction of the heart in a cardiac tamponade means that insufficient blood fills the heart and is subsequently pushed out of the heart to the rest of the body. Therefore there is less oxygen in the circulation. A cardiac tamponade needs emergency treatment and the fluid has to be drained out of the heart. It can be fatal if left untreated.
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