Mishita, 55 years, was feeling low and depressed for quite a few months. Since the past 2 days, she began feeling slight restlessness, palpitations, and a suffocating feeling followed by mild chest pain radiating to her left shoulder. Since she was alone, she called her daughter to express these symptoms. Her daughter immediately called their neighbour. As her neighbour had basic knowledge about heart symptoms and heart disease, she was saved from a major heart attack but early signs of arteriosclerosis were detected. She started following lifestyle changes and now is happy, healthy and almost off medicine!
How & When Does Heart Disease Develop?
Heart disease mostly develops over a period of time due to an unhealthy lifestyle. One may have early signs or symptoms long before a serious heart problem. In my practice, I have seen that the body, including the heart, will give several signs, before it deteriorates. It’s up to you how much you listen to your body.
Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect the heart. It could be a disease related to blood vessels such as coronary artery disease, especially arteriosclerosis (lumen of arteries supplying blood to the heart is reduced in size and finally get occluded, leading to myocardial infarction) or arrhythmias (irregular rhythm of heartbeats which is due to an issue in the current flow of heart circuit) or one could be born with a heart disease as well – congenital heart defects, among others. There are 2 dimensions which affect heart, physiological constitution and emotional constitution of an individual.
Psychoneuroimmunology has proven that a person who is sad, depressed, unhealthy and unhappy will be at risk of a heart attack, or shall I say, a number of diseases. Emotional, mental and physical wellbeing are the keys to lead a good life.
Signs To Watch Out For
I will be discussing some common symptoms of a heart attack since the number of people suffering from the same is increasing. One should immediately take medical advice if you have any of the following symptoms, at any age:
- Chest Pain: Discomfort or pain in the chest area which may include left, center or sometimes even the right side which may also radiate towards the left shoulder, left upper back, jaw or sometimes even chin area. There are many causes of chest pain that have nothing to do with the heart but it is still the most common symptom of poor blood flow to the heart cells due to any cardiac ailment which leads to a heart attack ( Myocardial infarction).
- At times it is like a crushing pain, while others feel only mild discomfort.
- It might feel heavy or like someone was squeezing the heart. One may also feel a sharp, burning sensation in the chest or epigastric area
- At times, the pain under the breastbone (sternum), or on the neck, arms, stomach, jaw, or upper back may be the only symptom, which one should not ignore.
- Chest pain from angina often occurs during or post-activity or sudden emotional experience and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin.
- Bad indigestion can also cause chest pain but that does not amount to heart trouble! However, any symptoms you experience is the body’s language of communication, so ignore none.
Certain other features could be extreme anxiety, fainting or loss of consciousness, lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, palpitations (feeling like the heart is beating too fast or irregularly), shortness of breath, profuse sweating, which may be very heavy.
In case of other comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, etc. one might experience fatigue, shortness of breath, general weakness, or change in skin colour.
Symptoms Which Need Cardiac Attention
- Shortness of Breath: When the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should, blood backs up in the veins that go from the lungs to the heart. Fluid leaks into the lungs and causes shortness of breath. This is a symptom of heart failure. One may notice shortness of breath during activity, while resting or when lying flat on the back – it might wake you up from sleep.
- Continuous coughing or wheezing could be a sign that the fluid is building up in the lungs. One may also cough up mucus that is pink or bloody.
- Swelling in the Legs, Ankles, or Feet: because the blood flow slows and backs up in the veins in the legs. This causes fluid to build up in the tissues. One may also experience swelling in the stomach or notice some weight gain. This is mostly seen in congestive cardiac failure.
- Narrowed Blood Vessels could mean a higher risk of a heart attack & can occur when cholesterol and other fatty material (plaque) builds upon the walls of the arteries. It is also the cause of hypertension.
- Fatigue: Tiredness can have many causes. It could be a sign of heart trouble when one feels so tired that regular activities are not conducted or when the feeling is sudden and leads to severe weakness
- Palpitations: If the heart can’t pump blood normally, it may beat faster to try to keep up. It might feel that the heart is racing or throbbing. A fast or uneven heartbeat can also be a sign of arrhythmia. This is a problem with your heart rate or rhythm.
The heart is an organ which does not rest until you rest in peace. You need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to maintain a healthy heart. Diet, sleep, stress levels, emotional state, exercise or physical activity are the parameters which monitor your heart health. You need to monitor these parameters consciously. If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical assistance.
Don’t let the rhythm of your heart be affected. As in most cases of the heart, prevention is the only cure!