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Heart Attack

What health conditions increase your risks?

It is a medical emergency that requires rapid medical intervention to save a patient’s life. The danger of a heart attack is that it occurs suddenly and has serious consequences if the patient doesn’t arrive at the hospital quickly to get the necessary medical assistance at the appropriate time. Severe chest tightness (which some describe as “having a rock on the chest”) that usually goes hand in hand with pain in the left arm and neck is one of the possible symptoms of an impending heart attack.

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 30% of all deaths yearly.Studies show the impact of lifestyle on the heart, whether in terms of food quality, physical activity or even in social communication and living a fun life away from problems and worries. These factors can be controlled in order to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is enough to make a lifestyle change to avoid that risk.Heart attacks and strokes are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The most common reason for this is a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart and brain. This makes them narrower and less flexible, decreasing thus the blood flow and increasing the risk of blocked vessels.The main reasons for the build-up of fatty deposits are controllable such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity.

The Impact of Social Isolation on the Heart

With the isolation of millions of people around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, recent studies on the impact of social isolation on heart patients have emerged. It turned out that socially isolated people are over 40% more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, such as a heart attack or stroke, than those who were socially integrated.

Feeling lonely and anxious about this novel virus increases depression and stress, which negatively affects the heart. Hence, these studies show that social relations and communication with friends, even via social media or on phone, contribute greatly to bringing joy to the person’s heart, as well as alleviating the burden of problems by discussing them with others. Strong social relationships are as important to the heart as classic factors such as maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and controlling normal blood pressure, weight, and other things related to a healthy lifestyle.

People with no social ties are at risk of developing heart disease, especially a heart attack. Feeling lonely is one of the reasons and it may be stressful for them since they have no one to help them organize their feelings.

Other studies have shown that a person who feels lonely has a 29% increased risk of a heart attack or angina, and 32% increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Researchers note that loneliness affects lifestyle, whereas a person tends to spend less money and smoke more, in addition to eating irregularly. More importantly, loneliness weakens the immune system and makes it unstable.

How Does Sleep Affect the Heart?

On a related level, some studies on heart diseases linked the relationship between anxiety, lack of sleep, and cardiovascular diseases and found that people who slept less than 6 hours a night were twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who slept 6 to 8 hours a night.

It turned out that the risk may increase when a person gets too little or too much sleep. People who sleep less than 7 hours or more than 9 hours a day may be at greater risk than others.

Doctors attribute this to the fact that sleep disorders may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, and strokes.

So, lack of sleep causes serious cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Doctors and researchers believe this is because the lack of sleep may disrupt the parts of the brain which control the circulatory system or cause inflammation that makes the development of a blood clot more likely to happen. Ongoing studies have revealed a relationship between sleep disorders and chronic diseases. Bad sleep, which is the inability to sleep at night and waking up very early, leads to difficulty concentrating during the day and may increase the risk of obesity, which in turn increases sleep disorders.

How Does Smoking Affect the Heart?

Smoking is a major risk factor of heart disease, especially if it is combined with other risk factors such as unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, weight gain, or obesity. The carbon monoxide in cigarettes reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, which makes it more likely to clot, and thus increases the chance of a heart attack or stroke.

The chemicals in cigarettes damage the function and structure of the heart and blood vessels, which increases over time the risk of developing atherosclerosis, whereas a waxy substance called plaque accumulates in the arteries narrowing them and thus decreasing the amount of oxygen-rich blood flowing to the organs and other parts of the body. Over time, heart disease can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia, or even death.

In addition, the narrowing of the arteries causes high blood pressure and increases the heart rate. The chemicals in cigarettes contribute to many cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease, in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow, heart attack, which is twice more likely to happen for smokers than for non-smokers, and chest pain.

Also, some of the substances in cigarettes such as nicotine or carbon monoxide may make the heart work harder and faster, causing difficulty in exercising. Smoking may affect the heart even if you smoke 5 cigarettes or less per day.

Atherosclerosis occurs when tobacco reaches the blood vessels. The chemicals inside this substance cause the buildup of a layer of fatty deposits (known as cholesterol) inside artery walls. This results in narrowing and hardening of the artery, decreasing the amount of blood flowing through it to one of the organs in the body, and thus decreasing the nutrition of this organ which weakens its vitality or stops it from performing its function.

Smoking also affects the surrounding blood vessels whereas plaque accumulates on the walls of blood vessels that carry blood to the head and organs. Over time, the risk of developing other heart diseases, angina, and stroke generally increases.

On the other hand, passive smoking greatly affects non-smokers who inhale the smell of cigarettes, thus increasing their risk of heart disease. Passive smoking may lead to blood viscosity, which over time leads to clogged arteries. Harmful chemicals in smoke increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Various studies have indicated that a non-smoker who is exposed to passive smoking is at a high risk of coronary diseases such as coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, and others.

How Does Obesity Affect the Heart?

Obesity causes high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides and the resulting heart diseases. These risks are caused by the damage done to the arteries, as obesity contributes to increasing the levels of fatty deposits built up on the arterial walls, leading to the development of the most dangerous heart diseases, in addition to the increased risk of sudden and devastating heart strokes.

Obesity is one of the serious risk factors of coronary heart disease resulting from building blocks of fat (cholesterol) inside the arteries. It also contributes to cardiac insufficiency, whereas the obese person has a large amount of blood which the heart cannot pump easily. Obesity is often accompanied by sleep apnea, which causes health problems such as high blood pressure, which in turn causes cardiac insufficiency.

This overweight also puts a lot of pressure on the heart, which over time leads to muscle strain and cardiomegaly. Some studies indicate that the persistence of severe obesity also increases the pressure on the right ventricle, which weakens the heart and prevents it from performing its vital functions in a natural way.

The dangers of obesity and its impact on the heart are not limited to this. It can also lead to sudden death caused by left ventricular hypertrophy, due to the fact that it leads to an increase in blood volume and in the number of capillaries.

Obesity is also a major risk of irregular blood pressure, which leads to enlarged heart muscle, coronary artery disease, and the enlargement of the aorta that carries blood from the heart to the body (aortic aneurysm).

High Cholesterol Levels

Globally, a third of ischemic heart disease is related to high cholesterol levels. The reason is the accumulation of this substance on the walls of the arteries, which narrows them and thus decreases the amount of blood flowing through them, resulting in a heart attack. This can also lead to the formation of blood clots in the arteries, which in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes and narrow blood vessels in the limbs.

Excessive intake of fat-rich foods increases the risk of having high LDL cholesterol levels, which can cause fatty deposits to build up on the walls of the arteries and develop cardiovascular diseases. This buildup is called plaque, a thick and hard deposit. Over time, this can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. The arteries become unable to supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This lack of oxygen leads to severe chest pain called angina.  Also, a blood clot may form in one of the coronary arteries and lead to complete blockage in the artery, and consequently cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or the death of the heart muscle or part of it.

Atherosclerosis is related to high levels of cholesterol, which may negatively affect the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Once the disease begins, LDL cholesterol builds up on the arterial walls blocking the flow of the blood. This may lead to a heart attack if it is not detected early.

High cholesterol levels can increase the risk of:

  • Blockage of blood vessels as a result of the increase of cholesterol levels and the accumulation of fatty deposits.
  • Coronary artery disease, which occurs as a result of the progressive narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the legs. When any physical activity is made, the legs do not get enough blood, and thus the person feels excruciating pain in the legs.
  • Heart diseases and angina, which are diseases related to the blood vessels of the heart such as the narrowing of the arteries of the heart.
  • Heart attack, which occurs due to narrowed arteries and low blood flow to the heart, preventing the heart from getting enough blood.
  • Stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is reduced due to the narrowing of the arteries.

How Does Diabetes Affect the Heart?

Diabetes is one of the factors that contribute to a heart attack unless it is controlled and checked regularly. Over time, high blood glucose can damage the blood vessels and nerves, which eventually leads to heart attacks.

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease due to the resulting complications such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and vascular damage. Diabetics are more likely to develop atherosclerosis than others as a result of insulin resistance. In a diabetic patient, insulin isn’t necessarily absent, but it can be non-functional and unable to make cells benefit from glucose in the blood and absorb it, which leads to high levels of fat in the body. Diabetics also suffer from an increased rate of blood clotting, vascular calcification, difficulty in breaking down fats, and high fat levels in the bloodstream, in addition to vasculitis and weak internal layer of blood vessels.

Diabetics are more likely to have the following cardiovascular diseases:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Weak heart muscle
  • Peripheral vascular diseases such as venous thrombosis in the feet
  • Heart attacks causing ischemic heart disease and the death of parts of the heart muscle

High Blood Pressure

The higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk of heart attacks. The reason is the reduced blood flow to the heart. Heart attacks occur when a coronary artery narrows due to the gradual accumulation of fatty deposits. When the plaque breaks apart, a blood clot forms to repair the damage done to the artery’s wall and blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a part of the heart muscle, leading to a heart attack. If you have high blood pressure, the increased pressure of blood flowing through your arteries gradually can cause a variety of problems, including artery damage and narrowing. High blood pressure can damage the cells of the arteries inner lining. This launches a cascade of events that make artery walls thick and stiff, a disease called atherosclerosis. Arterial damage can cause many problems, including angina, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, blocked arteries in the legs or arms, eye damage, and aneurysms.

Over time, the constant pressure of blood moving through a weakened artery can cause a section of its wall to enlarge and form an aneurysm, which is more common in the aorta, the body’s largest artery. When the blood doesn’t flow freely to the heart, the patient may experience a chest pain or arrhythmias. In addition, high blood pressure forces the heart to work harder than necessary in order to pump blood to the rest of the body. 

This causes the left ventricle to thicken or stiffen (left ventricular hypertrophy), which limits its ability to pump blood to the body. This condition increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death. Over time, the strain on the heart caused by high blood pressure can cause the heart muscle to weaken and work less efficiently. Eventually, the overwhelmed heart begins to wear out and fail. Damage from heart attacks adds to this problem.

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