Contributed by: Healthians Team
The average heart is about the size of an adult’s fist and is made up of the atria, ventricles, valves, and several arteries and veins. A healthy heart helps in maintaining the overall well-being of the body by performing important functions like:
- Pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body
- Transporting hormones and other vital substances through the bloodstream to different parts of the body
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
- Sending deoxygenated blood to the lungs for oxygenation
Here are some interesting facts about the heart:
- The first case of heart disease was recognized in a 3,500 years old Egyptian mummy
- The risk of getting a heart attack is relatively higher on Monday
- A human heart weighs less than one kilogram but manages the functioning of approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels spread across the body
- Laughing is very good for your heart as it minimizes the amount of stress and aids in boosting the immune system
The heart is a very complex organ and crucial for your survival. Thus, it is necessary to keep it healthy by exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, and quitting habits that are injurious to the heart’s health.
On this World Heart Day, we emphasize the most common heart diseases in the world, causes of heart diseases, symptoms that the heart manifests when it’s unhealthy, the best foods that help in maintaining a healthy heart, and the best exercises to enhance heart health.
5 most common heart diseases
Heart diseases, also termed cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of global deaths that occur due to disorders of the heart and blood vessels. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, which is around 32% of all global deaths. Nearly 85% of deaths in this data were due to heart attack and stroke.
The heart plays a very challenging role in the process of keeping us alive. Since the organ is related to every part of the body, it is no surprise that there are several ailments related to it. In this list, we will discuss the five most common heart disease types:
Congenital heart diseases (CHDs)
CHDs are the most common birth defects that occur as a hole in the heart or maybe something more severe. The main cause of CHD is still unknown, however, 15 to 20% of cases occur due to genetic conditions.
Doctors can diagnose these problems in the baby during pregnancy, but the body may not manifest any symptoms until the baby reaches adulthood. And in some cases, the symptoms may not even occur at all. People living with CHDs face health problems, such as:
- Issues with body growth and eating habits
- Difficulty being physically active
- Heart rhythm problems
- Increased chances of heart failure
Some of the primary causes of CHD include:
- Poor diet of the mother and/or excessive medication
- Maternal diabetes
- A habit of smoking in either of the parents
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
CAD is the most common heart disease in which the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart is obstructed as the arteries become too narrow. The condition develops when the waste products from the cells and/or cholesterol build up on the artery walls, gives rise to plaque, which can lead to a heart attack.
To prevent yourself from CAD, you should:
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking and alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight and keep blood pressure & cholesterol levels under control
Heart arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart starts to beat too slow or too fast due to irregular electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats. It can occur due to excessive intake of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, diet pills, and certain medications.
This condition is harmless in some cases and may cause minor inconveniences, but if you are suffering from any other heart illness that can exacerbate the condition, you may require immediate medical attention. These illnesses include CAD, high blood pressure, or valve disorders.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a life-threatening condition that mostly affects adults between the 20s and 60s. The disease starts in the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber of the heart, and dilates the heart muscles. Consequently, the inside of the chamber expands and the problem progresses to the right ventricle and atria.
If the treatment is delayed, the heart muscle walls weaken and won’t be able to pump the blood effectively. This can lead to shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, neck veins, and extreme tiredness.
Pulmonary stenosis is a birth defect in which the pulmonary valve becomes narrowed and rigid, which obstructs the regular blood flow. In this condition, the stress on the right ventricle of the child’s heart increases as it works harder to maintain the blood flow in the pulmonary artery. To compensate for the extra stress, the right ventricle gradually thickens.
This can give rise to a condition called hypertrophy – an increase in the size of an organ due to swelling. This condition isn’t too dangerous, but it necessitates the intervention of a specialist due to the tender age of the patient.
Causes of heart complications
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Being physically inactive
- Being overweight (obesity)
- Family history of heart diseases
- Unhealthy eating habits
Symptoms of heart complications
- Chest pain
- Feeling sick (nausea and vomiting)
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Prolonged coughing
- Fluttering in the chest
- Feeling sweaty
- Leg pain
- Arm pain
- Jaw or back pain
- Choking sensation
- Swollen ankles
- Extreme tiredness
- Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)
The best heart-healthy foods you should start NOW!
- Green vegetables
They are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and help manage blood pressure and promote arterial function. Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, beans, carrots, and beetroots are very beneficial for heart health.
- Whole grains
Whole-grain foods are enriched with fiber which can help lower and manage the cholesterol levels in the body, which reduces the risk of heart ailments. Whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa are some of the most common and easily available whole grains foods.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are excellent sources of antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation, which reduces the risk of heart ailments.
Walnuts are enriched with fiber and micronutrients such as magnesium, copper, and manganese which help in managing blood pressure, decrease oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels. These nutritious benefits of walnuts help promote heart health.
Garlic consist of a compound called allicin which has therapeutic medicinal properties that help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular consumption of garlic also decreases the chances of blood clot formation and promotes heart health.
Best exercises to promote heart health
- Brisk walking
It may sound a bit hard to believe, but brisk walking can help in improving the condition of the heart, all you need is a pair of good shoes. It increases the rate of blood flowing to the heart and is also easier on the joints (especially beneficial for those suffering from joint ailments) as compared to any other exercise.
- Weight training
Weight training helps in building muscles of the body, which increases blood flow and improves heart health.
Swimming is a proven full-body exercise that improves body tone, increases blood circulation, and promotes heart health.
Yoga is one of the best ways to improve heart health and promote overall well-being. Yoga helps strengthen your bones and tone your muscles, which increases blood circulation and manages blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels.
- Core workouts
Core workouts like plank and pilates help increase the strength of your core muscles and provide balance to the body. A strong core promotes your overall health and increases blood circulation which improves heart health.
The heart is one of the most complex organs of the body which helps you stay alive and kicking. It functions 24/7 and ensures continuous blood circulation to every part of the body. If the functioning of the heart is obstructed, its impact can be quite severe on your overall well-being.
To ensure that your heart health is not compromised, it’s highly recommended to get diagnosed at regular intervals to ascertain your correct health condition. Take measures to avoid the aforesaid causes of heart ailments, and if you experience any symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.