Heart your health
by Joshua Wong, Senior Patient Care Pharmacist
Feel your heart beating faster when you’re nervous or wrench a little when you watch a sad movie? These feelings are common, but not all matters of the heart are about emotions or what you feel.
What is a heart disease?
Often, the terms cardiovascular disease and heart disease are used interchangeable when we describe conditions affecting the heart.
In actual fact, the term heart disease covers all illnesses related to the heart, while cardiovascular disease is an example of a heart disease that involves both the heart and blood vessels.
Atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries due to the build-up of fatty materials on the artery walls, is a common form of cardiovascular disease which will lead to other forms of heart diseases if not managed well.
Signs of a heart disease risk
There are several factors that put people at a risk of developing heart diseases.
- Family’s medical history
- Existing medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure)
- Lifestyle habits (e.g. smoking, excessive alcohol intake)
Heart attacks & diabetes
A person with diabetes is at least twice as likely to die from heart diseases compared to a non-diabetic person.
The high levels of circulating glucose in the blood and poorer healing capabilities in diabetic individuals may lead to the damage of blood vessels. Damaged blood vessels are also more prone to atherosclerosis.
The severity of the condition depends on where atherosclerosis takes place. If it occurs at the coronary arteries which supply oxygen to the heart, a heart attack may happen.
The effects of smoking
Smoking has always been known to cause harm to the body in every aspect. Cigarette smoke has at least 400 poisonous substances, which means every puff of a cigarette could adversely affect your heart.
Smoking damages the walls of blood vessels and increases blood clotting. The combination of both attracts circulating fatty materials to deposit on the walls, speeding up the process of atherosclerosis.
In addition, nicotine raises both the blood pressure and heart rate, and may affect the heart in the long run.
“Cheers to a good heart!” – Really?
When it comes to matters of the heart, there actually isn’t much to ‘cheers’ about – excessive alcohol intake is a risk factor for heart diseases.
High levels of alcohol in the body have a direct toxic effect on the heart’s muscle cells. As a result, the heart may beat faster or even beat abnormally, which may lead to a sudden heart attack.
Heavy drinking may also cause the weakening of the heart’s muscles, a heart condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
In this condition, the heart loses the strength to effectively pump blood to other parts of the body, causing fluid to accumulate in the lower limbs and in the lungs. If untreated, accumulation of fluid will worsen the heart condition.
Excessive drinking may also contribute to obesity if done for a long period of time as alcohol is high in calories and low in nutritional value.
Ways to be heart-healthy
Ensuring you have the best for your heart is not as difficult as it sounds! You can do so by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.
A diet for the heart
A healthy lifestyle starts from a hearty diet; one with all the right nutrients! When deciding what to eat, remember to find food with more fibre and less salt, sugar and fats.
Work up a sweat
Regular exercise has shown to decrease the risk of developing heart diseases, lower blood pressure, and reduce body fat and glucose levels.
But that’s not all! Exercising also boosts the good cholesterol levels while reducing the bad cholesterol levels.
It’s never too late to start your exercise regime – just 30 minutes of physical activities daily is all you need. For busy individuals, taking the stairs, doing household chores or walking to nearby places can also be a form of exercise!
Supplementing your heart’s health
If you’re looking for supplements that can support heart health, here are some you may wish to consider.
- Fish oil
- Contains omega-3 fatty acids that increase ‘good cholesterol’ levels and reduce triglyceride (i.e. a type of fat found in the blood)
- Red yeast rice
- Reduces the ‘bad cholesterol’ and triglyceride
- Co-enzyme Q10
- Green tea extracts
- Plant sterols
- Vitamin B complex with folic acid and fibre
If you are on any long-term medication for heart diseases, you should consult a pharmacist or doctor before you purchase any health supplement.