In fact, 5 out of 10 Filipinos die because of heart disease, based on the data of the Philippines Statistics Office. Last 2017, ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of death with 14.5 percent of Filipinos dying from it.
Worldwide, it is a top killer, too. The World Health Organization estimates that 17 million people around the world die of cardiovascular diseases each year. By the year 2030, the WHO projects that this number will increase to 23.3 million people.
One of the reasons for developing heart disease, which can lead to heart attack, is the diseased coronary artery.
The coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that supply the heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients. Coronary artery disease (CAD) develops when the coronary arteries become damaged or diseased, usually through the accumulation of cholesterol-containing deposits or plaque in the arteries and the inflammation that ensues.
This buildup of cholesterol in the arteries is known as atherosclerosis.
Dr. Raul Lapitan, adult clinical cardiologist and echocardiographer, said that the blockage in the arteries of the heart usually comes from cholesterol. Blood clots inside the already narrowed and hardened arteries cause heart attacks, as well. The flow of fresh blood is impeded by the blockage in the artery, starving the heart tissue which eventually dies.
Lapitan said that when plaques build up, they narrow the coronary arteries, decreasing blood flow to the heart. Eventually, the decreased blood flow may cause chest pain or angina, shortness of breath, heavy feeling at the chest area, and sharp pain at the shoulders and neck.
A complete blockage can cause a heart attack. Because coronary artery disease often develops over decades, it can go unnoticed until the person suffers a heart attack.
How does one recognize the symptoms of a heart attack?
Lapitan said the usual symptom of heart attack is mild to severe chest pain, which can happen even when you’re lying still. There is also a feeling of pressure and fullness on the chest, which can happen suddenly and will last for a few minutes. The squeezing pain will stop for a while but will be back again.
Lapitan also explained the reason why some heart disease patients, who hop on a cold shower immediately after waking up, end up having a heart attack. “When it’s cold, the arteries in the body of a patient narrows, making it difficult for the blood to flow freely. A clogged artery adds to the problem.”
Open heart surgery, or bypass and angioplasty can help widen the narrowing or blocked arteries.
“When you have a clogged artery, the blockage will forever be there. There’s no truth to claims that drinking a particular drug or health supplement can melt the plaque or cholesterol. Medicines can only prevent or lessen the chances of the cholesterol from completely blocking the artery,” said Lapitan.
It’s important for heart disease patients to reduce their salt and fat intake.
“Exercising [30 minutes of aerobics for most of the week], wearing sneakers if you can to promote walking, maintaining healthy weight, and eating more vegetables and fruits can do wonders for the heart. Smoking and drinking alcoholic drinks should be ceased, and if possible, avoid stress so you can live longer with a healthy heart,” adviced Lapitan.
Lapitan is inviting doctors and other health practitioners to their forum today, February 6 at the Makati Medical Center, titled A Multi-Faceted Approach to Coronary Artery Disease. Registration is free. The activities related to heart health awareness are spearheaded by Drs. Saturnino Javier, Valerie Zarza-Geron and Jake Sison.
Image credits: Glolyla | Dreamstime.com