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Jay Koovarjee

 92 Pitt St
Sydney NSW 2000
ph: (02) 9221 0091
fax: (02) 9221 0090

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:: In Brief

 

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:: Heart Disease
Healthy Women & Heart Disease
  Healthy Women
  Heart Disease

Heart disease is a general term that refers to any disease or condition of the heart, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, heart failure, congenital heart disease, disorders of the heart valves, heart infections, cardiomyopathy, conduction disorders, and heart arrythmias.  Heart disease is the largest single cause of death in Australia.  Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a term used to describe a number of conditions that can affect the heart and blood vessels. These include:

  • heart attack and angina (heart pain)
  • cerebrovascular disease including a stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • blood clotting and other heart or blood vessel diseases

The most common cause of CVD is the gradual clogging of blood vessels by fatty or fibrous material. Fatty material gradually builds up on the blood vessel walls, narrowing the arteries. This eventually prevents vital oxygen from reaching the cells. As the deposits build up the arteries become less elastic. This condition is often referred to as hardening of the arteries. Any artery in the body can be affected. However, the arteries to the heart, brain or kidneys, or those to the eyes and legs are most commonly affected.
 

Signs & Symptoms:

Arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat may be a sign of CVD.  Pain and shortness of breath and fatigue may also be signs.

What are the signs of a heart attack?

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, where it is obvious what is happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Whilst most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back, women are less likely to experience chest pain. 
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness 

Important:  The most common cause of death from a heart attack in adults is a disturbance in the electrical rhythm of the heart called ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation can be treated, but it requires applying an electrical shock to the chest called defibrillation.

If a defibrillator is not readily available, brain death will occur in less than 10 minutes. One way of buying time until a defibrillator becomes available is to provide artificial breathing and circulation by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. The earlier you give CPR to a person in cardiopulmonary arrest (no breathing, no heartbeat), the greater the chance of a successful resuscitation.

By performing CPR, you keep oxygenated blood flowing to the heart and brain until a defibrillator becomes available. Because up to 80% of all cardiac arrests occur in the home, you are most likely to perform CPR on a family member or loved one.
 


 

Treatment:

Treatment will depend on the type of CVD you have. Your general practitioner will develop a treatment plan with you that will involve one or more of the following:

  • Medications - to reduce incidents and control symptoms
  • Balloon Angioplasty - A nonsurgical procedure designed to dilate (widen or expand) narrowed coronary arteries
  • Bypass Graft Surgery - Bypass graft surgery to construct a new channel so blood can get around the blockages in the coronary arteries.
  • Electrophysiologic devices (Pacemakers) - To maintain a minimum safe heart rate by delivering to the pumping chambers appropriately timed electrical impulses that replace the heart's normal rhythmic pulses.

Prevention is better than cure.  What you can do ...

  • Do not smoke. Smoking can double your risk of heart attack or stroke. Reduce your blood fats such as cholesterol by eating a diet low in saturated fat.
  • Control your blood pressure. If you are on blood pressure tablets, take them as directed by your general practitioner. Have your blood pressure checked every second year, or more often if directed by your general practitioner.
  • Stay within the healthy weight range
  • Eat plenty of cereals fruit, fish and vegetables.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes on most or every day of the week. If you like, the 30 minutes can be accumulated in shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes.
  • Limit alcohol to two glasses a day (or less).
  • Visit your general practitioner for regular check ups

     

Some things that are out of your control will increase your risk of heart disease. These include:

  • family history, if either or both of your parents, or your brothers and sisters have had CVD
  • age - the older you are the greater your risk of developing CVD
  • sex - men are at greater risk than women until women reach menopause. Women's risk then becomes the same as for men
  • diabetes. 

More Information:

National Heart Foundation's Heartline on 1300 362 787 or visit their website www.heartfoundation.com.au  
 

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