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World Heart Day 2020: High Blood Pressure, Heart Attack And Other Common Cardiovascular Diseases You Must Know

World Heart Day 2020: Know all about the symptoms and treatment of common cardiovascular diseases like heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, hypertension and coronary heart disease to name a few.

World Heart Day 2020: High Blood Pressure, Heart Attack And Other Common Cardiovascular Diseases You Must Know

World Heart Day is observed on September 29 every year


  1. Heart attacks should be treated as an emergency
  2. Heart failure can cause shortness of breath and fatigue
  3. Controlling high blood pressure is important to prevent heart disease

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally. According to the World Health Organisation, over 17.9 million people succumb to CVDs every year. CVDs are a group of disorders associated with the heart and blood vessels. The most common CVDs include coronary heart disease and heart attacks, congestive heart failure, Rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and heart rhythm problems. Usually CVDs are detected when a person starts to experience symptoms, by which time there are already certain irreversible changes in the heart structure and function. Treatment in this situation at best is to limit the progression and impact of disease. Thus the main focus is to prevent these life-altering diseases and to reduce the overall CVD burden. CVDs can be controlled by engaging in alternate methods of fitness and wellbeing accompanied by correction of diet and lifestyle.

World Heart Day: Know about the 5 most common cardiovascular diseases

1. Heart attacks

Heart is a muscular organ which tirelessly works every second of our life in order to supply nutrition to all other body organs. It requires continuous blood supply to its own muscle to sustain efficient function. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle. This stoppage in the flow of blood, leads to a loss of oxygen and nutrition to the heart tissue, which can damage or destroy a part of the heart muscle and even lead to death in severe circumstances. The blockage is usually due to clot forming on the damaged plaques, which are accumulation of cholesterol, fat and other substances in the arteries. Sometimes, this plaque may rupture and lead to occlusion of blood flow to the heart due to dissection.

Symptoms: Shortness of breath, cold, sweat, fatigue, light headedness or dizziness, nausea, indigestion or heartburn, abdominal pain, pressure, tightness of pain in the chest. 

Treatment: Heart attacks have to be treated as an emergency. Longer the delay between start of symptoms and re-establishment of blood flow, larger is the permanent damage to the heart muscle. Infact heart damage to the affected area is complete in 6-12 hrs, where after there is hardly any role re-establishment of blood flow. The person should be given chewable aspirin as soon as the diagnosis is established. Re-establishment of circulation can be done by clot busters (thrombolytics) or ideally (if available in time) mechanical opening of the blockage by angioplasty and stenting or in severe cases, bypass surgery.


Chest pain is a symptom of heart attack
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: World Heart Day: Dr Naresh Trehan Explains Why Heart Patients Need To Be Extra Cautious During The Pandemic; Dont Miss These Tips

2. Sudden cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function due to an electrical disturbance in the heart. This leads to stoppage of blood flow to the body including the brain, which results in a sudden loss of consciousness and stoppage of respiration. If the heart circulation is not restarted either automatically or by treatment within a few minutes, this may lead to permanent damage to the brain and resultant death. The electrical disturbance in known as arrythmia which causes abnormal heartbeats. Sudden cardiac arrest may be triggered by a heart attack or other factors like congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease or an enlarged heart.

Symptoms: Sudden collapse, no pulse, no breathing, loss of consciousness, chest discomfort, palpitations, weakness and shortness of breath.

Treatment: Immediate CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (chest compressions) must be administered as first aid in case if sudden cardiac arrest. Post this, the treatment may include administering anti-arrhythmic drugs, coronary angioplasty, bypass or corrective heart surgery, implanting devices like ICDs (Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators) and therapies like radiofrequency catheter ablation.

Also read: This World Heart Day Adapt These Expert Recommended Heart-Friendly Practices

3. Heart failure

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen. Contrary to the term, heart failure does not mean that the heart stops functioning. It means that it is not pumping blood as well as it should, and this affects the overall functioning of the body. Heart failure may be of recent onset (Acute) or progressive long standing over months and years (chronic).

Symptoms: Shortness of breath, fatigue, edema or swelling in the ankles and feet, rapid or irregular heartbeat, increased urination at night, reduced ability to engage in physical activities.

Treatment: Heart failure can be treated through medication, surgeries like coronary bypass surgery and heart valve repair or replacement and the use of medical devices like pacemakers, ICDs, ventricular assist devices and heart transplant depending upon the stage of heart failure.

4. Coronary heart disease

Coronary artery disease develops when the major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrition to the heart become damaged or diseased. This happens due to cholesterol-containing deposits (plaques) in the coronary arteries or inflammation, which leads to narrowing down of the arteries, in turn reducing the flow of blood.

Symptoms: Chest pain or angina, shortness of breath, heart attack

Treatment: The treatment for coronary heart disease includes cholesterol modifying medicines, aspirin etc. and surgeries such as angioplasty, stent placement and bypass surgery.

5. Hypertension

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the blood vessels. It is determined by the force of blood pumped by your heart and the level of resistance your arteries (blood vessels) offer to this blood flow.

Symptoms: Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion, chest pain or pounding in the chest, bleeding from the nose, irregular heartbeats, severe headache.

Treatment: Not all instances of high blood pressure may require urgent medical intervention, but a hypersensitive crisis is a red flag where the patient needs immediate medical help. It occurs when there is a severe increase in blood pressure that can be life-threatening. The treatment includes oral or intravenous medication.


High blood pressure patients must monitor their readings regularly
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: Chest Pain Is The Only Sign Of Heart Attack- Myth Or Fact? Our Expert Explains

Lowering the risk through lifestyle measures:

  • Control blood pressure
  • Keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a healthy diet rich fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get rid of bad habits like consuming caffeine and alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid stress
  • Get 7 to 9 hours of undisturbed sleep daily

(Dr Sanjay Mittal, he is the Director of Clinical and Preventive Cardiology at Medanta)

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