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Heart disease today is one of the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. Cardiovascular health means the health of the heart and blood vessels. We have to lead a healthy lifestyle and take steps to lower the risk of developing Cardiovascular diseases (CVD). A healthy lifestyle, in addition to staying active and eating nutritious meals also includes taking care of your heart and arteries. By implementing the right and healthy habits into your daily life, you can prevent CVD and reduce your risk even further. This article will discuss the ways to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease. Keep reading to learn more!

Know your Risks

Since anyone can get heart disease, cardiovascular health goals start with identifying if you have the following risks:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poor eating habits
  • Smoking and Drinking
  • Family history of heart disease

How To Achieve Cardiovascular Health for Everyone

Since cardiovascular health is a concern for almost everyone, we have to look into all factors like hereditary conditions, lifestyle habits like drinking and smoking, and socio-environmental contributors like air pollution, stress, and our sedentary lives. To live with a healthy heart and avoid the risk of cardiovascular problems, you must-

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet:

Eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of CVD. Heart-healthy foods are low in saturated fats and sodium and are high in nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Heart-healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Healthy eating is not just about cutting calories but also about getting the right balance of nutrients. Heart-healthy eating is not only about what you eat but also how often you eat it. Eating too little or too often throughout the day is unhealthier and can lead to an unhealthy heart.

Exercise Regularly and Get Active:

A healthy diet is great, but exercise is even better for cardiovascular health. Exercise has numerous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. It can also reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and increase your life expectancy by years. The best part about exercise is; you can do it at any time, place, and with almost any equipment. Whether walking on the treadmill or cycling with your stationary bike, activity can benefit your heart health in many ways and improve your quality of life.

Maintain the Right Weight:

By eating the right food and exercising well, we also have to pay attention to our weight. Being overweight and on the wrong side of the scale is not a good sign. Obesity is one of the risk factors for CVD.

Take a Daily Dose of Vitamin D:

While many people know that they need to eat vitamin-rich food to maintain a healthy body and heart, many are unaware that they also need to take a daily oral supplement to get the same benefit. The human body needs Vitamin D to function properly, and it also plays a crucial role in regulating blood pressure, improving bone health, and strengthening the immune system, which is all crucial for cardiovascular health. The best way to get vitamin D is to get outside and sun exposure every day. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. That is why a daily supplement is also an option. However, it is advisable to not self-medicate and always consult your doctor and follow his advice and instructions before taking any Vitamin D supplements. Doctor-recommended dosage of Vitamin supplements helps make good the vitamin deficiency in your body in the right way. 

Don’t Smoke or Hold Onto Your Breath:

Smoking, exposure to second smoke, and holding your breath can damage your heart and arteries. Smoking is linked to a number of health issues, including heart disease. People who smoke are at a higher risk of CVD because of the damage done to the body by smoking. Holding your breath for too long is also harmful to your heart. Short-term moments of holding your breath, such as swimming underwater or blowing out birthday candles, are not harmful. However, holding your breath for an extended period, such as while performing complicated tasks or playing sports, can damage your heart and arteries.

Consult your doctor for timely and proper treatment if you have any signs of CVD, like chest pain, chest heaviness, shortness of breath, pain or numbness in the legs or arms, fatigue, or dizziness. Seeking immediate medical attention and intervention can save you from significant heart complications.

Conclusion

Heart disease is a severe problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It is one of the most common causes of death in the world. The good news is that it can be prevented with a few simple lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, take doctor-recommendeddaily vitamin D dose, and don’t smoke or hold onto your breath. These few lifestyle changes will significantly lower your risk of heart disease. Keep these tips in mind, and you will be on your way to a heart-healthy lifestyle!

FAQs :

1. What is cardiovascular health?

Cardiovascular health means the health of the heart and the blood vessels. 

2. What are five ways to improve your cardiovascular health?

 Five ways to improve cardiovascular health are-

  • Leading an active lifestyle with regular exercise and walking to keep the heart active and healthy
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking, which can weaken and damage the heart
  • Eating heart-healthy foods and not indulging in overeating
  • Maintaining the right weight, which means avoiding being overweight
  • Not to take any stress

3. What is good for cardiovascular health? Any moderate physical activity like walking, running, cycling, swimming, or a game of tennis or badminton and skipping for at least 150 minutes per week is good for the heart.

4. What are the five major cardiovascular health problems?

Five major cardiovascular health problems are,

  • Heart attack aka coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart valve complications

5. What triggers cardiovascular disease? Risk factors like poor and unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and physical activity, smoking and drinking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and overweight, and high cholesterol trigger cardiovascular disease.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the number one cause of death, disability, and human suffering globally. Once you are diagnosed with CAD you have to learn to live with it by adopting a lifestyle that fits you and your heart health. By lowering the risk factors, you can live your life despite having CAD.

There is a possibility that you may be living with CAD long before you realize it. It creates fear and anxiety due to the close association with heart attacks.

Coronary artery disease occurs when your heart’s primary blood arteries become damaged or diseased. Coronary artery disease is caused by cholesterol-containing deposits (plaques) in your coronary arteries and inflammation. The coronary arteries supply your heart with blood, oxygen, and nourishment. Plaque development can restrict these arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart. Reduced blood flow may eventually result in chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, or other signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease. A heart attack might be caused by a total blockage. Although Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is not completely curable, the doctor would suggest an option of a procedure known as Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI), which allows one to live a normal life. Coronary angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, is a non-surgical procedure for treating obstructive coronary artery disease that involves inserting a stent through a catheter (a thin flexible tube) into the blocked arteries.

Why is it done?

Coronary Angioplasty restores blood flow to the heart muscle and can improve symptoms of blocked arteries, such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

Does stenting improve long-term survival?

Not guaranteed. It saves your coronary, but stents do not increase a cardiac patient’s long-term survival rate. However, they do give a considerable early and sustained reduction in the requirement for subsequent treatments to reopen the treated artery. While studies have indicated that placing stents in newly re-opened coronary arteries reduces the need for repeat angioplasty procedures, it has also shown that stents do not affect death overtime. The findings have significant economic and clinical consequences for doctors considering whether to perform coronary artery bypass surgery or less-invasive angioplasty with stent implantation on their heart patients.5 According to medical opinion, your stents can help you live longer if you manage your other risk factors as per your cardiologist’s recommendations. Diet and exercise, however, are the most important factors to consider. Your risk factors for a heart attack, such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, can be controlled by the type and amount of food you eat. Along with these two critical components, follow your cardiologist’s advice and take your prescribed medicines on time to manage your blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. As a result, even after implanting stents in three major coronary arteries, if correctly controlled, you can live a long life.

If you have a heart attack in your late thirties and have stents, is it likely you will not have an average life expectancy?

Over the last few decades, aging has been identified as one of the leading causes of heart attacks, affecting men and women aged 50 and up. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are now more likely to suffer from cardiovascular attacks.

The guidelines emphasize lifestyle changes and the proper use of medicines as first-line treatment in adults with stable CAD. However, for people suffering from Non-ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction aka NSTEMI (substernal pain while resting or with minimal exertion) and unstable angina; clinical insight is required to assess if other procedures such as CABG (Coronary artery bypass graft) or OMT (Optimal medical therapy)  are more appropriate.

Whatsoever the application, PCI should not be viewed as a ‘fast cure’ but rather as a procedure that should be discussed with your doctor to balance the benefits, risks, and limitations.

Source:

  1. https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/coronary-artery-disease-life-expectancy-and-prognosis/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350613
  3. https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart-disease/treatments/surgery-and-other-procedures/percutaneous-coronary-intervention
  4. https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/stents_save_coronaries_not_lives 
  5. https://www.verywellhealth.com/do-angioplasty-and-stents-prolong-life-4021221

World Heart Day is celebrated on 29th September every year, to spread awareness on Cardiovascular Diseases and other heart conditions, while emphasizing the importance of heart health and how to maintain it.

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, and claim about 17.9 million lives approximately every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). World Heart Day provides an ideal platform for those suffering from CVDs to fight against it and reduce the global burden of the disease.

Created by the World Heart Federation, World Heart Day is a global campaign that informs people about the risk of cardiovascular diseases and highlights the actions one can take to keep heart diseases at bay.

World Heart Day 2021

This year, the theme of World Heart Day is Use Heart to Connect, which urges everyone to use their knowledge, influence, and the power of digital media to connect to the global community and ensure that everyone gets a chance to live a heart-healthy life. 

COVID-19 has brought about a drastic change in the world and has posed a serious threat to everyone, making us increasingly aware of the importance to protect our health as well as that of our loved ones. For those living with CVD, COVID-19 has put them in a compromising situation, as they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

The goal of World Heart Day 2021 is to harness the power of digital health to improve awareness of the prevention and management of CVD, on a global level, with the help of three key pillars – equity, prevention, and community

Equity:

Due to the lack of internet facilities among half the world’s population, awareness on CVD prevention, treatment, and control are unavailable. It is important to use technology and data to bridge this gap with the use of digital tools and enable better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart-related diseases.

Prevention:

Prevention is better than cure, To maintains a healthy heart, follow a healthy diet, avoid alcohol and tobacco abuse and follow a regular exercise regimen. If you are diagnosed with an underlying health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or more, ensure regular check-ups with your medical practitioner.

 Community:

According to the World Heart Federation, over 520 million people are living with CVD across the globe, and have been severely affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are highly prone to the infection, and have to be isolated. This has resulted in missing medical follow-ups and appointments, lack of contact with people, and reduced exercise. Through digital networks, those who are vulnerable can easily connect with their families, friends, and even doctors for support.

What are Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs)?

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) refer to the set of conditions that affect the functioning of the heart and blood vessels such as:

Arrhythmia:

Arrhythmias refers to abnormal heart rhythms. In this condition, the heart either beats too slow or too fast. Bradycardia occurs when the heart rate is too slow (less than 60 beats per minute) and Tachycardia occurs when the heart rate is too fast (more than 60 beats per minute). When an arrhythmia occurs, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood required by the body.

Aortic Disease:

Aorta is the large artery through which oxygen-rich blood flows to the rest of the body. Sometimes, the aorta may widen or tear, which leads to a condition called Atherosclerosis. This condition develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, making blood flow difficult. This may even lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Heart Attack:

This occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot, leading to a lack of oxygen.

What are the risk factors of CVDs?

Some of the major risk factors of Cardiovascular Disease include:

  • High cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Tobacco consumption
  • COVID-19

How can you prevent Cardiovascular Diseases?

There are several risk factors associated with CVDs such as the family history of heart diseases, that cannot be prevented or helped. However, certain risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol levels can be treated on time, reducing the risk of CVDs. If you are a frequent consumer of tobacco and alcohol, reducing the consumption of these can also help prevent heart diseases. It is also important to make several lifestyle changes such as a regular physical activity routine and incorporating a healthy diet, which will also help keep heart diseases at bay.

Some tips to keep the heart healthy

Now that we know the importance of keeping the heart healthy and how CVDs can affect our health drastically, here are some tips one can follow to ensure that the heart remains in a good shape. They are:

Eat Healthy: Avoid foods that are extremely rich in fat content, and eat fiber-rich foods. Also, make sure that you eat in moderation.

Get Active: It is also important to have a regular exercise routine and stay physically active. Also incorporate regular movement if your job requires you to sit at a desk for long hours, and maintain a healthy weight.

Quit Smoking: It is a well-known fact that smoking is one of the main causes and risk factors of heart disease. If you are a regular smoker, quit smoking immediately and avoid the risk of CVD.

Overall, it is extremely necessary to maintain your health and go for regular follow-ups if you have underlying conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Though there are several treatment methods for different types of heart diseases, making certain lifestyle changes will ensure that you don’t develop the risk of CVDs at all. Remember, prevention is always better than cure!

A coronary artery disease or CAD occurs when there is a build-up in the arteries. In such conditions, it can interrupt the flow of blood to your heart. Plaque causes narrowing or blockage which can result in a greater risk of having a heart attack. Symptoms could include chest pain, discomfort in breathing and shortness of breath.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, according to World Health Organisation, it takes an estimate of 17.9 million lives each year. More than four out of five deaths are due to heart attacks or stroke. The most important behavioral risk factors are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. If you have CAD your doctor might suggest using a stent to treat it. It’s a procedure called Coronary Angioplasty in which the doctor will insert a stent into your coronary arteries. A stent is a small tube made up of metal mesh that is designed to support your artery walls and prevent plaque from blocking your blood flow. It helps the blood flow more freely to your heart. During angioplasty, a thin tube known as a guiding catheter is inserted through the groin or wrist and is then moved towards the site of the blockage. A small balloon at the tip of the balloon catheter is inserted through the guiding catheter near the blocked or narrowed area of the coronary artery. When the balloon mounted with the stent, is inflated, the fatty plaque or blockage is compressed against the artery walls and the diameter of the blood vessel is widened (dilated) to increase blood flow to the heart. Once the plaque is compressed and the artery is opened sufficiently, the balloon catheter is deflated and removed. The stent will remain as a permanent implant in the coronary artery.

Your doctor may use a bare-metal stent(BMS), Drug-eluting stent (DES), or BioResorbable Scaffold (BRS). A drug-eluting stent is the most common type of stent used lately. The new and improved versions of drug-eluting stents are considered safe and effective in most cases. They have ultra-low strut thickness that promotes early vascular healing, the variable strut width, and variable crown design ensure adequate radial strength. However, BRS is a next-generation bioresorbable technology with a low strut thickness of 100 microns which fully resorbs naturally in the artery within 2-3 years, thus restoring the vessel to its true form and nature.

In this blog, you will learn more about Drug-Eluting stents and their benefits.

So what is a Drug-eluting stent? 

DES is a standard metallic coronary stent that has a polymer coating and an antiproliferative drug. It allows drug elution into the coronary wall for weeks and months after stent implantation. It releases medication directly into your artery which helps the scar tissues from forming within the stent and narrowing your blood vessels again. That’s how Drug Eluting stents work you might need to take additional medications including blood thinners after the procedure. 

Benefits of Drug-Eluting Stent 

They can prevent plaque build-up, relieve chest pain, and promote good blood flow to your heart. They may also lower your chances of having a heart attack. 

As it’s a less invasive procedure than coronary bypass surgery, which is recommended to people who have more than two narrowed arteries. So most people recover within few days of inserting the stent. A stent helps you get back to your regular schedule faster. In contrast, coronary bypass surgery takes six weeks or more to recover. 

With Benefits, Drug-Eluting Stents even have risks: 

Like any medical procedure, coronary angioplasty or stenting do involve risks, including: 

  • Bleeding or clotting 
  • Damage to your blood vessel
  • Infection 
  • Kidney damage caused by the dye 
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic, dyes, or other material used 
  • Scarring of your blood vessels 
  • Heart attack and stroke, which is rare

If you form scar tissue after stenting, the doctor may need to repeat the procedure. In case you have chest pain report to your doctor immediately as it could be a sign of serious complication. 

There are also few other things you should consider before getting a drug-eluting stent.  

For patients with a history of bleeding problems, a drug-eluting stent might not be a good option. Apart from this, you might need to take blood thinners for the rest of your life to prevent your blood from thickening and causing the risk of clots in the stent. Your doctor would give you additional information on what to expect before and after angioplasty. 

How to live with a stent? 

Having a stent doesn’t mean you have to live differently. But you will have to take extra care of your heart by eating right and healthy. Be active and take your medications. Follow few precautions such as: 

  • Take your blood-thinning medication this would prevent heart attack and stroke. After stenting, you will take aspirin plus another antiplatelet for at least 6 months. If you are at a high risk of bleeding your doctor with shortening the duration of these medicines. Work with your doctor to decide how long you will be needing the medications. The decision depends upon your risk of having a heart attack, risk of bleeding, and your preferences about taking the medicines. 
  • Stent identification card- Your doctor will provide you with a stent identification card that you can show to your health professionals so that they know you have a stent.    

Protect your heart health

You can lower your risk of developing blocked arteries or having a heart attack by practicing healthy habits. Common risks for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and being overweight. All of which can be managed with a healthy lifestyle. For example, having a balanced diet and regular exercising can go a long way towards keeping your heart healthy and strong. Smoking would put you at risk. If you are a smoker then now would be a good time to call quits. 

If you are diagnosed with CAD, to prevent complications follow your doctor’s instructions and treat it. Drug-eluting stents are a good option for patients with CAD but they are only one part of the solution. You may have to take statins, aspirin, or other medications. 

Follow your doctor’s advice and take their prescribed medicines and also follow their recommended lifestyle which will keep your heart healthy. 

Heart disease often involves a problem with the valve, coronary arteries, or muscles all of which causes the heart to not function normally. The common heart disease among patients is CAD which arises from a build-up of plaque on the inner surface of the arteries. In the worst cases, it blocks the artery. Stents are instered to open the blocked artery and restor the blood by increasing the lumen area of the artery which got compromised due to plaque formation,it becomes even more important in the emergency like situation when patients suffer from the Heart Attack as due to thrombus a blood flow is totally stopped or compromised leading to the death of cardiac muscles due to lack of oxygen this need a immediate action to remove the thrombus or clot with help of medicines or angioplasty.

The idea of cardiovascular stents revolutionized the treatment of coronary-related diseases. Since then, stents have been used in coronary and peripheral procedures for decades. Let’s take a look at newer kinds of stents, their evolution and understand why better stents are needed.­­­­­­­­

What is the function of stents? 

The main purpose is to open the blocked coronary arteries which occurred due to plaque formation. A stent is a tiny mesh tube inserted into a blocked passageway to keep it open, it restores the flow of blood. It is usually needed when plaque blocks blood vessels. Commonly used heart stents  are made up of materials like stainless steel,cobalt chromium or platinium. It can be coated with medication to facilitae optimal healing.

Evolution of early stents

The first used stents were successful at reducing the risk of restenosis following angioplasty by about half, from 20% to 10% in the 12 months following the procedure. The first generation of stents was called bare-metal stents (BMS) as they were mostly fabricated from metal. These permanent frameworks are made from chrome steel and cobalt-chromium alloys for balloon-expandable and Nickel-titanium for self-expanding stents. This revolution was considered the turning point in the field of angioplasty however it had its disadvantages of increased risk of restenosis.

Stent developers started to coat bare-metal stents with polymers containing drugs that were aimed at inhabiting extra tissue growth at the site of the stent to reduce the rate of restenosis. These stents are called drug-eluting stents (DES). DES has been constantly developed by using several drugs.

DES has bought its advantage to overcome the limitation of BMS. Despite the influence in the clinical practice in vascular intervention, the major subject of the debate was incomplete endothelialization and hypersensitivity reactions to the polymer coating. The first-generation DES had all these drawbacks which had them failed. Due there coating material not being biodegradable or biocompatible their long-term efficiency was questioned. The potential risk associated with DES were late thrombosis and delayed healing.

The formation of a grume within the artery at the location of the stent is stent thrombosis. It is different from restenosis. Restenosis is the regrowth of tissue, it is a problem but it grows gradually so when it occurs there is time to treat it. In contrast, stent thrombosis tends to occur suddenly without warning, it commonly leads to the complete occlusion of the artery that then tends to produce a myocardial infarction (Heart attack) or sudden death.

In the youth of stenting, the matter of early thrombosis was recognized and successfully addressed by administering powerful antiplatelet or blood thiner for a couple of months after stenting. But within few years of the widespread use of DES the problem of late thrombosis was discovered. Late thrombosis may be a sudden thrombosis within the site of the stent that happens a year or two after the procedure. It is as catastrophic as early stent thrombosis. Hence the cardiologists started prescribing antiplatelet therapy for up to a year or for longer period of time. The strong use of anti-platelet drugs carried the risk. The problem of late stent thrombosis led stent developers to a challenge to develop a new type of stent that reduces this problem or eliminates it.

Researchers now believe that the polymer coating on DES may themselves increase inflammation and delay healing. Now several companies are identifying the problem and trying a general approach keeping this in mind.

Advanced stent technology  

Better durable polymers DES appear to cause less inflammation and also allow better healing at the site of treatment. These stents are referred to as second-generation DES, the newer stent design use cobalt-chromium which has greater radial strength per thickness and is radio-opaque, and thus allows thinner struts.

Bioabsorbable polymers

DES has been available for several years, they employ a polymer coating which is absorbed within few months leaving just the bare stent. These stents offer the benefits of DES for several months then they become BMS. This reduces the risk of late thrombosis. As compared to the first generation DES the risk of late thrombosis is reduced with both second-generation DES and bioabsorbable polymers DES. But there is no indication that bioabsorbable polymer performs better than the second-generation DES. They both still require very prolonged therapy and anti-platelet tests.

Bioresorbable stents

Bioresorbable stents also called as bioresorbable scaffold, biodegradable stent, or naturally- dissolving stent they are made from a material that may dissolve or be absorbed in the body. The main purpose of the bioresorbable stents is to overcome the drawbacks of DES and BMS. Currently, A metallic drug-eluting stent remains in the body as a permanent implant which can lead to an increased risk of complications year on year. It may pose a hindrance if the future procedure needs to be performed in the same artery. But on the other hand, BRS provides a temporary scaffold to the lesion to restore the blood flow, once the blockage is treated and healed completely BRS dissolves on its own leaving the artery in its natural state with no foreign residue. Hence providing both physicians and patients the room to explore further treatment, if required in the same blood vessel.    

We get to see all these extraordinary engineering in stent technology, it seems like sooner or later we might develop stents that would be able to eliminate the risk of both restenosis and thrombosis. But you need to make sure that before you agree to a stent talk to your doctor and explore options whether it will be helpful for you.