Yes, you read it correctly. It’s not the fearsome pandemic, nor a majestic natural disaster as often pictured in movies. It’s something small, developed from inside of our bodies, not contagious, yet deadly. Ischaemic heart disease. Strongly standing atop as the causes of deaths in the last two decades according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). So, how can we escape its deadly threat? By starting with knowledge, for knowledge is power.
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) occurs when the coronary artery, the blood vessel that feeds your heart muscle, started to get blocked by plaques in the inner surface.
When it happens, the heart muscle loses its source of oxygen and nutrition that it should get from the blood flow, causing the heart does not able to pump blood properly. If the disturbance is severe enough, it might cause the heart to stop pumping entirely, resulting in death.
Can I spot IHD early?
It is not that easy as it does not always produce any symptoms during its early stage. However, when a significant occlusion had occurred, one will start having angina pectoris, which is the sensation of squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness or pain in your chest.
There are several symptoms that might accompany angina, such as:
Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back
Shortness of breath
Should you experience the symptoms, it’ better to seek further examination immediately. Better to be cautious rather than be sorry.
Who is at risk of getting IHD?
There are several risk factors that can lead to the occurrence of the disease:
Overweight / Obesity
Sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activities
Smoking, including becoming a second-hand smoker
Unhealthy dietary habit
Having diabetes, hypertension, or high blood cholesterol level
You should also need to be aware that you will have a higher risk of developing IHD if you have any family members with IHD.
How is IHD being diagnosed?
After a careful assessment by the doctor, usually, you will need to undergo some additional examinations. You will have your heart muscle’s electrical activity to be recorded in an electrocardiography examination. Sometimes, the exam will be performed while you are instructed to run or walk on a treadmill, called the stress test in order to look for abnormalities that can only be found when your heart is provoked to a certain level of physical stress. You might also undergo a heart ultrasound exam, called echocardiography, where your heart is evaluated for its structure, size, movement, and pumping functions. Based on your condition, your doctor might also request other laboratories or imaging examinations, some of them might involve invasive procedures.
How can IHD be treated?
IHD treatment is a long-life treatment. Currently, if you have IHD, there is no single method that instantly removes the disease completely from your body, especially if you still have the risk factors. So, one aspect of the treatment is that you should manage the risk factors, such as reducing body weight, quit smoking, exercising regularly, and eating healthy. The other aspects of the treatment require your compliance in taking daily blood-thinning medications and other medications based on your clinical status, for example, diabetes or hypertension medications. Depending on how severe the blockage at your coronary vessel, sometimes the doctor would require to perform a more invasive treatment to open the blockage, through the catheterization procedure or even a heart bypass surgery, to replace the blocked vessel with a new blood vessel taken from your leg.
Always be sure to discuss it thoroughly with the doctor so that you can understand the risk and benefit of the examination and treatment procedures.
How can I prevent myself from getting IHD?
Start by performing a healthy lifestyle to manage the risk factors, as mentioned above. A healthy lifestyle can help you maintain a healthy heart. And always remember to health yourself with AITOPYA.
Heart Foundation. (2020). What is coronary heart disease?
NHS. (2020). Coronary heart disease.
Mayo Clinic. (2020). Myocardial ischemia.