What you should know about heart disease

18 September 2015

Words: Rand Paul, Independent Health Researcher | Photos: Rand Paul & Shutterstock


World Heart Day is celebrated annually on 29 September to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease (CVD), so the question is, "How healthy is your heart?" This is something you seriously need to consider because cardiovascular diseases are the second biggest killer in South Africa after HIV/AIDS.

Heart disease, once thought to be a disease of the elderly, does not discriminate against race, age and/or gender and therefore affects all people in South Africa. Globally, heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. While Statistics published by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa show that heart attacks kill 210 people every day, of which more than half of the deaths occur in people under the age of 65 years.

South Africans are at high risk for cardiovascular disease and our unhealthy lifestyles are largely to blame. In fact, up to 80% of heart attacks in young people are due to poor lifestyle choices, such as eating badly, smoking, drinking too much and not keeping active.

But poor lifestyle choices are not the only problem. Many of us don’t even know if we are at risk of having a heart attack or stroke.This article will deal with the basics of heart disease, its symptoms, risk factors, how to treat it and types of interventions available to you.

The basics of heart disease

Heart disease (or cardiac disorders) is the term for any type of disorder that affects the heart. While most people think of heart disease as one condition, it is actually a group of conditions that affect the structure and functions of the heart. There are various disorders and heart diseases that develop, due to different reasons, such as:
• Coronary artery disease
• Arrhythmias
• Heart attack
• Cholesterol
• Heart valve disorder
• Mitral valve prolapse
• Mitral regurgitation
• Pulmonary stenosis


The symptoms and signs for different conditions of heat diseases differ from one another. Here are some signs that will tell you if you are suffering from heart disorder:
• Heaviness, discomfort, pain, pressure in the chest, arm or below the breastbone.
• Discomfort in your back, jaw, throat or arm.
• Indigestion, fullness or a choking feeling (may feel like heartburn).
• Extreme weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath.
• Irregular heartbeats or rapid breathing.
• Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness.

Risk factors

The condition or habits that make a person more prone to developing a heart disorder are referred to as risk factor. This can worsen the existing condition of a patient suffering from cardiac disease. Some risk factors you need to know about and take care of are:
• An unhealthy diet.
• High blood pressure.
• Smoking.
• Being overweight or obese. Read more on Educating women on obesity and health.
• High blood cholesterol.
• Preeclampsia during pregnancy history.
• Diabetes and pre-diabetes.
• Age (55 or older for women).
• Inactive body.
• Early heart disease.

Diagnosing heart disease

To diagnose any of the heart diseases, there are tests to be followed. The list of tests are as follows:
• Stress testing
• EKG (Electrocardiogram)
• Blood tests
• Chest x ray
• Echocardiography
• Cardiac MRI

Treating heart disease

Treating cardiac disorders includes many practices, such as changing our daily lifestyle and habits to medication and, in severe conditions, being treated by surgical operations. Habits that need to be improved in our daily life are as follows:
• Stop smoking.
• Healthy diet.
• Keeping up an active lifestyle.
• Weight maintenance.
• Stress and depression.

Medication is given by doctors and surgeons to help the patients cope up with cardiac or heart diseases, as it helps to reduce the heart’s workload and thereby relieve the heart disorder. Medicine also helps to decrease the chance of heart arrest or sudden death by lowering and controlling the blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and preventing blood clots and the clogging of blood streams. Medication can also prevent the need for surgery in some cases, as it clears out the plaque in the arteries.


The following are various forms of heart disease interventions:
• Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, also known as angioplasty, is non-surgical process used to unblock narrowed arteries.
• Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting is a surgical method whereby the surgeon removes arteries and veins from a different part of the body, to be used to bypass the blocked or narrowed arteries. This process allows the blood to flow easily from and to the heart. This form of cardiac surgery will also safeguard the patient from heart arrests.
• Heart transplant surgery is when a weak or damaged heart is replaced by a healthy heart.
• Implantable cardiac devices (ICD), such as pacemakers, are some of the electrical devices that are implanted in the patient’s body, to support the function of the heart.
For more interesting information, read Cardiac Surgery in India – Facts Revealed.

If you are serious about caring for your heart, go for regular check-ups and get screened to know your risk, so that you can properly manage this risk through better living and treatment.

More information

• Westaby, Stephen; Bosher, Cecil. Landmarks in Cardiac Surgery. ISBN 1-899066-54-3.
• Johnson SL (1970). History of Cardiac Surgery, 1896–1955. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. p. 5.
• Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSF)


This article is meant to only provide general advice and the advice offered is not meant to replace that of a professional medical consultant

Author bio

Rand Paul an independent health researcher and American author. He has an MA in English literature, and loves to explore and write about health conditions and treatments, all around the globe. Currently, he is living in Washington DC, where he helps people to evaluate their disorders. His articles are well-researched and published on several websites and blogs. Visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009428268604