Inherited cardiac conditions refer to those cardiac conditions that you inherit from your parents. These are also referred to as inherited heart conditions or genetic heart disorders. Inherited cardiac conditions are often life-threatening and can affect anyone at any age.
Genetics play a vital role in influencing the risk of cardiac diseases in more than one way. From the robustness of the blood vessels to the way the cells in your heart communicate – the genes control every aspect of the cardiovascular system. A genetic mutation influences your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. For instance, a genetic mutation can alter the way certain proteins function so that your body is able to process cholesterol differently, putting you at risk of blocked arteries. Parents pass on genetic mutations to their children through the DNA of sperm and ova. The genetic code of the parent is reproduced into each cell of the child during his/her developing years.
Types of inherited cardiac conditions
Some common inherited cardiac conditions include the following –
Atrial fibrillation – This is a common form of arrhythmia where your chances of getting a stroke increases
Brugada syndrome – This refers to a genetic disease of your heart rhythm, which may lead to ventricular fibrillation, followed by instant cardiac arrest
Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia – A calcium channel disorder in the muscles of the heart, which results in irregular heartbeats and causes problems with the heart’s electrical signalling
Long QT syndrome – An extended QT interval (electrical recovery phase) of your heartbeat, which results in chaotic, rapid beats
Short QT syndrome – A shortened electrical recovery phase that can result in a fatal arrhythmia
If any of your family members have had a history of heart disorders, or have been recently diagnosed with one, you should also undergo screening for risk factors.
Can inherited cardiac conditions be treated?
Treatment for inherited heart conditions like arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy may not be able to reverse the ailments but are often effective in managing symptoms, specifically if used in conjunction with lifestyle changes.
Many of the inherited cardiac conditions can be managed with medications alone, or with the help of a pacemaker or ICD.
Talk to your doctor and discuss with him/her your family’s medical history. He/she will guide you with the correct treatment approach.
Your heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body and supplying nutrients and oxygen to the tissues. For the proper functioning of your body, it is essential to keep your heart healthy. However, over time, a number of underlying causes and conditions affect your heart health.
Here are a few factors that impact your heart in one way or the other –
Cholesterol – The first thing you need to know about cholesterol is that it is of two types – good and bad. Bad cholesterol (LDL) found in dairy products, red meat, and eggs can clog the arteries that feed your brain and heart, thus, putting you at risk of stroke and heart attack. Get a blood test done to know your cholesterol levels. If it is high, then consult a doctor and switch to a low-fat diet that will lower your ‘bad cholesterol'.
High blood pressure – The excessive pressure and damage resulting from high blood pressure causes the coronary arteries to become narrow and slowly leads to plaque build up – a process known as atherosclerosis. As the arteries thicken with plaque, blood clots form. Due to a blocked artery, the blood flow through the heart muscle gets interrupted, starving the muscle of nutrients and oxygen. This ultimately leads to a heart attack. Monitor your blood pressure and understand what the reading means. Adopt adequate measures to keep your blood pressure below 130 mm/Hg (Systolic) and under 80 mm/Hg (Diastolic).
Blood sugar levels – High blood sugar, over time, can injure the blood vessels and the nerves controlling them and your heart. The higher your blood glucose levels and the longer you suffer from diabetes, the higher the chances of developing heart disorders. Exercise and a low-fat diet that limits sugar intake can help lower blood sugar levels and put you at a lesser risk of heart ailments resulting from diabetes.
Smoking –Tobacco present in cigarettes contract the blood vessels, and thus, smoking increases your chances of developing heart ailments. If you want to live a healthy life, quit smoking today.
Excessive bodyweight – Excessive body fat, especially around the belly, puts you at risk of heart diseases. Being overweight or obese puts a strain on the heart muscles and the heart has to work hard to pump blood. This, in turn, spikes up blood pressure, which contributes to heart diseases. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to maintain healthy body weight.
Consult a doctor and discuss your goals for blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Ask for a healthy diet plan and stay active to battle these underlying conditions affecting your heart health.
A healthy heart beats 60-100 times per minute. Normally, every muscle contraction of the heart is controlled by electrical signals that travel from the heart’s upper chambers to the lower ones. A heart blockage disrupts the flow of electrical signals of the heart.
Heart blockage is partial when the electrical impulses are stopped or delayed, preventing the heart from beating regularly. A complete blockage, on the other hand, occurs when the electrical signals come to a halt completely. In this case, the heart rate drops below 40 bpm.
Many times, a heart block makes it harder for the heart to pump blood through the circulatory system, so the organs and muscles, including your brain, do not receive an adequate supply of oxygen to function properly.
Types of heart blockage and associated symptoms
Depending on the type of heart blockage, a person may encounter the following signs –
First-degree blockage – This is the least fatal type of heart blockage. Symptoms include minor disruptions in heartbeat or skipped beats.
Second-degree blockage – This occurs when some of the electrical signals do not reach the heart. Signs may include skipped or dropped beats, and dizziness.
Third-degree blockage – This is the most serious of all heart blockage conditions. This happens when the electrical signals do not travel between the lower and upper chambers of your heart. Most patients require a pacemaker for this condition. Without it, you may be at risk of a heart attack.
You should also watch out for these signs –
Heart palpitations – irregular or slow heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Discomfort or pain in the chest
Fainting and lightheadedness
Trouble exercising due to lack of blood being pumped through the body
Often, people with a blocked heart appear healthy from the outside, but they might be suffering from an underlying heart ailment.
Certain conditions, such as those mentioned below may put you at greater risk of a heart blockage –
Inflammation of the heart muscle – myocarditis
Inflammation of the heart valves – endocarditis
Scarring of the heart tissue
Family history of heart disorders
If you experience the above symptoms or have any of the above-mentioned conditions, you should visit a specialist and get yourself diagnosed immediately. Proper diagnosis at the earliest may help you receive appropriate treatment right away.
A heart attack can be devastating, even fatal in the absence of immediate medical attention. Keeping your heart healthy is important if you are looking to enjoy a long and peaceful life. However, in order to maintain a healthy heart, you need to know some common triggers for your cardiac muscles.
A heart attack may be caused due to one of the following three reasons-
Atherosclerosis - Atherosclerosis is the condition where the artery carrying blood to the heart is blocked due to cholesterol deposits on the arterial walls. This impedes normal blood flow and causes a lack of oxygen for the heart muscles, thus leading to a heart attack.
Blood clots- Cholesterol plaques in the artery may rupture, spilling the contents into the bloodstream. This causes a blood clot, which can then obstruct the blood flow. Such a clot can cause a heart attack.
Muscle spasms- Due to muscle spasms in the chest, the artery carrying blood to the heart may become constricted. This minimizes blood flow and causes a heart attack.
Chances of heart attacks increase with certain factors, such as the following-
Age- Age is an important factor when it comes to calculating the chances of suffering from heart attacks. For instance, men above 45 years of age and women above 55 years are more likely to suffer from a heart attack than younger people do.
Tobacco- If you smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke, you face a much greater risk of heart attacks.
High blood cholesterol- Low-density cholesterol or LDL is known as bad cholesterol. LDL narrows the arteries and limits the flow of blood, increasing the likelihood of heart attacks and other cardiac diseases.
Obesity- Obesity is associated with high cholesterol and/or high triglycerides. People with lower body weight are more likely to enjoy a healthier heart.
Family history- Even though heart attacks can be prevented by leading a healthy life, some people are more likely to suffer from a heart attack due to genetic predisposition to the same.
Consult your physician if you are worried about cardiac health. He/she will help you understand what you can do to improve your heart’s condition.
Heart conditions bear the burden of a significant number of deaths every year. Early detection and treatment are the only way to ensure your heart condition will not become fatal for you. A number of conditions can result from a reduction of heart rate,weakening of its strength, and thickening of its walls. But your body gives you several signs to indicate deteriorating heart health. That is why, this World Heart Day, you should pledge to look out for the following symptoms so that you can take the right action at the right time.
Shortness of Breath - Frequent fatigue and shortness of breath even with light activities are the early signs of a failing heart. Sudden feelings of unsteadiness and shortness of breath are symptoms of blood vessels not being able to supply oxygen to the various parts of the body. Such symptoms require medical attention and should not be taken lightly.
Dizziness - Like shortness of breath, dizziness is also among the early symptoms of deteriorating heart health. Although there can be a number of reasons for your dizziness, occasional or severe dizziness that results in fainting spells are strong indicators of your heart needing immediate attention. Sometimes dizziness is also accompanied by tachycardia or rapid heart rate or bradycardia or unusually slow heart rate.
Numbness of limbs - Limbs feeling numb and bloated are also signs of an unhealthy heart. A noticeably bloated limb, especially the legs may be indicative of the heart’s inability to pump blood throughout the body. Even numbness is a sign of poor circulation in your limbs, typically occurring in the fingers and foot. It is advisable to get checked for clogged blood vessels if such conditions are persistent or recurrent.
Discomfort in chest and heartburns - Chest pains, tightness, and strains, especially on the left side can indicate trouble with the muscles of the heart wall. This can shoot to the upper torso and shoulders and appear as a slow and gradually increasing pain. Such pains are usually indicative of a condition called angina that results from interruptions in blood flow to the heart.
Irregular heart rate - Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat combined with high blood pressure signals blockages in the blood vessels supplying the heart. These make you up to five times more likely to suffer from a stroke or some form of heart ailments unless treated in the early stages.
Armed with the knowledge of these signs, you now know better than procrastinating about your next doctor’s appointment. With regular health screenings, good lifestyle choices, and listening to the signs of your body, you can easily defeat coronary diseases and have a long and healthy life.
Regular health screenings and consultation with a medical professional is vital to ensure a healthy heart. Our heart is affected by several health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, etc. along with hereditary considerations. Age, gender, and ethnicity are also known to play a part in determining the health of your heart.
With so many factors, several beyond your control, it is essential that the heart is monitored regularly with vital health checks. On World Heart Day, we would recommend everyone, despite their age, to consider booking a doctor’s appointment for the sake of a happy and healthy heart.
Here are a few reasons regular health checks are a must for your heart-
Blood Pressure - Blood pressure is among the most important indicators of heart health and aberrations in BP usually remain undetected without regular monitoring. Blood pressure levels higher than the normal 120/80 mm Hg are indicative of coronary disease risk factors. It is advisable to get blood pressure checked at least twice a year after 20 years of age. The frequency can be higher if you are predisposed to coronary diseases. The good news is blood pressure can easily be controlled through simple lifestyle changes and medications.
Blood Glucose Levels - When diabetes goes undetected and untreated for long periods, it can cause strokes and other heart diseases. It is recommended to monitor blood glucose levels every 3 years after 40 years of age if you are not a known diabetic.
Lipid Profile - A lipid profile screening screens for high-density lipoproteins, low-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides. Screening once every 4 to 6 years after 20 years of age can give sufficient indication about the health of the heart. Higher cholesterol levels make you more prone to coronary diseases, but the condition can be easily reversed through good lifestyle choices and medication when detected early on.
Lipid Profile - A lipid profile screening screens for high-density lipoproteins, low-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides. Screening once every 4 to 6 years after 20 years of age can give enough indication about the health of the heart. Higher cholesterol levels make you more prone to coronary diseases, but the condition can be easily reversed through good lifestyle choices and medication when detected early on.
Body Weight - With many individuals leading sedentary lifestyles, overweight and obesity have become commonplace. However, obesity increases the risks of several lifestyle and coronary diseases. It is therefore important to ensure a healthy body weight.
Regular monitoring of heart health is possible even at home, but proper laboratory screening is recommended at least once every two years. These health checks ensure your heart is safeguarded against risk factors and allow early detection of the warning signs. Timely detection and treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. However, it is equally important to adopt healthy lifestyle choices like a proper diet, management of stress, and adequate physical activity, without which you cannot shield your heart against potential risks.
When a person suffers from the typical symptoms of heart weakness that includes breathlessness, weakness, sudden sweating, discomfort while doing minor exertions, chest pain, pain radiating along the arms, back, neck and shoulders and other symptoms, the doctor will ask for investigations to study the heart.
The Heart is a muscular organ in the chest and like any other muscle in the body, it has its own unique blood vessel network that does the function of supplying nutrition to the heart muscles. Like any network, the Cardiac blood supply also begins with major vessels that branch off into minor and then very small blood vessels. It is these very small blood vessels that actually reach the muscle fiber to give nutrition.
None of these procedures “removes” the blockage plaque. The procedure helps to resume blood flow in the major arteries only.
No invasive therapy is safe and there is a lot of reports backed by Research Data from very reputed global authoritative organizations that highlight the unnecessary number of angio procedures being done as well as the side effects of these procedures within few months. (Many Stent Procedures Unnecessary” Heart Drugs Just as Good at Preventing Heart Attacks, Death in Some People, Study Shows By Charlene Laino: March 26, 2007 (New Orleans).
Can blockage affect a person after having angiography?
It is important for the patient and patient’s family to understand that the blockage formation process in the body does not reverse with angioplasty or even a Bypass procedure. The patient suffers from the same kind of symptoms as earlier when new blockages form in different sections of the coronary network or very often when a deposit/scar forms within the stent itself leading to hampered blood flow. This ‘reformation of blockages’ is referred to as restenosis. This is the greatest problem registered in current studies of patients after angio and bypass and this is seen within a few weeks to after 10 to 14 months of the procedure.
The reformation of blockages or further formation of new sites with blockages depends on the individual patient's health condition. Patients who are Diabetic, High BP, on certain kind of long term medication, obese, with bad lifestyle; all have the additional threat of secondary attacks.
Restenosis cannot be prevented with another stent or bypass procedure. The procedure only once again’ mechanically opens the blockage or in CABG, creates a bypass around the blocked blood vessel.
How can restenosis be prevented?
The only and best way to avoid restenosis is to make major changes in diet, exercise, weight management, stress management. It is also very important to be under the right kind of medication that will support the natural process done by the Liver and blood to reduce and wash out inflammation (that causes maximum problems in natural blood flow), repair blood vessels, reduce and remove existing blockages and scar tissue within blood vessels, add strength to the heart muscles.
These new studies and treatment options should be searched out by the patient and his/her family to understand the reason of blockages, the possible need and safety of invasive procedures, the option to medicine based treatments before undertaking any invasive procedure. Remember, it is scientific research that has clearly proclaimed that less than 30 -20% of all the angio’s performed are necessary or have a lasting effect on their own.
A word about 'cardiac health check-ups'.
Q. Nowadays many hospitals, clinics and path labs have come up with a variety of health check-ups especially cardiac health check-ups. Many corporates doing annual check-ups. So how useful are they, who should get it done and when?
Ans. Doing a variety of unnecessary investigations in healthy individuals without any symptoms is a big no. It should not be done and are totally useless.
Q. 2. What tests do you say are useless as part of cardiac health checkup in apparently healthy individuals.
Ans. Ecg, echo, TMT, stress test, ct angio should not be done at all, do not add any value to your overall health status.
Q3. Why do you say these tests are useless.
Ans. They are useless because many trials around the world over last 20 years have proven beyond doubt, that even if you have underlying blockages in heart, which does not cause any symptoms, then treating them will neither prevent you from a future heart attack nor prolong your life.
It is also possible that today you have ECG, echo normal and still, you develop a heart attack tomorrow. So these tests give a false sense of security which has no value actually.
Also due to this false security, such people with normal reports have a tendency to continue their unhealthy lifestyle
Q4. What are the tests you say are useful?
Ans. Know your blood pressure, blood sugar, lipid profile (cholesterol, LDL, triglyceride and HDL) and body mass index (BMI) as part of your routine health check-up. That's it.
In lipid profile, there is no use of getting unnecessary tests like lp (a), homocysteine, apo (b) and a variety of other scary variables that you commonly see in the report.
Note - in a specific subset of people who have a strong family history of cardiac disease or sudden cardiac death may undergo ECG, echo, TMT as part of routine evaluation
Lastly and most importantly no health check-up can replace a healthy lifestyle and exercise. It is the surest way of avoiding heart ailments.
Usually, cardiac arrest and heart attack are two things which most people use interchangeably, however, there is a big difference between the two.
Difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack:
A cardiac arrest is far deadlier considering that it comes without a warning or any prior indication of a problem. Here, the heart just stops beating and immediate first-aid can make a lot of difference between life and death. Electrical shock is the best way to revive a patient and should be given within a few minutes of such an arrest.
On the other hand, a person suffers a heart attack when there is a blockage in the artery which prevents the smooth flow of oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. It is important to note that unlike a cardiac arrest the signs of heart attack start slow and persists for long.
A heart attack is one of the common causes of cardiac arrest, but not always it is the case. A cardiac arrest happens most commonly when the heart is receiving more than 300 impulses per minute or due to absent electrical impulses. In the first instance, an electrical shock is a lifesaving technique and in the second, the patient can be treated with certain medications and a temporary pacemaker.
Symptoms of cardiac arrest:
The symptoms of cardiac arrest are immediate and extreme.
Symptoms of a heart attack
Prevention of a cardiac arrest:
What makes this a deadly condition is that you cannot tell your risks of having one and therefore the next best thing to do is to lower your risks.
The best way to do that is to:
How can you prevent a heart attack?
Now that the distinction is clear between the two, it is recommended that everyone should get themselves screened for potential heart problems on a regular basis.
During the natural course of events, a women's body starts its reproductive phase with menarche and at about 50 years of age, attains menopause. This is when the reproductive function ceases and the ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen and progesterone. In some cases, for various reasons including medical, the ovaries stop functioning earlier, and this is medically termed early or premature menopause. Menopause that occurs before 40 years of age is termed premature menopause; it is due to primary ovarian insufficiency and occurs in 1% of the women. If it occurs between 45 to 50 years, it is termed early menopause.
Effects: Estrogen and progesterone have a lot of beneficial effects on a women's body. Reduction in their levels leads to some of the below changes:
- Emotional changes like mood swings, irritability, and in some cases depression, especially in premature menopause.
- Irregular cycles before complete cessation of the menstrual cycles.
- General mucosal dryness leading to vaginal dryness, dry skin, dry eyes.
- There also would be urinary incontinence and reduced sex drive due to reduced hormone levels.
- For women who still would want to have children, infertility would be a big cause for concern. This could lead to other emotional issues, worsening the depression.
- Osteoporosis - Bones lose their density and get weak and are more prone to fracture.
- Cardiovascular health - Post menopause, women are more prone to heart attacks and stroke. Though not fully proven, this is believed to be true as the good role that estrogen plays on blood vessels is negated with menopause.
- Accelerated ageing - Menopause leads to accelerated damage of genetic structures, thereby leading to faster ageing. This also leaves a feeling in the women of being less attractive and less desirable.
There is also a good news, that after menopause women are at lesser risk of cancer - especially breast and ovarian.
It is not easy for women to handle premature menopause. The body undergoes some changes much earlier than expected, and it requires a lot of support and caring and comforting to come to terms with it - especially if associated with infertility or chemotherapy for cancer. Emotional issues of not being able to have children and feeling less attractive require frank talks to boost the person's confidence and increase self-worthiness.
It is easier said than done, but one of the key ways to handle premature menopause is an open discussion.