Heart Disease: Why Should You Care?

There is a lot of discussion in the media about heart disease, but what actually is heart disease and why should you care?

The reason you should care is heart disease is New Zealand’s number one killer according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Heart Foundation.

Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature death for Māori males and both non-Māori males and females, and it was the second leading cause of premature death for Māori females. (1)

Cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke and blood vessel disease) is still the leading cause of death in New Zealand, accounting for 30% of deaths annually 

  • Every 90 minutes a New Zealander dies from heart disease 
  • Many of these deaths are premature and preventable. (2)

What is heart disease? Heart disease is also known as cardiovascular disease and is a term that encompasses a variety of conditions effecting the heart itself and the circulatory system which are your veins and arteries. These conditions include heart rhythm disorders such as (arrhythmias) valve disorders, congenital heart defects (birth defects) and diseases of the arteries such as stroke and heart attack.

There is a definite need to focus on heart attacks because a heart attack can be sudden with limited warning signs and often the first time the person is aware that they have a problem is when they suffer a heart attack and subsequent death. While a heart attack seems to strike out of nowhere, it actually involves a sequence of steps that build over years to culminate in a crisis experienced over minutes or hours. (3)

What are the signs of a heart attack?

The signs that someone is having a heart attack may include, sweating, crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, cold extremities, a severe stabbing or  punching type pain in their chest, chest pain that radiates up into their neck or jaw or shoulder followed by a burning sensation down their left arm. If you or anyone you know complains of any of these symptoms you should call 111 immediately. Tell the operator that you, or the person you are with, has unexplained chest pain and you need an ambulance.

Early warning signs, possibly in the days leading up to a heart attack might include, mild fleeting type chest pain, indigestion type pain, fatigue, fatigue resulting in cat napping, loss of breath while doing a normal activity such as climbing stairs or physical exhaustion such as the persons normal, run, walk bike, swim, a change in their pallor (the colour of their complexion), which will be pale compared to their usual appearance, and cold extremities.

These early warning signs can be subtle and could in fact be a number of other conditions such as a flu or a virus and herein lies the danger of unsuspected heart disease resulting in a heart attack.

            Causes and risks of heart attack include:

  • A family history of heart disease
  • Diet, especially a diet which is not high in leafy green vegetables
  • High blood pressure
  • High stress or low grade chronic stress over an extended period of time.
  • Smoking which constricts blood vessels and causes blood to become sticky and tacky therefore restricting blood flow
  • Obesity or even weight gain with a BMI above 30
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance a ( pre- diabetic state )
  • Age
  • Excessive Alcohol or caffeine intake
  • Blood Markers identifying inflammation  such as – C reactive protein, Homocysteine, and clotting factors such as elevated fibrinogen levels.
  • Cholesterol factors such as  Total Cholesterol ratio and HDL ratio and elevated Lippoprotein (a) levels.
  • Physical activity.

What, if anything at all, can you do to prevent heart disease? Is having a heart attack just bad luck or was the person’s time up?

There is the good news, more and more research and health professionals agree that heart disease is in-fact preventable (4). Heart disease is a pathological process, it develops over years. However heart disease is preventable, so too is a heart attack – which could ultimately save someone from an early death!  

Dr Craig Walsham is a registered Chiropractor who practices Functional Neurology. He has worked as a coronary care nurse in the Palmerston North CCU and is a survivor of coronary heart disease resulting in a heart attack. For more information about coronary heart disease or any issue raised in this article please contact Dr Walsham at www.chiroworks.co.nz. Or phone 09 8186565.

Sources –

  1. http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/populations/maori-health/tatau-kahukura-maori-health-statistics/nga-mana-hauora-tutohu-health-status-indicators/major
  2. http://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/know-the-facts/statistics
  3. -causesdeathhttp://www.livescience.com/32697-what-are-the-leading-causes-of
  4. -death.html.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/07/cardiovascular-disease-preventable.aspx