We are living in times of high anxieties and rattled nerves. Are you waking up with a sinking heart or sweaty palms? Have you been experiencing shortness of breath, dismissing it as a symptom of mild anxiety? You are not alone. COVID-19 has not only evaded our healthcare systems but also the mental and heart health of millions. More alarming is the fact many patients are mistaking critical heart issues like acute chest pain and shortness of breath as mild anxieties or palpitations.
Work-related stress, lockdowns, and restricted access to the social world are aggravating these symptoms, and most people are not able to tell the psychological from the physical. What you might dismiss as just palpitations due to anxiety could be a more serious underlying heartcare problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Dr Shireesh Prabhakar Sathe, Cardiologist, Director of Cardiology, Deenath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre, Pune share his views on the same.
Raising the Alarm: Anxieties and CVDs
In a panic attack, you will experience a sharp stabbing pain in the middle of the chest, which will resolve in 20 to 30 minutes. However, in case of a heart-related symptom, you will experience pressure in the chest with a pain that might radiate through your left arm, jaw, or shoulder blades. The latter is likely to get worse over time. While shortness of breath is an overlapping indication in both cases, you will experience nausea, vomiting and sweating if it’s a heart-related problem, also you will be extremely restless. Racing heart rate and shakiness are more common in case of an anxiety attack.
A Closer Look at CVDs
While you can easily manage an anxiety attack eventually, but when it comes to matters of the heart, small risks can lead to more severe damages. Hence, it is imperative to know what the heart is telling you. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of deaths globally, claiming an estimated 17.9 million lives each year.
Symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, cold sweat, restlessness and lightheaded-ness could be hinting at blocked arteries ( causing a heart attack ) caused due to fatty deposits, cholesterol, platelets, and calcium on the walls of the heart arteries, reducing the blood flow to the heart, causing CVDs.
Four out of five CVD deaths happen due to heart attacks and strokes, and one-third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age. While these numbers are triggered by a host of lifestyle- related issues, lack of awareness about some of the early symptoms is a major contributing factor in the disease burden.
When Lifestyle Changes Meets Technological Interventions
Whether you are someone living with heart disease or find yourself on the edge of contracting one, lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping you recover better. Take, for instance, if you are overweight, keep a track of the kind of exercise you should take up to reduce weight.Some workouts might add to breathlessness or dizziness.
Find a fitness regime that is tailormade according to your heart condition. Additionally, simple diet alterations like adding whole grains, different types of seeds and foods rich in saturated fat, consuming berries, choosing the kind of fat you should be consuming, among others are a must.
While these tips are beneficial for those who are trying to manage the heart condition or find themselves at risk, in extreme cases of clogged arteries causing heart attack will need immediate medical attention, we might recommend a stent, depending on the patient profile findings on urgent coronary angiography. Innovations in the field of cardiology have given us access to technological breakthroughs that are making our patients live better lives. Take, for instance, for the longest time, we have relied on drug-eluting stents (DES) and bare-metal stents to treat blocked arteries.
Over the years, the quality of these stents has improved substantially. For example,the latest generation platinum chromium stents have smaller profiles, thinner struts and clinical data of more than 10000 patients which help in good procedural outcomes for the patients. Additionally, we also have technologies like Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS), which enables the doctor to see a coronary artery more from inside, precisely by generating a real time picture and providing information.
As we find ourselves in the middle of a smoldering outbreak, heart care has become even more critical, as heart diseases can potentially put many patients more at risk of contracting the virus. Researchers are already finding that signs of heart inflammation and injury in patients many months after they have recovered from COVID-19 virus. Inflammations can further lead to severe damages in the future. This makes it even more critical to understand heart-related symptoms clearly.
Let us not forget, prevention is always better than cure.