What You Need To Know About Preserving Heart Health

As temperatures soar our systems need to work a little harder to carry out our daily routines. For the young and fit, that may not be a tall order, but for anyone who is getting on in years or carrying a few extra kilos it can present a major challenge. For anyone with a heart condition the risks can be severe. Cairo to Sa7el Magazine caught up with Dr. Amr Hassan Mostafa from Oasis Clinics to learn more about how to stay heart-healthy in summer. 

What are the key dangers in summer for heart patients?

Summer lifestyles in Sahel vary for most vacationers.  Many pick up unhealthy patterns that are dangerous to their health, particularly for those known to suffer from heart and vascular ailments. Exposure to hot weather coupled with inadequate water intake, consumption of a high sugar diet and alcoholic beverages result in a state of dehydration. This can trigger blood clots inside blood vessels in those with known or undiagnosed blood vessel problems in the heart, brain or peripheral arteries.  A high salt diet is common in summer and quite harmful for those who have high blood pressure or are under treatment for weakness of heart performance or heart failure. Overeating, a high calorie diet and lack of exercise result in weight gain, which is quite harmful for all heart patients. Evenings spent in cafés, restaurants and bars that are packed with vacationers smoking cigarettes, cigars and shisha are all harmful to heart patients and individuals at risk.

Who else is at risk, even if not diagnosed with a heart condition?

Patients with heart and blood vessel disease are at risk of various illnesses and complications. Particularly patients with hypertension, heart failure and atherosclerotic vascular problems, such as angina, heart attacks, or those after stent or bypass surgery, as well as stroke patients.

Diabetics and patients with elevated cholesterol and elevated body fat are prone to develop vascular problems and complications. Frequently, people may not be aware of their blood vessel disease due to minimal or no symptoms that might be interpreted as age-related or obesity symptoms.  Patients with kidney failure are also adversely affected by any unhealthy habits during the summer.

What steps can be taken to avoid problems?

Moderation is the key word.  Avoid over eating and indulging in sweets and fast-food, which are usually loaded with calories and fats and are fried. Be mindful, with a low sodium diet.

Patients with hypertension and heart failure or kidney failure must eat a low sodium diet.  Salt is not the only sodium-containing food item.  All preserved, processed and canned foods are high in hidden salt. Sea salt, frequently marketed as a healthy alternative, is actually not safe for heart patients. It contains the same amount of sodium per unit weight. Whatever salt you decide to use, a low sodium diet is necessary for the above patients. Potassium salt may be a viable alternative. When ordering seafood, which is generally healthy, ask for low salt during cooking.

Indiscriminate use of alcoholic beverages is harmful to due to its contribution to dehydration, and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Important Tips:

  • Remember to hydrate by drinking enough water. Three hundred cc of water for every ten kg body weight daily is advisable for most.  Some special cases with renal patients and heart failure may require different amounts, so check with your doctor.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and home-prepared meals. Minimize eating out and ordering ready-made, fast food meals.
  • Exercise frequently in order to burn any excess consumed calories while maintaining the health and viability of your cardiovascular system.
  • Heart patients should get enough rest at night and in the middle of the day.

Apart from prescribed medications, what else can a person do to minimize heart problems in the summer?

  • Minimize intake of calories in sweets, fats and carbohydrates, especially those from processed food sources.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and low sugar fruits like apples, guavas and pears.
  • Low sodium diet.
  • Adequate hydration.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Daily exercise.

What symptoms should one be on the lookout for?

People should note any new or progressive symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue that occur with physical effort. Acute chest or upper abdominal pain or heart-burn must be taken seriously, as well as irregular heartbeats or fainting episodes. Persistent or progressive swelling of the legs should be checked out.

Someone having a heart attack may experience any or all of the following:

* Uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing pain in the center of the chest

* Discomfort or pain spreading beyond the chest to the shoulders, back, neck, jaw, teeth, or one or both arms, or occasionally upper abdomen

* Shortness of breath

* Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting

* Sweating

* Nausea

In event of an incident or heart attack what immediate steps should be taken?

If a heart attack is suspected, call for help or transfer the person to a health care facility with emergency medical services to confirm or exclude a heart attack or other causes for the presenting symptoms.  If a heart attack is confirmed appropriate management in an intensive care unit must be implemented. While this is being done one can chew two aspirin tablets and use nitroglycerin tablet under the tongue.  If milder intermittent symptoms are experienced one must proceed to a health care facility for consulting with a physician who will run the necessary investigations.

Dr. Amr Hassan Mostafa

Cardiologist Oasis Clinics
Karma 1 Office Buildings, 2nd Floor Sheikh Zayed
Tel: 0100 400 0777/8