Cardiovascular disease is responsible for more than 10% of all hospitalisations, and more that 25% off all deaths in Australia. Unknown to some, there is a strong relationship between sleep and heart health. Those suffering from poor sleep (e.g. obstructive sleep apnea) are at greater risk of developing several commonly-occurring heart problems.
The coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. They can suffer damage, usually through the build-up of cholesterol deposits (plaques) or through inflammation.
Symptoms can include angina, a type of chest pain experienced at pressure or tightness in the middle of left side of the chest that is usually triggered by physician exertion or emotional stress. The other most common symptom is shortness of breath. Ultimately, untreated coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack if the blood supply is completely disrupted to a part of the heart.
The arterial damage needs to be quite significant for symptoms to occur. If you start to experience any of the symptoms of coronary artery disease, speak to your treating doctor. If you experience sudden shortness of breath or chest pain, call an ambulance or visit your local emergency department.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply is significantly disrupted to a part of the brain. Symptoms come on suddenly, and can include problems speaking or understanding speech, paralysis of a part of the body, vision loss, and severe headache. If you experience any of these, seek immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone else is having a stroke, think FAST
Heart failure occurs when your heart no longer pumps blood to the body as well as it should. This can be caused by damage to the heart, through coronary artery disease or high blood pressure. It can come on gradually (chronic) or suddenly (acute). Signs include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the legs and ankles, decreased exercise tolerance, and coughing up pink, foamy mucus. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor for advice. If you experience chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath or a rapid, uneven heartbeat, seek emergency medical attention.
A cardiac arrhythmia is a problem with the co-ordinated contraction of the heart muscles caused by a failure of the electrical impulse that drive your heart muscle. Your heart beat could be too fast, too slow, or irregular. If you are often aware of the beating of your heart (in the absence of exercise), feel a fluttering in your chest, a racing or slow heartbeat, you should see your doctor to discuss whether you have a cardiac arrhythmia. If you experience sudden shortness of breath or chest pain, seek emergency medical attention.
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