MIAMI.- If you are like most people, you probably think that heart disease is someone else’s problem. However, in light of the statistics on cardiovascular diseases, which represent the main cause of death and disability in the United States, it is important to understand that not only are there many types of heart disease, but that they develop slowly over time, until we have no choice but to, in the best of cases, learn to cope with them.

Cardiac insufficiency and ischemic heart disease are two of the chronic diseases that most often require patients to change their habits. Studies recently published by the University of Barcelona and the Fundación Clínic suggest how to act in response to different factors in order to enhance quality of life.

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Medical research has yielded increasing advances in cardiovascular prevention and health, although today we still lack information to work together as a society be able to learn to respond to the demands entailed by bolstering cardiac health.

Living with ischemic heart disease

Ischemic heart disease occurs when a heart artery is blocked. If it is slow, we speak of angina pectoris. When it is suddenly obstructed, this is when a heart attack occurs. It is the leading cause of death in adults in the world, in both men and women. Lifestyle modification is the fundamental solution to avoiding or preventing this disease.

Anxiety and depression. Having a heart attack or angina pectoris is often a life-changing experience for many patients, having a major impact. Ignorance of the disease, the need to change multiple habits, the taking of new drugs, and fear of another episode are just some of the factors that can lead to anxiety or depression.

In this regard, we must seek to transform this anguish into a determination to make changes in our routines. Dietary changes, regular exercise, relaxation and time for self-care enhance well-being.

Specialists and other patients who have gone through the same situation can provide useful information and advice to adopt a more positive perspective. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are also a good option to resume life safely and effectively.

Diet. Follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and white meats. Avoid sweets, sausages, fried foods and red meat as much as possible. Try to convey this habit to family and friends, or to everyone with whom you share your table. In addition, a balanced diet tends to avert other risk factors, such as being overweight, diabetes, and hypertension.

Exercise. Find at least three hours a week, spread over multiple days, to exercise. It is not necessary for it to be particularly strenuous exercise, but you should notice your heart accelerate a little, and your breathing become slightly labored. It is better to start out slow, without getting tired, and intensify your workout a little each day until you notice these sensations after about three weeks.

These being only general rules, your plan should be individualized, so it is better to consult your doctor regarding the type of exercise you should do, and at what intensity. If you have symptoms, such as choking or chest pain, you should stop exercising and consult your doctor before resuming.

Stop smoking. Most patients stop smoking after a heart attack, but 80% relapse in the ensuing months. Quitting smoking is, without a doubt, the best thing you can do for your health. Your effort and tenacity will be rewarded by an enhanced respiratory capacity, food will taste better and, above all, you will enjoy a clear improvement in cardiac health.

Weight control. An unbalanced diet and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to progressive weight gain over the years. Dietary changes and the establishment of an exercise routine can allow you to control excess weight. You should be wary of miracle diets, and get guidance from a professional to ensure gradual but constant weight loss, focusing more on changing your lifestyle than embracing any temporary diet.

Find time to relax. Stress has been shown to be an important factor affecting the development of multiple diseases, especially ischemic heart disease. Relaxation techniques, meditation, and seeking a time for self-care, are vital to adopt a more relaxed and positive attitude in day-to-day life.

Take your medication correctly. It is important to be careful and consistent about taking your prescribed medication. Being forgetful or inconsistent can have serious effects. If you are taking a medication that produces side effects, you should keep taking it, nonetheless. Talk to your doctor, who will apprise you of the possible pharmacological alternatives, so as to customize your treatment.

Sexuality. Many patients are afraid to resume sexual activity after angina or a heart attack. Sexual intercourse may be resumed a week after acute myocardial infarction or stenting. After a by-pass surgery it is advisable to refrain from sexual activity for six to eight weeks, to allow for the proper healing of the sternum wound.

When the patient's effort capacity is unclear, it is prudent to perform a stress test. If the results are normal, the probability of having a heart attack caused due to intercourse is extremely low.

Many patients may suffer sexual dysfunction caused, in most cases, by the blood vessel disease itself, or psychological effects. Some drugs can also have an impact in this regard. In this case, talk to your doctor.

Living with cardiac insufficiency

Cardiac insufficiency is caused by the inability of the heart to pump blood properly to the rest of the body's organs. This results in fatigue, weakness, and difficulty breathing. It is the leading cause of hospitalization among those over the age of 65.

Diet. Cardiac insufficiency requires special attention to one's diet. Limiting salt intake is necessary, as salt promotes fluid retention in the body, causing the heart to work harder and faster. The same happens with fats, which leads to arteriosclerosis.

Exercise. Moderate exercise helps the heart to function better. Many people with cardiac insufficiency notice an improvement in their symptoms when they do exercise. Do not forget to ask your doctor what type of exercise is best for you. Choosing to walk when you run errands, or taking the stairs, are habits that allow you to stay active throughout the day.

The importance of resting. Staying active is very important, but resting is equally so, as it allows the heart to recover from its efforts. In many cases people with cardiac insufficiency sleep poorly at night, either because they have a cough, dyspnea, or because they have to go to the bathroom, due to diuretics. Hence, they may need small daytime naps. Resting for half an hour after lunch and dinner is recommended.

Stress. It is advantageous to keep your stress "under control". Practicing relaxation, listening to music, being more positive, getting exercise... can be ways to improve stress management. The heart works more intensely under situations of stress and anxiety.

Smoking increases blood pressure and heart rate, and decreases the proportion of oxygen circulating in the body. In addition, it renders the arteries more rigid, and makes the heart work harder. People who stop smoking are more likely to see improvements in their symptoms.

Sexuality. Most people with cardiac insufficiency, if they have their symptoms under control, can have sex. Choose relaxing moments, find a familiar and tranquil place, avoid having sexual relations after a heavy meal and, if you become tired, stop.

Vaccinations. The flu, colds and pneumonia can be serious issues for people with cardiac insufficiency. It is important to consult with your doctor about the need for vaccination, and how often.

Medications. Treatments are different for each person, but in all cases it is necessary to follow them correctly, not vary doses, or quit taking your medication. If a medical prescription is not followed, not only can the treatment be rendered ineffective, but it can also worsen the disease.

Traveling. If you want to travel, it is advised to inform your doctors so that they can write an updated report, as well as prescribe enough medication for your entire stay, and extra, in case of any incidents. If you are travelling outside the country, it is a good idea to have health coverage, in case you need to be admitted to a hospital. When travelling it is important not to let your guard down, and pay attention to your intake of liquids and salt.

Emotional support. There are different patient support associations that advise and help other people who have been through similar situations. These support groups facilitate the adoption of lifestyle changes, the following of recommendations, and the continued observation of health guidelines. Ask your health care provider about these types of groups.

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¿Cree que la actuación de la comunidad internacional en el caso venezolano ha sido acertada?

Sí, no se le puede pedir más
Sí, pero falta aumentar la presión contra la dictadura
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No, no debe meterse en los asuntos de los venezolanos
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