Chronic diseases are diseases that are not passed from person to person and usually persists for more than three months. They account for more than 80% of the deaths in China and the major causes are diabetes and its complications, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory disease. These diseases often require long-term medical care and therefore put significant health and economic burdens for the patients, families, and society. However, do you know that these chronic diseases are preventable? Simply by changing our poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption, we can markedly reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease. Speak to us at GSG to learn more.
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of our arteries. Our normal blood pressure is more than 90 over 60 (90/60) mm Hg and less than 120 over 80 (120/80) mm Hg. The top number is known as systolic blood pressure, and it is the highest when the heart beats. The bottom number measures the pressure between heart beats when our heart is at rest, and it is called as diastolic blood pressure. Our blood pressure is elevated when readings range from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. If the readings stay high for a long time, the person is at risk of developing high blood pressure or hypertension.
Hypertension is diagnosed when the blood pressure is consistently higher than 130/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms. Hence, many people do not know they have it, and the only way to find out is to get regular blood pressure measurements. For most adults, there is no exact cause of high blood pressure and this type of high blood pressure is known as primary hypertension, and they tend to develop as we get older. Another type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, is caused by an underlying condition such as kidney problems, thyroid problems, obstructive sleep apnea, illegal drugs use or use of certain medications which tends to cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Though the cause of hypertension is mostly unknown, there are various factors that can increase the chances of developing hypertension, including aging, pregnancy, alcohol use, tobacco use or smoking, being overweight or obese, high salt diet, too little potassium in diet, stress and lacking of physical activities. When blood pressure remains high over time, complications such as heart attack or stroke, aneurysm, vision loss, malfunctioning of our kidneys, diabetes, high cholesterol and dementia can occur as a result. It is important to work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan as treatments for high blood pressure does not only involve medications, but also include lifestyle changes, such as diet modification, exercise, reduce alcohol consumption and smoking cessation.
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases characterized by elevated blood sugar, or blood glucose levels in the body over a prolonged period. Glucose is essential to our health as a source of energy for our body cells and it is a main source of fuel for the brain. In order to avoid excessive glucose circulating in the blood, a hormone known as insulin is produced by the pancreas to help getting glucose into our body cells. With type 1 diabetes, the body is not producing enough insulin while with type 2 diabetes, the body cells become resistant to the action of insulin. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream leading to serious health problems. The cause of type 1 diabetes is mainly unclear, but it is believed that the immune system cells destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leaving little or no insulin. Factors that may increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes include family history of diabetes, exposure to a viral illness, or presence of autoantibodies. In type 2 diabetes, although the exact cause of it is often uncertain, but there are a few factors known that can increase the risk, such as overweight, inactivity, family history of type 2 diabetes, age, high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol level. Some women are at greater risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, which can be due to hormones produced by the placenta causing increased resistance of the cells towards insulin.
Symptoms of diabetes vary depending on the type of diabetes and the level of sugar in the blood. The common signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, frequent infections, blurred vision or presence of ketones in the urine. Consult a health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect you or your family member may have diabetes, as uncontrolled blood sugar level can lead to long-term complications. These complications include neuropathy or nerve damage, heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, eye damage, foot damage, or skin infections which can be disabling or life-threatening. Though type 1 diabetes is not preventable, healthy lifestyle choices such as balanced diet, adequate exercises and maintaining healthy weight can help to prevent type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot or ruptured. When that happens, part of the brain is not getting the nutrients and oxygen it requires, and within minutes, brain cells death can occur. Therefore, a stroke is an emergency condition and early treatment can reduce brain damage and prevent disability. Fortunately, stroke is treatable and preventable.
There are two main types of stroke, known as ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke happens when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain, mainly caused by an obstruction of blood vessel by a blood clot. It accounts for about 80 percent of stroke cases. The blood clot is often due to build-up of fatty deposits on inner lining of a blood vessel called atherosclerosis. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts causing bleeding into the brain. It is less common than ischemic stroke, but it has a much higher fatality rate than strokes caused by blood vessel obstruction. Another type of stroke known as transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke, is caused by a temporary blood clot and impermanent decrease in blood supply to the brain. The symptoms typically resolve within 1 hour and there is no permanent tissue damage. However, TIA is often a warning sign for future strokes, hence a person who experience TIA should seek emergency care even if the symptoms clear up.
The typical signs and symptoms of stroke include headache (can be sudden and severe), sudden numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, difficulty speaking and understanding, trouble with walking, and sudden trouble seeing. It is important to watch out these signs and symptoms of stroke as prompt treatment is crucial. Perform the F.A.S.T act if you think someone may be having a stroke:
Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
Time – If you see any of these signs, call for local emergency immediately.
Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smoking, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, heavy alcohol consumption, or certain drugs are factors that can increase the risk of developing a stroke. Identify these risk factors and take steps to reduce them can help you to prevent a stroke or avoid another stroke from happening.
Heart disease describes a range of disorders of the heart, and it is sometimes called as cardiovascular disease which generally refers to problems with the heart, blood vessels and its circulatory system. There are many types of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, arrythmia, congenital heart disease, heart failure, myocardial infarction, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and valvular heart disease. Same as other types of cardiovascular disorders, most heart diseases can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.
The symptoms of heart disease depend on what type of heart disease a person has. In general, the symptoms can include chest pain or angina, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, pain, numbness or weakness in the legs or arms or pain in the jaw, neck, upper abdomen and back. Read about the type of heart disease below to understand more:
Coronary artery disease – Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply our heart with oxygen and nutrients. These arteries can be damaged or narrowed when there is a deposition of plaque containing cholesterol on the inner walls of the arteries, resulting in blood flow restriction to the heart. This condition is called as atherosclerosis, and it is the primary cause of coronary artery disease. People who are affected can experience chest pain that may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck or jaw as well as shortness of breath.
Arrythmia – Arrythmia is also known as abnormal heart rhythm. The heartbeat can lose its regular rhythm by beating too fast (tachycardia), beating too slowly (bradycardia), having additional beats or irregular beats. This condition occurs when the heart’s electrical impulses are not working properly due to coronary heart disease, congenital heart defects, drug abuse, high blood pressure, stress, smoking or diabetes. Arrythmia can become fatal.
Heart failure – Also called congestive heart failure (CHF). It does not mean that the heart has stopped, but it means that the heart does not pump blood as efficiently as it should. Heart failure typically is the result of an underlying diseases. Certain conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure can leave the heart too weak or too stiff to pump blood properly. This can cause a person to have shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness, swelling of the ankles and legs, reduced ability to exercise and persistent cough or wheezing.
Myocardial infarction – Also known as a heart attack. When the blood flow to a part of the heart is obstructed by a blood clot or when an artery narrows or spasms suddenly, a portion of the heart muscle begins to die due to a lack of oxygen. This is mostly a result of coronary artery disease or coronary artery spasm. People with myocardial infarction usually experience chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, faintness or nausea.
Congenital heart disease – The word “congenital” means existing at birth. Congenital heart disease is a one or more abnormalities of the heart’s structure that is present since birth. The defects can involve the valves or the walls of the heart, as well as the arteries and veins near the heart. These defects change the normal blood flow through the heart, causing the blood flow to slow down, travel in the wrong direction or wrong site, or be blocked completely. There are many types of congenital heart disease and they range from simple defects with no symptoms to complex defects with severe symptoms that require immediate medical care after birth. These signs and symptoms include rapid breathing, a bluish tint to skin, lips, and fingernails called cyanosis, fatigue and poor blood circulation.
Valvular heart disease – Our heart has four valves: the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral, and aortic valves. Normally, these valves have tissue flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. They keep blood flowing in the right direction at the proper time. In valvular heart disease, the valves are either unable to open fully (stenotic), or unable to close completely (incompetent). A stenotic valve also means that the valve is narrowed, forcing the blood to back up in the adjacent heart chamber. While in cases with incompetent valve, the blood leaks back into the chamber it previously left. As a result, the pumping action of the heart becomes poor, and the heart muscle enlarges and thickens, thereby losing its efficiency in its function. In some cases, accumulation of blood in the heart chambers has a higher tendency to clot, leading to increased risk of stroke or pulmonary embolism. People who are affected often show similar symptoms to those with congestive heart failure, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling in the legs, palpitations, dizziness, weight gain or mild chest pain.
Certain factors that can contribute to increased risk of heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, stress, age and family history of heart problems. By modifying these risk factors and making healthy lifestyle choices, most heart diseases can be prevented and treated properly.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones loses its normal bone density and become weak or fragile, to the point where they break or fracture easily. The commonly affected areas involve the hip, spine and wrist. This condition occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone. Osteoporosis occurs mainly in older women, especially over the age of 50 and factors such as post-menopause, being small and thin, having family history of osteoporosis, low bone density or certain medications increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. In addition, a lifelong low calcium intake diet, eating disorders, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, physical inactivity, and certain medical problems including inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease can also predispose a person to higher chance of having osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease and people who are affected typically show no symptoms in the early stages. However, when the osteoporotic bones break after a fall or in serious cases, a sneeze or minor bumps, the person can experience pain in the back, reduced height over time, or a stooped posture. Osteoporosis can last many years or be life-long, but fortunately there are ways to prevent its occurrence. A bone mineral density test is the best way to evaluate our bone health. Proper nutrition that includes adequate protein, calcium and vitamin D as well as regular exercise are essential for keeping the bones strong and healthy. Learn more about osteoporosis with our GSG experts and find out how we can help you.