Heart disease is a broad term used to describe the conditions that affect the heart, the circulatory system as well as conditions that affect both simultaneously. Medically, heart diseases are referred to as cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is a matter of concern as the heart is the most important organ of the body. It not only affects older people, but can occur as a congenital condition as well as affect people irrespective of their age or sex.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart is the center of the entire cardiovascular system. The disease that affect the heart and blood vessels leads to many problems. Heart disease can strike suddenly, causing one to take life changing decisions in a short span of time. Thus, it is very important to know about some of the common heart diseases and how they can affect your overall health.
In this article, we will talk about these common heart diseases that you should be aware of and how you can help yourself or your loved one from preventing these diseases.
Types of Heart Disease
There are many different types of heart diseases. Some of these are covered in the following paragraphs.
Hypertensive heart disease
High blood pressure causes stress to the heart and blood vessels. It increases the risk of atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease. Early diagnosis of high blood pressure can keep the condition in control and prevent occurrence of heart diseases. Change in lifestyle, diet, exercises, weight loss, quit smoking, etc. are ways to prevent high blood pressure and keep hypertensive heart diseases at bay.
Coronary heart disease
Also known as coronary artery disease (CAD) or atherosclerotic heart disease, it is one of the most common causes of heart attacks. Plaque lines up the walls of the heart arteries, leading to narrowing of the arteries as well as their blockage. This reduces the blood supply to the heart, leading to symptoms of coronary artery disease. In many, the symptoms never show up and leads to a ‘sudden’ heart attack. In most cases, this sudden heart attack proves fatal.
Disease of the heart muscle that leads to heart failure is called as cardiomyopathy. The condition often leads to breathlessness, swelling of the legs, irregular heart beat and sudden cardiac arrest that is fatal in most cases.
Also called as an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, it is a condition that causes the heart to beat too fast or slower than normal. The heart may beat more than 100 beats/min or less than 60 beats/min.
An arrhythmia can be atrial (upper chamber of the heart) or ventricular (lower chamber of the heart). Some can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and prove to be life threatening.
Valvular heart disease
Valvular heart disease is a condition that can affect one or more of the four heart valves. These heart valves include the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and the tricuspid valve. Valvular heart diseases can occur as a congenital problem or acquired condition. The treatment of this condition usually involves valve repair or replacement.
Cerebrovascular disease is the condition that affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. The heart and the brain are the two most important organs of the body. Damage to either of these organs can lead to life altering results. Diseases that are included in the group of cerebrovascular diseases include:
These conditions may lead to damage to the eye leading to:
- Facial weakness
- Mental confusion
- Numbness in any part of the body
- Loss of speech
- Impaired speech
- Paralysis, etc.
Congenital heart disease
Congenital heart anomaly is a condition where the heart and the hreat vessels have a defect at birth. This causes problems with the blood flow within the heart and the nearby blood vessels. It is one of the most common causes of birth defect-related deaths. However, most conditions can be treated by medications and surgery. There are many types of congenital heart diseases that can either occur due to genetic mutations or environmental effects.
Peripheral vascular disease
Also referred to as peripheral artery disease, this condition occurs due to an embolism, thrombus or stenosis. It often leads to sores and wounds that do not heal, blueness or paleness in the affected limb, pain, weakness, cramping, etc. in the affect limb due to decrease in blood flow.
Rheumatic heart disease
An inflammatory disease of the heart that occurs due to an infection with Streptococcus pyogenes. It leads to inflammation of the heart muscles, leading to congestive heart failure. Other symptoms affecting the heart due to rheumatoid heart disease include shortness of breath, heart murmur and pericarditis.
Risks That Lead to Heart Diseases
There are several risk factors that increase one’s chances of developing heart diseases. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High levels of blood cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight or obesity
- Sex, men are more likely to develop heart conditions than women
- Age, the older one is, the more vulnerable they are to heart diseases
- Family history of heart diseases
How Does One Detect Heart Disease?
In most cases, patients do not realize they suffer from heart disease as the condition remains silent for many years. In many cases, patients overlook the symptoms as signs of aging, such as:
When they do visit a doctor for a routine health check up, they find out they have a heart disease waiting to explode. These tests that help detect heart and vascular diseases include:
How Are Heart Diseases Treated?
Medications, change in lifestyle and surgery in some cases helps treating heart diseases. Statins and aspirin are medications commonly used in case of heart diseases. Surgeries include:
- Bypass surgery
- Placement of pacemakers
- Valve replacement procedures
- Carotid endarterectomy, etc.
Preventing Heart Disease
The key to good health is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One can prevent heart diseases if they control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This can be achieved by:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet. Cut down on fat and junk food. Include fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meat in your diet.
- Reduce the daily salt intake to lower blood pressure
- Live a physically active life. Exercise, dance, walk, run, jog or carry out vigorous activities daily to make your heart and circulatory system more efficient.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity increases once changes of heart diseases
- Quit smoking. Smoking has a very bad effect on your heart and lungs.
- Reduce your daily alcohol consumption. Avoid binge drinking for a healthy heart.
- Make sure you keep your diabetes and blood pressure under control to avoid stress to the heart.
- Have a positive attitude towards life and avoid tension.
- Make sure you take your medications on the prescribed time and dose.
Heart diseases are one of the most common diseases that affects men and women. Lifestyle and diet changes, medications and surgical procedures can help in prevention as well as treatment of heart diseases. If you worry about your heart, make sure you visit your doctor and undergo a routine checkup. You never know this simple task could help save you from a lot of heart trouble later on in life.
Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015